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Vampires of Eastern Europe
The truth behind vampire myths


   Vampires of Eastern Europe - The truth behind vampire myths

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.

Vampires
Bats and vampires
Can a blonde be a vampire?
Pictures of vampires
Pictures of Dracula
Devil worshippers
Hungary and the vampire lore
The Assyrian Origin of Devil Worshippers
Enticing vampires
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
Bad angels
Of magic
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

   Vampires of Eastern Europe - The truth behind vampire myths

Vampires of Eastern Europe - The truth behind vampire myths