Friday, 13 March 2009

Mass Hunt for the Highgate Vampire

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The night of Friday 13 March 1970 witnessed in England the largest vampire hunt of the twentieth century by members of the public. It bordered on hysteria and led to local police having their leave cancelled to contain it. Just how many were involved would be difficult to estimate, but certainly hundreds of people. In the preceding weeks, the Hampstead & Highgate Express (a local newspaper) told of unearthly goings-on at Highgate Cemetery. Its February 27th issue ran the headline "Does A Wampyr Walk in Highgate?" The front-page headline of the following fateful week's edition told of the matter being discussed on television that very evening by Seán Manchester who recounts the event in his bestselling book The Highgate Vampire:
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"... attempts to shoot the interview by the north gate were abandoned and the actual filming took place outside the main gate further down Swains Lane. Some independent witnessed, including several children who had seen a ghostly manifestation, were also interviewed for the programme. One person said: ' Yes, I did feel it was evil because the last time I actually saw its face and it looked like it had been dead for a long time.' Another witness commented: 'It seemed to float along the ground.' One of those interviewed who claimed to have seen the vampire was a certain David Farrant, a pathetic figure whose infatuation with the Highgate haunting was to earn him an undeserved notoriety and send him on a helter-skelter into the abyss of the dark occult. The programme was transmitted at 6.00pm on Friday 13 March 1970: the eve of the proposed vampire hunt. Eamonn Andrews introduced the viewing audience to a report on the Highgate Vampire. Within two hours Highgate was the scene of utter pandemonium as crowds of onlookers flocked to Swains Lane. The number multiplied as the evening progressed. Police on foot and in cars were unable to control the swarming mass of those who had arrived to witness the discovery of a modern-day vampire infestation in their midst. And its eradication! ... While chaos and frenzy continued to erupt in Swains Lane, a group of hand-picked researchers led by myself, constituting the official vampire hunt, made their way to the catacombs in the inky darkness of the cemetery ..." ― Seán Manchester (The Highgate Vampire, pages 76-77).
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Saturday, 17 January 2009

Seán Manchester

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Seán Manchester was born near Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire, England, toward the end of a nightmare that reduced much of Europe to a wasteland. An only child, he played in the avenues of sombre forest trees in Lord Byron’s gloomy abode, Newstead Abbey Park, where the fading twilight coupled with the moan in leafy woods to herald the last tangible breath of the Romantic Movement. The influence of his parents is touched upon in his memoir: "My father introduced me to Edgar Allan Poe, and my mother introduced me to St Teresa of Avila and, later on, to St Thérèse of Lisieux."

His beloved mother was born at the end of the Great War and it is via this side of the family that the Byron connection is inherited. The sanctuary of Newstead was forsaken by his parents for Canada when he was still an infant, but they soon returned to the familiar landscape and trees through which could be glimpsed a mist-laden semi-ruin of a rich and rare mixed Gothic.

His memoir recounts:

"My mother had much older memories [than Newstead]. When she was very young and her parents had moved from Derbyshire to an idyllic setting at Wollaton, a brook ran along the bottom of the country lane where their house was situated. She often spoke about her first home. Newstead, in many ways, would magnify its joys and aspects ― adding acres of woodland and more besides. After the Newstead property and its acreage were sold in the early 1960s, my grandparents lived out their remaining days in a house built for them on land purchased at Wollatan Park. The haunting of their home by a cold presence that apparently manifested as a spectre, allegedly causing my grandmother to fall down the rockery one evening, precipitated this final move. She lay undiscovered for some hours before her husband returned. Presentiments of doom and disaster seemed to intrude her everyday existence thereafter and she never properly recovered. Newstead was to become for me a symbol of all that belonged to the old world that was already irrevocably, moment by moment, slipping away. More than anything my mother wanted me to find the fulfilment that she had been denied. This is reflected in the lines I would write in a novel published some eight years after her death. 'The world we once inhabited has gone. … This is your time and your world.' So tells Mina Harker to her son, Quincey, in Carmel, my sequel to Bram Stoker’s gothic masterpiece. Yet it could have been my own mother speaking. Her world was fast disappearing as two catastrophic wars heralded the quick demise of a cultural identity and spiritual destiny that had lasted two millennia."

Already we begin to discover what set him on a road apart from others and how his interest in the supernatural was sparked. The incident at Newstead with its "presentiments of doom" involved a spectre about which he writes in Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know (1992) and The Highgate Vampire (1991).

London also beckoned and here he would arrive to conclude his studies and live for much of his life. Author, lecturer and researcher, Seán Manchester also inherited his parents’ love of music and from early on in his life performed on reed and keyboard instruments. Later he turned to composing. He would bemoan the passing of the places, people and values of yesterday and indicate partly why he was attracted to the priesthood:

"All those wonderful qualities that made Great Britain attractive to the rest of the world would now seem to have been sacrificed to meet what is invariably the lowest common denominator. This constant lowering of standards to appease liberal modernists leaves a radical traditionalist like myself in the wilderness on most matters. Though I am not a voice entirely unheard. Not yet. ... My calling to the priesthood and episcopacy alienated a small number of so-called 'admirers' who reacted with hostility, even malice; but for me it was unavoidable in the morally bankrupt times I found myself. Degenerate behaviour and its attendant drug dependency, still in its infancy in the 1960s, has now become endemic throughout all strata of society. Absent is any political or even mainstream church leadership with the courage to address this continuing slide by returning to traditional spiritual values."

It was in 1973 that he entered the minor order of exorcist, having been tonsured, and already holding the orders of porter and reader. Later in 1973, he entered the highest of the minor orders, that of the acolyte. This was also the year when he inaugurated the founding of Ordo Sancti Graal on Good Friday 13th April:

"On Good Friday 1973, along with eleven others, I founded Ordo Sancti Graal on the summit of Parliament Hill, at London’s Hampstead Heath. After three months of spontaneous organisation, we developed into a dispersed Order of disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. By this point I was in minor orders with Ecclesia Vetusta Catholica, an autocephalous branch of the Body of Christ that seceded from the Roman Catholic Church on 15 October 1724 with the consecration of Cornelius Steehoven as the Archbishop of Utrecht. The succession reached these shores on 8 April 1908 with the consecration of Arnold Harris Mathew as the Regionary Old Catholic Bishop for Great Britain and Ireland. Seventeen years [after the founding of Ordo Sancti Graal], I would take holy orders within Ecclesia Vetusta Catholica. In the interim ― notwithstanding pilgrimages, processions, preaching, healing and exorcisms ― I embarked on a number of quests."

On taking holy orders he inherited ecumenical lines of apostolic succession in the Old Catholic, Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, plus other mainstream denominations. The following year he was elevated to the episcopate on the feast of St Francis of Assisi, 4 October 1991, whereupon he assumed primacy of the autocephalous jurisdiction Ecclesia Apostolica Jesu Christi. On the feast of the Precious Blood, 1 July 1993, he was enthroned as the Bishop of Glastonbury, and on the same feast day nine years later he founded the Sacerdotal Society of the Precious Blood, having been elected presiding bishop for the British Old Catholic Church, an umbrella movement for traditional Old Catholic groups based in the United Kingdom.

He would remark:

"When the precious mitre was placed upon my head on the feast of St Francis of Assisi in 1991, I already understood that a crown of thorns was contained within."

His personal view of the supernatural would be recounted as follows:

"Sightings of people who are mistaken for stray ghosts are probably few and far between because the circumstances that make such apparent hauntings possible seem to require precision not easily comprehensible to us. This does not rule out the genuinely supernatural manifestation of either angelic or demonic origin, as my late colleague Professor Devendra Prasad Varma would have been quick to point out ― and as I would have been equally quick to agree."

Seán Manchester's television debut was on 13 March 1970 on a programme about vampires in connection with Highgate Cemetery. This remains the topic he is most widely associated with by successive generations depite his obvious weariness in repeating old cases. He subsequently made hundreds of radio and television transmissions, having contributed to innumerable documentaries (some of which are available on DVD). He is consulted on matters of demonolatry and exorcism by clergy and scholars, as well as by the broadcast media. In recent times he has appeared repeatedly on the Discovery Channel, National Geographic Channel and various UK television channels. Stock footage of him regularly crops up in film documentaries about demons and vampires. He is regarded by many as the foremost authority.

His predecessor, connected to him via his close colleague Peter Underwood (author and president of the Ghost Club Society, who met and knew Montague Summers personally) would have been proud.

Seán Manchester's published works include:

From Satan To Christ: Secrets of Witchcraft and Satanism Revealed in a Story of Salvation (1988); The Highgate Vampire: The Infernal World of the Undead Unearthed at London’s Highgate Cemetery (1985, 1991); Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know: The Life of Lady Caroline Lamb (1992); The Grail Church: Its Ancient Tradition and Renewed Flowering (1995); The Vampire Hunter’s Handbook: A Concise Vampirological Guide (1997); Carmel: A Vampire Tale (2000); Stray Ghosts: A Memoir of Shades (2003); Confronting the Devil: At the Periphery and Beyond the Highgate Vampire (2007).

Source:

Stray Ghosts (2003)

International Authors' & Writers' Who's Who (2002)

Friday, 16 January 2009

Montague Summers

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Alphonsus Joseph-Mary Augustus Montague Summers (10 April 1880 - 10 August 1948) was a fascinating character (the youngest of the seven children of Augustus William Summers, an affluent banker and justice of the peace in Clifton, Bristol) without whom vampire research would be very much the poorer.

Throughout his life he was described by acquaintances as kind, courteous, generous and outrageously witty; but those who knew him well sensed an underlying discomfort and mystery. In appearance he was plump, round cheeked and generally smiling. His dress resembled that of an eighteenth century cleric, with a few added flourishes such as a silver-topped cane depicting Leda being ravished by Zeus in the form of a swan. He wore sweeping black capes crowned by a curious hairstyle of his own devising which led many to assume he wore a wig. His voice was high pitched, comical and often in complete contrast to the macabre tales he was in the habit of recounting. Throughout his life he astonished people with his knowledge of esoteric and unsettling occult lore. Many people later described him as the most extraordinary person they had ever known. His successor in the annals of professional vampirology, and founder of the Vampire Research Society, was barely an infant when Summers died.

Curiously, Seán Manchester's (whose initials are the same as Montague Summers’ initials reversed) is an outspoken opponent of the sexual preference attributed to Summers. Like Summers, however, he began in the Church of England and converted to Roman Catholicism before entering holy orders in the Old Catholic Church - as, of course, did Summers. Both were ordained within the context of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and, as Old Catholic Bishops, led autocephalous jurisdictions that held authority in Great Britain. Summers entered the Old Catholic priesthood in 1913 and, towards the end of his life, was elevated to the episcopate by Hugh George de Willmott Newman, Archbishop of Glastonbury - an office and See currently held by Seán Manchester. Summers was episcopally consecrated for the Order of Corporate Reunion. Summers worked for several years as an English and Latin teacher at various schools including Brockley County School in S E London, before adopting writing as his full-time employment. He was interested in the theater of the seventeenth century, particularly that of the English Restoration, and edited the plays of Aphra Behn, John Dryden, William Congreve, among others. He was one of the founder members of The Phoenix, a society that performed those neglected works, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1916.

Summers joined the growing ranks of English men of letters interested in medievalism, Catholicism, and the occult. In 1909 he converted to Roman Catholicism and shortly thereafter began to style himself "Reverend" which his biographer Father Brocard Sewell asserts, as an ordained deacon within the Church of England in 1908, was correct and proper for him to use.

Summers worked for several years as an English and Latin teacher at various schools including Brockley County School in S E London, before adopting writing as his full-time employment. He was interested in the theatre of the seventeenth century, particularly that of the English Restoration, and edited the plays of Aphra Behn, John Dryden, William Congreve, among others. He was one of the founder members of The Phoenix, a society that performed those neglected works, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1916.

Despite his cherubic demeanour and affability some people found Montague Summers sinister, a view he delighted in encouraging. Although in everyday life he was kind and considerate, when engaged in academic debate Summers was furiously intolerant. There were also rumours that in his youth Summers had dabbled in the occult. Oddly enough, the same rumours persist about Seán Manchester. If true in either case, the only effect seems to have been to turn both completely against such meddling. He may have been fascinated, even obsessed by witches, vampires and the like but the tone of Summers’ writings is consistently hostile towards them. Ditto goes for Manchester who is believed to have infiltrated occult groups in order to later expose their depraved goings-on. Summers was a contemporary of the notorious Satanist Aleister Crowley with whom he was acquainted. Likewise, Seán Manchester was a contemporary of a number of infamous Crowley devotees of a later generation whom he met and interviewed.

Montague Summers grew up in a wealthy family living in Clifton, near Bristol. Religion always played a large part in his life. He was raised as an evangelical Anglican, but his love of ceremonial and sacraments drew him to Anglo-Catholicism. After graduating in Theology at Oxford he took the first steps towards holy orders at Lichfield Theological College and entered his apprenticeship as a curate in the diocese of Bitton near Bristol. A year or so later he converted to Roman Catholicism. He had been made a deacon within the Church of England in 1908, and was diaconated again within the Roman Catholic Church, but it was not until he embraced the Old Catholic Church that he was ordained into the priesthood. He celebrated Mass publicly when travelling abroad, but at home in England he only performed this sacrament in private. This was probably due to the fact that he was ordained into the priesthood outside the regular procedures of the Church. Old Catholic holy orders, albeit valid, are irregular in the eyes of Rome and Canterbury.

None of his close friends doubted the sincerity of his religious faith. Dame Sybil Thorndike wrote of him: “I think that because of his profound belief in the tenets of orthodox Catholic Christianity he was able to be in a way almost frivolous in his approach to certain macabre heterodoxies. His humour, his ‘wicked humour’ as some people called it, was most refreshing, so different from the tiresome sentimentalism of so many convinced believers.”

For a living, Summers was able to draw on a modest legacy from his father, supplemented by spells of teaching at various schools, including Hertford Grammar, the Central School of Arts and Crafts in Holborn, and Brockley School in south London where he was senior English and Classics Master. He described teaching as: “One of the most difficult and depressing of trades, and so in some measure it must have been even well-nigh three hundred years ago when boys were not nearly so stupid as they are today.” In practice though, he was both entertaining and effective as a teacher once he had overcome initial problems with discipline, and was popular with both pupils and colleagues despite making it plain his real interests lay elsewhere.

From 1926, when he was in his mid-forties, Summers' writings and editing earned him the freedom to pursue full time his many enthusiasms and love of travel, particularly in Italy. The bulk of his activity then was related to English Restoration drama of the seventeenth century. Beginning in 1914 with the Shakespeare Head Press, Summers had edited a large number of Restoration plays for various publishers, accompanied by lengthy critical introductions that were highly praised in their own right, and did much to rescue that period of literature from oblivion.

Not content with editing and introducing these plays, Summers helped in 1919 to found the Phoenix Society whose aim was to present them on stage in London. The venture was an immediate success and Summers threw himself wholeheartedly and popularly into all aspects of the productions, which were staged at various theatres. This brought him a measure of fame in London society and invitations to the most select salons, which he dazzled with his wit and erudition. By 1926 he was recognized as the greatest living authority on Restoration drama. Some ten years later he crystallized his knowledge in The Restoration Theatre and The Playhouse of Pepys which examined almost every possible aspect of the London stage between 1660 and 1710.

Summers' involvement with the theatre presents a curious parallel with his near contemporary Bram Stoker, who for most of his working life was business manager to Sir Henry Irving at the Lyceum Theatre in London. There is even a suggestion of some jealousy in the grudging praise Summers gives Bram Stoker's Dracula, leading to his conclusion that the novel's success owed more to Stoker’s choice of subject than any authorial skill. One cannot fail to suspect that Summers felt he might have written the definitive vampire novel himself, only better. Notwithstanding this conjecture, Stoker’s Gothic masterpiece remains a work of sheer genius. It was left, almost inevitably, for Seán Manchester to tie up the lose ends left flapping about at Dracula’s conclusion in a sequel titled Carmel. The thought must have surely occurred to Summers, but it was to be Summers’ own successor who executed the deed.

Summers’ fame as an expert on the occult began the publication of his History of Witchcraft and Demonology followed by other studies of witches, vampires and werewolves. Summers wrote hagiography (on Saint Catherine of Siena) and lives of writers such as Jane Austen before turning to the occult, for which he will always be best remembered. In 1928 he published the first English translation of Heinrich Kramer's and James Sprenger's Malleus Maleficarum, a fifteenth century Latin text on the hunting of witches. This work followed his History of Witchcraft and Demonology (1926) and The Geography of Witchcraft (1928). He then turned to vampires, producing The Vampire: His Kith and Kin (1928) and The Vampire in Europe (1929), and later to werewolves with The Werewolf (1933). Summers's work on the occult is known for his old-fashioned writing style, his display of erudition, and his apparent belief in the reality of the subjects he treats. Of lasting value were his seminal works on Gothic literature: The Gothic Quest: a History of the Gothic Novel (1938), A Gothic Bibliography (1940) and his collection of Gothic Horror stories in The Supernatural Omnibus (1931) and Victorian Ghost Stories (1936). Summers also edited an incomplete edition of two of the seven obscure Gothic novels, known as the Northanger Horrid Novels, mentioned by Jane Austen in her Gothic parody Northanger Abbey. Summers was instrumental in rediscovering these lost books, which some had supposed were an invention of Jane Austen herself.

Summers cultivated his reputation for eccentricity. The Times of London wrote he was "in every way a 'character' and in some sort a throwback to the Middle Ages." His biographer, Brocard Sewell, paints the following portrait of Summers:

"During the year 1927, the striking and somber figure of the Reverend Montague Sommers in black soutane and cloak, with buckled shoes - a la Louis Quatorze - and shovel hat could often have been seen entering or leaving the reading room of the British Museum, carrying a large black portfolio bearing on its side a white label, showing in blood-red capitals, the legend 'VAMPIRES'."

While his contemporary Aleister Crowley adopted the persona of a modern-day witch, Summers played the part of the learned Catholic witch-hunter. His introduction to the Malleus Maleficarum declares it an admirable and correct account of witchcraft and of the methods necessary to combat it. In the introduction to his book on The History of Witchcraft and Demonology he writes:

"In the following pages I have endeavored to show the witch as she really was – an evil liver: a social pest and parasite: the devotee of a loathly and obscene creed: an adept at poisoning, blackmail, and other creeping crimes: a member of a powerful secret organization inimical to Church and State: a blasphemer in word and deed, swaying the villagers by terror and superstition: a charlatan and a quack sometimes: a bawd: an abortionist: the dark counselor of lewd court ladies and adulterous gallants: a minister to vice and inconceivable corruption, battening upon the filth and foulest passions of the age".

Much of Summers’ life remains in obscurity, many of his personal papers have been lost; yet he left an autobiography, The Galanty Show, which was published posthumously in 1980.

In his introduction to Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto Summers articulated the appeal of Gothic novels, and perhaps also the appeal of all the dark mysteries that fascinated him:

“There is in the Romantic revival a certain disquietude and a certain aspiration. It is this disquietude with earth and aspiration for heaven which inform the greatest Romance of all, Mysticism, the Romance of the Saints. The Classical writer set down fixed rules and precisely determined his boundaries. The Romantic spirit reaches out beyond these with an indefinite but very real longing to new and dimly guessed spheres of beauty. The Romantic writer fell in love with the Middle Ages, the vague years of long ago, the days of chivalry and strange adventure. He imagined and elaborated a mediaevalism for himself, he created a fresh world, a world which never was and never could have been, a domain which fancy built and fancy ruled. And in this land there will be mystery, because where there is mystery beauty may always lie hid. There will be wonder, because wonder always lurks where there is the unknown. And it is this longing for beauty intermingling with wonder and mystery that will express itself, perhaps exquisitely and passionately in the twilight moods of the romantic poets, perhaps a little crudely and even a little vulgarly in tales of horror and blood.”

Montague Summers died of a heart attack in 1948 and his mantle awaited the arrival in London of Seán Manchester who would there establish himself as the most celebrated vampirologist of the latter-half of the twentieth century; just as Summers had established himself as the most celebrated vampirologist of the first half of that century. When Sandy Roberston launched The Summers Project in 1986 to raise money for a tombstone to be laid on Summers’ unmarked grave in Richmond Cemetery, known only as plot 10818, it was naturally to Seán Manchester that he turned for support. The simple stone, bearing the legend “Tell me strange things,” was erected on 26 November 1988. Summers invariably opened his conversation with those words when people visited him. He yearned to hear strange things.

In 1991 an updated and enlarged hardcover edition of Seán Manchester’s best selling The Highgate Vampire was specially dedicated to the memory of Montague Summers. This fitting tribute to that former vampirologist still remains in print. Two years after his death, Summers’ longstanding friend, Hector Stuart-Forbes, joined him in the then unmarked plot at Richmond.

Source:

Vampire Research Society

Thursday, 15 January 2009

The Vampire: His Kith & Kin

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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's Relation 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, the Spectriana (1817) and Les ombres sanglantes (1820) of J. P. R. Cuisin, and Gabrielle de Paban's Histoire des Fantômes et des Demons (1819) and Démoniana (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.

Source:

Montague Summers

The Vampire: His Kith & Kin (1928)

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

The case of Petre Toma

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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 last July 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."

Source:

Sunday Times (11 April 2004)

Daily Telegraph (6 February 2005)

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

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Discerning the Vampire

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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.

Source:

Seán Manchester

Stray Ghosts (2003)

The Vampire Hunter's Handbook (1997)

Montague Summers

The Vampire: His Kith & Kin (1928)

Monday, 12 January 2009

Concomitants of Vampirism

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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.

Source:

Montague Summers

The Vampire: His Kith & Kin (1928)

Sunday, 11 January 2009

The haunting of Elizabeth Wojdyla

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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.

Source:

Seán Manchester

The Vampire's Bedside Companion (1975, 1976)

The Highgate Vampire (1985, 1991)

True Horror: Vampires (Discovery Channel, 2004)

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Emma S------ and Eleonore Zügun

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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.

Source:

Montague Summers

The Vampire: His Kith & Kin (1928)

Friday, 9 January 2009

The case of Mercy Brown

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The Mercy Brown vampire case, which occurred in 1892, is one of the best documented cases of the exhumation of a corpse in order to perform rituals to banish an undead manifestation.

In Exeter, Rhode Island, the family of George and Mary Brown suffered a sequence of tuberculosis infections in the final two decades of the nineteenth century. Tuberculosis was called "consumption" at the time and was a devastating and much-feared disease.

The mother, Mary, was the first to die of the disease, followed in 1888 by their eldest daughter, Mary Olive. Two years later, in 1890, their son, Edwin, also became sick.

In 1891, another daughter, Mercy, contracted the disease and died in January 1892. She was buried in the cemetery of the Baptist Church in Exeter.

Friends and neighbours of the family were convinced that one of the dead family members was a vampire (although they did not use that term) and was causing Edwin's illness. This was in accordance with threads of contemporary folklore linking multiple deaths in one family to undead activity. Consumption was a poorly understood condition at the time.

George Brown was persuaded to exhume the bodies, which he did with the help of several villagers on 17 March 1892. While the bodies of both Mary and Mary Olive had undergone significant decomposition over the intervening years, the more recently buried body of Mercy was still relatively unchanged and had blood in the heart. This was taken as a sign that the teenager was undead and the agent of young Edwin's condition.

Mercy's heart was removed from her body, burnt, and the remnants mixed with water and given to the sick Edwin to drink.

Unfortunately, despite all his efforts, George was unsuccessful in protecting his son, who died two months later.

Dr Michael Bell is a folklorist and author of Food for the Dead (a book that explores the folklore and history behind Mercy Brown as well as several other cases of New England vampires). Dr Bell feels there is a direct connection between some vampire cases and consumption. He said: "The way you look personally is the way vampires have always been portrayed in folklore ~ like walking corpses, which is what you are, at least in the later stages of consumption. Skin and bones, fingernails are long and curved, you look like the vampire from Nosferatu."

Consumption took its first victim within the Brown family in December of 1883 when Mercy's mother, Mary Brown, died of the disease. Seven months later, the Browns' eldest daughter, Mary Olive, also died of consumption. The Browns' only son, Edwin, came down with consumption a few years after Mary Olive's death and was sent to live in the arid climate of Colorado to try and stop the disease. Late in 1891, Edwin returned home to Exeter because the disease was progressing ~ he essentially came home to die. Mercy's battle with consumption was considerably shorter than her brother's. Mercy had the "galloping" variety of consumption ~ her battle with the disease lasted only a few months. Mercy was laid to rest in Chestnut Hill Cemetery behind the Baptist church on Victory Highway.

After Mercy's funeral, her brother Edwin's condition worsened rapidly, and their father, George Brown, grew more frantic. Mr Brown had lost his wife and two of his daughters, and now he was about to lose his only son. Science and medicine had no answers for George Brown, but folklore did. For centuries prior to Mercy Brown there have been vampires. The practice of exorcising these undead began in Europe. Various ways people dealt with vampires was to exhume the body of the suspect, drive a stake through the heart, rearrange the skeletal remains, remove vital organs, or cremate the entire corpse.

So much death had plagued the Brown family that George Brown probably felt he was cursed in some way. It did not take a massive leap of faith for someone to come up with a radical idea to halt the death. Maybe the Brown family was under vampire attacks from beyond the grave? Was Mercy Brown the vampire, or was it Mercy's mother or sister? George Brown was willing to dig up the body of his recently deceased daughter, remove her heart, burn it, and feed the ashes to his son because he felt he had no other choice.

In Dr Bell's book Food for the Dead he recounts an extensive interview he conducted with Everett Peck, a descendent of Mercy Brown and life-long resident of Exeter, Rhode Island.

"Everett heard the story from people who had been there [at the exhumation of Mercy Brown] ~ who were alive at the time," Dr Bell said. "The newspaper [Providence Journal] says they exhumed all three bodies, that is, Mercy's mother, her sister who had died before her, and Mercy. Everett said they only dug up Mercy. He implied that there was some sign that Mercy was the one ~ that's the supernatural creeping into his story. Everett said that after they had dug her up, [they saw that] she had turned over in the grave ~ but there's no mention of that in the newspaper or the eyewitness accounts."

We do not know exactly what position Mercy Brown's body was in on that day in March when George Brown, and some of his friends and family, came to examine Mercy's body. We do know that she looked "too well preserved."

"There's a suggestion in the newspaper that she wasn't actually interred in the ground," Dr Bell said. "She was actually put in an above-ground crypt, because bodies were stored in the wintertime when the ground was frozen and they couldn't really dig. When the thaw came, they would bury them. So it's possible that she wasn't even really interred."

Her visual condition prompted the group to cut open her chest cavity and examine her innards. Dr Bell said: "They examined her organs. The newspaper said her heart and liver had blood in it. It was liquid blood, which they interpreted as fresh blood."

The liquid blood was taken as evidence that Mercy was indeed a vampire and the one draining the life from Edwin and possibly other consumption victims in the community.

Dr Bell said: "They cut her heart out, and as Everett said, they burned it on a nearby rock. Then according to the newspaper, they fed them [the ashes of the heart] to Edwin."

Folklore claims that destroying the heart of a vampire would kill it, and by consuming the remains of the vampire's heart ~ the spell would be broken and the victim would get well.

The community's vampire slaying had failed to save Edwin ~ he died two months later, but maybe it helped others in the community?

Mercy Lena Brown is arguably North America's most famous vampire because she is also the most recent. The event caused such a stir in 1892 because newspapers like the Providence Journal editorialised that the idea of exhuming a body to burn the heart is completely barbaric in those modern times.

Dr Bell commented: "Folklore always has an answer ~ it may not be the scientifically valid answer, but sometimes it's better to have any answer than none at all."

Source:

Bell, Michael E. (2001). Food for the Dead - On the Trail of New England's Vampires. New York: Carrol & Graf Publishers. p. 338 pages. ISBN 0-7867-089909.

Connecticut Public Television. Vampires in New England [TV Documentary].

Thursday, 8 January 2009

The case of Peter Plogojowitz

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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 by Wienerisches 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.

Source:

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.