He had been in his grave so long that when his family dug him up to burn his heart, the organ had decomposed and was not there.
Desperate to stop him from stalking them, they took his head and limbs and rearranged them on top of his ribs in the design of a skull and crossbones. He was a “vampire,” after all, and in rural New England in the early 1800s, this was how you dealt with them.
When they were finished, they reburied him in his stone-lined grave and replaced the wooden coffin lid, on which someone had used brass tacks to form the inscription “JB 55,” for his initials and his age.
Now, 200 years or so after the death of what has become the country’s best-studied “vampire,” DNA sleuths have tracked down his probable name: John Barber.