Saturday, 13 December 2014

Can Such Things Be?

French vampirological and biblical scholar, Dom Augustin Calmet, who entered the Benedictine Order in 1688, becoming ordained into the priesthood in 1696, is remembered for his 1746 work on vampires: Dissertations sur les Apparitions des Anges des Démons et des Espits, et sur les revenants, et Vampires de Hongrie, de Boheme, et de Silésie. Calmet’s attempt to establish the veracity of such predatory demonic entities lacked first-hand evidence and he seemed to concentrate on the collecting of vampire reports, which he certainly did not dismiss out of hand, and then offered his personal reflections on them.

Calmet defined the phenomena as corpses that returned from their graves to disturb the living by sucking their blood and even causing death. The only remedy was to exhume the afflicted body, sever its head, and drive a stake through the heart. Cremation was another effective alternative. Using that definition, he gathered all the accounts he could find, and it is these reports of collected data that take up the majority of space in his volume.

He justifiably condemned the hysteria which accompanied several of the reported vampire incidents, and also considered all the natural explanations that were offered for the phenomenon. His findings were inconclusive. However, Calmet did not state that the reports could be explained away by natural causes, but he shrank from proposing an alternative answer. In other words, he left the entire matter unresolved. He nevertheless seemed to favour the existence of vampires by noting “that it seems impossible not to subscribe to the belief which prevails in these countries that these apparitions do actually come forth from the graves and that they are able to produce terrible effects which are so widely and so positively attributed to them.”

Calmet had posed five possibilities for all the accounts he had considered. Three of these he dismissed. The remaining two consisted of the possibility that vampires are the result of the Devil’s interference, or just superstition. No firm conclusion was apparent until the third and last edition, published in 1751, where in his bestselling work he makes clear that he could conclude naught save that such creatures as vampires really did return from the grave.

In the Malleus Maleficarum (1486) the Church gives official recognition to the existence of the undead. Pope Innocent III sanctioned the publication of a treatise on the discovery and elimination of vampires. Protestant Reformers likewise made belief in the existence of vampires official. John Calvin explained the phenomenon of vampirism as being a consequence of sorcery. King James I, in his treatise Demonologie (1597), claimed that vampiric spectres were not the souls of the dead, but rather demons masquerading as the deceased. Even Martin Luther entertained vampires when they were related to him by a priest called George Rohrer. Written in 1679 by the theologian Philip Rohr (not to be confused with George Rohrer), De Masticatione Mortuorum translates as "On the Chewing Dead." Rohr was based in the Holy Roman Empire, and his text discussed the common folklore that some corpses returned to life, eating both their funeral shrouds and nearby bodies - a process known as manduction. The chewing dead were part of a larger body of vampire mythology, which Rohr's text contributed to significantly.

De Masticatione Mortuorum (or to use its full title Dissertatio Historico-Philosophica de Masticatione Mortuorum) is referred to on page 14 of The Vampire Hunter's Handbook (1997). Rohr, like many others before and since, attributed the vampire phenomenon to demonic possession.

The Eastern Orthdox Churches tend not to doubt the existence of vampires. It is not a top priority for them, but it is an aspect of the realm of demonaltry which all Christians, according to the New Testament (Mark 16: 17), are obliged to oppose and indeed exorcise.

We will now proceed to inquire into those physical traits by which a vampire may be discerned.

A vampire is generally described as being exceedingly gaunt and lean with a hideous countenance and eyes wherein are glinting the red fire of perdition. When, however, he has satiated his lust for warm human blood his body becomes horribly puffed and bloated, as though he were some great leech gorged and replete to bursting. Cold as ice, or it may be fevered and burning as a hot coal, the skin is deathly pale, but the lips are very full and rich, blub and red; the teeth white and gleaming, and the canine teeth wherewith he bites deep into the neck of his prey to suck thence the vital streams which re-animate his body and invigorate all his forces appear notably sharp and pointed. Often his mouth curls back in a vulpine snarl which bares these fangs, "a gaping mouth and gleaming teeth," says Leone Allacci, and so in many districts the hare-lipped are avoided as being certainly vampires. In Bulgaria, it is thought that the vampire who returns from the tomb has only one nostril; and in certain districts of Poland he is supposed to have a sharp point at the end of his tongue, like the sting of a bee. It is said that the palms of a vampire's hands are downy with hair, and the nails are always curved and crooked, often well-nigh the length of a great bird's claw, the quicks dirty and foul with clots and gouts of black blood. His breath is unbearably fetid and rank with corruption, the stench of the charnel. Dr Henry More in his An Antidote against Atheism, III, ix, tells us that when Johannes Cuntius, an alderman of Pentsch in Silesia and a witch returned as a vampire he much tormented the Parson of the Parish. One evening, "when this Theologer was sitting with his wife and Children about him, exercising himself in Musick, according to his usual manner, a most grievous stink arose suddenly, which by degrees spread itself to every corner of the room. Here upon he commends himself and his family to God by Prayer. The smell nevertheless encreased, and became above all measure pestilently noisom, insomuch that he was forced to go up to his chamber. He and his Wife had not been in bed a quarter of an hour, but they find the same stink in the bedchamber; of which, while they are complaining one to another out steps the Spectre from the Wall, and creeping to his bedside, breathes upon him an exceeding cold breath, of so intolerable stinking and malignant a scent, as is beyond all imagination and expression. Here upon the Theologer, good soul, grew very ill, and was fain to keep his bed, his face, belly, and guts swelling as if he had been poysoned; whence he was also troubled with a difficulty of breathing, and with a putrid inflamation of his eyes, so that he could not well use them of a long time after."

In the Malleus Maleficarum, Part II, Qn. 1., Ch. 11, the following is related: "In the territory of the Black Forest, a witch was being lifted by a gaoler on to the pile of wood prepared for her burning and said: 'I will pay you,' and blew into his face. And he was at once afflicted with a horrible leprosy all over his body and did not survive many days."

Boguet, Discours des Sorciers, gives as his rubric to Chapter XXV, Si les Sorciers tuent de leur souffle & haleine. He tells us: "Les Sorciers tuent & endommagent de lour souffle & haleine: en quoy Clauda Gaillard dicte la Fribolette nous seruita de tesmoignage; car ayant soufflé contre Clauda Perrier, qu'elle r'encontra en l'Eglise d'Ebouchoux, tout aussi test ceste femme tomba malade, & fut rendue impotente, & en fin mourut apres auoir trainé par l'espace d'vn an en toute pauurieté, & langueur: de mesme aussi comme Marie Perrier luy eut vne fois refusé l'aumosne, elle luy souffla fort rudement contre, de façon quo Marie tomba par terre, & s'estant releuée ause peine elle demeura malade par quelques iours, & iusques à tant que Pierre Perrier son neueu out menacé la Sorciere."

Sinistrari in his Demoniality says that if we ask how it is possible that the demon, who has no body, yet can perform actual coitus with man or woman, most authorities answer that the demon assumes or animates the corpse of another human being, male or female, as the case may be, and Delrio (Disquisitiones Magicae, Liber II, Q. xxviii, sec. 1). comments: "Denique multae falsae resurrectiones gentilium huc sunt referendae; & constat cum sagis ut plurimum induto cadauere diabolum sine incubum, sine succubum, rem habere; unde & in hoc genere hominum, cadauerosus quidam faetor graueolentiae, cernitur."

Some remoter country districts, indeed, are apt to regard any poor wretch who is sadly deformed as a vampire, especially if the distortion be altogether unsightly, prominent, or grotesque. It has even been known that a peasant whose face was deeply marked with wine-coloured pigment, owing it was thought to some accident which befell his mother during her late pregnancy, was shunned and suspected of being a malignant vrykolakas. Chorea, they say, is a certain sign of vampirism, and it may be remarked that in Shoa this disorder is regarded as the result of demoniacal possession, or due to the magic spell of an enemy's shadow having fallen upon the sufferer. An epileptic there is also often considered as being in the power of some devil, and unless proper precautions are taken he will assuredly not rest in his grave. The vampire is endowed with strength and agility more than human, and he can run with excessive speed, outstripping the wind.

The vampire is one who has led a life of more than ordinary immorality and unbridled wickedness; a man of foul, gross and selfish passions, of evil ambitions, delighting in cruelty and blood. Arthur Machen has very shrewdly pointed out that "Sorcery and sanctity are the only realities. Each is an ecstasy, a withdrawal from the common life." The spiritual world cannot be confined to the supremely good, "but the supremely wicked, necessarily, have their portion in it. The ordinary man can no more be a great sinner than he can be a great saint. Most of us are just indifferent, mixed-up creatures; we muddle through the world without realizing the meaning and the inner sense of things, and, consequently our wickedness and our goodness are alike second-rate unimportant . . . the saint endeavours to recover a gift which he has lost; the sinner tries to obtain something which was never his. In brief, he repeats the Fall . . . it is not the mere liar who is excluded by those words[1]; it is, above all, the "sorcerers" who use the material life, who use the failings incidental to material life as instruments to obtain their infinitely wicked ends. And let me tell you this; our higher senses are so blunted, we are so drenched with materialism, that we should probably fail to recognize real wickedness if we encountered it.)"

It has been said that a saint is a person who always chooses the better of the two courses open to him at every step. And so the man who is truly wicked is he who deliberately always chooses the worse of the two courses. Even when he does things which would be considered right he always does them for some bad reason. To identify oneself in this way with any given course requires intense concentration and an iron strength of will, and it is such persons who become vampires.

The vampire is believed to be one who has devoted himself during his life to the practice of Black Magic, and it is hardly to be supposed that such persons would rest undisturbed, while it is easy to believe that their malevolence had set in action forces which might prove powerful for terror and destruction even when they were in their graves. It was sometimes said, but the belief is rare, that the vampire was the offspring of a witch and the Devil.


Seán Manchester

Memoir [select extracts] (2003)

The Vampire Hunter's Handbook (1997)

Montague Summers

The Vampire: His Kith & Kin (1928)

Friday, 12 December 2014

The Vampire

With the following words, Montague Summers' introduced his celebrated book The Vampire: His Kith & Kin (1928). It was quickly followed by his equally informative The Vampire in Europe (1929). No self-respecting vampirologist can be without either of these fascinating works.

In all the darkest pages of the malign supernatural there is no more terrible tradition than that of the Vampire, a pariah even among demons. Foul are his ravages; gruesome and seemingly barbaric are the ancient and approved methods by which folk must rid themselves of this hideous pest. Even to-day in certain quarters of the world, in remoter districts of Europe itself, Transylvania, Slavonia, the isles and mountains of Greece, the peasant will take the law into his own bands and utterly destroy the carrion who--as it is yet firmly believed--at night will issue from his unhallowed grave to spread the infection of vampirism throughout the countryside. Assyria knew the vampire long ago, and he lurked amid the primaeval forests of Mexico before Cortes came. He is feared by the Chinese, by the Indian, and the Malay alike; whilst Arabian story tells us again and again of the ghouls who haunt ill-omened sepulchres and lonely cross-ways to attack and devour the unhappy traveller.

The tradition is world wide and of dateless antiquity. Travellers and various writers upon several countries have dealt with these dark and perplexing problems, sometimes cursorily, less frequently with scholarship and perception, but in every case the discussion of the vampire has occupied a few paragraphs, a page or two, or at most a chapter of an extensive and divaricating study, where other circumstances and other legends claimed at least an equal if not a more important and considerable place in the narrative. It maybe argued, indeed, that the writers upon Greece have paid especial attention to this tradition, and that the vampire figures prominently in their works. This is true, but on the other band the treatise of Leone Allacci, De Graecorum hodie quorundam opinationibus, 1645, is of considerable rarity, nor are even such volumes as Father François Richard's Relation de ce qui s'est passé de plus remarquable a Sant-Erini, 1657, the Voyage au Levant (1705) of Paul Lucas, and Tournefort'sRelation d'un Voyage du Levant (1717), although perhaps not altogether uncommon and certainly fairly well known by repute, generally to be met with in every library. The study of the Modern Greek Vampire in Mr. J. G. Lawson's Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion has, of course, taken its place as a classic, but save incidentally and in passing Mr. Lawson does not touch upon the tradition in other countries and at other times, for this lies outside his purview.

Towards the end of the seventeenth century, and even more particularly during the first half of the eighteenth century when in Hungary, Moravia, and Galicia, there seemed to be a veritable epidemic of vampirism. the report of which was bruited far and wide engaging the attention of curia and university, ecclesiastic and philosopher, scholar and man of letters, journalist and virtuoso in all lands, there appeared a large number of academic theses and tractates, the majority of which had been prelected at Leipzig, and these formally discussed and debated the question in well-nigh all its aspects, dividing, sub-dividing, inquiring, ratiocinating upon the most approved scholastic lines. Thus we have the monographs of such professors as Philip Rohr, whose Dissertatio Historico-Philosophica De Masticatione Mortuorum was delivered at Leipzig on 16 August, 1679, and issued the same year from the press of Michael Vogt; the Dissertatio de Uampyris Seruiensibus of Zopfius and van Dalen, printed at Duisburg in 1733; and the De absolutione mortuorum excommunicatorum of Heineccius, published at Helmstad in 1709. Of especial value are Michael Ranft's De Masticatione Mortuorum in Tumulis Liber, Leipzig, 1728, and the Dissertatio de Cadaueribus Sanguisugis, Jena, 1732, of John Christian Stock. These dissertations, however, are extremely scarce and hardly to be found, whilst even so encyclopaedic a bibliography as Caillet does not include either Philip Rohr, Michael Ranft, or Stock, all of whom should therein assuredly have found a place. In this connexion must not be omitted the De Miraculis Mortuorum, Leipzig, Kirchner, 1670, and second edition, Weidmann, 1687, a treatise by Christian Frederic Garmann, a noted physician, who was born at Mersebourg about 1640 and who practised with great repute at Chemnitz. Garmann discusses many curious details and continued to amass so vast a collection of notes that after his death there was published in 1709 at Dresden by Zimmerman a very much enlarged edition of his work, "exornatum, diu desideratum et expetitum, beato autoris obitu interueniente."

During the eighteenth century the tradition of the Vampire was dealt with by two famous authors, of whom both concentrated upon this as their main theme, that is to say by Dom Augustin Calmet, O.S.B., in his Dissertations sur les Apparitions des Anges, des Démons et des Esprits et sur les revenants et vampires de Hongrie, de Bohême, de Moravie, e de Silésie, Paris, 1740, and by Gioseppe Davanzati, Archbishop of Trani and Patriarch of Alexandria, in his Dissertazione sopra I Vampire, Naples, 1774. As I have very fully considered both these important works they require no more than a bare mention here.

Of a later date we find in French a few books such as the Histoire des Vampires (1820) of the enormously prolific Collin de Plancy, theSpectriana (1817) and Les ombres sanglantes (1820) of J. P. R. Cuisin, and Gabrielle de Paban's Histoire des Fantômes et des Demons (1819) andDémoniana (1820), but these with many more of that class and epoch, although they are sometimes written not without elegance and industry and one may here and there meet with a curious anecdote or local legend, will not, I think, long engage the consideration and regard of the more serious student.

In English there is a little book entitled Vampires and Vampirism by Mr. Dudley Wright, which was first published in 1914; second edition (with additional matter), 1924. It may, of course, be said that this is not intended to be more than a popular and trifling collection and that one must not look for accuracy and research from the author of Roman Catholicism and Freemasonry.

It may, I think, not unfairly be claimed that the present work is the first serious study in English of the Vampire, and kindred traditions from a general, as well as from a theological and philosophical point of view. I have already pointed out that it were impossible to better such a chapter as Mr. J. C. Lawson has given us in his Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion, a book to which as also to Bernhard Schmidt's Das Volksleben der Neugriechen und das Hellenische Alterthum, I am greatly indebted. But any wider survey of the vampire tradition will soon be found on demand an examination of legend, customs, and history which extend far beyond Greece, although in such an inquiry the beliefs and practice of modern Greece must necessarily assume a prominent and most material significance.

In the present work I have endeavoured to set forth what might be termed "the philosophy of vampirism," and however ghastly and macabre they may appear I have felt that here one must not tamely shrink from a careful and detailed consideration of the many cognate passions and congruous circumstances which - there can be no reasonable doubt - have throughout the ages played no impertinent and no trivial but a very vital and very memorable part in consolidating the vampire legend, and in perpetuating the vampire tradition among the darker and more secret mysteries of belief that prevail in the heart of man.

In many countries there is thought to be a close connexion between the vampire and the werewolf, and I would remark that I have touched upon this but lightly as I am devoting a separate study to the werewolf and lycanthropy.

The Vampire, his Kith and Kin will be shortly followed by The Vampire in Europe, in which work I have collected and treat of numerous instances of vampirism old and new, concretely illustrating the prevalence and phases of the tradition in England and Ireland, in ancient Greece and Rome as well as in modern Greece, in Hungary and Bohemia, in Jugo-Slavia, Russia, and many other lands. In this volume will be found related in detail such famous cases as that of Arnold Paul, Stanoska Sovitzo, Millo the Hungarian, the vampires of Temeswar, Kisilova, Buckingham, Berwick, Melrose Abbey, Croglin Grange, and many more.

Montague Summers

The Vampire: His Kith & Kin (1928)

Thursday, 11 December 2014

The Undead

Dom Augustin Calmet writes:

"How can a corpse which is covered with four or five feet of earth, which has no room even to move or to stretch a limb, which is wrapped in linen cerements, enclosed in a coffin of wood, how can it, I say, seek the upper air and return to the world walking upon the earth so as to cause those extraordinary effects which are attributed to it? And after all that how can it go back again into the grave, when it will be found fresh, incorrupt, full of blood exactly like a living body? Can it be maintained that these corpses pass through the earth without disturbing it, just as water and the damps which penetrate the soil or which exhale therefrom without perceptibly dividing or cleaving the ground? It were indeed to be wished that in the histories of the Return of Vampires which have been related, a certain amount of attention had been given to this point, and that the difficulty had been something elucidated.

"Let us suppose that these corpses do not actually stir from their tombs, that only the ghosts or spirits appear to the living, wherefor do these Phantoms present themselves and what is it that energizes them? Is it actually the soul of the dead man which has not yet departed to its final destination, or is it a demon who causes them to be seen in an assumed and phantastical body? And if there bodies are spectral, how do they suck the blood of the living? We are enmeshed in a sad dilemma when we ask if these apparitions are natural or miraculous. ... Supposing, indeed, there were any truth in the accounts of these appearances of Vampires, are they to be attributed to the power of God, to the Angels, to the souls of those who return in this way, or to the Devil? If we adopt the last hypothesis it follows that the Devil can endue these corpses with subtilty and bestow upon them the power of passing through the earth without any disturbances of the ground, of gliding through the cracks and joints of a door, of slipping through a keyhole, of increasing, of diminishing, of becoming rarified as air or water to penetrate the earth; in fine of enjoying the same properties as we believe will be possessed by the Blessed after the Resurrection, and which distinguished the human Body of our Lord after the first Easter Day, inasmuch as He appeared to those to whom He would show Himself for 'Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said: Peace be to you,' Jesus uenit ianuis clausis, St John, xx, 26.

"Yet even if it be allowed that the Devil can re-energize dead bodies and give them movement for a certain time can he also bestow these powers of increasing, diminishing, becoming rarified, and so subtle that they can penetrate the earth, doors, windows? We are not told that God allows him the exercise of any such power, and it is hard to believe that a material body, gross and substantial can be endowed with this subtility and spirituality without some destruction or alteration of the general structure and without damage to the configuration of the body. But this would not be in accord with the intention of the Devil, for such a change would prevent this body from appearing, from manifesting itself, from motion and speech, ay, indeed from being eventually cut to pieces and burned as so often happens in the case of Vampires in Moravia, Poland, and Silesia."

These difficulties which Dom Calmet with little perception has raised can be very briefly answered, and they are not only superficial, but also smack of heterodoxy. In the first place, his example [a story related by Calmet] can hardly brush aside the vast vampire tradition because one instance proves to be overdrawn. In any case, what is certainly significant is that the Vampire was decapitated and that then the hauntings ceased.

Dom Calmet asks are the appearances of Vampires to be attributed to God, or to the souls of those who return or to the Devil? I answer that for the hauntings of a Vampire, three things are necessary: the Vampire, the Devil, and the Permission of Almighty God. Just as we know, for we learn this from the Malleus Maleficarum, that there are three necessary concomitants of witchcraft, and these are the Devil, a Witch, and the Permission of Almighty God (Part 1). So are these three necessary concomitants of Vampirism. Whether it be the Demon who is energizing the corpse or whether it be the dead man himself who by some dispensation of Divine Providence has returned is a particular which must be decided severally for each case. So much then for Dom Calmet's question, to whom are the appearances of Vampires to be attributed.

Can the Devil endow a body with these qualities of subtilty, rarification, increase, and diminishing, so that it may pass through doors and windows? I answer that there is no doubt the Demon can do this, and to deny the proposition is hardly orthodox. For St Thomas says of the Devil that "just as he can from the air compose a body of any form and shape, and assume it so as to appear in it visibly, so, in the same way, he can clothe any corporeal thing with any corporeal form, so as to appear therein." Moreover almost any séance will be sufficient reply to Dom Calmet's question. In his Modern Spiritism (1904), Mr T Godfrey Raupert says: "Photographs, or small drawing-room ornaments have thus been seen to change their places, and articles kept in a room other than that occupied by the sensitive, have been brought through closed doors and deposited at a spot previously indicated -in some instances placed into the hands of the person requesting the apport of the article. Many such remarkable instances of apport and of matter passing through matter have been observed under the strictest possible test conditions, and will be found recorded in the late Leipzig Professor Zoellner's deeply interesting work Transcendental Physics. The writer has himself observed one instance of this kind in a private house, and in circumstances entirely precluding the possibility of deception. There is, perhaps, no phenomenon which so distinctly exhibits the action of extraneous and independent intelligence as this one." (pp. 35-36.) Matter, then, can pass through matter, and the séance answers Dom Calmet. We may, if we will, adopt the ectoplasmic theory to explain the mode whereby the Vampire issues from his grave, but although this is very probably true (in some instances at all events) it is not necessarily the only solution of the problem. According to Catholic theologians evil spirits, if permitted to materialize their invisible presence, to build up a tangible and active body, do not absolutely require the ectoplasm of some medium.

Not very dissimilar to the dilemma of Dom Calmet are the views hold by an eminent authority, Dr Herbert Mayo, who was sometime Senior Surgeon of Middlesex Hospital, Professor of Anatomy and Physiology in King's College, Professor of Comparative Anatomy in the Royal College of Surgeons, London. In his well-known work, On the Truths contained in Popular Superstitions, he devotes his second Letter, or rather Chapter, to "Vampyrism," concerning which he says "The proper place of this subject falls in the midst of a philosophical disquisition," but he adds for the benefit of the inquirer that it is "a point on which, in my time, school-boys much your juniors entertained decided opinions." He continues to inform us that during the middle of the eighteenth century: "Vampyrism spread like a pestilence through Servia and Wallachia, causing numerous deaths, and disturbing all the land with fear of the mysterious visitation, against which no one felt himself secure. Here is something like a good solid practical popular delusion. Do I believe it? To be sure I do. The facts are matter of history: the people died like rotten sheep; and the cause and method of their dying was, in their belief, what has just been stated. You suppose, then, they died frightened out of their lives, as men have died whose pardon has been proclaimed when their necks were already on the block, of the belief that they were going to die? Well, if that were all, the subject would still be worth examining. But there is more in it than that."

He then gives an account in very full detail of a Vampire at Belgrade in the year 1732, he describes the circumstances in which the body was disinterred, It leaned to one side, the skin was fresh and ruddy, the nails grown long and evilly crooked, the mouth slobbered with blood from its last night's repast. Accordingly a stake was driven through the chest of the Vampire who uttered a terrible screech whilst blood poured in quantities from the wound. Then it was burned to ashes. Moreover, a number of other persons throughout the district had been infected with vampirism. Of the facts there can be no question whatsoever. The documents are above suspicion, and in particular the most important of these which was signed by three regimental surgeons, and formally counter-signed by a lieutenant-colonel and sub-lieutenant. Even Dr Mayo is obliged to allow: "No doubt can be entertained of its authenticity, or of its general fidelity; the less that it does not stand alone, but is supported by a mass of evidence to the same effect. It appears to establish beyond question, that where the fear of Vampyrism prevails, and there occur several deaths, in the popular belief connected with it, the bodies, when disinterred weeks after burial, present the appearance of corpses from which life has only recently departed." It is very instructive to note how the writer proceeds with the greatest subtility and no little cleverness to extract himself from logical consequences it might have seemed impossible to avoid, and how he explains an exceptional circumstance by circumstances which are far more amazing and difficult to believe. With the utmost suavity and breadth of mind he continues: "What inference shall we draw from this fact? - that Vampyrism is true in the popular sense? - and that these fresh-looking and well-conditioned corpses had some mysterious source of preternatural nourishment? That would be to adopt, not to solve the superstition. Let us content ourselves with a notion not so monstrous, but still startling enough: that the bodies, which were found in the so-called Vampyr state, instead of being in a new or mystical condition, were simply alive in the common way or had been so for some time subsequently to their interment that, in short, they were the bodies of persons who had been buried alive, and whose life, where it yet lingered, was finally extinguished through the ignorance and barbarity of those who disinterred them. . . . We have thus succeeded in interpreting one of the unknown terms in the Vampyr-theorem. The suspicious character, who had some dark way of nourishing himself in the grave, turns out to be an unfortunate gentleman (or lady) whom his friends had buried under a mistake while he was still alive, and who, if they afterwards mercifully let him alone, died sooner or later either naturally or of the premature interment--in either case, it is to be hoped, with no interval of restored consciousness."

I submit that Dr Mayo has not succeeded in solving any difficulty at all connected with vampirism. No doubt, as we have already considered in some detail, cases of premature burial, which were far more common than was generally supposed, would have helped to swell the tradition, but that they can have originated it is impossible, and it is absurd to put forward the terrible accident of premature burial as an explanation to cover all the facts. It is quite impossible that a person who had been interred when in a coma or trance should have survived in the grave.

Before we deal with the signs by which it is reputed a vampire may be recognized; the method in which a vampire presumably leaves his grave; and the way by which a vampire may be released or destroyed, we will briefly inquire into Dr Mayo's explanation of the actual visit of the vampire to a victim and the subsequent consequences, the terrible anæmia and hæmoplegia which may result in death followed by the vampire infection. And here we find that Dr Mayo quite honestly and frankly confesses that he is completely at a loss to give any solution of the difficulty. It is most instructive to read those inconclusive pleas which he is driven to put forward but which his own good sense cannot accept. He writes: "The second element which we have yet to explain is the Vampyr visit and its consequences, - the lapse of the party visited into death-trance. There are two ways of dealing with this knot; one is to cut it, the other to untie it. It may be cut, by denying the supposed connexion between the Vampyr visit and the supervention of death-trance in the second party. Nor is the explanation thus obtained devoid of plausibility. There is no reason why death-trance should not, in certain persons and places, be epidemic. Then the persons most liable to it would be those of weak and irritable nervous systems. Again, a first effect of the epidemic might be further to shake the nerves of weaker subjects. These are exactly the persons who are likely to be infected with imaginary terrors, and to dream, or even to fancy, they have seen Mr or Mrs such a one, the last victim of the epidemic. The dream or impression upon the senses might again recur, and the sickening patient have already talked of it to his neighbours, before he himself was seized with death-trance. On this supposition the Vampyr visit would sink into the subordinate rank of a mere premonitory symptom. To myself, I must confess, this explanation, the best I am yet in a position to offer, appears barren and jejune; and not at all to do justice to the force and frequency, or, as tradition represents the matter, the universality of the Vampyr visit as a precursor of the victim's fate. Imagine how strong must have been the conviction of the reality of the apparition, how common a feature it must have been, to have led to the laying down of the unnatural and repulsive process customarily followed at the Vampyr's grave, as the regular and proper preventive of ulterior consequences."

Dr Mayo proposes therefore "to try and untie this knot" a result which he singularly fails to achieve. He quite erroneously states "in popular language, it was the ghost of the Vampyr that haunted its future victim." This is exactly what the Vampire is not. As we have seen there is some divergence of view whether the Vampire is the actual person. energized with some horrible mystical life in death who visits his victims, and there can be no doubt at all that this is the true and proper Vampire, or whether it is a demon who animates and informs the body. But in no circumstances whatsoever is the Vampire a phantom or ghost, save by a quite inadmissible extension of the term, which then may practically be regarded (as indeed it is often most mistakenly and reprehensibly regarded) as covering almost any malignant supernatural phenomenon. So an explanation which confuses a Vampire with a ghost is entirely impertinent.


Montague Summers

The Vampire: His Kith & Kin (1928)

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Petre Toma

The authorities in Craiova, south-west Romania, opened an investigation against six people alleged to have impaled the body of a villager who, according to them "had transformed himself into vampire" and "sucked blood from them during the night."

The body of Petre Toma had been unearthed six weeks later by his brother-in-law in the presence of several other members of the family, including his widow and her grand-daughter. According to several testimonies, they made an incision in the chest of Toma to extract his heart before burning it. One report states that, in accordance with a local custom to protect against vampires, they dissolved the ashes in water and drank it.

An autopsy carried out by the authorities in Craiova confirmed that "the heart was indeed taken."

The six people explained that after the death of Toma they had felt "weakened," as if they did not have "any more blood."

"One night I saw it in my room, and in the morning I could not arise; so much was I weakened", said the grand-daughter of Toma, Mirela Marinescu. According to her, as soon as the exorcism ritual was performed the dead body "did not come any more to haunt" its family.

The Sunday Times reported that several villagers affirmed that this exorcism ritual was known and practiced for a long time in the area, and that it each time had appeared "effective against vampires."

“For centuries we have had to protect ourselves against these creatures by finding the graves of the undead and risking our lives by ripping out their hearts,” said sixty-eight-year-old Tita Musca, a local farmer.

The village of the vampire slayers has become the focus of a police investigation that has highlighted not only local fears of the undead but a startling willingness to act on them.

The saga began when Petre Toma, seventy-six, was buried at new year. His nephew’s family fell ill with an unexplained sickness and a few days later a witness claimed to have seen Toma leaving their house before sunrise as a flock of crows flew portentously overhead.

“He sucked the life from us so that he could live,” said Mirela Marinescu. “We were all dying, my husband and my child, and we all saw him come to us in the same dream.”

Armed with hammers and chisels and fortified with home-made schnapps, four men led by Gheorghe Marinescu, the supposed vampire’s brother-in-law, set out for the cemetery.

“When we lifted the coffin lid his arms were not on his chest as we had left them but at his sides,” said Marinescu. “His head was turned to the side and his lips were stained with dried blood.”

After the corpse’s chest had been opened with a wooden stake the heart was removed. “It was full of fresh blood,” said Marinescu. “His body relaxed and we heard him sigh.”

The heart was burnt over the embers of a fire and the ashes stirred into a bottle of water from the village well to make a potion. The vampire’s “victims” recovered after drinking it but Toma’s daughter called the police.

Investigators soon discovered evidence of up to twenty vampire slayings in the past few years. At the regional police station the commissioner, Gheorghe Sandu, said: “I’d like to be able to say this village is unique, but unfortunately I can’t because I know just how strong belief in vampires is here.”

The Daily Telegraph reported that six men were jailed for ripping out the heart of a corpse they believed was undead. As Monica Petrescu in Bucharest writes, to many Romanians, vampires are not legend but terrifying reality.

It was just before midnight as Gheorghe Marinescu and five of his relatives crept into the graveyard in the small Romanian village of Marotinul de Sus. They knew which plot they were looking for – a simple earth grave with a wooden cross bearing the name Petre Toma – and quickly, but quietly, set about digging.

When they had dragged the body out, they waited. Then, at the stroke of midnight, Marinescu began the ritual that they had been planning for weeks, one that had passed from generation to generation in their family. They drove a pitchfork through Petre Toma's chest, opened it, drew out his heart and then put stakes through the rest of his body. They sprinkled garlic over the mutilated corpse and then, carefully, laid it back in its grave.

They left the cemetery with the heart impaled on the end of the pitchfork and went to a crossroads where Marinescu's wife, son and daughter-in-law were waiting. There the group burnt it, dissolved the ashes and then drank the solution.

The scene would fit readily into any number of films about vampires and the Dracula legend but Gheorghe Marinescu is real. He and his five relatives – Mitrica Mircea, Popa Stelica, Constantin Florea, Ionescu Ion and Pascu Oprea – were sentenced to six months in jail for the unlawful exhumation of the body of Toma, a former teacher and a man they believed had risen from the dead to drink their blood while they slept.

News of what the Marinescu family did made headlines in Romania, but in a country where a large minority of the population admit to openly believing in the undead, football bosses employ witches to cast spells on foreign teams and a couple recently named their newborn son Dracula after premonitions of impending danger to him, many were unsurprised by what they read.

Mihai Fifor, an ethnologist at the Centre for Studies in Traditional Cultures and Societies in Craiova, said, "This particular ritual is quite unique but there have been many cases of people claiming that they are being hunted by the dead and vampires. There are a number of other rituals that exist for this type of situation where people believe they need to kill vampires."

Romania has been associated with vampires in the minds of many Westerners ever since Bram Stoker wrote his classic horror story, Dracula, in 1897. But in Romania the belief in vampires and the threat of the undead stretches as far back as the fifteenth century leader of Wallachia – modern-day Transylvania and other parts of Romania – Vlad Tepes (Dracula), who was the inspiration for Stoker's novel. Stoker merged the Middle Ages belief in vampires, which had become entrenched in Romania and many other parts of central and eastern Europe at the time, with the historically documented bloodthirstiness of Tepes's rule. In doing so, he created the story of Count Dracula who rose from the dead to haunt the deep, dark forests and castles of Transylvania, preying on young victims and drinking their blood.

But while Dracula and vampires are just a fascinating legend to most people outside the country, to many Romanians, mostly in rural areas, they are a terrifying reality. After his arrest, Marinescu said: 

"If we hadn't done anything, my wife, my son and my daughter-in-law would have died. That is when I decided to 'unbury' him. I've seen these kinds of things before.

"When we took him out of the grave, he had blood around his mouth. We took his heart and he sighed when we stabbed him. We burned it, dissolved the ash into water and the people who had fallen sick drank it. They got better immediately. It was like someone took away all their pain and sickness.

"We performed a ritual that is hundreds of years old. We had no idea we were committing a crime. On the contrary, we believed that we were doing a good thing because the spirit of Petre was haunting us all and was very close to killing some of us. He came back from the dead and was after us."

Marinescu explained to police when he was arrested that Toma, who he said had been a respected and well-liked teacher in the village for years, had been buried on Christmas Day in 2003. But soon afterwards he had begun to appear to members of Marinescu's family in dreams as a vampire. Although he did not see the man himself, he saw his family become sick and they told him that Toma was not just a dream but a vampire whose spirit had come back from the dead.

He, like the rest of his family, had been told how to recognise vampires and how to deal with them by his parents who had been taught that knowledge from their own parents and they from theirs. He said he had had to act quickly to save his family.

Paula Diaconu, who has lived in Marotinul de Sus for decades, praised the ritual carried out by Marinescu and his relatives. "It was all a good thing to take his heart out because people were in danger. Villagers in Romania know about rituals for driving away the evil spirits of the dead," he said.

Another man from the village, Dumitru Moineasa, once drank a solution containing the ashes of his uncle's heart. "An uncle of mine died in 1992 and a few days after we buried him I started to feel very sick," he said. "The doctor had no idea what was wrong with me. One day, an aunt brought me a glass of water. I drank it all. I got well almost immediately. I only found out later that it was my dead uncle's ashes."

His friend, Domnica Brancusi, said that hearts had been taken out of dead men's chests many times before. "There have been dozens of dead men who turned into vampires and were haunting us," he said. "But usually the family of the dead man who was haunting people made a pact with those people and agreed not to say anything about the rituals. Until this case, no fuss was ever made about it."

Local police laid charges against the six men after Toma's daughter, Floarea Cotoran, who has since left Marotinul de Sus, complained about what happened to her father's body. They admitted that they were aware of similar rituals having been performed in the region. A policeman in nearby Celaru, which has jurisdiction over Marotinul de Sus, and who asked not to be named, said: "We've known about it for years. There's never been anything we could do about it as no one ever complained."

Marotinul de Sus, in the south-west, is far from the only village in Romania to take the threat of vampires seriously. In many rural communities like it across the country, belief in vampires is pervasive and superstition often governs people's lives. "Fear and great challenges in life are sometimes met by people with rituals and superstitions, a set of rules built over generations which has been verified over time," said Sabina Ispas, an ethnologist at the Institute for Ethnology and Folklore in Bucharest. "Rural Romania has conserved excellently this system of rituals and beliefs."

Deep superstition and belief in the paranormal permeates all levels of society in urban Romania as well. Maria Tedescu, a twenty-one-year-old law student in Bucharest, said: "We all have our little superstitions, like taking three steps back if a black cat crosses your path to stop something bad happening. But vampires are different. It's not something to be taken lightly. I know it may sound silly and I can't totally explain it, but I think they exist. I always wear a crucifix … just in case."


Sunday Times (11 April 2004)

Daily Telegraph (6 February 2005)

Is It Real?: Vampires (National Geographic, 2006)

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Elizabeth Wojdyla

Elizabeth Wojdyla and Barbara Moriarty, two sixteen-year-old students of La Sainte Union Convent (near Highgate, London), were walking home late at night after visiting friends in Highgate Village. Their journey took them down Swains Lane which intersects Highgate Cemetery, a Victorian graveyard in two halves on a steep hill. These intelligent students could not believe their eyes as they passed the cemetery's north gate at the beginning of their downward path between the two graveyards. For there before them, amongst the jutting tombstones and stone vaults, the dead seemed to be emerging from their graves.

The two schoolgirls walked in eerie silence until they reached the bottom of the lane. Here they spoke for the first time, having finally found their voice, and confirmed they had both experienced the same terrifying scene. So frightening was it that Barbara Moriarty would not talk about it again.

Elizabeth Wojdyla, however, gave Seán Manchester an account of her experience some months later. It was tape-recorded by him and was heard during a televised film documentary about the Highgate Vampire case (True Horror: Vampires).

Elizabeth recounted: "We both saw this scene of graves directly in front of us. And the graves were opening up; and the people were rising. We were not conscious of walking down the lane. We were only conscious of this graveyard scene."

A series of nightmares then began to plague Elizabeth; all with one thing in common: something was trying to enter her bedroom window at night. A deathly-pale face identical to the corpses leaving their graves appeared behind the glass pane on some occasions.

During the summer of 1969, Seán Manchester had a chance meeting with Elizabeth Wojdyla who now appeared anaemic and listless. She was nevertheless anxious to get something off her chest. Now resident in an area not too far from the cemetery, she told Seán Manchester that her nightmares had returned with a vengeance. This time she was able to give a better description of the unwelcome spectre that haunted her nights, and, once again, Seán Manchester tape-recorded her words:

"[It has] the face of a wild animal with glaring eyes and sharp teeth, but it is a man with the expression of an animal. The face is gaunt and grey."

Two weeks later, Elizabeth's boyfriend, Keith, contacted Seán Manchester and reported on further deterioration:

"[Her] condition has grown worse. ... She is withering away at such a rate that she is only just barely alive. ... She is being overcome by something."

This time Seán Manchester noted the discovery on Elizabeth's neck marks which Keith had already mentioned in his preamble:

"I noticed for the first time the marks on the side of her neck. ... They were two inflamed mounds on the skin, the centre of each bearing a tiny hole."

On another occasion it was found that specks of blood had appeared on Elizabeth's pillow. Seán Manchester at this point began to apply traditional vampire antidotes and repellents; especially when it was confirmed that she was more and more attracted to Highgate Cemetery and that her anaemic condition was worsening. The small cross she had always worn as a schoolgirl had been absent for some time. Seán Manchester provided a larger crucifix made of silver and sprinkled her environment liberally with holy water. He repeated the Creed in a loud voice, applied salt, garlic and more crosses; during which procedure prayers were recited to shield Elizabeth from the innumerable crafts of Satan and all pestilence.

Elizabeth attempted to remove the impediments and further demonic assaults occurred as nightmare incidents multiplied before this feverish struggle against the predatory vampire ceased altogether.

Her appetite restored and the unhealthy, anaemic condition vanished. The punctures on her neck, bathed with holy water throughout the conflict, eventually faded. By Christmas all was well and the hideous manifestation of the Highgate Cemetery vampire did not return to haunt Elizabeth again. Soon afterwards she relocated elsewhere.


Seán Manchester

The Vampire's Bedside Companion (1975, 1976)

The Highgate Vampire (1985, 1991)

True Horror: Vampires (Discovery Channel, 2004)

Monday, 8 December 2014

Ghosts that Bite

Andrew Lang in his Dreams and Ghosts (1897), relates the story of "The Ghost that Bit," which might seem to have been a vampire, but which actually cannot be so classed since vampires have a body and their craving for blood is to obtain sustenance for their body.

[Seán Manchester argues that vampires possess the power of metamorphosis, ie shapeshifting; therefore no dichotomy exists in their apparent ability to manifest from corporeal to non-corporeal and back again.]

The narrative is originally to be found in Notes and Queries, 3rd September 1864, and the correspondent asserts that he took it "almost verbatim from the lips of the lady" concerned, a person of tried veracity. Emma S------ was asleep one morning in her room at a large house near Cannock Chase. It was a fine August day in 1840, but although she had bidden her maid call her at an early hour she was surprised to hear a sharp knocking upon her door about 3.30. In spite of her answer the taps continued, and suddenly the curtains of her bed were slightly drawn, when to her amazement she saw the face of an aunt by marriage looking through upon her. Half unconsciously she threw out her hand, and immediately one of her thumbs was sensibly pressed by the teeth of the apparition. Forthwith she arose, dressed, and went downstairs, where not a creature was stirring. Her father upon coming down rallied her a little upon being about at cockcrow and inquired the cause. When she informed him he determined that later in the day he would pay a visit to his sister-in-law who dwelt at no great distance. This he did, only to discover that she had unexpectedly died at about 3.30 that morning. She had not been in any way ailing, and the shook was fearfully sudden. On one of the thumbs of the corpse was found a mark as if it had been bitten in the last agony.

In The Proceedings of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research, Vol. I., 1927, will be found an account of the phenomena connected with Eleonore Zügun, a young Rumanian peasant girl, who in the autumn of 1926, when only thirteen years old was brought to London by the Countess Wassilko-Serecki, in order that the manifestations might be investigated at "The National Laboratory of Psychical Research," Queensberry Place, South Kensington. The child was said to be persecuted by some invisible force or agent, which she knew as Dracu, Anglice the Devil. There were many extraordinary happenings and she was continually being scratched and bitten by this unseen intelligence. It must suffice to give but two or three instances of the very many "biting phenomena." On the afternoon of Monday, 4 October 1926, Captain Neil Gow an investigator in his report, notes:

"3.20. Eleonore cried out. Showed marks on back of left hand like teeth-marks which afterwards developed into deep weals. . . . 4.12. Eleonore was just raising a cup of tea to her lips, but suddenly gave a cry and put the cup down hastily: there was a mark on her right hand similar to that caused by a bite. Both rows of teeth were indicated."

Of the same incident, Mr. Clapham Palmer, an investigator who was also present writes:

"Eleonore was in the act of raising the cup to her lips when she suddenly gave a little cry of pain, put down her cup and rolled up her sleeve. On her forearm I then saw what appeared to be the marks of teeth indented deeply in the flesh, as if she or someone had fiercely bitten her arm. The marks turned from red to white and finally took the form of white raised weals. They gradually faded but were still noticeable after an hour or so."

Such bitings not infrequent occurred, and photographs have been taken of the marks.

It was an interesting question to discuss the cause of these indentations and no doubt it is sufficiently remarkable, but however that may be such inquiry were impertinent here, for it is clearly not vampirism, nor indeed cognate thereto. The object of the vampire is to suck blood, and in these cases if blood was ever drawn it was more in the nature of a scratch or slight dental puncture, there was no effusion. Again the agent who inflicted these bites was not sufficiently material to be visible, at any rate he was able to remain unseen. The true vampire is corporeal.

The vampire has a body, and it is his own body. He is neither dead nor alive; but living in death. He is an abnormality; the androgyne in the phantom world; a pariah among the fiends.


Montague Summers

The Vampire: His Kith & Kin (1928)

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Peter Plogojowitz

Peter Plogojowitz (Serbian form: Petar Blagojević/Петар Благојевић) was a Serbian peasant believed to have become a vampire after his death and to have killed nine of his fellow villagers. The case was described in the report of Imperial Provisor Frombald, an official of the Austrian administration, who witnessed the exorcism via impalation by stake of Plogojowitz.

Peter Plogojowitz lived in a village named Kisilova (Kisiljevo) in the part of Serbia that temporarily passed from Ottoman into Austrian hands after the Treaty of Passarowitz (1718) and was ceded back to the Ottomans with the Treaty of Belgrade (1739).

Plogojowitz died in 1725. His death was followed by a spate of other sudden deaths (after very short maladies of about twenty-four hours each). Within eight days, nine persons perished. On their death-beds the victims allegedly claimed to have been throttled by Plogojowitz at night. Plogojowitz's wife stated that he had visited her and asked her for his opanci (shoes). She then proceeded to move to another village. In other accounts it is said that Plogojowitz came back to his house demanding food from his son, and when the son refused Plogojowitz brutally murdered his own son.

The villagers decided to disinter the body and examine it for signs of vampirism; such as growing hair, beard, and nails and absence of decomposition.

The inhabitants of Kisilova demanded that Kameralprovisor Frombald, along with the local priest, should be present at the procedure as a representative of the administration. Frombald tried to convince them that consent from the Austrian authorities in Belgrade should be sought first. The locals declined because they feared that by the time the permission arrived the whole community could be exterminated by the vampire, which they claimed had already happened "in Turkish times," ie when the village was still in the Ottoman-controlled part of Serbia. They demanded that Frombald himself should immediately permit the procedure or else they would abandon the village to save their lives. Frombald was obliged to consent.

Together with the Gradiška priest, he viewed the already exhumed body and was astonished to find that the characteristics associated with vampires were indeed present. The body was undecomposed, the hair and beard were grown, there were "new skin and nails" (while the old ones had peeled away), and blood could be seen in the mouth. After that, the people, who "grew more outraged than distressed," proceeded to stake the body through the heart, which caused a great amount of "completely fresh" blood to flow through the ears and mouth of the corpse. Finally, the body was burned.

Frombald concludes his report on the case with the request that, in case these actions were found to be wrong, he should not be blamed for them, as the villagers were "beside themselves with fear." The authorities apparently did not consider it necessary to take any measures regarding the incident.

The report on this event was among the earliest documented testimonies concerning vampirism in Eastern Europe. It was published byWienerisches Diarium, a Viennese newspaper, today known as Die Wiener Zeitung. Along with the report of the very similar Arnold Paole case of 1726-1732, it was widely translated West and North, contributing to the vampire panic of the eighteenth century in Germany, France and England.

In De masticatione mortuorum in tumulis (1725), Michaël Ranft attempted to explain folk beliefs in vampires. He writes that, in the event of the death of every villager, some other person or people—most likely a person related to the first dead—who saw or touched the corpse, would eventually die either of some disease related to exposure to the corpse or of a frenetic delirium caused by the panic of merely seeing the corpse. These dying people would say that the dead man had appeared to them and tortured them in many ways. The other people in the village would exhume the corpse to see what it had been doing. He gives the following explanation when talking about the case of Peter Plogojowitz:

"This brave man perished by a sudden or violent death. This death, whatever it is, can provoke in the survivors the visions they had after his death. Sudden death gives rise to inquietude in the familiar circle. Inquietude has sorrow as a companion. Sorrow brings melancholy. Melancholy engenders restless nights and tormenting dreams. These dreams enfeeble body and spirit until illness overcomes and, eventually, death."

Recently, the story has sparked some interest in the village of Kisiljevo among some Serbian journalists. According to Belgrade newspaper Glas javnosti, which cites local official Bogičić, the villagers are unable to identify Plogojovitz's (Blagojević's) grave and don't know whether the local family that bears that surname is related to him. One local does recall stories of a certain female vampire by the name of Ruža Vlajna, who was believed to haunt the village in more recent times, in the lifetime of her grandfather. She would make her presence felt by hitting pots hanging from roofs and was seen walking on the surface of the Danube, but it is unknown whether she was ever staked.


Frombald (1725). Copia eines Schreibens aus dem Gradisker District in Ungarn. (the original report in German), Kayserliche Hof-Buchdruckerey (a private english translation of the report).

Ranft, Michael (1728). De masticatione mortuorum in tumulis (aka De la mastication des morts dans leurs tombeaux or Tractat von dem Kauen und Schmatzen der Todten in Gräbern), Leipzig: Teubners' Buchladen.

Summers, Montague (2003). The Vampire in Europe 1929. Kessinger Publishing, 2003, ISBN 0-7661-3576-4.

Nowosadtko, Jutta (2004). Der Vampyrus Serviensis und sein Habitat: Impressionen von der österreichischen Militärgränze. In: Militär und Gesellschaft in der Frühen Neuzeit. 8 (2004). Heft 2. Universitätsverlag Potsdam.

Pera svrgnuo Savu Savanovića. By Dušanka Novković Glas javnosti 26-04-2006.