To those living in Silesia, Moravia,
and along the southern frontier of
Hungary the word "vampire" has a
terrible significance, says the New York Times.
For centuries pas the inhabitants of these countries have
believed implicitly in such terrible beings, and assert
that their belief is founded upon only too real evidence.
Travelers who scoff at these assertions
have more than once had cause to change their minds
owing to some tearful experience of their own. For the
benefit of the reader we shall describe, first of all,
just what a vampire is, according to those who are
most familiar with this terrible being and his ways.
Certain persons who have died, it is said, have the power
of leaving their graves, in sense form, and returning
to suck the blood of living persons, and in this manner they
are enabled to maintain themselves in a state, if not of life,
certainly very different from death. Fastening upon their
victim, they suck out the life blood through two small
needle-like holes which they make in the victim's neck.
They sit upon the chest lie an incubus during sleep.
Preferably they attack young persons who are full-blooded
and have an abundance of vitality.
Occasionally these persons wake during the process,
and frightful have been some of the battles that are said
to have taken place between mortal and
and vampire. Sometimes one and
sometimes the other would be victor.
Most commonly, however, the person
so attacked would not wake, and then
he or she would rise in the morning
pale, weak, emaciated and exhausted,
for no apparent reason. This went on,
as a rule, until that person died, when
another would be attacked in like
manner. This would continue until the
vampire would be finally caught, exhumed,
his head cut off, his heart cut
out or impaled, when, with a fearful
shriek, he would finally "give up the
ghost." When the body of the vampire
was impaled fresh blood would gush
out. The body would be so full of
blood, on occasion, that it would
scarcely hold it all, and it would be
found exuding from the ears, eyes and
even skin! Any person bitten by a
vampire would become one himself
when his turn came to die. Such is the
fearsome belief still held by many of
the inhabitants of the Transylvania
mountains and in the countries mentioned.
The following cases are typical of many that might be given.
"Mr Tulip was an extraordinary strong well-built and
healthy man, but at the beginning of December last he
suddenly began to fail in health. The doctors
could not locate his disease, and he grew rapidly
thinner and weaker, complaining of nothing but extreme
lassitude and feeling like a person who was
daily bled. Finally, on December 20 last, all Vienna
was surprised to hear that Mr Tulip dies. Post-mortem examinations
showed all the organs in a perfectly normal condition,
and the doctors found nothing better to register than
marasmus (emaciation) as the cause of this extraordinary
event. Strange to say, during the last days of his
disease when his mind became flighty, he often
imagined that a stranger was troubling him, and the
description he gave of that personage fitted a certain
Mr. Helleborus, with whom he had quarreled some time before.
"During Mr. Tulip's illness news come from Meran that Mr
Helleborus, who had been very ill was rapidly gaining in
health and strength and recovering from his illness in a
most remarkable manner, yet immediately after the death
of Mr. Tulip Mr Helleborus failed and died."
Another case is the following:
"A miller at D--- had a healthy servant boy, who soon after
entering his service began to fail. He had a ravenous
appetite, but nevertheless grew daily more feeble and
emaciated. Being interrogated, he at last confessed that a
thing he could not see, but which he could plainly fee, came
to him every night and settled upon his stomatch, drawing
all the life out of him, so that he became paralyzed for the
time being and could neither move nor cry out. Thereupon
the miller agreed to share the bed with the boy, and proposed
to him that he should give him a certain sign when the vampire
arrived. This was done and when the sign was given the miller
grasped an invisible but very tangible substance that rested
upon the boy's stomach and, though it struggled to escape,
he held it firmly and threw it into the fire. After that the
boy recovered, and there was an end of those visits.
Cases such as these might be multiplied indefinitely. What is
one to think of such happenings? Like all beliefs of the kind, we
must assume that there is some residium of truth amid the
error and superstition. It cannot all be imagination. But if
there is any truth in these stories, how much, and what is it?
About 200 years ago a learned priest, by name Augustine Calmet,
published a work in two volumes, in which he critically
examined a number of these stories of vampires. After narrating
a number of them he goes on to say: "I lay down at first this
principle -- that it may be that these are corpses which,
although interred some days, shed fluid blood through the pores
of their bodies." Although this is hardly the case, under certain
peculiar conditions something akin to it may take place and thus
give rise to the stories where fresh blood is found in the corpse.
As to the death of some of the persons who were attacked by
vampires, Calmet says, "I add, moreover, that it is very easy
for certain people to fancy themselves sucked by vampires, and
that the fear caused by that fancy should make a revolution
in their frame sufficiently violent to deprive them of life."
Had he lived in these days he would have put such cases down
to the "influence of suggestion."
There are cases on record where the beard, hair, nails, etc.
are found to have grown after death, and this was thought to be
a sign of vampirism. But to this Calmet says:
"Experience teaches us that there are certain kinds of earth
which reserve dead bodies perfectly fresh. ...As to the growth
of the nails, the hair and the beard, it is often perceived in
corpses. While there yet remains a good deal of moisture in the
body, it is not surprising that sometimes we see some
augmentation in those parts which do not demand a vital spirit.
As to the cry uttered by the vampires when the stake is driven
through the heart, nothing is more natural; the air is there
confined, and thus expelled by violence necessarily produces
that noice in passing through the throat."
While much of Mr. Calmet's physiology is a little shaky, still
he has grasped the main truth of the question. He saw that
natural physical causes operating in the body produced, on
occassion, those odd changes and influences which were thought
to be proff of vampirism.
Yet the difficult problem still remains. How does the body
get out of its grave to come and haunt living persons? To
this Cahnet replied that the figures seen were doubtless
apparitions (hallucinations) and not physical beings at all,
and were helped out by dreams, delusions and other morbid
phenomena. When the person said he touched the figure this was
probably a case of so-called "tactile" hallucination, just
as there are "auditory" and "visual" hallucinations. None
of them is real or objective.
Such are probably the foundations of a belief which has
overshadowed South-eastern Europe for centuries. Doubtless
there are no real vampires. In the sense commonly supposed,
but there are odd psychical facts which have given rise to
the belief—apparitions, dreams, hallucinations of various kinds,
suggestion and the effects of fear, as well as certain morbid
physical and physiological phenomena. These are the fundamentals
of the belief. Accompanying them we have also certain odd cases
where the bodv has been remarkably preserved after death -- as
we know to be the case when the body is placed in an atmosphere
of carbonic acid gas, in certain earths, when the patient has
died of certain diseases, etc. These, then, are the basic facts;
the vast superstructure of this fearful belief has been built
upon them. May the day not be far distant when advancing
education, civilization and progress will forever banish the
vampires from these lands, and they have been banished from
other countries over the civilised globe.
This article appeared in the Lincoln Daily News on November 13, 1914.
Bats and vampires
Can a blonde be a vampire?
Pictures of vampires
Pictures of Dracula
Hungary and the vampire lore
The Assyrian Origin of Devil Worshippers
What is a vamp?
Good angels of the Old Testament
Good angels in the New Testament
Appearance of good angels
Opinions concerning good angels
Apparitions of good genii
Objections to the reality of magic
Reply to objections to the reality of magic
Examination of the affair of Hocque, magician
Magic of the Egyptians and Chaldeans
Magic among the Greeks and Romans
Examples which prove the reality of magic
Elizabeth Bathory, the Blood Countess
Sin eaters and sin eating