The Vampire:
His Kith and Kin

"The Philosophy of Vampirism"
Montague Summers

1880 - 1948


It was once generally supposed that all suicides might after death become vampires; and this was easily extended to those who met with any violent and sudden death. There persists a tradition in Maina, near Cape Taenaron in Greece, that a man whose murder has not been avenged is liable to become a vrykolakas. The Mainotes preserve many of the customs and characteristics of their ancestors and are known to be of a more pure Greek descent than the inhabitants of any other district. Indeed, the peninsula which thrusts into the sea the headland of Taenaron has both social and religious customs of its own. The population is distributed into small villages, while here and there a white fortress will denote the residence of a chief.

The population of this district continued the worship of pagan deities for a full five hundred years after the rest of the Roman Empire had embraced Christianity, and they were not finally converted until the ninth century. Gibbon described them as "a domestic and perhaps original race who in some degree might derive their blood from the much-injured Helotes." And even yet they boast of their descent from the ancient Spartans.

Ancient traditions still persevere and among these customs not the least obstinate is the Vendetta. A man who has been murdered is unable to rest in his grave until he has been avenged. Accordingly he issues forth as a vampire, thirsting for the blood of his enemy. In order to secure his repose it is necessary for the next of kin to slay the murderer, or at least some near relative of the murderer. Unless this is done, the man upon whom the duty devolves is banned by the curse of the dead; and if it so happens that he is himself cut off before he can satisfy the desires of the deceased, the curse will cling to him even in death and he too must become a vampire.

In Maina today no recourse must be had to law for such cases, nor may the injured person satisfy himself by calling upon the aid of the police. To do this were incredibly craven. Even if it be a life's whole work a man is expected, either secretly or by an open attack, to slay the murderer of his relative, and he is highly applauded when he has accomplished this pious deed. It must be appreciated that he is regarded as herein directed and inspired by the dead man, who returns from his grave as a vampire craving for blood. Even if no other motive or incentive prevailed, in spite of natural shrinking and maybe even cowardice, a man would prefer to shed blood for blood rather than run the terrible risk of himself becoming a vampire, finding no rest in the grave but returning to haunt and persecute even those who were most dear to him, an unclean thing accursed of God, a foul goblin of dread most hateful to man.

So great is the horror which the act of suicide inspires that it is not at all surprising it should be deemed that the unfortunate wretches who have destroyed themselves become vampires after death. That suicide is unlawful is the general teaching of Holy Scripture which condemns the act as a most terrible crime, and to arouse the horror of all against it, the Holy Church denies the suicide the rites of Christian burial. Again, suicide is directly opposed to the most natural and powerful tendency of all created things, and especially of intelligent man, the preservation of life.

It is true that among certain nations there appears to be an indifference to human life, nay a contempt of death itself which often takes the most extravagant and outrageous forms. Suicide was considered admirable in the decadence of Greece and Rome, and the Goths, Vandals and Norse heathens not only approved but sought suicide and violent death. There existed among a tribe of robbers in Southern India customs of the utmost ferocity. Such customs as the following certainly prevailed during the eighteenth century: if two persons had quarrelled, sometimes for the most trifling reasons, a man would kill himself merely to be avenged on his adversary. He believed that his ghost would be able to return and harry the survivor, or at least that some dire retribution must fall on the head of an enemy who drove him to such extreme measures. Again, custom required that if a man committed suicide, letting the reason be known, the person with whom he had had the difference that led to it must immediately follow his example.

Similar beliefs exist among native African tribes. Thus the Wajagga of East Africa dread the spectres of suicides. When a man has hanged himself a certain complicated ceremonial becomes imperative. They take the rope from his neck and suspend a goat in the noose, after which the animal is swiftly slain. The idea seems that hereby the phantom will be in some way appeased, and he will not be so likely to tempt human beings to follow his example.

The Baganda of Central Africa have an even greater horror of the ghosts of suicides, and the most elaborate precautions are invariably taken to protect themselves against these dangerous visitors. The body of a suicide is removed as far from all human habitation as possible, to waste land or a crossroad, and there is utterly consumed with fire. Next the wood of the house in which the deed has been done is burned to ashes and scattered to the winds; whilst if the man has hanged himself upon a tree, this is hewn to the ground and committed to the flames, trunk, roots, branches and all. Even this is hardly deemed to be sufficient and the Baganda, when passing by the spot where the body of a suicide has been burned, always take good care to pelt it with sticks and clods of earth to prevent the ghost from catching them.

It is recorded by a traveller about the middle of the nineteenth century that when he was journeying in company with two Mussulmans from Sidon to Tyre, as he drew near the latter city he noticed a great pile of stones by the wayside, whereupon his companions began to pick up all the loose pebbles that came to hand and discharge them violently at the heap, at the same time uttering the most fearful imprecations. When they had passed and were at some little distance they explained that a notorious brigand, whose hands were stained with hideous cruelties and innocent blood, had been slain there and buried on the spot half a century before. The stones they threw and their curses were directed against this villain. It might be thought that the missiles were a mark of loathing and contempt, but it seems far more probable that they were intended to serve a very utilitarian purpose, actually to keep off the wretch who would still be haunting the pit into which his body had been cast fifty years since.

It is not only among African tribes and in the East that such graves are thus places of execration and fear, but in Pomerania and West Prussia the spots where persons who have wrought their own destruction happen to be interred are regarded as unlucky in the highest degree, and there is no more malevolent and harmful spectre than the suicide's ghost. A man who has destroyed himself must not defile God's acre, in no wise may he be buried in the churchyard but at the place where the desperate deed was done, and everybody who passes by will cast a stone on the spot unless he wishes the ghost of the suicide to plague him nightly, and give him no rest until he is driven to the same dreadful fate. It is said that, as in Africa, cairns rise upon these haunted spots in the more remote districts along the cold shores washed by the Baltic Sea.

In Scotland it is still thought that the body of a suicide will not fall to dust until the time when he should have died in the order of nature, and it is very generally held that such a one must be buried with the grave facing north and south. This belief also existed in England and there are graves facing north and south to be seen at Cowden in Kent and Bergholt in Suffolk which are locally said to be of persons who have destroyed themselves, for it is almost universally declared that Christian burial should be with the head in the west, looking eastward.

As is well-known, in England until the time of George IV it was the general practice to bury suicides at the crossroads, where a stake was driven through the body. In the year 1823 it was enacted that the body of a suicide should be buried privately between the hours of nine and twelve at night, with no religious ceremony. In 1882 this law was altered and the body may now be committed to the earth at any time, and with such rites or prayers as those in charge of the funeral think fit or may be able to procure. In certain country places it is still supposed that the spirit of the last person buried in a graveyard has to keep watch lest any suicide should be interred there.

One explanation of why persons who had taken their own lives should be buried at the crossroads was that the ghosts of murdered persons were supposed to walk until the bodies had been recovered and committed to the churchyard with Christian rites. Since this was impossible in the case of suicides, a stake was driven through them when deposited in order to keep the ghost from wandering abroad. It is certain that the idea here is the same as that of driving a stake through the vampire, an operation performed not as an indignity but as a preventative.

The reason for the selected spot of the suicide's grave being a crossroad is further explained by the belief that when the ghost or the body issues from the grave and finds there are four paths stretching in as many directions, he will be puzzled to know which way to take and will stand debating until dawn compels him to return to the earth. But woe betide the unhappy being who happens to pass by when he is lingering there perplexed and confused. Accordingly, after sunset every sensible person will avoid all crossroads since there are no localities more certainly and fearfully haunted.

Even in the mythology of Ceylon the crossroads play an ominous part. Thus in the Yakkun Nattanawa, a poem descriptive of the Ceylon system of demonology, it is said of the Black She-Devil: "Thou female Devil, who acceptest the offerings at the place where three ways meet, thou causest the people to be sick by looking upon them at the place where four ways join together." The devil Maha-Sohon watches "to drink the blood of the elephant in the place where four ways join together." Maha-Sohon is the devil of the tombs, "therefore go not in the roads by night: if you do so you must not expect to escape with your life." Another devil, Oddy, stands where three ways meet, watching and hot for mischief. Again, the Devil of the Victim "watches and looks upon the people, and causes them to be sick at the place where three roads meet, and where four ways meet."

Ralston, in his Folk Tales of the Russians says it is a common Russian belief that at crossroads, or in the neighbourhood of cemeteries, an animated corpse often lurks watching for some unwary traveller whom it may be able to strangle and devour, eagerly quaffing the warm blood from his veins. In Cornwall today crossroads are most carefully avoided after nightfall. This may be because it is commonly accepted that at the crossroads witches from all the world over assemble for their sabbat, but it seems more likely that these particular spots are avoided because of the vampires.

It is said that if you go to a crossroad between eleven o'clock and midnight on Christmas Eve and listen, you will hear what most concerns you for the coming year. It may be pointed out that this is the one night throughout the year when strange wonders happen. It is then that the thorn that sprang at Glastonbury from the Sacred Crown which Joseph of Arimathea brought with him from Palestine, when Avalon was still an island, burgeons into fragrant blossoms. The Cornish miners seem to hear the sound of singing choirs that arise from submerged churches near the shore, and others have said that bells beneath the ground where villages have been, upon that eve yearly ring a glad peal. At midnight the oxen, the cattle and all the beasts kneel and adore, as they adored in the stable-cave at Bethlehem. No evil thing has power.

In certain districts of East Prussia on Christmas Eve candles are kept burning all night in the houses and no window is shuttered. It is supposed that the spirits of the dead will return in friendly-wise and the opportunity is given to warm themselves, so that on future occasions when they haunt the villages with more malicious intent they may remember those who are kind to them at Christmas, and spare those houses from molestation and injury.

Not only are those who die excommunicate liable to become vampires, but those who die under any kind of such ban, especially if it be the malison of a parent; or if it be a man who has perjured himself in a grave matter and called down upon his head damnation should what he swear be untrue. It must be remembered that a solemn curse is not merely an exclamation, perhaps quite meaningless. It is far more than this, it is significant and operative. The malediction is conceived as having a certain efficacious power, and it may be noted that this force if rightly launched does not seem to exhaust itself. No more terrible fate could be imagined than for a man to become a vampire, and this was the inevitable consequence if he were not cleared of a merited malison. The old proverb says:

Curses are like young chickens
And still come home to roost.

This adage is terribly exemplified in the vampire who is supposed when he returns from his grave first to attack those who on earth have been his nearest and dearest. At the present day in Greece many of the usual imprecations definitely refer to the fact that the person so cursed will become a vampire after death. The following are in common use: "May the earth not receive him." "May the ground not consume him." "Mayest thou remain incorrupt." Which is to say, may the body not decompose. Since even the curse uttered in moments of anger and impatience may have such terrible effects, in Greece it is deemed necessary that there should be some expedient which may dissipate and dispel the forces to which these words have given an impetus.

Accordingly at a Greek death-bed there is carried out a certain ritual to attain this end. A vessel of water is brought to the bedside and the sick man throws into it a handful of salt. When this is dissolved, he sprinkles all who are present, saying: "As this salt dissolves so may my curses dissolve." This ceremony absolves all persons whom he may have cursed in his lifetime from the evil of a ban which after death he would no longer be able to revoke. The relations and friends then solemnly forgive the dying man for ought he may have done against them, and all present declare that they bear no grudge nor anger in their hearts.

It is said that if the passage be a difficult one it is supposed that somebody whom the sick man has injured has not forgiven him. If it can be guessed who this may be, he is if possible brought to the bedside to declare his forgiveness. If however he be dead, a portion of the cerements must be brought and burned to ashes in the bed-chamber of the dying person, who is fumigated with the smoke.

Although in England it is considered an omen of a happy life to be born upon some festival, the exact opposite is the case in Slav countries. In Greece particularly nothing could be more disastrous, and of all seasons Christmas Day is the most unlucky. In many districts it is accounted a terrible thing for any child to be born at any time between Christmas and Epiphany; such babies are called "feast-blasted" and after death they will assuredly become vampires. Even during life such a child is a Callicantzaros.

The Callicantzaros is one of the most extraordinary and horrible of all the creatures of popular superstition. Leone Allacci says that they only appear and have power during the week from Christmas to New Year's Day, but other authorities extend this time until Twelfth Night. During the rest of the year it is vaguely supposed that they sojourn in some mysterious Hades or underworld. Local traditions differ as to whether they are actually demons or whether they are human. Allacci says that children born in the octave of Christmas are liable to be seized with a terrible mania, that they rush to and fro with the most amazing speed, that their nails grow like the talons of a bird of prey, whilst their hands become as crooked claws. If they meet any person on the highway they seize him and put the question: "Tow or lead?" If he answer: "Tow" he may escape unharmed, but if he be inadvertent enough to reply: "Lead," they grip him with terrible force, mangle him with their talons and often tear him to pieces, devouring him wholemeal.

During the seventeenth century this belief so strongly prevailed that the most cruel precautions were taken in the case of children who might become Callicantzari. The soles of their feet were exposed to a fire till the nails were singed and so their claws clipped, and even today in parts of Greece these practices prevail in a highly modified form. Among the Aegean islanders it is said that the small Callicantzari are particularly prone to attack and devour their own brothers and sisters, which is another strong link with the tradition of the vampire, who seeks the destruction of his own kin.

It is difficult to convey any idea of the popular notions concerning the appearance of a Callicantzaros, as almost every local account differs from others. Such diversities are often due to the original conception of these creatures, whether they are regarded as demons or monsters who are suffered to plague the countryside for a certain number of days during the Christmas season, or whether they are regarded as human beings afflicted with a terrible curse, the victims of a most horrible possession, doomed never to rest even in the grave.

Near akin to the latter conception is the werewolf, who may be regarded as a man or woman able to change into the form of a wolf, or who in classical times was believed to be so changed owing to the vengeance of the gods; and in later days was believed to be so changed owing to the enchantment of a witch or some manner of diabolic possession. Moreover, a werewolf may be a person who without any actual metamorphosis is obsessed with all the savage passions and ferocity of a wolf, so he will attack human beings in the same way as the actual wild animal.

In early days it was recognized that a werewolf might be a person who was afflicted with a horrible mania, and Marcellus Sidetes, who lived in the reigns of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius circa AD 117 - 161, wrote that Lycanthropy is a disease, a kind of insanity or mania when the patient is afflicted with hideous appetites, the ferocity and other qualities of a wolf. He further tells us that men are attacked with this madness chiefly in the beginning of the year, and become most furious in February; retiring for the night to lone cemeteries and living precisely in the manner of ravening wolves.

Under Lycanthropia, Burton notes as follows in his Anatomy of Melancholy: "Lycanthropia, which Avicenna calls Cucubuth, others Lupinam Insaniam or Wolf-Madness, when men run howling about graves and fields in the night, and will not be persuaded but that they are wolves or some such beasts. Aetius and Paulus call it a kind of melancholy; but I should rather refer to it as madness, as most do. This malady is nowadays frequent in Bohemia and Hungary. Schernitzius will have it common in Livonia. They lie hid most part all day, and go abroad in the night, barking, howling , at graves and deserts; they have usually hollow eyes, scabbed legs and thighs, unquenchable thirst and are very dry and pale."

It is remarkable that most of these features are found in the vampire, especially the unquenchable thirst which is emphasized by the famous physician Antonio Donato Altomari, one of the most learned authorities of his day. It is also remarkable that the malady is reported as being prevalent in countries in which the vampire is most frequently found. There is in fact a very close connection between the werewolf and the vampire, and the lycanthropist is liable to become a vampire when he dies.

In parts of Greece it is said that even those who eat the flesh of a sheep that has been killed by a wolf are apt to become vampires after death, and this serves to show how powerful the pollution of the werewolf was supposed to be. In Norse saga, Ingiald, the son of King Aunund, was timid whilst a boy, but after eating the heart of a wolf he gained strength and courage and became the boldest of heroes.

Even as some kind of vampirish infection was held to proceed from the wolf, the vampire himself will even more strongly convey this taint, and therefore unless the most drastic and immediate remedies are applied, a person who is attacked by a vampire and whose blood has been sucked will become a vampire in turn, imbued with a craving to pass on the horrible pollution. This is perhaps, and with good reason, the most dreaded quality of the vampire, and examples thereof occur again and again in legend and history.

It is far more curious that it should be thought that those over whose dead bodies a cat or any other animal has passed should become vampires. The belief widely exists amongst Slavonic peoples, and is to be found in some parts of Greece. It also prevails in China where a cat is never allowed to enter a room with a corpse, for the body still contains the Kuei, the lower or inferior soul, and by leaping over it the cat will impart something of its original savage or tigerish nature and the dead man may become a vampire.

In Greece, particularly in Macedonia, the most pious care is taken to prevent any such calamity. The body is watched all night long by relatives and friends, and this is deemed a work of true charity by which they acquire great merit. If, in spite of all their care some cat does jump across the body, the dead man must be pierced through with two long "sack-needles," in order to secure his rest and guard against his return. It is well to scatter mustard seed on the roof and the threshold, and the wise man will barricade his door with brambles and thorns. Should the vampire return he cannot fail to occupy himself with counting the seeds and it will be dawn, when he must return to his grave, long before he completes the tale. Should he endeavour to pass through the bushes he will inevitably be caught and held fast by the briars.

Ralston tells us that the Serbs and Bulgarians keep this vigil even more carefully than the Greeks. "In some places the jumping of a boy over the corpse is considered as fatal as that of a cat. The flight of a bird above the body may also be attended by the same terrible results; and so may - in the Ukraine - the mere breath of the wind from the Steppe. What is extremely curious is that this tradition still lingers in Scotland and the north of England, and if a cat or dog pass over a corpse, the animal must be killed at once. The reason for this has been entirely forgotten, but the survival is remarkable as showing that there once existed a dread of vampires in Britain which today is entirely forgotten.

We will now proceed to inquire into those physical traits by which a vampire may be recognized, the method by which he leaves his grave and the way by which a vampire may be released or destroyed.

A vampire is generally described as being exceedingly gaunt and lean with a hideous countenance and eyes wherein are glinting the red fires of perdition. When, however, he has satiated his lust for warm human blood his body becomes horribly puffed and bloated, as though he were some great leech gorged and replete to bursting. Cold as ice, or it may be fevered and burning as a hot coal, the skin is deathly pale, but the lips are very full and rich, blub and red; the teeth white and gleaming, and the canine teeth, wherewith he bites deep into the neck of his prey to suck thence the vital streams which re-animate his body, appear notably sharp and pointed. Often his mouth curls back in a vulpine snarl which bares these fangs.

In Bulgaria it is thought that the vampire who returns from the tomb has only one nostril; and in certain districts of Poland he is supposed to have a sharp point at the end of his tongue like the sting of a bee. It is said that the palms of a Vampire's hands are downy with hair and the nails are always curved and crooked, often well nigh the length of a bird's claw, the quicks dirty and foul with clots of black blood. His breath is unbearably fetid and rank with corruption, the stench of charnel.

The vampire is, as we have said, generally believed to embrace his victim who has been thrown into a trance-like sleep, and after greedily kissing the throat suddenly to bite deep into the jugular vein and absorb the warm crimson blood. It has long been recognized by medico-psychologists that there exists a definite connexion between the fascination of blood and sexual excitation. Owing to custom, to inhibitions and education this emotion generally remains latent, although a certain mental sadism is by no means a mark of degeneracy. Dr. Havelock Ellis says: "It is probable that the motive of sexual murders is nearly always to shed blood, and not to cause death," an extremely significant fact. Since the vampire is generally held to seize the throat, it is very striking such murders are almost always produced by wounds in the neck or mutilation of the abdomen, never by wounds of the head.

The tactile kiss, which doubtless is very primitive, has developed into the olfactory and the gustatory, extending thence into many elaborations and variants. Under the stress of strong sexual emotion, when love is closely knit with pain, there is often an overwhelming tendency to bite the partner of the act, and the love-bite is often referred to in Latin literature. Much Oriental erotic literature also gives attention to this subject. The Indian Kama Sutra devotes no less than one chapter to the love-bite, and there are many references to be found in such manuals as the Arabic Perfumed Garden. When it is borne in mind how markedly Slavonic a tradition is the bite of the vampire, it becomes extremely significant to know that biting in amorous embraces is very common among the Southern Slavs.

The peasant women of Sicily, especially in the districts where crimes of blood are prevalent, often in their affection for children kiss them violently, even biting them and sucking their blood till the infant wails in pain. If a child has done wrong they will not only strike it, but also bite it fiercely on the face, ears or arms till blood flows. Both men and women often use the threat: "I will drink your blood."

A curious case was reported in the London police news of 1894. A man aged thirty was charged with ill-treating his wife's illegitimate daughter, aged three. The acts had lasted over a period of many months; her lips, eyes and hands were bitten and covered with bruises from sucking, and often her little pinafore was stained with blood. The report stated that: "The defendant admitted he had bitten the child because he loved it." Here we have true vampirish qualities and inclinations.

The Daily Express, 17th April 1925, gave the following: "VAMPIRE BRAIN. PLAN TO PRESERVE IT FOR SCIENCE. Berlin. Thursday, April 16th. The body of Fritz Haarmann, executed yesterday at Hanover for twenty seven murders, will not be buried until it has been examined at Gottingen University. Owing to the exceptional character of the crimes - most of Haarmann's victims were bitten to death - the case aroused tremendous interest among German scientists. It is probable that Haarmann's brain will be removed and preserved by the University authorities." This is probably one of the most extraordinary cases of vampirism known, and it was perhaps something more than mere coincidence that the mode of Haarman's execution should have been the severing of his head from the body by means of a heavy sword, since this was one of the efficacious methods of destroying a vampire. Certainly in the extended sense of the word, Fritz Haarmann was a vampire in every particular.

Having investigated the various reasons why any person should become a vampire, various points present themselves which invite some enquiry. Although the belief varies in different parts of the world, it is generally understood that vampires operate only by night. Yet it is also supposed that under certain conditions vampires may wander abroad during the day, and that the vampire truly is the noonday devil. Therefore we may ask by what signs, if any, is a vampire to be recognized?

Again, how does a vampire leave his grave? For we must remember that the vampire is tangible and can make his presence felt in a very unmistakable and terrible manner. This difficulty has been clearly stated by Dom Calmet who writes as follows: "How can a corpse which is covered with four or five feet of earth, which has no room even to stretch a limb, which is wrapped in linen cerements, enclosed in a coffin of wood, how can it, I say, seek the upper air and return to the world, walking upon the earth so as to cause those extraordinary effects which are attributed to it? And after all that how can it go back again into the grave, when it will be found fresh, incorrupt, full of blood exactly like a living body? Can it be maintained that these corpses pass through the earth without disturbing it, just as water and the damps which penetrate the soil or which exhale therefrom without perceptibly dividing or cleaving the ground?

"Let us suppose that these corpses do not actually stir from their tombs, that only the ghosts or spirits appear to the living, wherefor do these phantoms present themselves and what is it that energizes them? Is it actually the soul of the dead man which has not yet departed to its final destination, or is it a demon who causes them to be seen in an assumed and fantastical body? And if their bodies are spectral, how do they suck the blood of the living? We are enmeshed in a sad dilemma when we ask if these apparitions are natural or miraculous."

These objections may seem very weighty, but perhaps if they be impartially examined it may be found that the good Benedictine has been a little too dogmatic in his assertions. The phenomenon that the soil of the grave was almost invariably undisturbed by the exit of the vampire, who further could make his entry through doors and windows without opening or breaking them, may yet admit of an explanation which will go far to solve the difficulty. In the first place it is hardly correct to assert that the ground is wholly undisturbed. Where careful investigation was made it was generally found that there were discovered four or five little holes or tunnels, not much larger indeed than a man's finger, which pierced the earth to a very considerable depth. And here, perhaps, in this one little detail we may find the clue to the whole mystery.

The widespread growth of spiritualism has made even the ordinary public familiar with the phenomena of a seance where materialization takes place, and where physical forms are solidly built up and disintegrated again within a short space of time. This is done by some power or entity which avails itself of the body of the passive medium and utilizes the ectoplasm which it can draw thence. Professor Ostwald writes: "Certain human beings are capable of transforming their physiological store of energy, of transmitting it through space, and of transforming it at prescribed points back into one of the known forms of energy. It results from this that the mediums themselves are usually much exhausted, i.e. that they use up their bodily energy. A transformation into psychic energy seems also to be possible."

The extreme exhaustion of a medium after such investigation and the production of forms of organic matter is common knowledge. Of one of the most famous mediums, Eusapia Paladino, it is reported: "Eusapia during the sittings fell into a deep hysterical somnambulism, and was often in slightly dazed condition after the close. When the trance set in, she turned pale, and her head swerved to and fro, and the eyes were turned upwards and inwards. She was hypersensitive, especially to the touch, and also to light; she had hallucinations, delirium, fits of laughter, weeping or deep sleep, and showed other typical hysterical convulsions. Digestive troubles also sometimes set in, especially when she had eaten before the sitting. In a sudden light, or at a sudden rough touch, she cried out and shuddered, as she would under unexpected violent pain." And again: "Eusapia Paladino used to be very exhausted after every successful sitting, especially after she had been in a state of trance. She sometimes slept until the next mid-day, and was for the rest of the day apathetic, peevish and monosyllabic. Her skin was usually cold after the sittings, her pulse rapid and she had a strong feeling of fatigue. Her subsequent sleep was often restless and interrupted by vivid dreams."

It is significant that these are the very symptoms exhibited by those who have been attacked by a vampire. With these pregnant and remarkable details in mind we may consider the explanation of vampirism given by Z.T.Pierart, a well-known French spiritualist and sometime editor of La Revue Spiritualiste. He writes as follows: "As long as the astral form is not entirely liberated from the body there is a liability that it may be forced by magnetic attraction to re-enter it. Sometimes it will be only half-way out when the corpse, which presents the appearance of death, is buried. In such cases the terrified astral soul re-enters its casket and then one of two things happen: the person buried either writhes in agony of suffocation or, if he has been grossly material, becomes a vampire. The bi-corporeal life then begins. The ethereal form can go where it pleases, and as long as it does not break the link connecting it with the body can wander visible or invisible and feed on its victims. It then transmits the results of the suction by some mysterious invisible cord of connexion to the body, thus aiding it to perpetuate the state of catalepsy." This comment seems to point towards a possible and correct explanation.

It now remains to enquire how the grave of a vampire may be recognized, and in what way this terror may be checked and destroyed. In this connection it will not be impertinent to give a letter which is cited at length by Dom Calmet: "It is your wish, my dear cousin, that I should give you exact details of what has been happening in Hungary with regard to certain apparitions, who so often molest and slay people in that part of the world. I am in a position to afford you this information, for I have been living for some years in those very districts, and I am naturally of an enquiring disposition . . . . This is the usual account, a person is attached by a great languor and weariness, he loses all appetite, he visibly wastes and grows thin, and at the end of a week or ten days, maybe a fortnight, he dies without any other symptom save anaemia and emaciation.

"In Hungary they say that a Vampire has attacked him and sucked his blood. Many of those who fall ill in this way declare that a white spectre is following them and cleaves to them as close as a shadow. When we were in our Kalocsa-Bacs quarters in the County of Temesvar two officers of the regiment in which I was died of this languor, and several more were attacked and must have perished had not a Corporal of our regiment put a stop to these maladies by resorting to the remedial ceremonies which are practised by the local people. These are very unusual, and although they are considered an infallible cure I cannot remember ever to have seen these in any Rituale.

"They select a young lad who is a pure maiden, that is to say, who, as they believe, has never performed the sexual act. He is set upon a young stallion who has not yet mounted his first mare, who has never stumbled, and who must be coal-black without a speck of white; the stud is ridden into the cemetery in and out among the graves and that grave over which the steed, in spite of the blows they deal him pretty handsomely, refuses to pass is where the Vampire lies. The tomb is opened and they find a sleek, fat corpse, as healthily-coloured as though the man were quietly and happily sleeping in calm repose. With one single blow of a sharp spade they cut off the head, whereupon there gush forth warm streams of blood in colour rich red, and filling the whole grave. It would assuredly be supposed that they had just decapitated a stalwart fine fellow of most sanguine habit and complexion. When this business is done, they refill the grave with earth and then the ravages of this disease immediately cease whilst those who are suffering from this marasmus gradually recover their strength, just as convalescents recuperating after a long illness who have wasted and withered.

"This is exactly what occurred in the case of our young officers who had sickened. As the Colonel of the regiment, the Captain and Lieutenant were all absent, I happened to be in command just then and I was heartily vexed to find that the Corporal had arranged the affair without my knowledge. I was within an ace of ordering him a severe military punishment, and these are common enough in the Imperial service. I would have given the world to have been present at the exhumation of the Vampire, but after all it is too late for that now."

It has already been remarked that in a cemetery there were often found to be a number of small passages the size of a man's finger pierced through the earth, and it was considered that the presence of such a soupirail in a grave was a certain sign that if investigation were made a body with all the marks of vampirism would be discovered lying there. When the corpse is exhumed, even though death has taken place long before, there will be no decay, no trace of corruption or decomposition, but rather it will be found to be plump and of a clear complexion; the face often ruddy; the whole person composed as if in a profound sleep. Sometimes the eyes are closed; more frequently open, glazed, fixed and glaring fiercely. The lips which will be markedly full and red are drawn back from the teeth which gleam long, sharp as razors and ivory white. Often the gaping mouth is stained and foul with great gouts of blood, which trickles down from the corners on to the lawn shroudings and linen cerements, the offal of the last night's feast.

In the case of an epidemic of vampirism it is recorded that whole graves have been discovered soaked and saturated with blood, which the inhabitant has gorged until he is replete and vomited forth in great quantities like some swollen leech discharges when thrown into the brine. In Greece it is thought that the vampire's skin becomes exceedingly tough and distended so that the joints can hardly be bent; the human pelt has stretched like the vellum tegument of a drum, and when struck returns the same sound; whence the Greek vrykolakas has received a name that means "drum-like." It was not infrequently seen that the dead person in his grave had devoured all about him, grinding them with his teeth and (as it was supposed) uttering a low raucous noise like the grunting of a pig who roots among garbage.

When the vampire was tracked to his lair, one of the most approved methods to render him harmless was to transfix the corpse through the region of the heart with a stake which may be of aspen or maple as in Russia, or more usually of hawthorn or whitethorn. The aspen tree is held to be particularly sacred as according to one account this was the wood of the Cross. In Dalmatia and Albania for the wooden stake is sometimes substituted a consecrated dagger, a poniard which has been laid upon the altar and ritually blessed by the priest with due sacring of holy orison, of frankincense and lustral asperges.

It is highly important that the body of the vampire should be transfixed by a single blow, for two or three would restore it to life. This curious idea is almost universally found in tradition and folk-lore. In The Thousand and One Nights we have the story of "Sayf al Muluk and Badion al Jamal" where the hero cuts the ghoul in half by a single stroke through the waist. The ghost yells at him: "Oman, if thou desire to slay me, strike me a second stroke." The youth is just about to give a second slash with his scimitar when a certain old blind beggar whom he has befriended warns him: "Smite not a second time, for then he will not die but will live and destroy us." He accordingly stays his hand and the ghoul expires.

When the stake has pierced the vampire he will utter the most terrible shrieks and blood will jet forth in every direction from his convulsed and writhing limbs as he impotently threshes the air with his quivering hands. There is a tradition that when he has been dead for many years and his mysterious life in death is thus ended, the corpse has been known to crumble immediately into dust. In some countries this operation usually takes place soon after dawn, as the vampire may only leave his grave with the dusk and must return at cock-crow, so he will be caught when he has come back torpid and heavy from his night's banquet of blood.

But this belief that his ravages are confined to the dark hours is by no means universal. Accordingly the vampire may walk in full daylight. Yet he may not, so they hold in Epirus, Crete and among the Wallachians and Turks, leave his tomb on a Saturday; consequently this day is suitable for his capture.

When the stake has been thrust with one drive through the vampire's heart, his head should be cut off, and this is to be done with the sharp edge of a sexton's spade rather than with a sword. To burn the body of the vampire is generally acknowledged to be by far the most efficacious method of ridding a district of this demoniacal pest, and it is the common practice all over the world. The bodies of all those whom he may have infected with the vampirish poison are also for security's sake cremated. Any animals which come forth from the fire - worms, snakes, lice, beetles, birds of horrible and deformed shape - must be driven back into the flames for the vampire may be embodied in one of these, seeking to escape so he can renew his foul parasitism of death. The ashes of the pyre should be scattered to the winds, or cast into a river swiftly flowing to the sea.

Sometimes the body was hacked to pieces before it was cast into the fire; very often the heart was torn from the breast and boiled to shreds in oil or vinegar. Quantities of boiling water or oil were also poured into the grave. Mr Abbott in his Macedonian Folklore, 1903, tells us of a ceremony which took place when a vampire had been tracked: "The corpse was taken out of the grave, was scalded with boiling oil and was pierced through the navel with a long nail. Then the tomb was filled in and millet was scattered over it, so that if the vampire came out again he might waste his time in picking up the grains of millet and be thus overtaken by dawn."

William of Newbury, speaking of the vampires which infested England in the twelfth century, says that similar molestations had often happened and there were on record many famous cases. The only way in which a district could be completely secured, and an end put once and for all to these visitations, was by exhuming the body and burning the vampire to ashes.

In Bulgaria there is yet another method of abolishing a vampire - that of bottling him. There are certain persons who make a profession of this and their mode of procedure is this: the sorcerer, armed with a picture of some saint, lies in ambush until he sees the vampire pass, when he pursues him with his Eikon; the poor Oboure takes refuge in a tree or on the roof of a house, but his persecutor follows him up with the talisman, driving him away from all shelter and in the direction of a bottle specially prepared, in which is placed some of the vampire's favourite food. Having no other resource, he enters this prison and is immediately fastened down with a cork, on the interior of which is a fragment of the Eikon. The bottle is then thrown into the fire and the vampire disappears forever.

Newton in his Travels and Discoveries in the Levant says that in Mitylene the bodies of those who will not lie quiet in their graves are transported to a small adjacent island without inhabitants where they are re-interred. This is an effectual bar to any future molestation for the vampire cannot cross salt water. Running water too he can only pass at the slack or the flood of the tide.

As with all other demoniacal monsters, the vampire fears and shrinks from holy things. Holy Water burns him as some biting acid; he flies from the sign of the Cross, from the Crucifix, from Relics and above all from the Host, the Body of God. All these and other hallowed objects render him powerless. He is conquered by the fragrance of incense. Certain trees and herbs are hateful to him, particularly garlic. Often when the vampire is decapitated his mouth is stuffed with garlic; garlic is scattered in and all over the coffin by handfuls and he can do no harm. In China and among the Malays, to wet a child's forehead with garlic is a sure protection against vampires. The West Indian negroes today smear themselves with garlic to neutralize the evil charms of witches and obeah men.

In countries which are non-Christian the practices are naturally somewhat different, although it should be remarked that burning the body of the vampire is universal. In China, corpses suspected of vampirism were allowed to decay in the open air before burial; or, when buried, were exhumed as in other countries and cremated. In the absence of the corpse from its grave, the lid of the coffin was removed, since it was thought that the circulation of fresh air would prevent the vampire from returning to it. Rice, red peas and scraps of iron were also scattered round the grave. These formed a mystical barrier the dead man could not surmount, he fell to the ground stiff and stark and then could be taken up and burned to ashes.

In some Slavonic countries it is thought that a vampire, if prowling out of his tomb at night, may be shot and killed with a silver bullet that has been blessed by a priest. But care must be taken that his body is not laid in the rays of the moon, especially if the moon be at her full, for in this case he will revive with redoubled vigour and malevolence.

Although as we have seen there are many methods and many variants, it is certain that an effectual remedy against the vampire is to transfix his heart with a stake driven through with one single blow, to strike off his head with a sexton's spade, and perhaps best of all to burn him to ashes and purge the earth of his pollutions by the incineration of fire.


The Vampire:
His Kith and Kin

"The Philosophy of Vampirism"
Montague Summers

1880 - 1948

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