Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Marshfield Vampire

Almost thirty years ago a guy in a small New England town killed his grandmother, burned her house down, and tried to drink her blood. He claimed he was a 700 year old vampire and that he needed to drink her blood, but that she was a dried up old woman and couldn't give him enough to survive. His name was Jim Riva and I knew him a little. He was the crazy guy who used to collect road kill.

Today he's eligible for parole.

Jim is a prime example of somebody who is, at least in my opinion, completely nuts. I also think he's a prime example of a nut who should stay in the nuthouse. But that doesn't mean I don't feel sympathy, only that I feel concern for public safety. His website once featured bizarre and disturbing artwork. It now contains a rambling and barely coherent personal statement: (

Jim spent some of his youth in mental institutions and told his mother for some time that he was a vampire, and that his grandmother was one as well, often feeding from him at night. I know some of Jim Riva's family, and they did try for years to get him help.

I bring it up not just because he is now eligible for parole, but because vampires are such a hot topic now. They weren't when this incident took place, in April of 1980. I had just started high school. Vampires suddenly became very hot in Marshfield. We've always been a little ahead of the curve.

This town is a little bit notorious for ghosts. Penelope Winslow, the daughter-in-law of the first Governor of Massachusetts, has been seen by at least one third of the people I know. (More about Penelope here.) Daniel Webster, who owned all of Green Harbor, was heard riding his horse Traveler all over this area at night until, some years back, the body of that horse was found on the hill above my property. He'd been buried standing up with his saddle on, just as legend said. When the folks who were digging a hole for their pool had Traveler re-interned the sound of hoofbeats stopped. His battle with the Devil was alleged to take place elsewhere. He loved Green Harbor, wrote about her often, and likely faced very few demons here. Though my home sits on his apple orchard and he caught fish in the river behind us. You never know.

Then again I had a horse at the time named Becky who was something of an escape artist, so it may not have been Traveler at all.

Green Harbor, a village of Marshfield, has its share of spooks, haunts, and even vampires. What are the infamous legends of your home town?

For more on Jim Riva:


  1. The grand strand has it's share of ghosts. One I never hope to see is the Gray Man. It foretells of disastrous hurricanes.

  2. There's a restaurant not far from here that's supposed to be haunted. The town I grew up in had a "haunted" church that supposedly had a Bible on the pulpit that couldn't be removed from the church because the closer you got to the door with it, the heavier it became until you couldn't carry it any more. We broke into that church as teenagers, but we freaked out before we ever saw a Bible.

  3. there are several haunted hotels, towns, graveyards, etc. here in Arkansas. The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs is probably the most famous. I've never stayed there but have had friends who have met the friendly ghosts...I have one friend who met the unfriendly ghost...

  4. Kristen that would make an excellent short story!!

    Now you know why I'm addicted to Ghost Hunters... and why it's based in New England.

  5. Creepy...this isn't the same guy who always spout the same number, is it?

    My home town had it's share of tales -- Charles Manson hung out there. But overall, it's one of the safest cities in America. Of course, that's where the crap usually goes down, right?

    St. Louis, however, is home to the Lemp Mansion. I think it's supposed to be the 3rd most haunted house in the US?

    Oh yeah, I won't click on the URL. Too squigged out.

  6. My hometown of Lebanon, Illinois has the ghost of Rhoda. She was supposed to be a witch. She is buried in the woods, and kids have been trying to steal her tombstone. No one has been successful, though, because something horrible happens to those who do. Her stone also glows in the dark. My sis-in-law swears that someone she knew died after trying to steal the stone.

    I did a little research myself and discovered that Rhoda was a church-going mother who died of breast cancer. I even found one of her descendants!

  7. I thought my house was haunted for awhile, but the ghost seems to have relaxed. I don't much mind having a ghost, so long as they aren't destructive. Or you know, scary. If they have a sense of humor, they can stay. If they enjoy doing housework, all the better.

  8. Anonymous5:57 PM

    I grew up in Marshfield in the 1970's. I lived near the house for 13 years. I began having ghost sightings when I was a small child of 7 and they continued until be moved in the 1980's. My stories include sightings on the property of the Winslow House and in the house itself. Sometimes as ghostly encounters and dull blown sightings. That still scare me. I have yet moved away and still think of the place that changed my life.
    Kathy Chattoraj