I now blog over at The Eyre Guide! This blog is an archive of my past posts.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Refined Reader (31) The Case of the Vampire

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

The Refined Reader aims to take a look at the journey to where we are as readers today.  It's part history, part commentary - providing a brief, conversational summary of various aspects of our bookish past and comparing it to how it has affected us in modern times.  I love history, but I am no historian, and while I plan to do my research, if there are any errors, please let me know!  This is as much a learning venture for me as I hope it is for my blog visitors!

Last week I posted on the horror genre, and also asked about favorite supernatural creatures.  Mine is the vampire, and while reading up on horror fiction, I saw mention of two early documented cases that sparked vampire hysteria in Western Europe, which I found very interesting to read!  So I wanted to talk about it here.  Vampires - or blood-sucking entities have been around since ancient times - almost every culture has a legend concerning them, but our modern concept of a vampire comes almost exclusively from 18th Century Europe.

The first case concerns a Serbian peasant named Petar Blagojevich who died in 1725.  After he died, several people in his village died soon after, with nine deaths within eight days.  On their death-beds, the victims claimed to have been visited by Blagojevich at night.  The villagers demanded an investigation, and because Serbia at that time was part of the Austrian empire, Austrian officials and doctors looked into the matter which is why this is such a well documented case.  Although the investigators wanted to wait for permission from their superiors, the villagers did not want to wait so Blagojevich's body was exhumed and found to be in a state consistent to a 'vampire nature'.  The body was relatively undecomposed, there was hair and skin growth, as well as blood in the mouth.  The villagers staked Blagojevich and then burned the body.

The second case happened in another village in Serbia with a man called Arnold Paole.  When Paole first moved to the village, he claimed he had been attacked by a vampire, but cured himself by eating soil from the vampire's grave and smearing himself with the vampire's blood.  In 1725, Paole died from falling off a hay wagon and in the month that followed his death, four people claimed to have seen him, and all four died soon after.  The body was exhumed like with Blagojevich, and was found in the same state of seemingly abnormal decomposition.  Paole's body was staked - an apparently he groaned and bled from it, and the other four victims were also staked to prevent them from becoming vampires.

These cases were written about and spread throughout Europe, although officials and doctors maintained that vampires do not exist.  The Austrian Empress eventually passed laws against exhuming bodies and that led to the end of the vampire hysteria.  But the stories still persisted.  I should say that the state of decomposition described for these 'vampires' can happen realistically, and it's ignorance of that, that fed into the hysteria.

Do you have any favorite vampire stories?

Wikipedia / Wikipedia

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