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Forensics of the European Vampire Craze of the early 1700s

  • 24-11-2009 7:10pm
    Closed Accounts Posts: 6,093 Amtmann

    Following on from the witch thread currently running on this forum, here is an attached article describing some of the forensics associated with the Vampire Craze of the early 18th century.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 6,093 Amtmann

    Here are a couple of vampire folktales from Romania:
    There was once a time when vampires were as common as leaves of grass, or berries in a pail, and they never kept still, but wandered round at night among the people. They walked about and joined the evening gather- ings in the villages, and, when there were many young people together, the vampires could carry out their habit of inspiring fear, and sucking human blood like leeches.

    Once, when an evening gathering was in full swing, in came an uninvited guest, the vampire. But no one knew that he was a vampire. He was in the form of a handsome youth, full of fun. He said " Good day " very politely, sat down on a bank besides the girls, and began to talk, and all the girls imagined that he was a youth from another part of the village. Then the vampirebegan to tell stories and jokes, so that the girls did not know what to do for laughter. He played and jested and bandied words with them without ceasing.

    But there was one girl to whom he paid special attention, and teased unmercifully. " Keep still, friend. Have I done anything to annoy you ?" said she. But he still kept on pinching her, till she was black and blue. " What is it, friend? You go too far with your joke. Do you want to make an end of me ? " said the poor girl. At that moment her distaff fell. When she stooped to pick it up, what did she see ? The tail of the vampire. Then she said to the girl next to her,-" Let's go. Run away. The creature is a vampire."

    The other girl was laughing so much that she did not understand. So the girl who knew the dreadful secret went out alone into the yard, on the pretext that she had to take some lengths of woven linen to the attic. Frightened out of her wits, she ran away with the linen, she ran into a forest, old as the world and black as her fear. Her companions at the gathering awaited her return. They looked and waited until they saw that she was not coming back. Where could she be ? " You must fetch her wherever she is," roared the vampire, with bloodshot eyes and hair standing on end.

    As the girl could not be found, the vampire killed all the rest of the merrymakers. He sucked their blood, he threw their flesh and bones under the bed, cut off their lips, and put their heads in a row in the window. They looked as if they were laughing. He strung up their intestines on a nail, saying they were strings of beads, and then he fled away. He arrived at the forest where the girl had taken refuge, and found her under a beech-tree.

    " Why did you come here, little girl ? Why did you run away from the gathering ? " The girl, poor thing, was so frightened that her tongue clove to her mouth, and she could say nothing. " You are afraid, little girl. Come home with me. You will feel better there." Then, involuntarily, she asked,-" Where?" " Here in the forest. Come quicker," said the vampire. They arrived at a hole in the depth of the forest, and she saw that this was the home of the vampire. He pressed her to enter first. "No, no. I don't want to. You go first." So the vampire went in, and began to sweep and clear up. The girl, however, stopped up the hole with the lengths of linen, and fled quickly towards the east. In her flight she saw a little light a long way off.

    She ran towards the light, came to a house, and found it empty, except for a dead man, who was lying stretched out on a table, with a torch at his head, and his hands crossed on his breast. What was she to do ? She entered the house, climbed up on to the stove, and went to sleep, worn out by suffering and fear. And she would have rested well, had not the terrible vampire pursued her. He had thrown aside the linen, and rushed after her, mad with rage. He came into the house, and the dead man rose, and they fought and wrestled till the cock crew and the girl awoke. Now the light was out, the dead man was gone, and the only sound was the song of the little cricket. The girl was left alone with her guardian angel. The dead man and the vampire both vanished at cock-crow, for both were vampires.

    Waking up in the darkness, the girl looked round the house three times, thought she was at home and had had a horrible dream, and then fell asleep again calmly and fearlessly. When she woke again, and saw all the beauties of the forest, and heard all the songs of the birds, she was amazed and thought herself in heaven. She did not stop long in wonder, but set out for her parents' house, hoping to bring them back with her. She reached her home, and began to tell about the vampire and how he had gone, and what beautiful things she had seen in the woods of paradise. The parents looked at her, and, full of amazement and doubt, made the sign of the cross. The girl sank into the ground, deeper and deeper, for she too had become a vampire, poor thing. The vampire had bewitched her, and the beauty of the dwelling in the wood had enchanted her too much.
    The Girl and the Vampire.2 (Story from Ramnic Sarat.) Once in a village there were a girl and a youth who were deeply in love, their parents did not know, and when the relations of the youth approached the parents of the girl with a proposal of marriage they were repulsed because the youth was poor. So the young man hanged himself on a tree, and became a vampire. As such he was able to come and visit the girl.

    But, although the girl had loved the man, she did not much like to have to do with an evil spirit. What could she do to escape from danger and sin ? She went to a wise woman, and this wise woman advised her what to do. The vampire came one evening to make love to the girl and stayed late. When he knew that it was about time to leave, he said,-" Good night," and made ready to go. The girl, following the advice of the wise old woman, fixed into the back of his coat a needle, to which was attached one end of the thread from a large ball of thread. The vampire went away, and the ball unrolled and unrolled for some time and then, all at once, it stopped. The girl understood what had happened, and followed the clue given by the thread. She traced it along the road, and found that it enteredinto the churchyard, and went straight to a grave. There it entered the earth, and that was the end.

    She came home, but the next night, as twilight came on, she hastened to the church- yard, and stood some distance from the grave to see what would happen. It was not long before she saw the vampire coming out, going to another grave, opening it, eating the heart of the dead man buried there, and then setting out towards the village to visit her. She followed him as he left the churchyard.

    "Where were you this evening, and what did you see ?" asked the vampire after he had greeted her. " Where was I? Nowhere, I saw nothing," said the girl. The vampire continued, -" I warn you that, if you do not tell me, your father will die." "Let him die, I know nothing, I've seen nothing, and I can say nothing." " Very well," said the vampire, and indeed in two days the girl's father was dead. He was buried with all due rites, and it was some time before the vampire again came to the girl. One night, however, he came and made love to her as usual, but before leaving he said, "Tell me where you were that evening, because, if you will not, your mother will die." "She may die nine times. How can I speak when I know nothing?" answered the girl. After two days the mother died. She was duly buried. Again some time passed, and the vampire reappeared, and now he said,-" If you do not tell me what you saw that evening, you shall die too." "What if I do?" said she, "it will be no great loss. How can I invent a story, if I know nothing and have seen nothing?" "That is all very well, but what are you going to do now, for you are about to die," replied the vampire. On the advice of the wise old woman the girl called all her relations together and told them that she was going to die soon. When she was dead they were not to take her out by the door or by the window, but to break an opening in the walls of the house. They were not to bury her in the churchyard, but in the forest, and they were not to take her by the road but to go right across the fields until they came to a little hollow among the trees of the forest and here her grave was to be.

    And so it happened. The girl died, the wall of the house was broken down, and she was carried out on a bier across the fields to the margin of the forest. After some time a wonderful flower, such as has never been seen, either before or after, grew up on her grave. One day the son of the emperor passed by and saw this flower, and immediately gave orders that it should be dug up well below the roots, brought to the castle, and put by his window. The flower flourished, and was more beautiful than ever, but the son of the emperor pined. He himself did not know what was the matter, he could neither eat nor drink. What was the matter ? At night the flower became again the maiden, as beautiful as before. She entered in at the window, and passed the night with the emperor's son without his knowing it. However, one night she could contain herself no longer, and kissed him, and he awoke and saw her.
    After that, they pledged troth to each other, they told the emperor and empress, they were married, and they lived very happily together. There was only one drawback to their happiness. The wife would never go out of the house. She was afraid of the vampire. One day, however, her husband took her with him in a carriage to go to church, when there, at a corner, who should there be but the vampire. She jumped out of the carriage and rushed to the church. She ran, the vampire ran, and just had his hand on her as they both reached the church together. She hid behind a holy picture. The vampire stretched out his hand to seize her, when all at once the holy picture fell on his head, and he disappeared in smoke. And the wife lived with the emperor's son free from all danger and sin for the rest of her life.

    Both stories may be found in: Agnes Murgoci, "The Vampire in Roumania", Folklore 37:4 (1926), pp. 320-349.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 20,649 CDfm

    Nice post - its facinating.

    Did people believe in them?

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 6,093 Amtmann

    The answer is that many peasants in certain parts of Europe certainly did believe in them - particularly in east-central and south-eastern Europe. Indeed, the superstition still has not died out entirely in certain areas:

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 7,752 ✭✭✭ pablomakaveli

    In relation to vampires, there was a great programme on The History Channel on monday about Vlad the Impaler the man who inspired the story of Dracula.

    He was ruler of Wallachia and had countless people impaled. One of his most gruseome acts occured when the Ottoman Empire invaded his lands. His army was too small to defeat the Turks so he had his soldiers impale hundreds of his own people impaled and when the Turkish army came upon this forest of impaled people their army turned and fled in fear.

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,483 Ostrom

    In relation to vampires, there was a great programme on The History Channel on monday about Vlad the Impaler the man who inspired the story of Dracula.

    He was ruler of Wallachia and had countless people impaled. One of his most gruseome acts occured when the Ottoman Empire invaded his lands. His army was too small to defeat the Turks so he had his soldiers impale hundreds of his own people impaled and when the Turkish army came upon this forest of impaled people their army turned and fled in fear.

    Saw that, great show. Is there any evidence of earlier superstition or are the legends assumed to come from public displays of defeated enemies throughout the conflict?

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  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 9,336 Mod ✭✭✭✭ convert

    That's really interesting. I always thought it would be an interesting topic to research, but never really looked into it in much detail. It's interesting to see the different supersitions/beliefs that existed in different countries.