Before Vampires filled the pages of horror stories, they were said to have plagued the rural European villages, especially in eastern Europe, including Hungary, Romania, and, of course, Transylvania. Everyone thinks of vampires as tall, dark, debonair, aristocrats, usually dressed in a black suit with a long, flowing black cape. However, the original rumors and eyewitness accounts of vampires were quite different. Far from elegant, most vampires supposedly had foul breath, hideously long canine teeth, nails that were long and crooked, and a complexion that was frighteningly pale.
Here’s an eyewitness account about vampire Peter Plogojowitz, dating back to 1715. Supposedly, Peter had died ten weeks earlier and had arisen to kill no less than ten people by visiting them in their beds late at night, forcing them to “give up the ghost.”
“I went to the village of Kisilova, taking along the Gradisk pope, and viewed the body of Peter Plogojowitz, just exhumed, finding, in accordance with thorough truthfulness, that first of all I did not detect the slightest odor that is otherwise characteristic of the dead, and the body, except for the nose, which was somewhat fallen away, was completely fresh. The hair and the beard, even the nails of which the old ones had fallen away–had grown on him; the old skin, which was somewhat whitish, had peeled away, and a new one had emerged from it. The face, hands, and feet and the whole body were so constituted that they could not have been more complete in his lifetime. Not without astonishment, I saw some fresh blood in his mouth, which according to the common observation, he had sucked from the people killed by him. In short, all the indications were present that such people (as remarked above) are said to have. After both the pope and I had seen this spectacle, while people grew more outraged than distressed, all the subjects with great speed, sharpened a stake–in order to pierce the corpse of the deceased with it–and put this at his heart, whereupon, as he was pierced, not only did much blood, completely fresh, flow also through his ears and mouth, but still other wild signs (which I pass by out of high respect) took place. Finally, according to their usual practice, they burned the often mentioned body, in his casu, to ashes of which I inform the most laudable Administration, and at the same time would like to request, obediently and humbly, that if a mistake was made in this matter, such is to be attributed not to me, but to the rabble who were beside themselves with fear.”
From Vampires.–The Complete Guide to the World of the Undead, by Manuela Dunn Mascetti.
© 2004 Bobette Bryan
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