Anyone curious about the legendary background of vampires is soon bound to stumble across Montague Summers, whose writings in the 1920s established him as the foremost authority of the time and, as it happens, ever since. The Vampire: His Kith and Kin (1928) and The Vampire in Europe (1929) investigated the subject and all its ramifications in fantastic detail, presenting a record of folk beliefs about death and vampires that is unlikely to be equalled for sheer scope and depth.
Even Summers' greatest fans, however, must admit that his style is often dense and bewildering. His habit of piling up examples of any passing point often obscures the drift of his argument, however fascinating the examples and anecdotes are in themselves. Summers was a clear writer on other themes and a very effective editor of other people's work, but when it came to vampires he tended just to follow the prompting of his own boundless curiosity. In tackling his books it also helps to be multilingual. Often for pages on end it is not at all clear what tongue the book is supposed to be written in, and for the more risqué passages a more than working knowledge of French is vital.
All this is part of Summers' charm of course, but for the purposes of this edition something more accessible was required. Also something briefer to allow for illustrations.
The text for this book has been abridged from The Vampire: His Kith and Kin, published by Kegan Paul in New York in 1928. The aim was to change neither the style nor tone of the original but simply to prune it back to the basics. And very rewarding work it proved to be too. The thread of Summers' argument is far more coherent than a first reading suggests; and his Gothic style lends itself perfectly to the subject. What you have here are Montague Summers' own words and ideas stripped of digressions, footnotes, superfluous examples and his very detailed source references (plus commas, which he tended to sprinkle almost randomly like salt through his sentences). Occasionally a few words were supplied to link passages but mostly the editing consisted of simply dropping words, phrases and chunks from the original text.
Sometimes the choice of what to keep was unavoidably subjective. Many juicy items kept popping in and out of the revision, but on the whole the decisions were fairly straightforward. The complete original, for those whose appetites are whetted by this version, is available in the UK as a reprint from Senate Books under the title The Vampire. There is also an edition published by Dover.
Although he was writing in the twentieth century, Summers' outlook belonged to a much earlier age, something which astonished and even shocked many reviewers at the time. In everyday life he felt himself to be a refugee from the eighteenth century but many of his views would have seemed antiquated even then. Like some Medieval scholar he believed that in chronicling vampires he was studying a terrifying reality, not just some fiction or quaint superstition belonging to exotic and distant cultures.
To the sceptic he may seem over-trusting of his sources, particularly ecclesiastical ones. If a Church dignitary speaks of vampires and quotes witnesses he believes reliable, Summers appears to take the testimony at face value. But this is no great handicap. Summers may have lacked the detachment expected of modern scholars, but what he succeeds in conveying powerfully is what it feels like to believe in such things as vampires, as most people have throughout history. And still do in many parts of the world, as shown by the bizarre outbreak of vampire hysteria in Central America and Malaysia during the 1990s.
Alphonsus Joseph-Mary Augustus Montague Summers (1880-1948) was a fascinating character in himself. Throughout his life he was described by acquaintances as kind, courteous, generous and outrageously witty; but those who knew him well sensed an underlying discomfort and mystery. In appearance he was plump, round cheeked and generally smiling. His dress resembled that of an eighteenth century cleric, with a few added flourishes such as a silver-topped cane depicting Leda being ravished by Zeus in the form of a swan. He wore sweeping black capes crowned by a curious hairstyle of his own devising which led many to assume he wore a wig. His voice was high pitched, comical and often in complete contrast to the macabre tales he was in the habit of spouting. Throughout his life he astonished people with his knowledge of esoteric and unsettling occult lore. Many people later described him as the most extraordinary person they had known in their lives.
Despite his cherubic demeanour and affability some people found him sinister, a view he delighted in encouraging. It was always hard to tell how much Summers was putting on a show when in company, particularly in his early life, but he does appear to have been driven by demons, not least of them being those arising from having homosexual tendencies in an intolerant age. And although in everyday life he was kind and considerate, when engaged in academic debate he was furiously intolerant. There were also rumours that in his youth Summers had dabbled in black magic. If true, the only effect seems to have been to turn him completely against such meddling later. He may have been fascinated, even obsessed by witches, vampires and the like but the tone of his writings is consistently hostile towards them.
Montague Summers grew up in a wealthy family living in Clifton, near Bristol. Religion always played a large part in his life. He was raised as an evangelical Anglican but his love of ceremonial and sacraments drew him to the High Church. After graduating in Theology at Oxford he took the first steps towards holy orders at Lichfield Theological College and entered his apprenticeship as a curate in the diocese of Bitton near Bristol. This ended in a cloud of unproven scandal involving choirboys that was to dog him for the rest of his life. A year or so later he converted to Catholicism and was soon claiming to have been ordained a Catholic priest, adopting the title of Reverend. There was some doubt about the legitimacy of his orders though. He was in the habit of celebrating the Mass publicly when travelling abroad, so must have been able to produce some kind of evidence, but at home in England he only performed the sacraments in private. The truth is probably that he was ordained technically but outside the regular procedures of the Church. He therefore appeared on no clergy list in the United Kingdom, was under the authority of no bishop and could not practise publicly without first submitting to such authority.
None of his close friends doubted the sincerity of his religious faith, however, no matter how blasphemous his conversation often seemed. Dame Sybil Thorndike wrote of him: 'I think that because of his profound belief in the tenets of orthodox Catholic Christianity he was able to be in a way almost frivolous in his approach to certain macabre heterodoxies. His humour, his "wicked humour" as some people called it, was most refreshing, so different from the tiresome sentimentalism of so many convinced believers.'
For a living, Summers was able to draw on a modest legacy from his father, supplemented by spells of teaching at various schools, including Hertford Grammar, the Central School of Arts and Crafts in Holborn, and Brockley School in south London where he was senior English and Classics Master. He described teaching as: 'One of the most difficult and depressing of trades, and so in some measure it must have been even well-nigh three hundred years ago when boys were not nearly so stupid as they are today.' In practice though, he was both entertaining and effective as a teacher once he had overcome initial problems with discipline, and was popular with both pupils and colleagues despite making it plain his real interests lay elsewhere.
From 1926, when he was in his mid-forties, Summers' writings and editing earned him the freedom to pursue full time his many enthusiasms and love of travel, particularly in Italy. The bulk of his activity then was related to English Restoration drama of the seventeenth century. Beginning in 1914 with the Shakespeare Head Press, Summers edited a large number of Restoration plays for various publishers, accompanied by lengthy critical introductions which were highly praised in their own right, and did much to rescue that period of literature from oblivion.
Not content with editing and introducing these plays, Summers helped in 1919 to found the Phoenix Society whose aim was to present them on stage in London. The venture was an immediate success and Summers threw himself wholeheartedly and popularly into all aspects of the productions, which were staged at various theatres. This brought him a measure of fame in London society and invitations to the most select salons, which he dazzled with his wit and erudition. By 1926 he was recognized as the greatest living authority on Restoration drama. Some ten years later he crystallized his knowledge in The Restoration Theatre and The Playhouse of Pepys which examined almost every possible aspect of the London stage between 1660 and 1710.
Summers' involvement with the theatre presents a curious parallel with his near contemporary Bram Stoker, who for most of his working life was business manager to Sir Henry Irving at the Lyceum Theatre in London. There is even a suggestion of some jealousy in the grudging praise Summers gives Bram Stoker's Dracula at the end of this volume, leading to his conclusion that he felt the novel's success owed more to Stoker’s choice of subject than any authorial skill. One can't help suspecting Summers felt that if only he had been born some twenty years earlier he might have written the definitive vampire novel himself, only better.
Summers’ fame as an expert on the occult began in 1926 with the publication of his History of Demonology and Witchcraft followed by other studies of witches, vampires and werewolves. As an editor he also introduced to the public, along with many other works, a reprint of The Discovery of Witches by the infamous Matthew Hopkins and the first English translation of the classic fifteenth century treatise on witchcraft, Malleus Maleficarum. In later life he also wrote influential studies of the Gothic novel, another lifelong enthusiasm; notably The Gothic Quest: a History of the Gothic Novel (Fortune Press 1938) and A Gothic Bibliography (Fortune Press 1940).
In his introduction to Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto Summers articulated the appeal of Gothic novels, and perhaps also the appeal of all the dark mysteries which fascinated him: 'There is in the Romantic revival a certain disquietude and a certain aspiration. It is this disquietude with earth and aspiration for heaven which inform the greatest Romance of all, Mysticism, the Romance of the Saints. The Classical writer set down fixed rules and precisely determined his boundaries. The Romantic spirit reaches out beyond these with an indefinite but very real longing to new and dimly guessed spheres of beauty. The Romantic writer fell in love with the Middle Ages, the vague years of long ago, the days of chivalry and strange adventure. He imagined and elaborated a mediaevalism for himself, he created a fresh world, a world which never was and never could have been, a domain which fancy built and fancy ruled. And in this land there will be mystery, because where there is mystery beauty may always lie hid. There will be wonder, because wonder always lurks where there is the unknown. And it is this longing for beauty intermingling with wonder and mystery that will express itself, perhaps exquisitely and passionately in the twilight moods of the romantic poets, perhaps a little crudely and even a little vulgarly in tales of horror and blood.'
CHAPTER ONE: THE ORIGIN OF THE VAMPIRE
Throughout the whole vast shadowy world of ghosts and demons there is no figure so terrible, so dreaded and abhorred, yet endowed with such fearful fascination as the vampire; who is himself neither ghost nor demon but who partakes of the dark natures, and possesses the mysterious and terrible qualities of both. Around the vampire have clustered the most sombre superstitions, for he is a thing which belongs to no world at all. A pariah even among demons, foul are his ravages; gruesome and seemingly barbaric are the ancient and approved methods by which folk must rid themselves of this hideous pest. Even in this twentieth century in certain quarters of the world, in the remoter districts of Europe itself, in Transylvania, Slavonia, the isles and mountains of Greece, the peasant will take the law into his own hands and utterly destroy the carrion who - as is yet firmly believed - will issue at night from his unhallowed grave to spread the infection of vampirism throughout the countryside.
Assyria knew the vampire long ago, and he lurked amid the primaeval forests of Mexico before Cortes came. He is feared by the Chinese, by the Indian and Malay alike; whilst Arabian story tells us again and again of the ghouls who haunt ill-omened sepulchres and lonely crossways to attack and devour the unhappy traveller. The tradition is worldwide and of dateless antiquity.
Travellers and various writers upon several countries have dealt with these dark and perplexing problems. Towards the end of the seventeenth century, and even more particularly during the first half of the eighteenth when in Hungary, Moravia and Galicia there seemed to be a veritable epidemic of vampirism, there appeared a large number of academic theses and tractates, the majority of which were published in Leipzig. These formally discussed and debated the question in well-nigh all its aspects; but it may, I think, not unfairly be claimed that the present work is the first serious study in English of the vampire and kindred traditions.
In the present work I have endeavoured to set forth what might be termed "the philosophy of vampirism," and however ghastly and macabre they may appear, I have felt that here one must not tamely shrink from a careful consideration of the many passions and circumstances which throughout the ages have played a part in consolidating the vampire legend, and in perpetuating the tradition among the darker and more secret mysteries of belief that prevail in the heart of man.
John Heinrich Zopfius in his Dissertation on Serbian Vampires, 1733, says: "Vampires issue forth from their graves in the night, attack people sleeping quietly in their beds, suck out all the blood from their bodies and destroy them. They beset men, women and children alike, sparing neither age nor sex. Those who are under the fatal malignity of their influence complain of suffocation and a total deficiency of spirits, after which they soon expire. Some who, when at the point of death, have been asked if they can tell what is causing their decease, reply that such and such persons, lately dead, have risen from the tomb to torment and torture them."
Scoffern in his Stray Leaves of Science and Folk Lore writes: "The best definition I can give of a vampire is a living, mischievous and murderous dead body. A living dead body! The words are idle, contradictory, incomprehensible, but so are vampires." Horst defines a vampire as "a dead body which continues to live in the grave, which it leaves, however, by night for the purpose of sucking the blood of the living, whereby it is nourished and preserved in good condition, instead of becoming decomposed like other dead bodies."
A demon has no body, although for purposes of his own he may energize, assume, or seem to assume one, but it is not his real and proper body. So the vampire is not strictly a demon, although his foul lust and horrid propensities be truly demonic and of hell. Neither may the vampire be called a ghost or phantom, strictly speaking, for an apparition is intangible. The vampire has a body and his craving for blood is to obtain sustenance for that body. He is neither dead nor alive; but living in death. He is an abnormality; the androgyne of the phantom world; a pariah among the fiends. How fearful a destiny is that of the vampire who has no rest in the grave but whose doom it is to come forth and prey upon the living.
In the first place it may briefly be inquired how the belief in vampirism originated. The origins, although of course very shadowy, may probably be said to go back to the earliest times when primitive man observed the mysterious relations between soul and body. The division of an individual into these two parts must have been suggested by his observation, however crude and rough, of the phenomenon of unconsciousness as exhibited in sleep, and more particularly in death. He cannot but have speculated concerning that something, the loss of which withdraws man forever from the living and waking world. He was bound to ask himself if there was any continuance, in any circumstances at present veiled from him, of that life and personality which had obviously passed elsewhere. The question was an eternal one. It was, moreover, a personal one which concerned him most intimately since it related to an experience he could not hope to escape.
It was clear to him before long that the process called death was merely a passage to another world, and naturally enough he pictured that world as being very like the one he knew, only man would there enjoy extended powers over the forces with which he waged such ceaseless war during his period on earth. It might be that the world was not so very far away, and it was not to be supposed that persons who had passed over would lose interest in, and affection for, those who for a little while had been left behind. Relations must not be forgotten just because they did not happen to be visibly present, any more than today we forget one of the family who has gone on a voyage for a week or a month or a year.
Naturally those whose age and position during their lifetime had entitled them to deference must be treated with the same consideration; nay, with even more ample honours, since their authority had become mysteriously greater and they would be more active to punish any disrespect or neglect. Hence as a family venerated the father of the house both in life and after death, which was the germ of ancestral worship, so the tribe would venerate the chieftains and heroes whose exploits had won so much, not only for their own houses but the whole clan.
The Shilluk, a tribe who dwell upon the western bank of the White Nile, and who are governed by a single king, still maintain the worship of Nyakang, the hero who founded the dynasty and settled this people in their present territory. Nyakang is conceived as having been a man, although he did not actually die but vanished from sight. Yet he is not altogether divine, for the great god of the Shilluk, the creator of mankind and the world, Juok, is without form, invisible and omnipresent. He is far greater than Nyakang and he reigns in those highest heavens where neither the prayers of man can reach his ears, nor can he smell the sweet savour of sacrifice.
Not only Nyakang but each of the Shilluk kings after death is worshipped, and the grave of each monarch becomes a sanctuary, so that throughout the villages there are many shrines tended by certain old men and women where a ritual which is practically identical in each separate place is elaborately conducted. Indeed, the principal element in the religion of the Shilluk may be said to be the veneration of their dead kings.
Other African tribes also worship their dead kings. The Bantu tribes of Zambia acknowledge a supreme deity, Leza, whose power is manifested in the storm, in the torrential rain clouds, in the roar of thunder and the flash of lightning, but to whom there is no direct access by prayer or sacrifice. The gods, then, whom these tribes worship are sharply divided into two classes, the spirits of departed chiefs who are publicly venerated by the whole tribe, and the spirits of relations who are privately honoured by a family, whose head performs the sacerdotal functions.
Among the Awemba there is no special shrine for these purely family spirits, who are worshipped inside the hut, and to whom family sacrifices of a sheep, a goat or a fowl is made, the spirit receiving the blood spilt upon the ground while all the members of the family partake of the flesh together. This custom is significant, and two points should be especially noted. The first is that the deceased, or the spirit of that deceased, partakes of blood which is spilt for his benefit. Secondly, the deceased, if not duly honoured, can cause illness and therefore is capable of exercising a certain vengeful or malevolent power. The essential conception that underlies these customs is not so very far removed from the tradition of the vampire who craves to suck blood and causes sickness through his malignancy.
It is said the Bantu believe that men of evil life after death may return during the night in corporeal form and attack the living, often wounding and killing them. It seems that these revenants are much attracted by blood which enables them more easily to effect their purpose, and even a few red drops will help to vitalize their bodies. So a Bantu has the greatest horror of blood and will never allow even a spot fallen from a bleeding nose or cut to lie uncovered. Should it stain the ground it must be instantly hidden with earth, and if it splotch upon their bodies they must purify themselves from the pollution with elaborate lustral ceremonies.
Throughout the whole of West Africa, indeed, the natives are careful to stamp out any blood of theirs which happens to have fallen to the ground, and if a cloth or piece of wood should be marked thereby, these articles are most carefully burned. They openly admit that the reason for this is lest a drop of blood might come into the hands of a magician who would make evil use of it; or else it might be caught up by a bad spirit and would then enable him to form a tangible body. The same fear of sorcery prevails in New Guinea where the natives, if they have been wounded, will most carefully collect the bandages and destroy them by burning or casting them far into the sea, a circumstance which has not infrequently been recorded by missionaries and travellers.
There are, indeed, few if any peoples who have not realized the mysterious significance attached to blood, and examples of this belief are to be found in the history of every clime. It is expressed by the Chinese writers on medicine; it was held by the Arabs; and it is prominent among the traditions of the Romans. Even with regard to animals the soul or life of the animal was in the blood, or rather actually was the blood. So we have the divine command in Leviticus xvii. 10-14: "If any man whosoever of the house of Israel, and of the strangers that sojourn among them, eat blood I will set my face against his soul, and will cut him off from among his people: Because the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you, that you may make atonement with it upon the altar for your souls, and the blood may be for an expiation for the soul. Therefore I have said to the children of Israel: No soul of you, nor of the strangers that sojourn among you, shall eat blood. Any man whatsoever of the children of Israel, and of the strangers that sojourn among you, if by hunting or by fowling, he take a wild beast or a bird, which is lawful to eat, let him pour out its blood and cover it with earth."
Since, then, the very essence of life, and even more the spirit or the soul, in some mysterious way lies in the blood, we have a complete explanation of why the vampire should seek to vitalize and rejuvenate his own dead body by draining the blood from the veins of his victims.
Among many races mourning for the dead is accompanied by the laceration of the body until blood freely flows. It is even not unknown for relatives of the deceased to inflict terrible mutilations upon themselves, and he who is most pitiless is esteemed to show the greatest honour and respect to the departed. The important point lies in the fact that blood must be shed. This appears to constitute some covenant with the dead, so that by freely bestowing what he requires, they prevent him from returning to deprive them of it forcibly and in the most terrifying circumstances. If they are not willing to feed him with their blood, he will come back and take it, so naturally it is believed to be far better to give without demur and gain the protection of the ghost than to refuse what the phantom will inevitably seize upon in vengeance and in wrath.
Although possibly the meaning was obscured, and these lacerations came to evince no more than a proof of sorrow at the bereavement, yet fundamentally the blood was offered by mourners for the refreshment of the departed, to supply him with strength and vigour under his new conditions. These practices, then, involved a propitiation of the dead; further, a certain intimate communication with the dead, and assuredly bear a necromantic character. They have more than a touch of vampirism, the essence of which consists in the belief that the dead may sustain a semi-life by drinking the blood of the living. Such observances are not free from the horrid superstition of black magic, and the feeding of the vampire till he suck his fill of hot salt blood and be gorged and replete like some demon leech.
Vampire (also vampyre) is from the Magyar vampir, a word of Slavonic origin occurring in the same form in Russian, Polish, Czech, Serbian and Bulgarian. The word is apparently unknown in Greece and the general modern term is vrykolakas. This must undoubtedly be identified with a word common to the whole Slavonic group of languages, and is the equivalent of the English "werewolf"; Scotch "warwulf"; German "Werwolf" and French "loup-garou."
The one language in which the word does not bear this interpretation is the Serbian, for here it signifies "vampire." But it should be remarked that the Serbian people believe that a man who has been a werewolf in life will become a vampire after death, and so the two are very closely related. It was even thought in some districts that those who ate the flesh of a sheep killed by a wolf might become vampires after death. However, it must be remembered that although the superstitions of the werewolf and the vampire in many respects agree, there is, especially in Slavonic tradition, a very great distinction, for there the vampire is precisely defined as the incorrupt and re-animated body which returns from its grave.
The first example of the use of the word vampire in literature seems to be that which occurs in The Travels of Three English Gentlemen, written about 1734, where the following passage occurs: "We must not omit Observing here, that our Landlord [at Laubach] seems to pay some regard to what Baron Valvasor has related of the Vampyres said to infest some Parts of this Country. These Vampyres are supposed to be the Bodies of deceased Persons, animated by evil Spirits, which come out of the Graves in the Night-time, suck the Blood of many of the Living and thereby destroy them." The word and the idea soon became quite familiar, and in his Citizen of the World (1760) Oliver Goldsmith writes in everyday phrase: "From a meal he advances to a surfeit, and at last sucks blood like a vampire."
In 1744 was published at Naples the famous Dissertazione sopra I Vampiri of Gioseppe Davanzati, Archbishop of Trani. Davanzati commences by relating various well-known and authenticated cases of vampires, especially those which had recently occurred in Germany during the years 1720-39. He shows a good knowledge of the literature of his subject, and decides that the phenomena cannot enter into the category of apparitions and ghosts but must be explained in a very different way.
Even better known is the Dissertations sur les Apparitions des Anges, des Demons et des Esprits, et sur les Revenants et Vampires by Dom Augustin Calmet, published in Paris. The work was frequently reprinted, and translated into English and German. In its day it exercised a very great influence and is still constantly referred to.
In his preface Dom Calmet tells us the reasons which induced him to undertake this examination. He emphasizes that vampires particularly infest Slavonic countries, and it does not appear that this species of apparition was well known in western Europe until towards the end of the seventeenth century. There undoubtedly were cases of vampirism, as will be recorded in their due order, but the fuller knowledge of these horrors reached western Europe only during the eighteenth century. It at once threw very considerable light upon unrelated cases that had been recorded from time to time, but which appeared isolated and belonging to no particular category.
Writing in 1746, Dom Calmet, who had long studied the subject, remarks that certain events, certain fanaticisms, distinguish and characterize certain centuries. He continues: "In this present age and for about sixty years past, we have been the hearers and the witnesses of a new series of extraordinary incidents and occurrences. Hungary, Moravia, Silesia, Poland, are the principal theatre of these happenings. For here we are told that dead men, men who have been dead for several months, I say, return from the tomb, are heard to speak, walk about, infest hamlets and villages, injure both men and animals, whose blood they drain thereby making them sick and ill, and at length actually causing death. Nor can men deliver themselves from these terrible visitations, nor secure themselves from these horrid attacks, unless they dig the corpses up from the graves, drive a sharp stake through these bodies, cut off the heads, tear out the hearts; or else they burn the bodies to ashes.
"The name given to these ghosts is Oupires, or Vampires, that is to say blood-suckers, and the particulars which are related of them are so singular, so detailed, accompanied with circumstances so probable and so likely, as well as with the most weighty and well-attested legal deposition that it seems impossible not to subscribe to the belief which prevails in those countries that these Apparitions do actually come forth from their graves and that they are able to produce the terrible effects which are so widely and so positively attributed to them."
One of the earliest - if indeed he were not actually the first - of the seventeenth century writers who deals with vampires is Leone Allacci. In his treatise De Graecorum hodie quorundam opinationibus, Cologne 1645, he discusses many traditions and deals at some length with the vampire, concerning whom he says: "The vrykolakas is the body of a man of wicked and debauched life, very often of one who has been excommunicated by his bishop. Such bodies do not like other corpses suffer decomposition after burial nor fall to dust, but having, so it seems, a skin of extreme toughness becomes swollen and distended all over, so that the joints can scarcely be bent; the skin becomes stretched like the parchment of a drum, and when struck gives out the same sound."
According to this author a demon takes possession of such a body, which issues from the tomb and, generally at night, goes about the streets of a village, knocking sharply upon doors and summoning one of the household by name. If that person unwittingly answers he is sure to die on the following day. Yet a vrykolakas never cries out a name twice and so the people of Chios, at all events, always wait to hear the summons repeated before they reply to anyone who raps at their door of a night. "This monster is said to be so fearfully destructive to men that it actually makes its appearance in the daytime, even at high noon, nor does it then confine its visits to houses, but even in the fields and in hedged vineyards and upon the open highway it will suddenly advance upon persons who are labouring, or travellers as they walk along, and by the horror of its hideous aspect it will slay them without laying hold on them or even speaking a word."
Accordingly any sudden death from no obvious cause is to be regarded with the gravest suspicion, and should there be any kind of molestation, or should any story of an apparition be bruited abroad, they hasten to exhume the corpse which is often found in the state that has been described. Thereupon without any delay "it is taken up out of the grave, the priests recite the appointed prayers, and it is thrown onto a fiercely blazing pyre. Before the orisons are finished, the skin will desquamate and the members fall apart, when the whole body is utterly consumed to ashes."
Allacci proceeds to point out that this tradition in Greece is by no means new nor of any recent growth, for he tells us "in ancient and modern times alike holy men and men of great piety who have received the confessions of Christians have tried to disabuse them of such superstitions and to root this belief out of the popular imagination." Allacci had no hesitation about declaring his own views, and he thoroughly believed in the vampire. He says: "It is the height of folly to attempt to deny that such bodies are not infrequently found in their graves incorrupt and that by use of them the Devil, if God permits him, devises most horrible complots and schemes to the hurt and harm of mankind."
This abnormal condition of the dead is held to be a sure mark of the vampire, and is essential to vampirism proper. In the Greek Church it is often believed to be the result of excommunication, and this is indeed an accepted and definite doctrine of the Orthodox Church.
It is not impossible that cases of catalepsy, or suspended animation which resulted in premature burial, may have helped reinforce the tradition of the vampire. Some authorities consider catalepsy as almost entirely psychic, and certainly not a disease in any correct sense of the word, although it may be a symptom of obscure diseases arising from nervous disorders. A celebrated medical authority has pronounced that "in itself catalepsy is never fatal." It belongs to the domain of hypnotism and is said to be refreshing to the subject, especially when he is exhausted by long mental exertion or physical toil. It has been described as "the supreme effort of nature to give the tired nerves their needed repose." No doubt the fatal mistake so often made in the past was that of endeavouring by drastic measures to hasten restoration to consciousness, instead of allowing nature to recuperate at will. If the attempt is successful it comes as a fearful shock to the nerves that are craving for rest; if the effort is seemingly without result the patient is in imminent danger of an autopsy or of being buried alive, a tragedy which, it is to be feared, has happened to very many.
There is no greater mistake than to suppose that most cases of premature burial, and escape from it, happened long ago; and that even then the majority took place under exceptional conditions and for the most part in small towns or remote villages on the continent. Amazing as it may appear in these days of enlightenment, the number of instances of narrowest escapes from premature burial, and also of this terrible fate itself, has not decreased of recent years but has, on the contrary, increased.
In the early years of the twentieth century it was computed that in the United States an average of not less than one case a week of premature burial was discovered and reported. This means that the possibility of such danger is appalling. In past centuries when knowledge was less common and when adequate precautions were seldom if ever employed, the incidents of premature burial and of autopsy performed on the living must be numberless.
One such accident nearly occurred to the great sixteenth century humanist Marc-Antoine Muret who, falling ill upon a journey, was conveyed to the local hospital as a sick stranger, name unknown. Whilst he lay not even unconscious upon the rough pallet, the physicians, who had been lecturing upon anatomy and were anxious to find a subject to illustrate their theories, gathered round in full force. They eagerly discussed the points to be argued and, deeming the patient to be dead, the senior physician gravely pronounced in Latin, pointing to the patient: "Let us perform an experiment on this worthless soul." The eyes of the supposed corpse opened widely and a low but distinct voice answered, also in Latin: "You call worthless someone for whom Christ did not scorn to die."
As was customary in the case of prelates, when Cardinal Diego de Espinoza, Bishop of Sigeunza and Grand Inquisitor of Spain under Philip II, died after a short illness, the body was embalmed before it lay in state. Accordingly in the presence of several physicians the surgeon proceeded to operate for that purpose. He had made a deep incision, and it is said that the heart had actually been brought into view and was observed to beat. The Cardinal recovered consciousness at the fatal moment, and even then had sufficient strength to grasp with his hand the scalpel of the anatomist. In the earlier years of the nineteenth century both Cardinal Spinola and the octogenarian Cardinal della Somaglia were prepared for embalmment before life was extinct.
In the Seventh Book of the Historia Naturalis (liii, 52) Pliny relates many instances of persons who, being deemed dead, revived, and said truly that "Such is the condition of humanity, and so uncertain is men's judgement that they cannot determine even death itself." The words of the wise old Roman have been re-echoed by many a modern authority.
The celebrated investigator, Dr. Franz Hartmann, collected particulars of more than seven hundred cases of premature burial and of narrow escapes from it, some of which occurred in his own neighbourhood. In his great work Premature Burial he tells us of the terrible incident which happened to the famous French tragedienne, Mlle. Rachel, who on 3rd January 1858 "died" near Cannes, and who was to be embalmed, but after the proceedings had commenced she suddenly returned to life, only to expire in reality some ten hours later from the shock and the injuries which had been inflicted upon her.
In the chancel of St. Giles, Cripplegate, there is still to be seen a monument sacred to the memory of Constance Whitney, whose many virtues are described in somewhat rhetorical fashion upon a marble tablet. A figure above this scroll represents the lady in the act of rising from her coffin. This might be taken for beautiful symbolism, but such is not the case for it represents an actual circumstance. The unfortunate lady was buried while in a condition of suspended animation, and consciousness returned to her when the sexton opened the coffin and desecrated the body in order to steal a valuable ring which had been left upon one of her fingers.
Unfortunately, overwhelming evidence proves that such terrible accidents are far from rare. Mr. William Tebb in his authoritative work Premature Burial and How It May Be Prevented collected of recent years, from medical sources alone, two hundred and nineteen narrow escapes from being buried alive; one hundred and forty-nine premature interments that actually took place; ten cases of bodies being dissected before life was extinct; three cases in which this shocking error was very nearly made; and two cases where the work of embalmment had already begun when consciousness returned.
Examples might be multiplied, indeed are multiplying in every direction almost daily. Terrible truth though it may be, it is obvious that premature burial is by no means uncommon; whilst recovery from catalepsy or deep trances, sometimes lasting very many days, is even more frequent. Such cases have been recorded in all ages, times without number. It is, I think, exceedingly probable that accidents of this kind, which would have been gossiped and trattled throughout large districts and, passing from old to young, whispered round many a winter's fireside, were bound soon to have assumed the proportions of a legend which must have continually gathered fresh accretions of horror and wonder in its train. It is possible that hence may have evolved some details which notably helped to swell the vampire tradition.
I do not for a moment wish to imply that these circumstances were in any way the foundation of the belief in vampires, but I do conceive it probable that these macabre happenings did serve to fix the vampire tradition more firmly in the minds of those who had been actual witnesses of similar occurrences, and were fearful and amazed.
It has been well remarked that man has always held the dead in respect and fear. The Christian Faith, moreover, has set its seal upon the sanctity of death. Even from the infancy of humanity the human intelligence, inspired by some shadow of the divine truth, has refused to believe that those whom death has taken are ought but absent for a while, parted but not for ever. It has been argued that primitive man desired to keep the dead, to preserve the mortal shell; and what are the tomb, the dolmen of the Gaulish chieftain, the pyramid of Pharaoh, but the final dwelling-place, the last home? As for the actual corpse, this still had some being, it yet existed in the primitive idea. There can be nothing more horrible, no crime more repellant, than the profanation of the dead. Vampirism, in its extended sense may be understood to mean any profanation of a dead body, and it must accordingly be briefly considered under this aspect.
In England the Resurrection Men added a new terror to death. Even the bodies of the wealthy, when every precaution had been taken, were hardly safe against the burgling riflers of vault and tomb; whilst to the poor it was a monstrous horror as they lay on their sick beds to know that their corpses were ever in danger of being exhumed by ghouls, carted to the dissection theatre and sold to 'prentice doctors to hack and carve.
Irregular practitioners and rival investigators in the anatomy schools were always ready to buy without asking too many questions. Body snatching became a regular trade. One of the wretches who plied the business most successfully even added a word to the English language. William Burke, of the firm Burke and Hare, began his career in November 1827. This seems to have commenced almost accidentally. Hare was the keeper of a low lodging-house in an Edinburgh slum, and here died an old soldier owing a considerable amount for his rent. With the help of Burke, another of his guests, he carried the corpse to Dr. Robert Knox of 10 Surgeon's Square, who promptly paid £7 10s for it. The Scotch had the utmost horror of Resurrection Men and bodies were not always easy to procure, although the vile Knox boasted that he could always get the goods he required. It is said that relations would take it in turns to stand guard over newly-dug graves, and the precaution was not unnecessary.
Another lodger at Hare's fell ill and it was decided that he should be disposed of the same way. But he lingered and so Burke smothered him with a pillow, Hare holding the victim's legs. Dr. Knox paid £10 for the remains. Since money was so easily earned, Burke and Hare did not hesitate to supply the wares. A friendless beggar woman; her grandson, a dumb-mute; a sick Englishman; a prostitute named Mary Paterson, and many more were enticed to the lodgings and murdered. Quite callously Burke confessed his method. He used to lie on the body while Hare held nose and mouth; "in a very few minutes the victims would make no resistance, but would convulse and make a rumbling noise in their bellies for some time. After they had ceased crying and making resistance we let them die by themselves." Dr. Knox contracted that he would pay £10 in winter and £8 in summer for every corpse produced. At last the whole foul business came to light.
Up the close and down the stair,
But and ben with Burke and Hare,
Burke's the butcher, Hare's the thief,
Knox the boy that buys the beef.
So sang the street urchins. Burke confessed and was hanged 28th January 1829. Hare turned King's evidence, but it would seem that was hardly needed for the suspicion which connected these ruffians with the numerous disappearances was overwhelming from the first, and soon became certainty. It was a grave scandal that both the villains and their paramours together with Dr. Knox, who in spite of his denials was undoubtedly aware of the whole circumstances, were not all five sent to the gallows.
That species of vampirism known as Necrophagy, which is cannibalism, is often connected with the religious rites of savage people and also finds a place in the sabbat of the witches. Among the Kwakiutl Indians of British Columbia the cannibals are the most powerful of all the Secret Societies. They tear corpses asunder and devour them, bite pieces out of living people and formerly they ate slaves who had been killed for their banquet. The Haida Indians of the Queen Charlotte Islands practise a very similar religion of necrophagy. Among the ancient Mexicans the body of the youth whom they sacrificed in the character of the god Tetzcatlipoca was chopped up into small pieces and distributed amongst the priests and nobles as a sacred food. In Australia the Biblinga tribe cut up the bodies of the dead and eat them to secure the reincarnation of the deceased.
It should be remarked that necrophagy enters very largely into the passions of the werewolf, and there are innumerable examples of lycanthropists who have devoured human flesh, and slain men to feed upon their bodies. One of the most terrible and extraordinary cases was that of Sawney Beane, the son of peasants in East Lothian and born in a village not far from Edinburgh towards the close of the fourteenth century. He and a girl from the same district wandered away in company and took up their abode in a cave on the coast of Galloway.
It is said this cavern extended nearly a mile under the sea. Here they lived by robbing travellers and, carrying off the bodies to their lair, they cooked and ate them. Eight sons and six daughters they gendered and the whole tribe used to set forth upon marauding expeditions, sometimes attacking as many as five and six persons travelling in company. Grandchildren were born to this savage and it is said that for more than five and twenty years these cannibals killed men on the highway and, dragging the prey to their lair, fed upon human flesh. Suspicion was often aroused, and even panic ensued, but so skilfully had nature concealed the opening to the cave that it was long ere the gang could be traced and captured. The whole family was put to death amid the most horrible torments in the year 1435 at Edinburgh.
In England the sensation caused by the mysterious mutilations by Jack the Ripper will not easily be forgotten. The first body was found at Whitechapel, 1st December 1887; the second, which had thirty nine wounds, 7th August 1888. On the 31st of the same month a woman's corpse was found horribly mutilated; 8th September a fourth body bearing the same marks, a fifth on 30th September; a sixth on 9th November. On the 1st June 1889 human remains were dredged from the Thames; 17th July a body still warm was discovered in a Whitechapel slum; on 10th September of the same year the last body.
Those vampirish atrocities which are urged by sexual mania are generally classified as necrophilia and necrosadism. Necrophilia was not unknown in ancient Egypt, and was carefully provided against as Herodotus tells us, Book II lxxxix: "Wives of noblemen and women of great beauty and quality are not given over at once to the embalmers; but only after they have been dead three or four days; and this is done in order that the embalmers may not have carnal connection with the corpse. For it is said that one was discovered in the act of having intercourse with a fair woman newly dead, and was denounced by his fellow-workman." It was said that after Periander, tyrant of Corinth, had slain his wife he entered her bed as a husband.
There are not unknown - in fact there are not uncommon - amazing cases of what may be called "mental necrophilia," a morbid manifestation for which suitable provision is made in the more expensive and select houses of accommodation. It might not unreasonably be thought that the catafalque, the bier and the black pall would arouse solemn thoughts and kill desire, but on the contrary this funeral pomp and the trappings of the dead are considered in certain circles the most elegant titillation, the most potent and approved of genteel aphrodisiacs.
CHAPTER TWO: CREATION OF THE VAMPIRE
It may now be asked how a human being becomes a vampire, and list the causes generally believed to predispose persons to this demoniacal condition.
The vampire is one who has led a life of more than ordinary immorality and wickedness; a man of foul, gross and selfish passions, of evil ambitions, delighting in cruelty and blood.
Arthur Machen has shrewdly pointed out that "Sorcery and sanctity are the only realities. Each is an ecstasy, a withdrawal from the common life. The spiritual world cannot be confined to the supremely good, but the supremely wicked necessarily have their portion in it. The ordinary man can no more be a great sinner than he can be a great saint. Most of us are just indifferent, mixed-up creatures; we muddle through the world without realizing the meaning and inner sense of things, and consequently our wickedness and goodness are alike second rate.
"The saint endeavours to recover a gift which he has lost; the sinner tries to obtain something which was never his. In brief, he repeats the Fall. It is not the mere liar who is excluded by those words; it is, above all, the 'sorcerers' who use the failings incidental to material life as instruments to obtain their infinitely wicked ends. And let me tell you this; our higher senses are so blunted, we are so drenched with materialism, that we should probably fail to recognize real wickedness if we encountered it."
It has been said that a saint is a person who always chooses the better of two courses open to him at every step. And so the man who is truly wicked is he who always chooses the worse. Even when he does things which would be considered right, he always does them for some bad reason. To identify oneself in this way with any given course requires intense concentration and an iron strength of will, and it is such persons who become vampires.
The vampire is believed to be one who has devoted himself during life to the practise of black magic. It is hardly to be supposed that such persons would rest undisturbed, while it is easy to believe that their malevolence had set in action forces which might prove powerful for terror and destruction even when they were in their graves. It was sometimes said, though the belief is rare, that the vampire was the offspring of a witch and the Devil.
With the exception of England, where witches were invariably hanged, the universal penalty for witchcraft was the stake. Cremation, the burning of the dead body, is considered to be one of the few ways in which vampirism can be stamped out. That witches were hanged in England has often been commented upon with some surprise, and persons who travelled in France and Italy were inclined to advise the same punishment should be inflicted at home as in all other countries. It was felt that unless the body were utterly consumed, it might well prove that they had not stamped out the noxious thing.
It is even recorded that in one case the witch herself considered that she should be sent to the stake. A rich farmer in Northamptonshire had made an enemy of a woman named Ann Foster. Thirty of his sheep were discovered dead with their "Leggs broke in pieces, and their Bones all shattered in their Skins." Shortly after, his house and several of his barns were found ablaze. It was suspected that Ann Foster had brought this about by sorcery. She was tried upon this charge at Northampton in 1674, and "After Sentence of Death was past upon her, she mightily desired to be Burned; but the Court would give no Ear to that, but that she should be hanged at the Common place of Execution."
The vampire is also believed to be one who for some reason is buried with mutilated rites. It will be remarked that this idea has a very distinct connection with the anxious care taken by the Greek and Roman of classical times that the dead should be consigned to the tomb with full and solemn ceremony.
To the modern man burial in the earth, or it may be cremation, is a necessary and decorous manner for the disposal of the dead. Yet in the Greek imagination these rites implied something far more. So long as the body remains, the soul might be in some way tied and painfully linked with it. The dissolution of the body meant that the soul was no longer detained in this world where it had no appointed place, but was able to pass without let or hindrance to its own mansion prepared for it, and for which it was prepared.
Of old, men dutifully assisted the dead in this manner as a pious obligation, and were prepared to go to any length to fulfil this obligation. It was in later years, especially under the influence of Slavonic tradition, that not only love but fear compelled them to perform this duty to the dead, since it was generally thought that those whose bodies were not dissolved might return, re-animated corpses, the vampire eager to satisfy his vengeance upon the living, his lust for sucking hot, reeking blood. The fulfilment of these funereal duties was a protection for themselves as well as a benefit to the departed.
Very closely linked with this idea is the belief that those who die under the ban of the Church become vampires. Excommunication is the principal and most serious penalty the Church can inflict. It deprives the guilty of all participation in the common spiritual benefits enjoyed by all members of the Christian society. The excommunicated person does not cease to be a Christian, for his baptism can never be effaced, but he is considered an exile and even, one may say, as non-existing in the sight of ecclesiastical authority.
Among the Jews exclusion from the synagogue was a real excommunication. The apostles were told: "They will put you out of the synagogues; yea, the hour cometh that whosoever killeth you will think that he doth a service to God." This penalty foreshadowed later censures, for Jesus said: "In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. And if he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and Publican. Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound also in Heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth shall be loosed also in Heaven."
According to the Orthodox Church this power was transmitted to the successors of the apostles, that is to say the bishops, so they too had the faculty of binding and loosing. But something very definite was further implied. This faculty had actual physical consequences, and the Greeks held that excommunication arrested the decomposition of a body after death. In fact the incorruptibility of the body of any person bound by a curse was made a definite doctrine of the Orthodox Church.
Accordingly, forms of absolution had to be provided which might be read over bodies found in such a condition, for it was thought that this might be brought about by well-nigh any curse. One such absolution runs thus: "Yea, O Lord our God, let Thy great mercy and marvellous compassion prevail; and whether this Thy servant lieth under curse of father or mother, or under his own imprecation, or did provoke one of Thy holy ministers and sustained at his hands a bond that hath not been loosed, or did incur the most grievous ban of excommunication by a bishop, and through heedlessness and sloth obtained not pardon, pardon Thou him by the hand of Thy sinful and unworthy servant; resolve Thou his body into that from which it was made; and establish his soul in the tabernacle of saints."
Naturally, as is clearly expressed, the curse which the Orthodox Church regarded as most weighty was the ban of excommunication by a bishop, which doomed the offender to remain whole after death, and the body was not freed until absolution had been read over it and the excommunication formally revoked. However, a difficulty arose. It was discovered that excommunication sometimes failed to produce the expected physical result and the body crumbled to dust in the ordinary way. So extraordinary a circumstance was immediately submitted to a conclave of expert theologians who, after long debate, decided that any excommunicated person whose body did not remain whole had no more hope of salvation because he was no longer in a state to be "loosed", but that he was already damned in hell.
Leone Allacci considered this Orthodox dogma of the physical results of excommunication and subsequent absolution to be certain beyond any matter of dispute, and he mentions several cases, which he says were well known and proved, which demonstrate the truth of this belief. Athanasius, Metropolitan of Imbros, recorded that at the request of the citizens of Thasos he read a solemn absolution over several bodies, and before the holy words were even finished all had dissolved into dust.
An even more remarkable instance is that of a priest who pronounced a sentence of excommunication and afterwards turned Mohammedan. This did not affect the victim of his curse who, though he had died in the Christian faith, yet remained "bound." This circumstance was reported to the Metropolitan Raphael. At his earnest request the Mohammedan, after much delay and hesitation, consented to read the absolution over the body of the dead Christian. As he was pronouncing the final words the body fell completely to dust. The Mohammedan thereupon returned to his former faith, and was put to death for so doing.
Ricaut's The Present State of the Greek and Armenian Churches, 1679, says of the power of excommunication:"The effect of this dreadful Sentence is reported by the Greek Priests to have been in several instances so evident, that none doubts or disbelieves the consequences of all those maledictions repeated therein; and particularly, that the body of an excommunicated person is not capable of returning to its first Principles until the Sentence of Excommunication is taken off.
"It would be esteemed no Curse amongst us to have our bodies remain uncorrupted and entire in the Grave, who endeavour by Art, and Aromatic spices, and Gums, to preserve them from Corruption: And it is also accounted amongst the Greeks themselves, as a miracle and particular grace and favour of God to the Bodies of such whom they have Canonized for Saints to continue unconsumed, and in the moist damps of a Vault, to dry and desiccate like the Mummies in Egypt, or in the Hot sands of Arabia. But they believe that the Bodies of the Excommunicated are possessed in the Grave by some evil spirit, which actuates and preserves them from Corruption, in the same manner as the soul informes and animates the living body; and that they feed in the night, walk, digest, and are nourished, and have been found ruddy in Complexion, and their Veins, after forty days Burial, extended with Blood, which, being opened with a Lancet, have yielded a gore as plentiful, fresh, and quick, as that which issues from the Vessels of young and sanguine persons.
"This is so generally believed and discoursed of amongst the Greeks, that there is scarce one of their Country Villages but what can witness and recount several instances of this nature, both by the relation of their Parents, and Nurses, as well as of their own knowledge, which they tell with as much variety as we do the Tales of Witches and Enchantments, of which it is observed in Conversation, that scarce one story is ended before another begins of like wonder."
It is now necessary to enquire into certain extraordinary cases which are recorded, and which are true beyond all manner of doubt, of persons who died excommunicated and whose bodies were seen to rise from the tomb and leave the sacred precincts where they were buried. In the first place we have the very famous account given by St.Gregory the Great of the two dead nuns, generally called the "Suore Morte."
Two ladies of an illustrious family had been admitted to the sisterhood of St.Scholastica. Although in most respects exemplary and faithful to their vows, they could not refrain from scandal, gossip and vain talk. Now St.Benedict was the first to lay down the strictest and most definite laws concerning the observance of silence. In all monasteries and convents there are particular places and special times wherein speaking is unconditionally prohibited. Outside these places and times there are usually accorded "recreations" during which conversation is not only permitted but encouraged, though it must be governed by rules of charity and moderation. Useless and idle prattling is universally forbidden at all times and places. Accordingly, when it was reported to St.Benedict that the two nuns were greatly given to babble indiscreetly, the holy Abbot was sore displeased, and sent them a message to the effect that if they did not learn to refrain their tongues and give a better example to the community he must excommunicate them.
At first the sisters were alarmed and penitent, and promised to mend their idle ways; but the treacherous habit was too strong for their good resolves; they continued to give offense by their naughty chatter, and in the midst of their folly they suddenly died. Being of a great and ancient house they were buried in the church near the high altar; and afterwards on a certain day, whilst a solemn High Mass was being sung, before the Liturgy of the Faithful began, the Catechumens were dismissed by the Deacon crying: "Let those who are forbidden to partake, let those who are excommunicated, depart from hence and leave us!" Behold, in the sight of all the people the two nuns rose up from their graves, and with faces drooping and averted, they glided sadly out of the Church. And thus it happened every time the Holy Mysteries were celebrated, until their old nurse interceded with St.Benedict, and he had pity upon them and absolved them from all their sins so that they might rest in peace.
St.Gregory also relates that a young monk left his monastery without permission and without receiving any blessing or dismissal from the Abbot. Unhappily he died before he could be reconciled, and was duly buried in consecrated ground. On the next morning his corpse was discovered lying huddled up and thrown out of his grave. His relations in terror hastened to St.Benedict, who gave them a consecrated Host and told them to put It with all possible reverence upon the breast of the young religious. This was done, and the tomb was never again found to have cast forth the body.
This custom of putting a Eucharistic Particle in the grave with a dead person was by no means unknown in former centuries. It is said that even today in many places throughout Greece upon the lips of the dead is laid a crumb of consecrated bread from the Eucharist. Out of reverence this has often been replaced by a fragment of pottery on which is cut the sign of the Cross. Theodore Burt in The Cyclades informs us that locally in Naxos the object thus employed is a wax cross and this moreover still bears the name "fare", showing that the tradition is closely connected with the old custom of placing the "ferryman's coin" in the mouth of a dead man, the fee for Charon.
Now Charon, who has assumed the form Charos, is entirely familiar to the modern Greek peasant, but not merely as classical literature depicts him, the boatman of the Styx. He is Death itself, the lord of ghosts and shadows. Until recent years the practice prevailed in many parts of Greece of placing in the mouth of the deceased a small coin, and in the district of Smyrna this was actually known as "passage money." Yet strangely enough although both custom and name survived, the reason for the coin had been forgotten. Possibly the original meaning of the coin has vanished in the mists of dateless antiquity, and even in classical days the original significance was lost, so it came then to be explained that the coin was Charon's fee; whereas this is but a late and incorrect interpretation of a custom whose meaning went deeper than that, which had existed before mythology knew of a ferryman of hell.
The soul is supposed to escape by the mouth, which as it is an exit from the body is also the entrance to the body, and naturally it is by this path that the soul, if it were to return to the body, would re-enter; or by which an evil spirit or demon would make its way into the body. The coin or charm seems most likely to have been a safeguard against any happening of this kind. In Christian days the Holy Eucharist or a fragment inscribed with sacred names will be the best preventative. Moreover, not infrequently the piece of pottery placed in the mouth of the dead has scratched upon it the pentacle of magic lore. It is extremely significant that in Myconos this sign is often carved on house doors to preserve the inmates from the vampire. So in Greece at all events the custom of burying a consecrated Particle with a corpse, or of putting a crumb of the Host between the dead man's lips originated as a spell to counteract the possibility of vampirism.
It should be remarked that a consecrated Host placed in the tomb where a vampire is buried will assuredly prevent the vampire from issuing forth out of his grave, but for obvious reasons this is a remedy which is not to be essayed since it savours of rashness and profanation of God's body.
There are in history many other examples of excommunicated persons who have not been able to rest in consecrated ground. In the year 1030, St.Godard, Bishop of Hildesheim in Lower Saxony, was obliged to excommunicate certain persons for their crimes and filthy sacrileges. Nevertheless, so powerful were the barons and overlords, their protectors, that they buried the bodies of their followers in the Cathedral itself, in the very sanctuary.
Upon this the bishop launched the ban of excommunication against them also; but none the less, utterly disregarding the censures, they forced their way into the various churches. Upon the next high festival the rebellious nobles were present with a throng of armed attendants in the Cathedral itself. The aisles were packed with worshippers and afar off, spanned by the vaulted roof, the High Altar blazed with a myriad tapers whose glow was reflected in the mirror of polished gold and the crystal heart of great reliquaries. The Bishop, his canons around him, pontificated the Mass. But after the Gospel, St.Godard turned from the altar and, in ringing tones of command, bade all those who were under any censure or ban to leave the sacred building.
The living smiled contemptuously, shrugged a little and did not stir. But down the aisles were seen to glide in awful silence dark shadowy figures, from whom the crowds shrank in speechless dread. They seemed to pass through the doors out of the sacred place. When the service was done the Bishop absolved the dead, and lo, the ghostly train appeared to re-enter their tombs. Thereupon the living were so struck with fear that they sought to be reconciled, and after due penance absolution was granted them.
An extraordinary circumstance is related by Wipert, Archdeacon of the celebrated see of Toul, who wrote the life of Pope St. Leo IX. The historian tells us that some years before the death of St. Leo in 1054, the citizens of Narni, a little burgh picturesquely situated on a lofty rock at the point where the river Nera forces its way through a narrow ravine to join the Tiber, were one day greatly surprised and alarmed to see a mysterious company of persons who appeared to be advancing towards the town. The magistrates, fearing some surprise, gave orders that the gates should be fast closed, whilst the inhabitants betook themselves to the walls. The procession, however, which was clothed in white and seemed from time to time to vanish among the morning mists, was obviously no inimical band. They passed on their way without turning to right or left, and it is said they seemed to be defiling with measured pace almost till eventide. All wondered who these persons could be, and at last one of the most prominent citizens resolved to address them.
To his amazement he saw among them a certain person who had been his host many years before, and of whose death he had lately been informed. Calling him loudly by name he asked: "Who are you, and whence cometh this throng?" "I am your old friend," was the reply, "and this multitude is phantom; we have not yet atoned for the sins we committed whilst on earth, and we are not yet deemed worthy to enter the Kingdom of Heaven; therefore are we sent forth as humble penitents, lowly palmers, whose lot it is with pains and much moil to visit the holy sanctuaries of the world, such as are appointed to us in order. At this hour we are come from the shrine of St.Martin, and we are on our way to the sanctuary of Our Lady of Farfa."
The good man was so terrified at these words that he fell as in a fit, and he remained ill for a twelvemonth. It was he who related this extraordinary event to Pope St. Leo IX. With regard to the company there could be no mistake; it was not seen by one person or even by a few, but by the whole town. Although naturally enough the appearance of so vast a number would give rise to no little alarm, since hostile designs would be suspected, so crowded a pilgrimage in the eleventh century would not by any means be a unique, even if it were an exceptional event. Whole armies of pious persons were traversing Europe from shrine to shrine, whilst enthusiasm for the pilgrimage to Jerusalem was greatly on the increase and was, before many years had passed, to culminate in the Crusades.
It is not said that it was actually the bodies of those who were dead seen passing by the walls of Narni. On the contrary we are given to understand that it was a spectral host, but with regard to those persons who were excommunicated we are to believe that physically they are bound by the ban, and that in the cases of resuscitation it is the actual body which appears.
The Greeks, as we have seen, generally regarded the fact that a body was found intact as a sign that the person had died excommunicate or under some curse. It is now necessary to consider an aspect of the question which is diametrically opposed to this idea, namely those cases where incorruption is an evidence of extraordinary sanctity, when the mortal remains of some great saint having been exhumed after death are found to be miraculously preserved for the veneration of the faithful.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable instances is that of the Poor Clare, St.Catherine of Bologna, who died 9 March 1463, and whose body is venerated in a small yet exquisitely elegant sanctuary attached to the convent of Corpus Domini at Bologna. It is a remarkable circumstance that here it is not preserved under crystal or glass but is seated, dressed in sumptuous brocades, jewelled and crowned, in an embroidered chair in the centre of the room. The body is desiccated but in no sense decayed.
In Montefalco, high among the Umbrian uplands, lies the body of the Augustinian St.Clare, one of the glories of that ancient Order so rich in hallowed and venerable names, and one of the most marvellous ecstaticas of all time. Born about 1275, she became Abbess of the Convent of Montefalco and seemed to dwell more in Heaven than on Earth. Gifted with the spirit of prophecy and the grace of working miracles, she was the subject of extraordinary ecstasies and raptures, which were prolonged from days to weeks. She died 17 August 1308, and when her heart was extracted from her body , it was opened and therein impressed upon the very flesh were seen a figure of Christ crucified, the scourge, the Crown of Thorns, the column, the lance, three nails, the sponge and reed. This relic is venerated at Montefalco today.
Even now her body lies there perfect and intact. The hands and face are clearly visible, exquisitely pale and lovely, untouched by any fleck of corruption. It has not been embalmed, but Lorenzo Tardy says that throughout Italy of all the bodies of Saints which are venerated incorrupt, the body of St.Clare of Montefalco is the loveliest and most free from any spot or blemish through the passing years. Moreover when her heart was opened the blood flowed forth in great abundance and was carefully collected in a glass vial. Although normally coagulated it has preserved in colour a bright fresh red as though newly spilled. At rare intervals this blood liquifies and becomes humid, lucent, transparent and freely-flowing. On occasion it has been known actually to spume and bubble.
This list might be greatly prolonged without much research or difficulty. The phenomenon of the incorruptibility of the body is in itself not to be regarded as evidence of sanctity, but the preservation of the body of a person who has led a life of heroic virtue, when this has been officially and authoratively recognized, may be admitted as a miracle, that is to say as supernatural.
As incorruptibility is often attached to sanctity, so it is an essential of the very opposite of holiness, the demonism of the vampire. It has been said that the vampire, as a demon, reanimates the corpses of entirely innocent people, but this is very doubtful. It is probable that the only bodies thus to be infested and preserved by dark agency are those of persons who during their lives were distinguished by deeds of no ordinary atrocity. Very often too, the vampire is a corpse reanimated by his own spirit who seeks to continue his own life in death by preying upon others and feeding himself upon their vitality. That is to say, by absorbing their blood, since blood is the principle of life.
Dr .T. Claye Shaw in his study, A Prominent Motive in Murder (The Lancet, June 1909), has given us a most valuable and suggestive paper upon the natural fascination of blood which may be repelling or attractant; and since Dr. Havelock Ellis has acutely remarked that "there is scarcely any natural object with so profoundly emotional an effect as blood," it is easy to understand how nearly blood is connected with the sexual manifestations, and how distinctly erotic and provocative the sight or even the thought of blood almost inevitably proves.
It would appear to be Plumroder who, in 1830, was the first to draw definite attention to the connection between sexual passions and blood. The voluptuous sensations excited by blood give rise to that lust for blood which Dr. Shaw terms haemothymia. A vast number of cases have been recorded in which persons who are normal find intense pleasure in the thought of blood during their sexual relations, although perhaps if blood were actually flowing they might feel repulsion. Normally the fascination of blood, if present at all during sexual excitement, remains more or less latent, either because it is weak or because the checks that inhibit it are inevitably very powerful.
Blood is the vital essence, but even without any actual sucking of blood there is a vampire who can , consciously or perhaps unconsciously , support his life and re-energize his frame by drawing on the vitality of others. He may be called a spiritual vampire or, as he has been dubbed, a "psychic sponge." Such types are by no means uncommon. Sensitive people will often complain of weariness and loss of spirits when they have been for long in the company of certain others.
Laurence Oliphant in his Scientific Religion has said: "Many persons are so constituted that they have, unconsciously to themselves, an extraordinary faculty for sucking the life-principle from others, who are constitutionally incapable of retaining their vitality." Breeders tell us that young animals should not be herded with old ones. Doctors forbid young children being put to sleep with aged individuals. It will be remembered that when King David was old and ailing his forces were recruited by having a young maiden brought into closest contact with him, although he was no longer able to copulate.
In an article on vampires in Borderland, July 1896, Dr. Franz Hartmann mentions the "psychic sponge" or mental vampire. He says: "They unconsciously vampirize every sensitive person with whom they come in contact, and they instinctively seek out such persons and invite them to stay at their houses. I know of an old lady, a vampire, who thus ruined the health of a lot of robust servant girls, whom she took into her service and made them sleep in her room. They were all in good health when they entered, but they soon began to sicken, they became emaciated and consumptive and had to leave the service."
Vampirism in some sort and to some degree may be said to leave its trace throughout almost all nature. Just as we have parasitic men and women, so we have parasitic plants, and at this point there imposes itself upon us some mention of the animal which directly derives a name from habits which exactly resemble those of the Slavonic vampire - the Vampire Bat.
There has been much exaggeration in the accounts which travellers have given of these bats and many of the details would seem to have been very inaccurately observed by earlier inquirers. The Encyclopedia Britannica says that there are only two species of blood-sucking bats known - Desmodus Rufus and Dyphylla Ecaudata. These inhabit the tropical and part of the sub-tropical regions of the New World, and are restricted to South and Central America. Their attacks on men and other warm-blooded animals were noticed by very early writers. Thus Peter Martyr, who wrote soon after the conquest of South America, says that in the Isthmus of Darien there were bats which sucked the blood of men and cattle when asleep to such a degree as even to kill them. Condamine in the eighteenth century remarks that at Borja, Ecuador, and in other districts they had wholly destroyed the cattle introduced by missionaries. Sir Robert Schomburgh relates that at Wicki, on the river Berlice, no fowls could be kept on account of the ravages of these creatures, which attacked their combs, making them appear white from loss of blood.
Although long known to Europeans, the exact species to which these bats belonged were not determined for a long time, and in the past writers have claimed many frugivorous bats, especially Vampyrus spectrum, a large bat of most forbidding appearance, to be the true Vampire. Charles Darwin was able to fix at least one of the blood-sucking species. He says that the whole circumstance was much doubted in England, but "we were bivouacking late one night near Coquimbo in Chile, when my servant, noticing that one of the horses was very restive, went to see what was the matter, and fancying he could detect something, suddenly put his hand on the beast's withers, and secured the vampire."
Travellers say the wounds inflicted by these bats are similar to a cut from a sharp razor when shaving. A portion of the skin is taken off and, a large number of severed capillary vessels being thus exposed, a constant flow of blood is maintained. From this source the blood is drawn through the exceedingly small gullet of the bat into the intestine-like stomach, whence it is probably drawn off during the slow process of digestion while the animal, sated with food, is hanging in a state of torpidity from the roof of its cave, or from the inner side of a hollow tree.
This is exactly the vampire who with his sharp white teeth bites the neck of his victim and sucks the blood from the wounds he has made, gorging himself like some great human leech until he is replete, when he retires to his grave to repose, lethargic and inert until such time as he shall again sally forth to quench his lust at the veins of some sleek and sanguine juvenal.
CHAPTER THREE: HOW TO RECOGNIZE AND DESTROY THE VAMPIRE
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.
CHAPTER FOUR: THE VAMPIRE'S KITH AND KIN
Amongst the elaborate demonology of Babylonia and Assyria the vampire had a prominent place. From the earliest times Eastern races have held the belief in the existence of dark and malignant powers which is, we cannot doubt, naturally implanted in the heart of man; and which it remains for the ignorance and agnosticism of a later day to deny. The first inhabitants of Babylonia, the Sumerians, recognized three distinct classes of evil spirits, any one of whom was always ready to attack those who by accident or negligence laid themselves open to these invasions. In particular was a man who had wandered far from his fellows into some haunted spot liable to these onsets.
Of the Babylonian evil spirits the first class were those ghosts who were unable to rest in their graves and so perpetually walked up and down the face of the earth; the second was composed of those entities who were half human and half demon; whilst the third class were the devils, pure spirits of the same nature as the gods, fiends who bestrode the whirlwind and the sand-storm, who afflicted mankind with plagues and pestilence. There were many subdivisions, and in fact there are few evil hierarchies so detailed as the Assyrian cosmorama of the spiritual world.
The evil spirit known as Utukku was a phantom or ghost, generally but perhaps not invariably of a wicked and malevolent kind since it was he whom the necromancers raised from the dead. In an ancient Epic when the hero, Gilgamesh, prays to the god Nergal to restore his friend Ea-bani the request is granted, for the ground gapes open and the Utukku of Ea-Bani appears "like the wind"; that is, a transparent spectre in the human shape of Ea-bani, who converses with Gilgamesh.
The Ekimmu, or Departed Spirit, was the soul of a dead person which for some reason could find no rest, and wandered over the earth lying in wait to seize upon man. Especially did it lurk in deserted and ill-omened places. It is difficult to say exactly in what respect the Ekimmu differed from the Utukku, but it is interesting to inquire into the causes owing to which a person became an Ekimmu. Here we shall find many parallels with the old Greek beliefs concerning those duties to the dead that are paramount, and for which a man must risk his life and more.
It was ordinarily believed among the Assyrians that after death the soul entered the Underworld, "the House of Darkness, the seat of the god Irkalla, the House from which none that enter come forth again." Here they seem to have passed a miserable existence, enduring the pangs of hunger and thirst, and if their friends and relatives on earth were too niggardly to offer rich meats and pour forth bountiful libations upon their tombs, they were compelled to satisfy their craving with dust and mud. But there were certain persons who were yet in worse case, for their souls could not even enter the Underworld. This is clear from the description given by the phantom of Ea-bani to his friend Gilgamesh:
The man whose corpse lieth in the desert -
Thou and I have often seen such a one -
His spirit resteth not in the earth;
The man whose spirit hath none to care for it -
Thou and I have often seen such a one;
The dregs of the vessel - the leavings of the feast
And that which is cast out into the street are his food.
The Ekimmu-spirit of an unburied corpse could find no rest and remained prowling about the earth so long as its body was above ground. This is exactly one phase of the vampire, and in the various magical texts and incantations are given lists of those who are liable to return in this manner.
If the spirit of the dead man be forgotten and no offerings made at the tomb, hunger and thirst compel it to come forth to seek the nourishment of which it has been deprived; and since, according to the old proverb, a hungry man is an angry man, it roams furiously to and fro and greedily devours whatsoever it may. "If it found a luckless man who had wandered far from his fellows into haunted places, it fastened upon him, plaguing and tormenting him until such time as a priest should drive it away with exorcism." This is clear from a cuneiform tablet which has been translated as follows:
The gods which seize upon man
Have come forth from the grave;
The evil gusts of wind
Have come forth from the grave;
To demand payment of rites and the pouring of libations
They have come forth from the grave;
All that is evil in their hosts, like a whirlwind
Hath come forth from their graves.
Even as the vampire of Eastern Europe today, the Babylonian Ekimmu was the most persistent of haunters and the most difficult to dislodge. If he could find no rest in the Underworld he would speedily return and attach himself to anyone who during his life had held the least communication with him. Man's life was certainly surrounded with dangers when the mere act of just once sharing food, oil or garments with another person gave the spirit of this individual a claim to consort with the friend or casual acquaintance who had shown him some slight kindness. It was even held that if a man but looked upon a corpse he established a mysterious psychic connection which would render him liable to be attacked by the spirit of the deceased.
Among the Assyrians the Ekimmu might appear in a house. Just as the vampire, it would pass through walls or doors and whether it merely glided about as a silent phantom, or whether it gibbered unintelligible and mocking words with hideous mop and mow, such an apparition was terribly unlucky. The direst misfortunes followed, certainly involving the destruction of the house, and it was seldom that the owner, if not many of his family as well, would not die within a very short space of time. It seems indeed that the Ekimmu would drain the life out of a household, which is purely a vampirish quality, although it does not appear that this was always a physical operation, the actual sucking of blood.
The earliest vampire known is that depicted upon a prehistoric bowl, where a man copulates with a vampire whose head has been severed from the body. Here the threat of cutting off her head is supposed to frighten her away from the act represented. A vampire is depicted among the Babylonian cylinder seals in the Revue d'Assyriologie, 1909, concerning which Dr. R. Campbell-Thompson has given me the following note: "The idea is, I presume, to keep off the nocturnal visits of Lilith and her sisters. Just as the prehistoric or early people showed pictures of enemies with their heads cut off, so will the man troubled by nightly emissions attributed to Lilith depict on his amulet the terrors which are in store for these malignants."
The Hebrew Lilith is undoubtedly borrowed from the Babylonian demon Lilitu, a night spirit. This night ghost is mentioned in Isaias xxxiv, 14 which Douay translates: "And demons and monsters shall meet, and the hairy ones shall cry out one to another, there hath the lamia lain down and found rest for herself." In classical Latin lamia is defined by Lewis and Short as "a witch who was said to suck children's blood, a sorceress, enchantress."
Rabbinical literature is full of legends concerning Lilith. According to tradition she was the first wife of Adam and the mother of devils, spirits and lilin, which is the same word as the Assyrian Lilu. From Jewish lore she passed to mediaeval demonology in which she was the princess who presided over the succubi.
As has been remarked, the earliest known representation of a vampire shows her in the act of copulation with a man. In modern Greece it is quite commonly held that the vrykolakas will visit his widow and know her, or he even seduces other women whilst their husbands are away. Or what is more striking still, he will betake himself to some town where he is not recognized and will even wed, children being born of such unions. Mr. Lawson (Modern Greek Folklore) informs us that in Thessaly he was actually told of a family in the neighbourhood of Domoko who reckoned a vrykolakas among their ancestors of some two or three generations ago. By virtue of such lineage they inherited a certain skill which enables them to deal most efficaciously with the vrykolakas who at intervals haunt the countryside. Indeed, so widely was their power esteemed that they had on occasion been summoned as specialists for consultation when quite remote districts were troubled in this manner.
In ancient Egypt we can trace certain parallels to the Assyrian beliefs. The ancient Egyptians held that every man had his ka, his double, which when he died lived in the tomb with the body and was there visited by the khu, the spiritual body or soul which at death departed from the body; and although it might visit the body, could only be brought back from heaven by the ceremonial performance of certain mystic rites. Yet from one point of view the soul was sufficiently material to partake of the funeral offerings brought to the tomb for the refreshment of the ka. One of the chief objects of these sepulchral oblations was to maintain the double in the tomb so that it should not be compelled to wander abroad in search of food. As in Assyria, unless the ka were bountifully supplied with food it would issue forth from the tomb and be driven to eat any offal or drink any brackish water it might find.
The ka occupied a special part of the tomb and a priest was appointed specially to minister to it therein. The ka snuffed up the sweet smell of incense when this was burned on certain days each year, with the offerings of flowers, herbs, meat and drink in all of which it took great delight. The ka also viewed with pleasure the various scenes which were sculpted or painted on the walls of the tomb. In fact it was not merely capable, but desirous of material consolations. It would even appear that in later times the khu was identified with the ka.
In Arabic tradition the Ghoul appears as a female demon who feeds upon dead bodies and infests the cemeteries at night to dig open the grave for her horrid repasts. Sometimes she would seem to be half-human, half-fiend, for in story she is often represented as wedded to a husband who discovers her loathsome necrophagy. She can bear children, and is represented as luring travellers out of the way to lonely and remote ruins when she falls upon them suddenly and devours them, greedily sucking the warm blood from their veins.
The Ghoul is familiar from The Thousand and One Nights, as is the story of Sidi Nouman, a young man who marries a wife named Amine. To his surprise when they are set at dinner she only eats a dish of rice grain by grain, taking up each single grain with a bodkin and "instead of partaking of the other dishes she only carried to her mouth, in the most deliberate manner, small crumbs of bread, scarcely enough to satisfy a sparrow." The husband discovers that Amine steals out at night and on one occasion he follows her.
Sidi Nouman is relating these adventures to the Caliph Haroun Alraschid and he continues: "I saw her go into a burying place near our house; I then gained the end of a wall, which reached the burying place, and after having taken proper care not to be seen, I perceived Amine with a female Ghoul. Your Majesty knows that Ghouls of either sex are demons, which wander about the fields. They commonly inhabit ruinous buildings, whence they issue suddenly and surprise passengers, whom they kill and devour. If they fail in meeting with travellers, they go by night into burying places to dig up dead bodies and feed upon them. I was both surprised and terrified when I saw my wife with this Ghoul. They dug up together a dead body, which had been buried that very day, and the Ghoul several times cut off pieces of the flesh, which they both ate as they sat upon the edge of the grave. They conversed together with great composure during their savage and inhuman repast; but I was so far off that it was impossible for me to hear what they said, which, no doubt, was as extraordinary as their food, at the recollection of which I still shudder. When they had finished their horrid meal, they threw the remains of the carcase into the grave, which they filled again with the earth they had taken from it."
When they are next at dinner Sidi Nouman, remonstrating with his wife, asks if the dishes before them are not as palatable as the flesh of a dead man. In a fury she dashes a cup of cold water into his face and bids him assume the form of a dog. After various adventures as a mongrel cur, he is restored to his original shape by a young maid skilled in white magic, and this lady also provides him with a liquid which when thrown upon Amine with the words: "Receive the punishment of thy wickedness" transforms this dark sorceress into a mare. The animal is promptly led away to the stable.
This is an extremely typical legend of an Oriental vampire, and we find the same details repeated again and again, both in Eastern stories and those imitations which were so popular throughout Europe when once Antoine Galland had given France his adaptation of The Arabian Nights.
Throughout the ancient Empire of China, and from the earliest times, the belief in vampires is very widely spread. Sinologists have collected many examples, some of which occur in myth and legend and some of which were related as facts, showing us that the Chinese vampire lacks few if any of the horrible traits he exhibits in Greek and Slavonic superstition.
The Chinese vampire, Ch'ing Shih, is regarded as a demon who by taking possession of a dead body preserves it from corruption owing to his power of preying upon other corpses or upon the living. The Chinese believe that a man has two souls: the Hun, or superior soul, which partakes of the quality of good spirits; and the P'o, or inferior soul which is generally malignant and may be classed among the Kuei, or evil spirits. It is thought that whilst any portion of the body, even if it be a small bone, remains whole and entire the lower soul can utilize this to become a vampire, and particularly should the sun or moon be allowed to shine fully on an unburied body the P'o will thence acquire strength to issue forth and obtain human blood to build up the vitality of the vampire.
In appearance the Chinese monster is very like the European vampire for he has red staring eyes, huge sharp talons or crooked nails. But he is also often represented as having his body covered with white or greenish-white hair. In The Religious System of China, Dr. de Groot suggests that this last characteristic may be due to the fungi which grow so profusely on the cotton grave-clothes used by the Chinese. In some cases, if he be particularly potent for ill, the vampire is able to fly with speed through the air, which may be compared with the faculty ascribed to vampires in Serbian legend, that of vanishing away in a swiftly floating mist or vapour.
A few anecdotes, which I owe to Mr. G. Willoughby-Meade's Chinese Ghouls and Goblins, will show the close similarity of vampirish activities in China to those in the tales of other lands.
A tutor named Liu, who was resident in a family that lived at some distance from his native place, was granted a holiday in order that he might perform his devotions at the tomb of his ancestors. On the morning he was to resume his duties, his wife entered his chamber very early to call him so that he might set forth in good time on his journey. But to her horror when she approached the bed she saw stretched thereon a headless body, although there was no spot or stain of blood.
Half mad with fear, she at once gave the alarm, yet the circumstances were so surprising that the magistrate gave orders for her to be arrested on suspicion of having murdered her husband. In spite of her protested innocence, she was detained in custody till the fullest inquiries had been made. However, nothing immediately transpired to throw light upon the mystery. It was not until two or three days later that a neighbour who was gathering firewood on a hillside hard by perceived a great coffin with the lid partly raised, that seemed to have been curiously placed near an old and neglected grave. His utmost apprehensions being aroused, he called a number of persons together from the village before daring to investigate the cause of this unusual circumstance.
They approached the coffin and quickly removed the cover. Within reposed a corpse which had the face of a living man, unspeakably brutish and horrible. Its angry red eyes glared fiercely upon them, long white teeth champed the full red lips into a foam of blood and spittle, and within its lean bony hands, armed with long nails like the claws of a vulture, it held the missing head of the unfortunate Liu.
Some at once ran to the authorities, who upon hearing the report hastened to the hill with an armed guard, reaching the place well before sunset. It was found impossible to detach the head without severing the arms of the corpse, and when this was done the crimson gore gushed out in a great flood swilling the coffin. The head of Liu was found to be desiccated, sucked dry and bloodless. Command was forthwith given that the coffin and its contents should at once be burned to ashes on a mighty pyre, whilst the tutor's widow was immediately released from custody.
In the year 1751, a courier called Chang Kuei was sent express from Peking with a most urgent government dispatch. Late one night after he had passed through Liang Hsiang a fierce storm arose, and the gusts of wind completely extinguished his lantern. Fortunately he perceived at some little distance a humble khan whither he made his way as it was absolutely impossible to proceed in the darkness. The door was opened by a young girl who ushered him in and led his horse to a little stable.
That night she admitted him to her bed, promising to set him well on his way at dawn. But he did not in fact wake until many hours after, when he was not only benumbed with cold but to his surprise found himself lying stretched upon a tomb in a dense thicket, while his horse was tied to a neighbouring tree. His dispatch was not delivered until twelve hours after the time it was due, and accordingly, being asked what accident had delayed him, he related the whole circumstance. The magistrate ordered that inquiries should be made locally and they discovered that a girl named Chang, a common strumpet, had hanged herself in the wood some years before, and that several persons had been led aside to enjoy her favours, and so been detained in the same way as the imperial courier.
It was presently ordered that her tomb be opened, and when this had been done the body was found therein perfectly preserved, plump and of a rosy complexion, as though she were but in a soft slumber. It was burned under the direction of the authorities, and from that spot ceased to be haunted.
A story which is referred to the eighteenth century tells of a Tartar family living at Peking, a house of the highest importance whose son was betrothed to a lady of lineage equally aristocratic and ancient. Upon the wedding day, as is the Chinese custom, the bride was brought home in the ceremonial sedan-chair and this according to wont was carefully curtained and closed. It so happened that just as they were passing an old tomb there sprang up for a moment a sharp breeze which raised a cloud of thick dust. When the cortège reached the bridegroom's house there stepped out of the sedan two brides identical in every detail.
It was impossible at that point to interrupt the nuptials, but later in the evening the most piercing screams were heard from the bridal chamber. When the door was broken open the husband sprawled unconscious on the ground, while one of the brides lay with her eyes torn out and her face covered in blood. No trace of the second bride could be seen, but upon search being made with lanterns and torches a huge and hideous bird, mottled black and grey, armed with formidable claws and a beak like a vulture, was discovered clinging to a beam of the roof. Before they could fetch weapons, the monstrous thing disappeared swiftly through the door.
When the husband recovered his senses he related that one of the brides had suddenly struck him across the face with her heavily embroidered sleeve, and that the jewels had stunned him for the moment. A second afterwards a huge bird had swooped upon him and pecked out his eyes with its beak. So this horrible vampire blinded the newly married pair. The circumstance of the dust-cloud is exactly similar to the mist wherein the Slavonic Vampire conveys himself, but the transformation of the vampire into a bird is scarcely to be met with in European tradition.
It will be seen that the Chinese beliefs are linked with the Babylonian ideas, for as the Ekimmu was driven from the Underworld by hunger and thirst when no offerings were made at the tomb, so ghosts enduring the Buddhist purgatory of physical want are obviously imagined to seize living persons that they may refresh and energize themselves with human blood. Again, as in Europe today, so in China the vampire is most powerful between sunset and sunrise. His dominion commences when the sun sinks to rest, and he is driven back to the lair of his grave with the first rays of dawn.
One prominent feature of the European vampire, a circumstance which affords an additional reason why he is dreaded and shunned, is that he infects with his pollution his luckless victim who in turn becomes a vampire. In China this does not appear to hold. Something of the kind, however, may be traced among the Karens of Burma. For a Karen wizard will snare the wandering soul of a sleeper and by his art transfer it to the body of a dead man. The latter, accordingly, returns to life as the former expires. But the friends of the sleeper in their turn engage another sorcerer who will catch the soul of another sleeper, and it is he who dies as the first sleeper comes to life. Apparently this process may be continued almost indefinitely, and so it may be presumed that there takes place an indeterminate succession of death and resuscitation.
The Indian vampire, which may now be briefly considered, lacks those features in common with the Western vampires that are so strikingly to be noticed in the Chinese variety. Indeed, it may be said that the Indian vampire is practically a demon, and that only in a few minor details does he approximate to the true European species.
Mr.N.M.Penzer in a note upon The Ocean of Story says: "The Demons which appear are Rakshasa, Pisacha, Vetala, Bhuta etc. Of these, that most resembling the European Vampire is probably the Rakshasa." In a private letter to myself he writes: "It is the Rakshasas who are the more prominent among malicious demons. Their name means 'the harmers' or 'destroyers' as their particular delight is to upset sacrifices, worry ascetics, animate dead bodies etc. They date in India from Rig-Vedic days. They are described as deformed, of blue, green or yellow colour with long slit eyes. Their nails are poisonous and dangerous to the touch. They eat human and horse flesh, the former of which they procure by prowling around the burning-ghats at night. They possess great wealth and bestow it on those they favour. Their chief is Ravana, the enemy of Rama."
In his Preface to Vikram and the Vampire, London 1870, Sir Richard Burton says: "The Twenty-five Tales of a Baital - a vampire or evil spirit which animates dead bodies - is an old and thoroughly Hindu repertory. It is the rude beginning of that fictitious history which ripened to the Arabian Nights Entertainments." Baital is the modern form of Vetala. When the Raja encounters the Baital it was hanging "head downwards from a branch a little above him. Its eyes, which were wide open, were of a greenish-brown and never twinkled; its hair also was brown and brown was its face - these several shades which, notwithstanding, approached one another in an unpleasant way as an over-dried cocoa-nut. Its body was thin and ribbed like a skeleton or a bamboo framework, and as it held onto a bough like a flying-fox, by the toe-tips, its drawn muscles stood out as if they were ropes of coir. Blood it appeared to have none, or there would have been a decided determination of that curious juice to the head; and as the Raja handled its skin, it felt icy cold and clammy as might a snake. The only sign of life was the whisking of a ragged little tail much resembling a goat's. Judging from these signs the brave king at once determined the creature to be a Baital - a Vampire."
A belief in vampires is firmly established among the Malays of the Peninsula, and there are a number of magic rites which must be performed to protect both women and children. Probably the spirit most resembling a European vampire is the Penanggalan, which is supposed to resemble a trunkless human head with the sac of the stomach attached thereto, and which flies about seeking an opportunity of sucking the blood of infants.
There are, however, other spectres which are dangerous to children. There is the Bajang, which generally takes the form of a polecat and disturbs the household by mewing like a huge cat. The Langsuir is seen as an owl with hideous claws which perches upon the roof and hoots in a most melancholy way. Her daughter, a still-born child, is the Pontianak who is also a night-owl.
The Bajang is generally said to be a male demon and the Langsuir is considered as the female species. Both these spirits are supposed to be a kind of demon-vampire, but they can be tamed and are often handed down in certain families as heirlooms. Sir Frank Swettenham gives the following account of the Bajang: "Some one in the village falls ill of a complaint, the symptoms of which are unusual; there may be convulsions, unconsciousness or delirium, possibly for some days together or with intervals between the attacks. The relatives will call in a native doctor and at her (it usually an ancient female) suggestion, or without it, an impression will arise that the patient is the victim of a bajang. Such an impression quickly develops into certainty, and any trifle will suggest the owner of the evil spirit. One method of verifying this suspicion is to wait till the patient is in a state of delirium, and then to question him or her as to who is the author of the trouble. This should be done by some independent person of authority, who is supposed to be able to ascertain the truth.
"A further and convincing proof is then to call in a 'Pawang' skilled in dealing with wizards (in Malay countries they are usually men), and if he knows his business his power is such that he will place the sorcerer in one room, and, while he in another scrapes an iron vessel with a razor, the culprit's hair will fall off as though the razor had been applied to his head instead of the vessel! That is supposing that he is the culprit; if not, of course, he will pass through the ordeal without damage.
"I have been assured that the shaving process is so efficacious that, as the vessel represents the head of the person standing trial, wherever it is scraped the wizard's hair will fall off in a corresponding spot. It might be supposed that under these circumstances the accused is reasonably safe, but this test of guilt is not always employed. What more commonly happens is that when several cases of unexplained sickness have occurred in a village, with possibly one or two deaths, the people of the place lodge a formal complaint against the supposed author of these ills, and desire that he be punished. Before the advent of British influence it was the practice to kill the wizard or witch whose guilt had been established to Malay satisfaction, and such executions were carried out not many years ago."
The same authority tells us: "Langsuior, the female familiar, differs hardly at all from the bajang, except that she is a little more baneful, and when under the control of a man he sometimes becomes the victim of her attractions, and she will even bear him elfin children."
The original Langsuir, legend says, was a woman of the most superb beauty who died from the shock of hearing that her child was still-born, and had taken the shape of the Pontianak. When this terrible news was reported to her, she "clapped her hands," and without further warning "flew whinnying away to a tree, upon which she perched." She always wears a robe of exquisite green. Her tapering nails are of extraordinary length, which is considered among the Malays a mark of distinction and beauty, and which may be compared with the talons of the European vampire. She has long jet black tresses which flow down even as far as her ankles, but these serve to conceal the hole in the back of her neck through which she sucks the blood of children. Yet her vampirish qualities can be destroyed if the right means are adopted. In order to effect this she must be caught and her nails and flowing hair cut quite short, the tresses being stuffed into the hole in her neck, in which case she will become quiet and domesticated and be content to live a normal life for many years together.
Story relates that the Langsuir returned to civilization until she was allowed to dance at a village festival, when for some reason her savage nature re-asserted itself and with wild screams she flew off into the depths of the dark forest from whence she had come. To prevent a woman who dies in childbirth becoming a Langsuir, a quantity of glass beads are put into her mouth, a hen's egg is put under each arm-pit, and needles are placed in the palms of the hands. It is believed that if this is done the dead woman cannot become a Langsuir as she cannot open her mouth to shriek, or wave her arms as wings, or open and shut her hands to assist her flight.
The Penanggalan is a sort of monstrous vampire who delights in killing young children. One legend says that long ago, in order to perform a religious penance, a woman was seated in one of the large wooden vats used by the Malays for holding the vinegar which proceeds from draining off the sap of the thatch-palm. Quite unexpectedly a man came along and, finding her seated there, asked: "What are you doing here?" She replied shortly: "What business is that of yours?" But, being very much startled, she leaped up and in the excitement of the moment kicked her own chin with such force that the skin split all round her neck, and her head with the sac of the stomach hanging to it actually became separated from the body and flew off to perch upon the nearest tree. Ever since that time she has existed as a malign and dangerous spirit brooding over the house, screeching whenever a child is born, or trying to force her way up through the floor in order to drain its blood.
The following description by a Malay native which is almost entirely parallel to that of the most deadly European vampires is quoted by Dr. Skeat in his Malay Magic, London 1900: "Sir, listen to this account of the penanggalan. It was originally a woman. She used the magic arts of a devil in whom she believed, and she devoted herself to his service night and day until the period of her agreement with her teacher had expired and she was able to fly. Her head and neck were then loosened from her body, the intestines being attached to them and hanging down in strings. The body remained where it was. Wherever the person whom it wished to injure happened to live, thither flew the head and bowels to suck his blood, and the person whose blood was sucked was sure to die. If the blood and water which dripped from the intestines touched any person, serious illness followed and his body broke out in open sores.
"The penanggalan likes to suck the blood of women in childbirth. For this reason it is customary at all houses where a birth occurs to hang up thistle leaves at the doors and windows, or to place thorns wherever there is any blood, lest the penanggalan should come and suck it; for the penanggalan has, it seems, a dread of thorns in which her intestines may happen to get caught. It is said that a penanggalan once came to a man's house in the middle of the night to suck his blood, and her intestines were caught in some thorns near the hedge, and she had to remain there until daylight when the people saw and killed her.
"The person who has the power of becoming a penanggalan always keeps at her house a quantity of vinegar in a jar or vessel of some kind. The use of this is to soak the intestines in, for when they issue forth from the body they immediately swell up and cannot be put back, but after being soaked in vinegar they shrink to their former size and enter the body again. There are many people who have seen the penanggalan flying along with its entrails hanging down and shining at night like fire-flies."
It may be remembered that the Greeks thought that branches of buckthorn fastened to doors and windows kept out witches. At the time of woman's delivery also they smeared pitch upon the houses to keep out the demons who are wont to attack mothers at that period. The Serbians today paint crosses with tar on the doors of houses and barns to guard them from vampires. On Walpurgis Night the Bohemian peasant never neglects to strew the groundsel of his cow-sheds and stables with hawthorn, branches of gooseberry bushes and the briars of wild rose-trees, so that the witches or vampires will get entangled amid the thorns and can force their way no further.
In Polynesia we pretty generally find the tu, who under some aspects is a kind of vampire-demon. Dr. R. H. Codrington in The Melanesians: studies in their Anthropology and Folk Lore says: "There is a belief in the Banks Islands in the existence of a power like that of Vampires. A man or woman would obtain this power out of a morbid desire for communion with some ghost, and in order to gain it would steal and eat a morsel of their flesh. The ghost of the dead man would then join in a close friendship with the person who had eaten, and would gratify him by afflicting anyone against whom his ghostly power might be directed.
"The man so afflicted would feel that something was influencing his life, and would come to dread some particular person among his neighbours, who was therefore suspected of being a talamour. This latter when seized and tried in the smoke of strong-smelling leaves would call out the name of the dead man whose ghost was his familiar, often the names of more than one, and lastly the name of the man who was afflicted. The same name talamour was given to one whose soul was supposed to leave the grave and absorb the lingering vitality of a freshly dead person."
In his Ashanti Proverbs Mr. R. Sutherland Rattray speaks of the Asasabonsam: "a monster of human shape, which living far in the depths of the forest, is only occasionally met by hunters. It sits on tree tops, and its legs dangle down to the ground, and have hooks for feet which pick up anyone who comes within reach. It has iron teeth. There are male, female and little asasabonsam."
Mr. Rattray also describes the obayifo. This is "a kind of human vampire whose chief delight is to suck the blood of children, whereby the latter pine and die. Men and women possessed of this power are credited with volitant powers, being able to quit their bodies and travel great distances in the night. Besides sucking the blood of their victims, they are supposed to be able to extract the sap and juices of crops. Cases of coco blight are ascribed to the work of the obayifo. These witches are supposed to be very common, and a man never knows but that his friend or even his wife may be one. When prowling at night they are supposed to emit a phosphorescent light. An obayifo in everyday life is supposed to be known by having sharp, shifty eyes that are never at rest, also by showing an undue interest in food and always talking about it, especially meat, and hanging about when cooking is going on, all of which habits are therefore purposely avoided."
A striking similarity to the beliefs of the Malay Peninsula is to be traced among the horrible superstitions of ancient Mexico. The true Mexican vampires were the Ciuateteo, women who had died in their first labour. They were also known as the Ciuapipiltin, or princesses, in order to placate them by some honourable designation. Of these Sahagun says: "The Ciuapipiltin, the noble women, were those who had died in childbed. They were supposed to wander through the air, descending when they wished to the earth to afflict children with paralysis and other maladies. They haunted crossroads to practise their maleficent deeds, and they had temples built at these places where bread offerings were made to them, also the thunder stones which fall from the sky. Their faces were white, and their arms and hands were coloured with a white powder."
The representations of the Ciuateteo in ancient paintings are extremely hideous and repulsive. They often wear the dress and are distinguished by the characteristics of the goddess Tlazolteotl who was the goddess of all sorcery, lust and evil. The learned friar who interpreted the Codex Telleriano-Renensis certainly speaks of the Ciuateteo as witches who flew through the air upon broomsticks and met at crossroads, a rendezvous presided over by their mistress Tiazolteotl. It may be remarked that the broomstick is her especial symbol, and that she is often associated with the snake and the screech-owl. Under one aspect she is also regarded as a moon-goddess and may, indeed, be fairly closely parallelled with the Greek Hecate.
Those animals which were considered unlucky also often accompanied the Ciuateteo, upon whose garments crossbones were painted. They were essentially malignant and sought to wreak their vengeance upon all whom they might meet during the dark hours. In the native huts the doors were carefully barred and every crack or cranny carefully filled up to prevent them from obtaining entrance. Occasionally, however, they would attack human dwellings and if they obtained ingress, the children of the household would pine and dwindle away. Accordingly, in their shrines at crossroads men heaped up enticing and substantial food offerings, in order that these malignant dead might so satisfy their hunger and not seek to make an onset upon the living.
One explanation why the shrines should be at crossroads was in order that the Ciuateteo might be confused and, not knowing the way to the nearest human habitation, be surprised by dawn before she could set out to seize her prey. We find this exact reason given in Greece and other countries for burying the body of a suicide, who will almost certainly become a vampire, at four cross-roads.
It would, perhaps, be hardly too much to say that in ancient Mexico all magicians were regarded as vampires, a tradition which long survived even after the conversion of the country, so that one of the regular questions which the Spanish priests put to those of whose faith they were suspicious was: "Art thou a sorcerer? Dost thou suck the blood of others?" The Mexican sorcerer seems to have been credited with taking the shape of a wer-coyote, the prairie-wolf, as well as to have practised vampirism. So here too in Mexico we find a close connection between the wer-animal and the vampire. It appears that these sorcerers lived in separate huts built of wood very brightly painted, and that those who wished to bargain with them were wont to resort to these accursed houses under the cover of dark.
Of all the many dark superstitions that prevail in the West Indies none is more deeply rooted than the belief in the existence of vampires. In Grenada, particularly, the vampire is known as a "Loogaroo," a corruption of loupgarou, and the attributes generally assigned to the loogaroo, as well as the current stories told of these ghastly beings, show that the demonology of the French colonists of the seventeenth century was soon welded with Negro witchcraft and voodoo.
The West Indian natives hold that loogaroos are human beings, especially old women, who have made a pact with the devil, by which the fiend bestows upon them certain magic powers on condition that every night they provide him with a quantity of rich warm blood. So every night the loogaroos make their way to the occult silk-cotton tree, often known as the Devil's tree, and there, having divested themselves of their skins which are carefully folded up and concealed in the form of a ball of sulphurous fire, they speed abroad on their horrid business.
Even today visitors to Grenada have been called out of the house late at night by servants to see the loogaroos, and their attention is directed to any solitary light which happens to flash through the darkness. Until dawn the loogaroos are at work, and any native who feels tired and languid upon waking will swear that the vampire has sucked his blood. Doors and shutters are no barrier to the monster who can slip through the tiniest chink, but if only rice and sand are scattered before a cabin the loogaroo must perforce stay until he has numbered every grain, and so morning will assuredly surprise him ere the tale is told.
It is said that the human skin of a loogaroo has been found hidden in the bushes under a silk-cotton tree. In this case it must be seized fast and pounded in a mortar with pepper and salt. So the vampire will be unable to assume a human shape again and will perish miserably.
Now and again Negroes have been discovered bold enough to play the loogaroo to cover up their nightly depredations. Two confederates will plan the robbing of a cocoa piece, and whilst one fellow will climb the tree to strip off the pods, his friend will pass softly up and down in the vicinity waving a lantern fashioned from an empty calabash cut to imitate grotesque features, and lighted by a candle set in a socket. The tradition, however, has its more serious sides and obscene, if not bloody, rites are practised in secret places where the white man will hardly dare venture.
The loogaroo is particularly obnoxious to dogs, and any person at whom apparently without cause dogs will bark furiously, or even endeavour to attack, is accounted infected with the vampire taint. It is supposed that the loogaroo will frequently molest animals of all kinds, and indeed in Trinidad and especially on the Spanish Main the horses suffer greatly from the attacks of large vampire bats. It is necessary that all the windows and ventilation holes of the stables and cattle pens should be firmly secured by wire netting to prevent the entrance of the bats, which are greatly able to harm any animal in whose flesh they manage to fasten their teeth.
By a comparison of the beliefs in these many lands, in ancient Assyria, in old Mexico, in China, India and Melanesia, it will be seen that the superstition and tradition of the vampire prevail to an extraordinary extent, although details differ. It is hard to believe that a phenomenon which has had so complete a hold over nations both young and old, in all parts of the world and at all times of history, has not some underlying and terrible truth, however rare this may be in its more remarkable manifestations.
CHAPTER FIVE: THE VAMPIRE IN LITERATURE UP TO BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA
A consideration of the vampire theme in literature must of necessity be somewhat arbitrary in the selection of works it reviews. Any exhaustive inquiry is well-nigh impossible, not just on account of the wealth of material as owing to the very vague interpretation one is able to give to vampirism from a purely literary point of view. It would be a matter of extreme difficulty to differentiate the malignant and death-dealing spectre, or it may even be a corpse who returns to wreak his foul revenge, from the vampire - using the term in its widest sense.
To review the traces of vampire legends which appear in sagas seems to be outside our province here; and to regard such traditions merely as literature and not folk-lore would be to look at them from a wrong perspective.
Since some point must be chosen at which to consider vampirism in literature, we may fairly recall to mind the many treatises upon the vampire which were rehearsed and discussed in German Universities during the earlier part of the eighteenth century. These startling themes soon began to attract the attention of poets and literary men. It would be an exaggeration to say that the vampire entered German literature with Goethe's famous ballad The Bride of Corinth, but it would be difficult to over-estimate the influence and popularity of this piece, the subject of which is directly derived from Phlegon of Tralles. The young Athenian who visits his father's old friend, to whose young daughter he has been betrothed, receives at midnight the vampire body of the girl whom death has prevented from becoming his bride.
Even more famous are the charnel horrors of Burger's Lenore which was first printed in 1733 and which, notwithstanding the legions of hostile comments and parodies, long remained a household word. In spite of the immense enthusiasm at that date in England for German romantic literature, no translation of Lenore was published there until 1796 when William Taylor of Norwich printed in the Monthly Review of March his rendering. He had, however, written the translation as early as 1790, and there can be no doubt that shortly after its completion it was declaimed, applauded and much discussed in Norwich literary circles.
In 1794 Sir Walter Scott made his own rendering of the ballad. An account of how Taylor's version, Ellenore, had "electrified" the assembled company at Dugald Stewart's house in Edinburgh had given him the strongest desire to see the original. After some delay a copy of Burger's works was conveyed to him from Hamburg. He immediately devoured the German ballad and was so impressed that he forthwith set about Englishing it. "I well recollect" he writes, "that I began my task after supper, and finished it about daybreak next morning." Scott's friends privately printed a few copies of the poem as a surprise for the author, and as it went from hand to hand it met with the most flattering reception.
As we might expect, the young Shelley was enchanted by Lenore and long treasured a whole copy of the poem which he made with his own hand. Dowden tells the story of how one Christmas Eve Shelley dramatically related the ballad with appropriate intonation and gesture "working up the horror to such a height of fearful interest" that the company fully expected to see Wilhelm stalk into the parlour.
It is remarkable that in spite of the plain hint which might profitably have been taken from such poems as The Bride of Corinth, Lenore and Southey's Thalaba the Destroyer, the novelists of the Gothic school do not seem to have utilized the tradition of the vampire, soaked though they were in German literature, searching the depths of the earth for thrills and sensation of every kind. In Gothic romance we have horror heaped upon horror's head; mouldering abbeys, haunted castles, banditti, illuminati, sorcerers, conspirators, murderous monks and phantom friars, apparitions without number; but until we come to Polidori's novel nowhere, so far as I am aware, do we meet with the vampire in the realm of Gothic fancy.
So vast, however, is this fascinating library, and so difficult to procure are these novels of the early nineteenth century, that I hesitate to assert sweepingly that this theme was entirely unexploited. There may be some romance which I have not had the good fortune to find where a hideous vampire swoops down upon his victims, but if such be the case I am at least prepared to say that the vampire was not generally known to Gothic lore.
In The New Monthly Magazine, 1 April 1819, was published The Vampyre: a Tale by Lord Byron which, although it may seem to us a little old-fashioned, at the time created an immense sensation and had the most extraordinary influence, being even more admired and imitated on the Continent than in England. It was almost immediately known that actually the story did not come from the pen of Lord Byron, but had been written by Dr. John William Polidori, physician-companion to the poet. Byron had as a matter of fact been writing a work of the same title in imitation of Mrs. Shelley's Frankenstein, but he denied the authorship of this piece.
As first printed, The Vampyre forms a part of extracts from "A letter from Geneva, with anecdotes of Lord Byron." Here is to be read that "one evening Lord Byron, Mr. P.B. Shelley, the two ladies and the gentleman (Dr. Polidori) after having perused a German work, which was entitled Phantasmagoriana, began relating ghost stories; when his lordship having recited the beginning of Christabel, then unpublished, the whole took so strong a hold on Mr. Shelley's mind that he suddenly started up and ran out of the room. The physician and Lord Byron followed and discovered him leaning against a mantlepiece with cold drops of perspiration trickling down his face. After having given him something to refresh him, upon enquiring into the cause of his alarm, they found that his wild imagination having pictured to him the bosom of one of the ladies with eyes, he was obliged to leave the room in order to destroy the impression.
"It was afterwards proposed in the course of conversation that each of the company present should write a tale depending upon some supernatural agency, which was undertaken by Lord Byron, the physician and Miss M. Godwin." Upon this the Editor has the following note: "We have in our possession the Tale of Dr. [Polidori] as well as the outline of that of Miss Godwin. The latter has already appeared under the title of 'Frankenstein, or the modern Prometheus'; the former, however, upon consulting this author, we may probably hereafter give to our readers."
The Vampyre is introduced by several paragraphs which deal with the tradition. The story itself tells how at the height of a London season "there appeared at the various parties of the leaders of the ton a nobleman, more remarkable for his singularities, than his rank. He gazed upon the mirth around him as if he could not participate therein. Apparently, the light laughter of the fair only attracted his attention that he might by a look quell it, and throw fear into those breasts where thoughtlessness reigned. Those who felt this sensation of awe could not explain whence it arose; some attributed it to the dead grey eye which, fixing upon the object's face, did not seem to penetrate and at one glance to pierce through to the inward working of the heart; but fell upon the cheek with a leaden ray that weighed upon the skin it could not pass."
This original is invited to every house and in the course of the winter meets "a young man of the name of Aubrey who was an orphan left with an only sister in the possession of great wealth, by parents who died while he was yet in childhood." Aubrey is greatly fascinated by Lord Ruthven, for this is the name of the mysterious nobleman, and intending to travel upon the Continent he mentions this intention to my lord, and is "surprised to receive from him a proposal to join him. Flattered by such a mark of esteem from him who, apparently, had nothing in common with other men, he gladly accepted it, and in a few days they had passed the encircling waters."
As they travelled from town to town, Aubrey notices the peculiar conduct of his companion who bestows largesse upon the most worthless characters, broken gamblers and the like, but refuses a doit to the deserving and virtuous poor. However, the recipients of this charity "inevitably found that there was a curse upon it, for they were all either led to the scaffold or sunk to the lowest and most abject misery." Eventually the travellers arrive at Rome, and here Aubrey receives letters from his guardians who require him immediately to leave his companion as since their departure from London the most terrible scandals, adulteries and seductions have come to light. In Rome Aubrey is able to foil Lord Ruthven's plans, frustrating an intrigue designed to ruin a heedless young girl, and then he "directed his steps towards Greece and, crossing the Peninsula, soon found himself at Athens."
Here he lodges in the house of a Greek, whose daughter Ianthe is a paragon of the most exquisite beauty. As he sketches the ruins of the city she is wont to entertain him with Greek legend and tradition, and "often she told him the tale of the living vampyre who had passed years amidst his friends and dearest ties, forced every year by feeding on the life of a lovely female to prolong his existence for the ensuing months, his blood would run cold, whilst he attempted to laugh her out of such idle and horrible fantasies; but Ianthe cited to him the names of old men who had at last detected one living among themselves, after several of their relatives and children had been found marked with the stamp of the fiend's appetite; and when she found him so incredulous she begged of him to believe her, for it had been remarked that those who dared to question their existence always had some proof given, which obliged them with grief and heart-breaking to confess it was true. She detailed to him the traditional appearance of these monsters, and his horror was increased by hearing a pretty accurate description of Lord Ruthven; he, however, still persisted in persuading her that there could be no truth in her fears, though at the same time he wondered at the many coincidences which had all tended to excite a belief in the supernatural power of Lord Ruthven."
Before long it becomes evident that Aubrey is in love with Ianthe, "and while he ridicules the idea of a young man of English habits marrying an uneducated Greek girl, still he found himself more and more attached to the almost fairy form before him." He endeavours to occupy his time with antiquarian excursions which lead him further and further afield, and at length he determines to proceed to a point beyond any he has yet visited. When Ianthe's parents hear the name of the place they earnestly implore him on no account to return once dusk has fallen, "as he must necessarily pass through a wood where no Greek would ever remain after the day had closed. They described it as the resort of vampyres in their nocturnal orgies with the most heavy evils impending upon him who dared cross their path. Aubrey made light of this and tried to laugh them out of the idea; but when he saw them shudder at his daring thus to mock a superior, the very name of which apparently made their blood freeze, he was silent."
Having given his promise that he will be back well before evening, he sets out very early. The exploration, however, takes longer than he has supposed, and when he turns his horse homeward the darkness is already hurrying on, urged by a terrific storm. The steed, alarmed by the battle of the elements, dashes off at breakneck pace and only halts trembling and tired before a distant hovel in the heart of a solitary wood. "As he approached, the thunder, for a moment silent, allowed him to hear the dreadful shrieks of a woman mingling with the stifled exultant mockery of a laugh, continued in one almost unbroken sound." With a terrific effort Aubrey burst open the door and rushing into the darkness "found himself in contact with someone, whom he immediately seized, when a voice cried "again baffled," to which a loud laugh succeeded and he felt himself grappled by one whose strength seemed superhuman: determined to sell his life as dearly as he could, he struggled; but it was in vain; he was lifted from his feet and hurled with enormous force against the ground; his enemy threw himself upon him, and kneeling upon his breast, had placed his hand upon his throat when the glare of many torches penetrating through the hole that gave light in the day, disturbed him - he instantly rose and, leaving his prey, rushed through the door, and in a moment the crashing of branches as he broke through the wood was no longer heard."
Several peasants now hasten into the hut bearing flambeaus which illuminate the scene, and to the horror of all there is discovered hard by the lifeless body of Ianthe. A curious dagger lies near, but her death was not the result of a blow from this weapon. "There was no colour upon her cheek, not even upon her lip; yet there was a stillness about her face that seemed almost as attaching as the life that once dwelt there:- upon her neck and breast was blood, and upon her throat were the marks of teeth having opened the vein:- to this the men pointed, crying, simultaneously struck with horror, 'a Vampyre, a Vampyre!'" It appears that Ianthe had followed the traveller to watch over his safety. Aubrey is carried back to the city in a raging fever, and the parents of the unfortunate girl die broken-hearted owing to so terrible a loss.
Whilst Aubrey lies ill Lord Ruthven arrives in Athens and, establishing himself in the same house, nurses the invalid with such care that past differences are forgotten, since Aubrey not only becomes reconciled to his presence but even seeks his company. Together they travel into the wildest interior of Greece, and here in some mountain pass they are attacked by brigands, from whose guns Lord Ruthven receives a shot in the shoulder. His strength strangely decreasing, a couple of days later it is plain to all that he is at the point of death. He now exacts a terrific oath that his companion shall conceal all that is known of him and that the news of his death shall not be allowed to reach England. "Swear!" cried the dying man, "Swear by all your soul reveres, by all your nature fears, swear that for a year and a day you will not impart your knowledge of my crimes or death to any living being in any way, whatever may happen, or whatever you may see." Aubrey binds himself most solemnly by the prescribed oath, and in a paroxysm of hideous laughter Ruthven expires.
According to a promise which has been obtained from the robbers by a heavy bribe, the body was conveyed to the pinnacle of a neighbouring mount to be exposed to the first cold ray of the moon which rose after his death. Aubrey insists that it be interred in the ordinary way, but when he is conducted to the place it is found that the body has disappeared, and in spite of the protestations of the band he is convinced they have buried the corpse for the sake of the clothes. One circumstance, however, gives Aubrey much food for thought. Among the effects of the deceased he discovers a sheath of most curious pattern and make which exactly fits the dagger found in the deserted hut upon the occasion of Ianthe's death.
Returning to England, as he retraces his journey through Rome, to his horror Aubrey discovers that in spite of the precautions he had so carefully taken, Lord Ruthven had succeeded only too well in his designs and now there is bitter sorrow and distress where once reigned peace and happiness. The lady he had endeavoured to protect had not been heard of since the departure of his lordship, and Aubrey instinctively divines that she has "fallen a victim to the destroyer of Ianthe."
Upon his arrival in London the traveller is greeted by his sister, whose presentation into society had been delayed until her brother's return from the Continent, when he might be her protector. "It was now therefore resolved that the next drawing room, which was fast approaching, should be the epoch of her entry into the busy scene." Upon this gay occasion the crowd was excessive, and as Aubrey is watching the gay throng a voice which he recognizes only too well, whispers in his ear: "Remember your oath." Turning he sees Lord Ruthven standing near him. A few nights later at the assembly of a near relation, among the crowd of admirers by whom his sister is surrounded, he again perceives the mysterious and horrible figure. Hurrying forward, he seizes his sister's arm and requests her immediately to accompany him home. However, before they have had time to retire, again the voice whispers close to him: "Remember your oath!"
Aubrey now becomes almost distracted. He sees no remedy against a monster who has already once mocked at death. Even if he were to declare all he knew it is probable that he would hardly be believed. Whenever he attends a social gathering, his looks as he scans the company become so suspicious and strange that he soon acquires a reputation for eccentricity. As the months go on his loathing and fears drive him well-nigh to madness, so that eventually a physician is engaged to reside in the house and take charge of him. He is a little consoled by the thought that when a year and a day have passed he will at least be able to unburden his mind and be freed from his terrible oath. Then it so happens that he overhears a conversation between his doctor and one of his guardians, who enlarges upon the melancholy circumstance of her brother being in so critical a state when Miss Aubrey is to be married the following day. He demands the name of the bridegroom and is told the Earl of Marsden. He requests to see his sister and as they are conversing she opens a locket and shows him a miniature of the man who has won her affections. To his horror he perceives that it is a portrait of Lord Ruthven and, falling into convulsions of rage, he tramples it underfoot. In twenty-four hours the period of his oath will have expired and he implores them to delay the wedding for that time. Since there seems no good reason for doing this, the request is disregarded. Aubrey falls into so sad a state of utter depression followed by an outburst of fury that the physician concludes him to be not far from lunacy and doubles the restraint.
During the night the busy preparations for the nuptial are ceaselessly continued. It appears that upon the pretext of being her brother's dearest friend and travelling companion, Lord Ruthven had visited the house to inquire after Aubrey, and from the character of a visitor gradually insinuated himself into that of an accepted suitor. When the bridal party has assembled, Aubrey, neglected by the servants, contrives to make his way into the public apartments which are decorated for the nuptials. Ere he can utter a cry, however, he is perceived by Lord Ruthven who with more than human strength thrusts him from the room, whispering in his ear: "Remember your oath and know, if not my bride today your sister is dishonoured. Women are frail!" The attendants at once secure the unhappy man, but he can no longer support his distress. In his agonies a blood vessel breaks and he is incontinently conveyed to bed. This sad accident is kept from his sister; the marriage is solemnized and the bride and bridegroom leave London.
"Aubrey's weakness increased; the effusion of blood produced symptoms of the near approach of death. He desired his sister's guardians might be called and when the midnight hour had struck, he related composedly what the reader has perused - and died immediately after. The guardians hastened to protect Miss Aubrey; but when they arrived it was too late. Lord Ruthven had disappeared and Aubrey's sister had glutted the thirst of a Vampyre!"
It is hard to overestimate the astounding sensation which was caused by this story, and the narrative is certainly not without considerable merit for in places the eerie atmosphere is well conveyed. Nor is it difficult to understand the extraordinary influence of the tale, since it introduced a tradition which had long been forgotten and promised infinite possibilities in the way of sensation and melodrama which that period craved.
The first separate edition of The Vampyre appeared in 1819 and was published by Sherwood. It is now very rare and contains a certain amount of preliminary matter concerning the Shelleys, Byron and Godwin which was omitted in later issues. A large number of reprints increased with amazing rapidity and in the same year the novel was translated into French by Henri Faber, Le Vampire, nouvelle traduite de l'anglaise de Lord Byron, Paris 1819. In February 1820 there followed a very obvious imitation, or rather continuation by Cyprien Berard, Lord Ruthven ou les Vampires. In 1825 a new translation of Polidori's story was given by Eusebe de Salles. Nor was Germany far behind, for The Vampyre was first translated in 1819 and in the following year there appeared at Frankfurt a version by J.V. Adrian of Byron's poems and prose, wherein was included Der Blutsuger.
In a collection of Byron's work published at Zwickau in 1821 The Vampyre again found a place, and the tale has also been included in various other continental collections of Byron's work even until a recent date. It was well known all the while that Polidori was the author of the story, but as Byron's was by far the greater name so this sensational novella must be attributed to the cavalerio whose romantic adventures and scandalous amours were thrilling the whole of Europe.
As might have been expected, it was not long before the vampire appeared upon the stage, and the first play of this kind would seem to be the famous melodrama Le Vampire by Charles Nodier which was produced in Paris on 13th June 1820 at the Theatre de la Porte-Saint-Martin. The drama to a certain extent adroitly follows the lines of the Polidori novel, but with notable changes which are well contrived and introduced. Lord Rutwen and Aubray have been fellow travellers but the latter has no suspicion of Rutwen's real nature. In fact he holds him in the dearest affection since once he was saved from death by his friend who, whilst shielding him from a brigand's attack, fell by a chance shot. When Lord Rutwen arrives to claim his sister's hand, it is with delight Aubray hails his preserver whom he supposed killed by the bandit's gun. It is cleverly explained how the wound did not after all prove fatal.
All Paris flocked to see Le Vampire, and nightly the Porte-Saint-Martin was packed to the doors. Even the book of the play had an immense circulation and immediately vampire plays of every kind from the most luridly sensational to the most farcically ridiculous pressed on to the boards. A contemporary critic cries: "There is not a theatre in Paris without its Vampire!"
James Robinson Planche speedily adapted Nodier's play as The Vampire, or, The Bride of the Isles which was brought out at the English Opera House, 9th August 1820. Owing to the fine acting, and perhaps a little to the scenic effects - the scene is laid in the Caverns of Staffa - the play was given nightly to packed houses. It is interesting to remark that for this piece the celebrated vampire trap was invented. Of this I quote the following simple description: "A vampire trap consists of two or more flaps, usually india-rubber, through which the sprite can disappear almost instantly, where he falls into a blanket fixed to the under surface of the stage. As with the star trap, this trap is secured against accidents by placing another piece, or slide, fitting close beneath when not required, and removed when the prompter's bell gives the signal to make ready."
In Germany sensational fiction was long largely influenced by Polidori, and we have such romances as Zschokke's Der tote Gast, Spindler's Der Vampyre und seine Braut and Theodor Hildebrand's Der Vampyre, oder die Totenbraut. But undoubtedly the vampire tradition has never been treated with such consummate skill as by Theophile Gautier in his exquisite prose poem La Morte Amoureuse which first appeared in the Chronique de Paris in June 1836, when the young author was not quite twenty five.
Although the theme is not original, perhaps nowhere else has it been moulded with such delicacy of style, with such rich and vivid colouring, with such emotion and repression. The darker shadows of the tradition are suggested rather than portrayed, yet none can deny that there is an atmosphere of sombre mystery, even a touch of morbid horror which with complete artistry the writer allows us to suspect rather than comprehend. The very vagueness of the relation adds to the illusion. We hardly know whether Romauld is the young country priest occupied in prayer and good works, or a Renaissance seignior living a life of passion and hot extravagance. As he himself cries: "Sometimes I thought I was a priest who dreamed every night he was a nobleman, sometimes that I was a nobleman who dreamed that he was a priest. I could no longer distinguish dreams from real life; I did not know where reality began and illusion ended. The dissolute, supercilious young lord jeered at the priest, and the priest abhorred the dissipations of the young lord."
But were he humble priest or profligate patrician, one emotion remained eternally the same, his love for Clarimonde. At length the Abbe Serapion dissolves the glamour. Sternly he bids young Romauld accompany him to the deserted cemetery where Clarimonde lies buried; he exhumes the body and as he sprinkles it with holy water it crumbles into dust. Then also has the lord Romauld gone for ever. There only remains the poor priest of God broken and alone, who grows old in an obscure parish in the depths of a wood, and who well-nigh half a century later hardly dares stir the ashes of that memory.
There are in English not a few stories which deal with the vampire tradition, and many of these are well imagined and cleverly contrived; the morbid horror of the thing has often been conveyed with considerable power and it is hardly to be disputed that the best of the English vampire stories is Sheridan le Fanu's Carmilla, which first appeared in the collection entitled In A Glass Darkly, 1872. Carmilla, which is a story of some length containing sixteen chapters, is exceedingly well told and certainly exhibits that note of haunting dread which is peculiar to le Fanu's work. The castle in Styria and the family who inhabit it are excellently done, nor will the arrival of Carmilla and the mysterious coach easily be forgotten.
It must suffice to mention very briefly but a few short stories where the vampire element is present. The Flowering of the Strange Orchid by H.G. Wells introduces a botanical vampire. An orchid collector is found dead in a jungle in the Andaman Islands, with a strange bulb lying near him. This is brought to England and carefully tended by a botanist until it comes to flower. But when at last the blossoms burst open great tendrils suddenly reach out to grasp the man, sucking his blood with hideous gusts. The unfortunate wretch has to be violently torn away from the plant which drips with blood scarce in time to save his life.
Algernon Blackwood brings together two types of vampires in his story The Transfer. One is a human being, the psychic sponge who absorbs and seems to live upon the vitality of others. He is thus described by the governess: "I watched his hard, bleak face; I noticed how thin he was, and the curious oily brightness of his steady eyes. And everything he said or did announced what I may dare to call the suction of his presence." There is also a yet more horrible monster, if one may term it so, the Forbidden Corner, an arid, barren spot in the midst of the rose garden, naked and bald amid luxuriant growth. A child who knows its evil secret says: "It's bad. It's hungry. It's dying because it can't get the food it wants. But I know what would make it feel right." When the human vampire ventures near this spot it exerts its secret strength and draws him to itself. He falls into the middle of the patch and it drinks his energy. He lives on, but seems nothing more than a physical husk or shell without vitality. As for the Forbidden Corner "it lay untouched, full of great, luscious, driving weeds and creepers, very strong, full fed and bursting thick with life."
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his little story, The Parasite, has depicted a human vampire or psychic sponge in the person of Miss Penelosa, who is described as being a small frail creature, "with a pale peaky face, an insignificant presence and a retiring manner." Nevertheless she is able to obsess Professor Gilroy who says: "She has a parasite soul, yes, she is a parasite; a monster parasite. She creeps into my form as the hermit crab creeps into the whelk's shell." To his horror he realizes that under her influence his will becomes weaker and weaker and he is bound to seek her presence. He resists for a while, but the force becomes so overmastering that he is compelled to yield, loathing himself as he does so. Then he visits her and with a terrific effort breaks the spell, denouncing her unhallowed fascination in burning words.
However, his victory is short indeed. The vampire persecutes him most bitterly, with devilish craft she destroys his reputation as a scholar and brings about ill-natured gossip and comment. She is able to confuse his brain during lectures, so that he talks unintelligible nonsense and his classes become the laughing-stock of the university, until at length the authorities are obliged to suspend him from his position. Almost in despair he cries: "And the most dreadful part of it all is my loneliness. Here I sit in a commonplace English bow-window looking out upon a commonplace English street, with its garish buses and its lounging policemen, and behind me there hangs a shadow which is out of all keeping with the age and place. In the home of knowledge I am weighed down and tortured by a power of which science knows nothing. No magistrate would listen to me. No paper would discuss my case. No doctor would believe my symptoms. My own most intimate friends would only look upon it as a sign of brain derangement. I am out of all touch with my kind."
The unfortunate victim is driven ever deeper still by this unhallowed influence, which causes him to rob a bank, violently assault a friend and finally come within an ace of mutilating the features of his betrothed. At length the persecution ceases with the sudden death of the vampire, Miss Penelosa.
The True Story of a Vampire published in 1894 is a pathetic little story, very exquisitely told in Studies in Death by Stanislaus Eric, Count Stenbock. A mysterious Count Vardeleh visits the remote Styrian castle of old Baron Wronski, and before long attains an occult influence over the boy heir, Gabriel. The lad wastes away and Count Vardeleh is heard to murmur: "My darling, I fain would spare thee; but thy life is my life, and I must live, I who would rather die. Will God not have any mercy on me? Oh, oh! life; oh, the torture of life! . . . . O Gabriel my beloved! My life, yes, life - oh, my life? I am sure this is but a little I demand of thee. Surely the superabundance of life can spare a little to one who is already dead." As the boy lies wan and ill, the Count enters the room and presses a long feverish kiss upon his lips, then rushes forth and can never be traced again. Gabriel has expired in the agony of that embrace.
We may now consider a romance which may be ranked as a very serious rival to - in my opinion it is far ghostlier than - its famous successor, Dracula.
Varney the Vampire, or, The Feast of Blood is undoubtedly the best novel of Thomas Preskett Prest, a prolific writer of the fourth and fifth decades of the nineteenth century. It is true that his productions may be classed as simple "shockers," but none the less he has considerable power in this kind, and he had at any rate the craft of telling his story with skill and address. There is a certain quality in his work that is entirely lacking in the productions of his fellows.
To him have been ascribed, doubtless with some exaggeration, well nigh two hundred titles, but the following list comprises some of his principal romances: The Death Grasp, or, A Father's Curse; Gallant Tom, or, The Perils of a Sailor Ashore and Afloat, "an original nautical romance of deep and pathetic interest"; Sweeny Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street; Newgate (which has some capital episodes); The Maniac Father, or, The Victim of Seduction; The Miller's Maid; The Blighted Heart, or, The Priory Ruins; Sawney Bean, the Man-eater of Midlothian; The Skeleton Clutch, or, The Goblet of Gore; The Black Monk, or, The Secret of the Grey Turret.
Varney the Vampire was first published in 1847. It contains no less than 220 chapters and runs to 868 pages. The many incidents succeed each other with such breathless rapidity that it is well-nigh impossible to attempt any conspectus of the whole romance. It was among the most popular of Prest's productions and on account of its "unprecedented success" it was reprinted in 1853 in penny parts. Today the book is unprocurable; indeed, it may be noted that all Prest's work is excessively scarce.
It is scarcely an exaggeration to affirm that of recent years there have been few books more popular than Bram Stoker's Dracula, and certainly there is no sensational romance which in modern days has achieved so universal a reputation, and the name has veritably become a household word. It will prove interesting to inquire into the immediate causes which have brought this book such wide and enduring fame.
It is well-nigh impossible for a story which deals with the supernatural or the horrible to be sustained to any great length. Elements which at first are almost unendurable will lose their effect if they are continued, for the reader's mind insensibly becomes inured to fresh emotions of awe and horror, and Dracula is by no means briefly told. In the ordinary reprints it extends to more than 400 pages, nor does it escape the penalty of its prolixity. The first part, "Jonathan Harker's Journal," which consists of four chapters, is most admirably done. Could the whole story have been sustained at so high a level we should have had a complete masterpiece but that were scarcely possible.
The description of the journey through Transylvania is interesting and even has passages which attain to something like charm: "All day long we seemed to dawdle through a country which was full of beauty of every kind. Sometimes we saw little towns or castles on the top of steep hills such as we see in old missals; sometimes we ran by rivers and streams which seemed from the wide stony margin on each side of them to be subject to great floods. It takes a lot of water, and running strong, to sweep the outside edge of a river clear."
Very effective is the arrival of the English traveller at the "vast ruined castle, from whose tall black windows came no ray of light, and whose broken battlements showed a jagged line against the moonlit sky." Very adroitly are the various incidents managed in their quick succession, those mysterious happenings which at last convince the matter-of-fact, commonplace young solicitor of Exeter that he is a helpless prisoner in the power of a relentless and fearful being. The continual contrasts between business conversations, the most ordinary events of the dull listless days, and all the while the mantling of dark shadows in the background and the onrushing of some monstrous doom are in these opening chapters most excellently managed.
So tense a strain could not be preserved, and consequently when we are abruptly transported to Whitby and the rather tedious courtships of Lucy Westenra, we feel that a good deal of the interest has already begun to evaporate. I would hasten to add that before long it is again picked up, but is never sustained in the same degree. It is difficult not to feel that one's palate has been a little spoiled by the richness of the opening. This is not to say that the various complications are not sufficiently thrilling, but because of their very bounty now and again they most palpably fail of effect.
If we review Dracula from a purely literary point of view it must be acknowledged that there is much careless writing and many pages could have been compressed and revised with considerable profit. It is hardly possible to feel any great interest in the characters, they are labels rather than individuals. As I have said, there are passages of graphic beauty, passages of graphic horror, but these almost entirely occur within the first sixty pages. There are some capital incidents, for example the method by which Lord Godalming and his friend obtain admittance to No. 347 Piccadilly. Nor does this by any means stand alone. However, when we have - quite fairly I hope - thus criticized Dracula, the fact remains that it is a book of unwonted interest and fascination. Accordingly we are bound to acknowledge that the reason for the immense popularity of this romance - the reason why in spite of obvious faults it is read and re-read - lies in the choice of subject, and for this the author deserves all praise.
It might not have seemed that Dracula would have been a very promising subject for the stage, but nevertheless it was dramatized and produced at the Wimbledon Theatre on 9th March 1925. This version was performed in London at the Little Theatre on 14th February 1927. On the preceding Thursday the Daily Mirror published the following: "Herewith, one of the very few photographs of the late Bram Stoker, who, besides being Sir Henry Irving's manager for years, was an industrious novelist. As I have already said, a dramatic version of his most famous book, 'Dracula,' is to be done at the Little on Monday, and the scene of the Grand Guignol plays is appropriate, for the new piece, I hear, is so full of gruesome thrills that in the provinces women have been carried fainting from the auditorium. Truly we take our pleasures sadly.
"The dramatic adaptation is by Hamilton Deane, whose grandfather, Colonel Deane, and the Rev. Abraham Stoker, Bram's father, lived on adjoining estates in County Dublin. Young Bram and Hamilton Deane’s mother, then a young girl, were great friends. Stoker had the book 'Dracula' in his mind, and the young people used to discuss its possibilities. Strange that it should be young Hamilton Deane who has dramatized the book and brought the play to London."
Very remarkable was a lady, dressed in the uniform of a hospital nurse, who sat in the vestibule of the theatre, and it was bruited that her services were required by members of the audience who were overcome owing to the horrors of the drama. I can only say that I find this canard impossible to believe. As an advertisement, and it can surely have been nothing else, the attendance of a nurse was in deplorable taste. I am informed that after the first few weeks a kind of epilogue was spoken when all the characters were assembled upon the stage, and it was explained that the audience must not be distressed at what they had seen, that it was comically intended for their entertainment.
Confessedly the play was extremely weak, and yet such is the fascination of this subject that it had an exceptional success. It triumphantly made its way from theatre to theatre and all the while it was given to thronging houses. It also toured the provincial theatres with the most marked success. It is curious that the vogue of the "vampire play" in London should have been repeated almost exactly after the interval of a century.
In America the dramatization of Dracula was produced at the Schubert, New Haven, 19th September 1927. This was given at the Fulton, New York, upon the following 5th October. Jonathan Harker was acted by Terence Neil; Abraham Van Helsing by Edward Van Sloan; Renfield by Bernard Jukes and Count Dracula by Bela Lugosi.
The striking fact that an indifferent play should prove so successful can, I think, only be attributed to the fascination of the theme. Consciously or unconsciously it is realized that the vampire tradition contains far more truth than the ordinary individual cares to appreciate and acknowledge.
Author: Montague Summers
Abridged by: Nigel Suckling