The Green Picture

: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

In a cellar in Green Street, Schenectady, there appeared, some years ago,

the silhouette of a human form, painted on the floor in mould. It was

swept and scrubbed away, but presently it was there again, and month by

month, after each removal, it returned: a mass of fluffy mould, always in

the shape of a recumbent man. When it was found that the house stood on

the site of the old Dutch burial ground, the gossips fitted this and that
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together and concluded that the mould was planted by a spirit whose

mortal part was put to rest a century and more ago, on the spot covered

by the house, and that the spirit took this way of apprising people that

they were trespassing on its grave. Others held that foul play had been

done, and that a corpse, hastily and shallowly buried, was yielding

itself back to the damp cellar in vegetable form, before its resolution

into simpler elements. But a darker meaning was that it was the outline

of a vampire that vainly strove to leave its grave, and could not because

a virtuous spell had been worked about the place.

A vampire is a dead man who walks about seeking for those whose blood he

can suck, for only by supplying new life to its cold limbs can he keep

the privilege of moving about the earth. He fights his way from his

coffin, and those who meet his gray and stiffened shape, with fishy eyes

and blackened mouth, lurking by open windows, biding his time to steal in

and drink up a human life, fly from him in terror and disgust. In

northern Rhode Island those who die of consumption are believed to be

victims of vampires who work by charm, draining the blood by slow

draughts as they lie in their graves. To lay this monster he must be

taken up and burned; at least, his heart must be; and he must be

disinterred in the daytime when he is asleep and unaware. If he died with

blood in his heart he has this power of nightly resurrection. As late as

1892 the ceremony of heart-burning was performed at Exeter, Rhode Island,

to save the family of a dead woman that was threatened with the same

disease that removed her, namely, consumption. But the Schenectady

vampire has yielded up all his substance, and the green picture is no