The vampire myth can be found all over the world. Even the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Hebrews whispered chilling stories of supernatural creatures who fed on the blood of the living. Today, the vampire is relegated to the realm of superstition. But just a few hundred years ago, vampirism was considered all too real – and all too dangerous.
A group of Polish archeologists discovered new evidence of that fact when they recently unearthed what seems to be a vampire burial site. Four skeletons were found, their heads decapitated and placed deliberately between their legs. This was a common medieval method which assured a suspected vampire would stay dead. After all, if the corpse was unable to find its own head, how could it possibly return to life?
Since no personal accessories were found nearby, it’s difficult to know exactly when these bodies were buried. In the not too distant past, accused vampires often met grisly ends. Decapitation – either by a blade or by hanging and natural decomposition – were common methods of vampire execution in Slavic countries.
Just last year, archeologists in Bulgaria discovered two skeletons with iron rods staked through their chests. This pagan ritual was believed to pin the bodies in place, preventing them from escaping their graves. About 100 vampire burial sites have been found in that country.
Belief in vampires was not isolated to the pagan villages of Europe. As late as 1892, Americans were living in fear of vampires rising to feast on the flesh of the living. The Mercy Brown Vampire Incident illustrates this hysteria. The family of George and Mary Brown suffered several cases of tuberculosis, which at the time was a poorly understood disease. Mary soon died, followed by daughter Mary Olive. Their son Edwin also contracted the illness. Neighboring townsfolk linked this devastating outbreak to the influence of the undead. When another daughter, Mercy, succumbed to the disease, George was persuaded to exhume her body so that her heart could be destroyed. The ashes were mixed with water and given to Edwin to drink. It was hoped this would banish his illness. Unfortunately, he died two months later.
It should be noted that in some Eastern European villages, the threat of vampires is alive and well. Crucifixes and garlic still hang over doorways, guarding homes from hungry bloodsuckers. Occasionally, you might even see people digging up bodies…and driving a stake through the heart. Perhaps they really do have something to fear.
- ‘Vampire’ Graves Uncovered in Poland (livescience.com)
- ‘Vampire’ Grave Site Uncovered in Poland (newsy.com)
- ‘Vampire’ Graves Unearthed in Poland (newser.com)