RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) are helping to recreate the image of a man known as the “Connecticut Vampire,” who died in the 1830s.

The middle-aged man, later identified as John Barber, was believed to have died of tuberculosis in Griswold, Connecticut. Archaeologists who discovered Barber’s grave opened his coffin to find a strange sight.

The man had been beheaded, and his bones were found to have been re-arranged post-mortem to form a skull and crossbones, a common folklore practice during this time period done with the belief it would prevent a suspected vampire from coming back to life, according to the Smithsonian. The seemingly odd practice was reportedly common during the Great New England Vampire Panic.

A forensic facial reconstruction of John Barber created by Parabon NanoLabs and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory. (Photo: Virginia Commonwealth University)

In the fall of 2021, a forensic reconstruction of Barber’s face was revealed by the Parabon NanoLabs and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, thanks to help from VCU researchers.

The university researchers contributed to the project by providing a three-dimensional scan of Barber’s skull, making the digital reconstruction possible. A laser 3-D scanner and a structured light scanner were used to capture the skull, and photogrammetric software was then used to assemble a 3-D digital model, according to VCU.

VCU anthropology students then painted two 3-D replicas of the skull, which will be used at the University and the National Museum of Health and Medicine for teaching purposes.