Tucker's piece provides a fascinating, granular glimpse of the social role of vampires in explaining and attempting to control disease in the backwoods of nineteenth century New England. A vampire exhumation was a public ritual and a show, a demonstration that a citizen took a disease outbreak serious and would do anything to help stop it, even desecrating a loved one's grave.
When you read the article, be sure to look out for the reference to H. P. Lovecraft's "The Shunned House," a story that built upon and subverted traditional New England vampire lore.
Tucker mentions that the earliest evidence of an American vampire panic is a letter to the editor published in the Connecticut Courant in June 1784. This letter does not mention vampires per se but rather presents exhumation specifically as a cure for tuberculosis (consumption). This barest sketch of a story would make a great movie treatment, with an especially juicy part for whoever would play the "quack" foreign doctor who whipped up a supernatural panic. (I am reminded of some of the quack doctors from the Twilight Zone and Night Gallery who got more than they bargained for from their fraudulent cures.)
Tucker presents but a brief excerpt from the article. I thought my readers might like to see the whole thing. Here is the complete Connecticut Courant article, as preserved in a nineteenth century omnibus:
A Medical Curiosity.—Whereas of late years there has been advanced for a certainty, by a certain Quack Doctor, a foreigner, that a certain cure may be had for a consumption, where any of the same family had before that time died with the same disease; directing to have the bodies of such as had died to be dug up; and further said, that out of the breast or vitals might be found a sprout or vine fresh and growing, which, together with the remains of the vitals being consumed in the fire, would be an effectual cure to the same family: And such direction so far gained credit, that in one instance the experiment was thoroughly made in Wilmington, on the first day of June instant, two bodies were dug up which belonged to the family of Mr. Isaac Johnson of that place, they both died with the consumption, one had been buried one year and eleven months, the other one year, a third of the family then sick. On full examination of the then small remains by two doctors then present, viz: doctors Grant and West, not the least discovery could be made; and to prevent misrepresentations of the facts, I being an eye witness, that under the coffin was sundry small sprouts about one inch in length, then fresh, but most likely was the produce of sorrel seeds which fell under the coffin when put in the earth. And that the bodies of the dead may rest quiet in their graves without such interruption, I think the public ought to be aware of being led away by such an imposture. Moses Holmes. — Connecticut Courant, June, 1784. W. K.