The word "vampire," aside from its current slang significance, suggests superstition, ghosts, werewolves, hobgoblins, purely fabulous monsters, fiction tales of so-called "mystery and horror" based on highly wrought literary imagination rather than any shred of fact.
In these weird tales the vampire is sometimes a huge bat, sometimes a beautiful woman, sometimes, as in the case of Count Dracula, a man with a mania for sucking human life-blood. Dracula is the classic type of fictional human vampire. He was created by Bram Stoker, a British writer of horror stories, and instantly became the literary rage all over the world. The Count's popularity has lasted twenty years; he is now the hero of a play based on Stoker's book, adapted by the American journalist, John Balderstori, and enjoying runs in York City and London. Women frequently faint at the matinee performances.
It seems now proved beyond any possibility of scientific doubt that such sinister and dangerous creatures, both bat and human, actually exist. Only a few weeks ago from mysterious Haiti, but from the quite modernized town Of Aux Cayes in that tropical West Indian island, where American Marine officers in motor cars pass every day, came the authenticated confession of a coppery-haired, handsome mulatto woman, by name Anastasie Dieudonne, that she had for several months been draining the blood from her nine-year old niece.
The child, once healthy and robust, had begun to fade away. Neighbors and relatives
thought she had some wasting disease. Physicians, including those of the American
clinic at Trouin, could find nothing wrong with her. Then an old black native doctor
was called into conference. "She is the victim," he said, "of a vampire, or a loup garon. The life-blood is being secretly sucked from her body. If the monster is not discovered, she will die."
"Bosh!" said many of the natives, who are not very superstitious in a modernized town like Aux Cayes. It looked like, bosh, indeed, when the old man carefully went over the girl's entire body and found not even a pinch-prick. But he was not satisfied and made a second examination. This time he discovered, a small, clean, unhealed incision hidden on the middle of her great toe. Anastasie Dieudonne subsequently confessed that she had been giving the girl a stupefying vegetable drug and then sucking her blood. She was, of course, an unbalanced creature, driven to this dreadful practice by an uncontrollable urge. She was literally, in actual fact, a human vampire.
That there are and have been other human vampires, in both high and low walks of life, and in circumstances much more terrible and dramatic than the case in Haiti, will presently be shown.
With reference to bat vampires, Dr. August Kronheit of the German Academy of Science, and member of a number of leading American societies, has made an elaborate study of them in South America.
He discovered that the true vampire is a montrous blackish-brown bat, with a wing-spread of about two feet, with razor-sharp teeth and a hideous snout like a pig. It flies chiefly in the late hours of the night, attacking sleeping horses, other animals and human beings. It lives almost entirely by sucking blood.
Dr Kronheit cites the specific case of a young girl in Bolivia, who was sleeping during the Summer on the unscreened porch of her father's house. By merest accident the father, who was planning a hunting trip next day, went out on the porch, just as dawn was lighting the sky, to observe the weather.
He saw the huge bat crouching against his daughter's bare shoulder, and with horror recognized it for what it was. He seized it and crushed it to death with his hands. It was then discovered that the vampire had sucked almost a pint of blood from the girl.
These true accounts of the vampire need frighten no reader in the continent of North
America. The true vampire bat is confined exclusively to tropical countries, and never comes even so far north as Florida. The bats of the United States are harmless and, in many cases, useful. The useful ones live on insects; others by sucking the juice from fruit on trees. In the United States there is a large bat with a wingspread of more than fourteen inches, which is sometimes called "vampire," but which is known to science under the name of "false vampire," because it sucks only the juices of fruits.
But the existence of the real blood-sucking bats in tropical countries has been conclusively proved by science. One reason why people m general have hesitated to believe in them and regarded them as fictitious is that it has been difficult to understand, in common sense, why victims do not awaken when the vampire fastens upon them. Those who did believe in them invented the fantastic explanation that some insidious, sleep-producing poison was first injected from the bat's fangs into the victim's body. The true explanation is simpler. The upper front teeth of the
vampire are flat, thin, unpointed and razorsharp. The vampire, properly speaking, neither bites nor sinks fangs like a needle into its victim. Instead, it delicately shaves off a thin portion of the skin, not deep, and the wound is practically painless. Then it applies its lips only to the spot, which is little more than an abrasion, and by suction alone keeps up a constant flow of blood.
Human vampires, on the other hand, are demented or semi-insane people who have a mania for drinking human blood. Recent investigations both current and historical, have shown that it is not so rare an occurrence as one might suppose.
The most completely authenticated case in history, since it is a part of actual old court record, is that of the beautiful Countess Bathori, who lived in Hungary about three
hundred years ago. The complete minutes of the trial, her final confession, the testimony of her servants, the record of the conviction and the amazing punishment inflicted on her by the law-all still exist.
She was rich and owned a castle on the edge of the Carpathian Mountains, which had
a mysterious and evil reputation in the neighborhood. For many years the peasants
believed that she practiced magic, and was, in league, like Faust, with the devil. They did not dream, however, of the even more dreadful secret that the castle actually hid, for what occurred there, over and over again, was more terrifying than anything in
the Bluebeard stories or the horror tales of Poe.
Over a period of several years a number of young and pretty peasant girls and boys had disappeared from the neighborhood and had never been heard from again. For a long time it was supposed that they had been carried off by bandits from the mountains. But finally suspicion was directed toward the already mysterious castle of the Countess Bathori, and after an investigation a company of the King's Guard appeared suddenly one night with search warrants from the Emperor, placed the Countess under arrest and thoroughly searched the castle.
In an underground dungeon they found six of the missing children, emaciated, but still alive, chained so that they could not kill themselves, which they would all too willingly have done to escape the slower death they were suffering. The bones of several others who had finally died were found in an oubliette. The Countess herself,
under subsequent threats of legal torture, confessed that each night she went to the dungeon, opened a vein in the arm of one of the prisoners, drank quantities of blood, and also bathed her face and shoulders in it. She believed, in her mad, magical superstition, that this would keep her always young and beautiful. As a matter of fact, the records say, she had a marvelously smooth and lovely skin, a complexion like "snow and roses." It was a cruel period, and Hungary in those days was a cruel country. Instead of executing the Countess Bathori, the judges sentenced her, making the punishment fit the crime, to have the skin flayed from her face and neck. So her face became an object frightful to look upon instead of beautiful, as it had once been.
The most famous case of a modern human vampire attested by the courts and legal record is that of Fritz Haarman, in Hanover, Germany, who was executed after the World War. He was a true vampire, scientifically speaking. He lured
no less than twenty-seven youths into his home and drank their blood.
The existence of such living human monsters as Anastasie Dieudonne in Haiti, Fritz Haarman in Germany and the Countess Bathori in Hungary is believed to be the basis for the legends concerning a third type of vampire which exists
only in superstition and folklore. That is the vampire ghost, the dead man or woman, who periodically emerges from the grave to feed upon the blood of a living person. A whole literature has been built up around these folklore legends, and there are thousands of hair-raising stories. The best of them all, perhaps, is the "Succubus" by Balzac, which was illustrated by Gustave Dore. The most famous of them is probably "Dracula," with Robert Louis Stevenson's "Ollalla," a blood-curdling story, as runner-up.
These stories, common to the peasantry of all European countries, tell how, when the vampire's grave is opened, the body, no matter how long dead, is found to be still fresh and rosy. To put a stop to the ravages of the supposed vampire, the people go solemnly to the cemetery, open the grave and drive a stake through the heart. Then the grave is closed again and boiling oil and vinegar are poured upon it.
This story appeared in The Zanesville Signal on November 20, 1927 under the title "New Facts about Vampires: Winged and Human."
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Elizabeth Bathory, the Blood Countess
Finding Elisabeth Bathory
Vampire - Les vampires existent toujours
Sin eaters and sin eating