During the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries in Europe, vampires figured prominently in popular beliefs and superstitions. Vampire folklore varied from region to region, but there were a few common elements.
Vampires were generally depicted as undead creatures that fed on the blood of the living to survive. They were often associated with death, disease and other supernatural phenomena. Belief in vampires was deeply rooted in European cultures, and stories of vampires were passed down from generation to generation.
Vampire tales were particularly prevalent in regions of Central and Eastern Europe, such as Hungary, Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria. In Transylvania, Romania, for example, the character of Dracula, popularized by Bram Stoker's novel, has become emblematic of the image of the vampire.
The fear of vampires was so widespread that special measures were taken to prevent their alleged activities. It was believed that vampires could emerge from their graves at night to feed on the blood of the living. To prevent them from doing this, certain customs were observed, such as placing stakes in the coffins, burning the bodies of the deceased or performing exorcisms.
Cases of Vampirisime
In the 18th century, a wave of vampire hysteria swept across Europe. In 1732, for example, the case of Peter Plogojowitz, a Serbian peasant believed to be a vampire, attracted international attention. Accounts of his return from the dead and his bloodlust have been documented and discussed by scholars and writers of the time.
The story of Peter Plogojowitz is one of the most famous and documented cases of vampirism in the 18th century. Although the story of Peter Plogojowitz is shrouded in myth and legend, it has garnered a lot of attention and helped solidify popular beliefs about vampires.
The story of Peter Plogojowitz is set in Serbia in the early 1700s. According to the stories, Peter Plogojowitz was a Serbian peasant living in the village of Kisilova. After his death, rumors began to circulate that he had returned from the dead to feed on the blood of the living.
Villagers claimed to have seen Peter Plogojowitz after his death, and several people claimed to have been attacked by him in their sleep. The victims reported that Peter strangled and bit them, causing them serious injuries.
These stories struck terror among the local population, and the villagers asked the authorities for help. Authorities decided to investigate the case to allay fears and prevent further alleged vampire attacks.
A group of soldiers, led by an Austrian officer named Johann Flückinger, was sent to the scene to exhume Peter Plogojowitz's body and conduct an investigation. Upon exhumation, they discovered that his body was in an advanced state of decomposition, but there were signs that were interpreted as evidence of vampirism. For example, his body was said to be cool and fresh blood was flowing from his mouth.
The soldiers decided to take action to prevent Peter Plogojowitz from coming back to life as a vampire. They drove a stake through his heart to nail him to his grave, and according to some versions, they also burned his body.
The story of Peter Plogojowitz was reported in several documents of the time, including official Austrian reports. These tales attracted international attention and helped solidify beliefs about vampires.
The story of Arnold Paole is one of the most famous cases of vampirism in Europe. This is a tale from 18th century Serbia, which helped reinforce popular beliefs about vampires. Arnold Paole was a Serbian soldier who was allegedly attacked by a vampire while on duty in Greece. After this experience, Paole started showing strange signs and unusual behaviors. He complained of feeling exhausted and weak, and claimed to be haunted by the spirit of the vampire that had attacked him. After returning to Serbia, Paole reportedly continued to exhibit vampiric behaviors. He would have started attacking the villagers in their sleep, draining their blood and causing their death. Terror spread through the region, and people began to believe that Paole had become a vampire himself. The villagers decided to take action to put an end to the alleged attacks by Paole. His body was exhumed, and according to accounts, it showed signs that were interpreted as evidence of vampirism. His body was said to be well preserved and there was fresh blood in his mouth. To prevent Paole from coming back to life as a vampire, a stake was driven through her heart. It is also said that they burned his body to ensure that he could cause no further harm. The story of Arnold Paole has been reported in writings of the time, notably in letters from the Austrian Emperor Maria Theresa. This case helped fuel beliefs about vampires and reinforced the widespread fear associated with these creatures.
Mercy Brown's story is one of the most famous cases of vampirism in the United States. It happened in the 19th century, in the state of Rhode Island. Mercy Lena Brown was a young woman who died in January 1892, at the age of 19, from tuberculosis, a disease then poorly understood. Shortly after his death, his mother and older sister, along with other family members, also fell ill and died. These tragic events fueled popular beliefs that Mercy Brown was a vampire who drained life from her family from her grave. The villagers, terrified by this idea, demanded drastic measures to end the supposed curse. In March 1892, Mercy Brown's body was exhumed for testing to confirm suspicion of vampirism. Those present at the exhumation were struck by the state of preservation of the body. It is said that she actually appeared to have grown hair, her nails and skin had grown, and fresh blood was present in her heart. These observations have been interpreted as signs of vampirism. In hopes of breaking the alleged curse, Mercy's heart was removed and burned, then the ashes were mixed with water to be given to her surviving family members, believed to be cured of tuberculosis. Mercy Brown's story captured media attention at the time and helped solidify beliefs about vampires. She became an iconic example of the mass panic and superstitions surrounding vampirism at that time. It is important to note that this story was rooted in popular beliefs and superstitions, rather than scientific fact. Observations reported during the exhumation of the body can be explained by natural phenomena such as decomposition or post-mortem changes.
However, in the 19th century, the idea of the vampire began to evolve and be seen more as a theme in Gothic and Romantic literature. Bram Stoker's novel, "Dracula" (1897), played a major role in transforming the image of the vampire, presenting him as an attractive and powerful character.
It is important to note that beliefs in vampires were often tied to misunderstood natural phenomena at the time. For example, the decomposition of bodies could give the appearance that the dead were feeding on the living by causing bleeding in the coffins.
Representations of vampires
The first writings about the vampire date from the year 1047, written in Old Russian. The ancient words speak cautiously of the upir, which translates to "the thing at the feast or at the sacrifice".
This thing was a dangerous spirit that could appear unpredictably during rituals for the dead. His presence was so feared that it was not necessary to call him by his name.m.
Talking about him was so improbable, mentions of him are so few and hesitant, that we don't know his real name, what he is, or where the belief in him comes from.
Early depictions of vampires vary across cultures and times, but there are a few common characteristics that have emerged in different traditions.
In ancient myths and legends, vampires were often depicted as undead beings who fed on the blood of the living to maintain their existence. Vampirism was often associated with death, disease, and other supernatural phenomena.
In Greek mythology, there were creatures similar to vampires, such as lamias and empuses. Lamies were female monsters that fed on the blood of infants, while empuses took on the appearance of attractive women to attract men and feed on their blood.
In Eastern Europe, especially in Transylvania and the Balkans, beliefs in vampires were widespread. Vampires were often portrayed as rotting corpses that emerged from their graves at night to feed on the blood of the living. They were associated with the spread of disease and the death of crops.
Depictions of early vampires were often frightening and terrifying. They were described as pale creatures, with sharp fangs and red or piercing eyes. Some accounts mentioned that vampires had supernatural powers, such as transformation into a bat or a wolf, hypnosis, and the ability to move quickly.
Early beliefs about vampires were deeply rooted in popular cultures and local superstitions. The villagers put in place various measures to protect themselves against the vampires, such as placing stakes in the coffins, burning the bodies of the deceased or performing exorcisms.
Over time, representations of vampires have evolved and diversified. In the 19th century, with the emergence of gothic literature, vampires were presented as seductive and mysterious characters, such as Bram Stoker's Dracula. Since then, vampires have continued to be reimagined in literature, film, and popular culture, sometimes taking on more romantic or humorous traits.