Blood-drinking Samaritans in Missouri

bloody mary

In keeping with the “vampiric” denizens of a previous post  (teetotalers, apparently) we get a horrific glimpse of the cult of the


A Curious Missouri Sect Who Believe Human Blood is a Panacea For All Ailings

Kansas City, Jan. 26, 1890. A few days ago Secretary of the Humane Society Huckett received the following letter:

Mr. Huckett—There is somethin I think ought to be called to your attenshen at once which I think is bad for a civilized community, there is John Wrinkle and his two children He has ben sick and he is crazy on religion. His little girl Minnie is 13 year old and is boy John is 11. Wrinkle has heard of people drinken blod at sloughter houses for their health and he said he believed in the bible that it preeched that the well should make sacrifises for the sick.

He did blead the little girl and boy until they are recks and he did drink the blod. It has leaked out and unless something is done by you the neighbors will take things into their own hands and that quick too. He lives on a little piece of land near the new city limits.

Yours respectfully GEORGE WEST.

p.s. send some officers.

He referred the letter to Chief of Police Speers, who sent Humane Officer Marran to investigate.

I went with Officer Marran to the place where the savage rites were said to be enacted. It is on the Blue River, just inside the new city limits. I found that the letter to the secretary had not told half of the terrible state of affairs which has obtained in the Blue Valley.

About a year ago there appeared among the people of that neighborhood a man named Silas Wilcox, who went about the country preaching the doctrine of doing good for the sick. It was not long until he had a sufficient number of adherents to his doctrines to warrant him in attempting to found a sect, which he named the Samaritans. Among the teachings he advocated was the drinking of blood for all diseases. He said that the Bible taught that blood was life. Almost daily pilgrimages were made by those who were ailing to the packing houses, and there they drank the blood of the freshly killed beeves.

Wilcox was not satisfied, however, with the blood of animals, and he advanced the doctrine that it was well to show belief in the doctrine by giving up human blood for the sick and suffering members of the band.  This doctrine was gradually established, Wilcox himself being the first to profit by the horrible practice. He apparently became very sick and was unable to make the pilgrimage to the packing house. He called upon the faithful members of the band to save his life. A woman named Nancy Dixon was persuaded to allow the preacher to suck blood from her arm. The effect was marvellous, for Wilcox recovered from his alleged illness the same day. This visible manifestation of the truth of his doctrines made a great impression on his followers, and the result has been that from that day the habit has steadily increased and is now a regular practice among the Samaritans.

At the home of John Wrinkle, mentioned in the letter, were found two emaciated children. On the bed lay Wrinkle, apparently in the last stages of consumption. When questioned about drinking the blood of the children he denied having done so. The children also denied it. Their bloodless appearance, however, excited the suspicion of the officer and he compelled them to show their arms. They were covered with scars around the elbows. When confronted with this evidence Wrinkle acknowledged that he had availed himself of the opportunity and the children had willingly given their blood to restore him to health.

The man was in such a condition that he could not be removed, but the children were taken in charge by the officer and placed in the Children’s Home. Chief Speers is anxious to take steps to put a stop to the practice, but there appears to be no law which applies to the case except where children are made use of to supply the blood. The band of Samaritans is composed of about twenty members, who hold regular weekly meetings at the houses of the different members. At these meetings the sick or ailing ask for assistance from the well, and they are detailed to give their blood according to their health and strength. When a member becomes very sick the well ones take turns in supplying him with the life giving fluid. They claim that they have a right to do this when the blood is a voluntary contribution, the same as physicians have the right to transfuse blood from one person to another. New York Herald 27 January 1890: p. 5

The idea that fresh blood–human or animal–was a cure for many ailments was surprisingly widespread in the nineteenth century. I’ve posted before about the sick flocking to slaughter-houses, and of medicinal vampirism.  Consumption was a disease of desperation–remember the “vampires” of Rhode Island, their hearts ripped out and burned to save the living from the “White Death.” Blood from the healthy–particularly children–may have provided the only hope.

Oddly enough, there is new research that suggests that giving old mice young blood rejuvenates them in all kinds of miraculous ways. Countess Elizabeth Báthory may have been onto something with her blood-baths.

That said, I haven’t found this specific Silas Wilcox in the census reports. He is said to have begun his sanguinary mission as a faith-healer in 1888 in western Missouri.  There are dozens of members of the Wrinkle family listed in the census for Missouri; I haven’t pinned down the consumptive John or found a record of his grave; nor have I located the hapless children drained for the health of their dying father.

“Crazy on religion,” said the anonymous tipster. I have to wonder if the members, when asked to give blood to an ailing brother or sister, assented with the words, “Take and drink; this is my blood….”

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead. And visit her newest blog, The Victorian Book of the Dead.

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