Arnold Paole and His Successors

This is one of the instances in folklore where a person is turned into a vampire by another such creature. Arnold Paole was a Serbian soldier who lived in the early 1700s. While alive, he admitted that he witnessed and was part of some ghastly occurrences. Paole said that while he was in Gossowa (in Turkish Serbia), he was attacked by a vampire. The people of that are and era believed that the only way to rid oneself of a troublesome vampire was to eat some of the earth from its grave and smear oneself with the creature's blood. Paole claimed to have done just that, although it is unclear how he obtained some of the vampire's blood.

Apparently, the method worked as a deterrent but not as a cure. Paole was able to return to his home in 1727; however, he died soon after from a fall off a haywagon, and was buried. Within a month after Paole's death, the people of his village started reporting that he was attacking them at night. Four of the victims eventually died.

The villagers began to fear the vampire, and decided to dig up his body. When the "hunters" did so, they found that Paole's body was undecayed, his skin and nails had fallen away and had been replaced by new skin and nails, and(of course)streams of "fresh blood" were flowing from his orifices. To rid themselves of the monster, the villagers drove a wooden stake through Paole, and according to them, the vampire groaned and blood erupted from his body. They then burned the body.

Paole never again bothered anyone, but the hunters were still not satisfied that the curse was lifted from their village. They believed that all of Paole's victims were also vampires, and to make sure the village was free from vampires for good, the hunters dug up those bodies as well. They found them also to be in the "vampire condition," and disposed of them in the same manner.

Several years later, another epidemic apparently broke out, because another vampire hunt occurred in the same graveyard. In the account of that expedition, Visum et Repertum, which is translated in Paul Barber's book Vampires, Burial, and Death, sixteen alleged vampires were exhumed. All of the "successors" of Paole seemed to have the same characteristics as he did(lack of decomposition, new skin and nails, and the presence of fresh blood). Also, all the vampires were buried for approximately the same amount of time--around two months.

Four of the vampires were infants, and three of them were buried along with their mothers(who were among the alleged sixteen vampires). The belief that a vampire's child would also become a vampire was common in Greece as well.

There is no surviving written testimony of just what Paole's victims saw, or of how they were attacked by him. The only evidence we have is the secondary source already mentioned, the Visum et Repertum. That is a secondary account because it was written by the hunters who investigated Paole's successors. How reliable is this source for determining what actually happened at the graveyard in either instance?

There is no accurate way to determine that for certain, but something is clear: Even if the hunters in both instances did see exactly what they reported, that still does not provide actual evidence for the existence of immortal blood drinkers. Here's why:

The vampire hunters of years ago did not possess the medical knowledge we have today. When they exhumed bodies in those days and commented on their appearance, the hunters did not exactly have anything to compare that physical condition to. The only partially decomposed corpses they might have come across, besides those of "vampires," were ones that were accidentally discovered in remote locations, and which animals or the elements had helped along in decomposition. Even medical doctors in Europe at the time did not have a good knowledge of how decomposition progressed in a human corpse.

Add to that lack of knowledge the superstitious beliefs of the investigators, and it becomes easy to doubt their judgment. In many countries, it was believed that the soul of a person remained among the living for forty days. For that period of time, many cultures practiced strict mourning and various traditions, such as covering all the mirrors in a house until the spirit was gone. However, after the forty-day period ended, the general belief was that the soul would move on, and the corpse would consequently decompose.

Various occult theories either agree or disagree with the theory that souls remain among the living for forty days; however, no modern scientific theory supports the idea that a corpse should fully decompose after forty days. Decomposition actually begins a few hours after death, as free-radicals begin to have free reign over the organism, and decay is accelerated by bacteria and other parasites. Decomposition to skeletal remains can take several months or even years, depending on a large number of factors. Also, the process does not resemble what the vampire hunters of yesterday expected.

Therefore, even though Arnold Paole was discovered in a "non-decomposed" state, according to the account we have, it is the perception of decomposition or the lack thereof that is important. The fact that Paole's body was not a skeleton after forty days would probably have been enough to make the hunters believe they were seeing a vampire. However, that was not all they found. Paole's skin and nails had fallen away and were replaced with new skin and nails. Despite what the hunters thought that evidence is also not conclusive.

When a corpse decomposes, the state of its tissues changes. Sometimes, outer layers of skin fall off as the inner layers begin to liquefy. The inner layers would often have a ruddy appearance, and could appear to be "new skin" to someone who didn't know better. Also, nails, and eventually hair, begin to fall off a decomposing body. The shape of the skin under the nail could look as if new nails were forming.

As for the last vampiric characteristic of Paole's body--the flowing of blood from the orifices--there is also a scientific explanation. During decomposition, gasses build up in a corpse, causing many strange-looking things to occur. As the gases continue to build, the body begins to swell. At the same time, liquefaction of the internal tissues and organs continues. The pressure from the gases could cause the resulting dark liquids(not really pure blood) to be forced from the body through the areas of least resistance(the eyes, the nostrils, and of course, the mouth).

While we're discussing the swelling of the body, a couple of things should be mentioned. If the swelling is observed in this early stage(before the body begins to look unusually distended) or in its late stages(after it has begun to subside), the body would have the appearance of being quite whole. In fact, a deceased elderly person might even look younger because any wrinkles or discolorations would seem to have vanished. Because Paole's hunters(and those who came after) expected to find little more than bones, a slightly bloated corpse could look like it was alive.

Also, the bloating would cause one other characteristic noticed in this case. When the body of Arnold Paole was staked, it emitted a groan and a large of amount of blood. Both of these occurrences could have been caused by the sudden expelling of gas and liquid that had built up in the body. Driving a stake into a body in that state of decomposition would be like popping a water balloon with a pin.

That about covers both sides of the Paole case. As you can see, because we can't be sure of exactly what Paole's alleged victims experienced, we are left with nothing more than observations of a corpse that could have been decomposing naturally. So the question of whether or not Arnold Paole was a vampire remains unanswered. It is interesting to remember that once his body was destroyed, there were no more instances of vampirism attributed to him. Of course, if superstitious fear is the only thing that made the villagers think Paole was a vampire in the first place, simply reporting that his body was destroyed would probably have had the same peace-giving effect.

To continue our examination of immortal blood drinkers, we'll look at one of Paole's fellow countrymen who also entered the pages of history as a possible vampire; his story follows.

Peter Plogojowitz

This case of vampirism took place in a section of Serbia that later became part of Hungary. The hunters in this account conveyed their feelings to an impartial observer, who then prepared a record of the incident in a thorough manner. The amount of evidence present in the case makes a strong argument for the existence of immortal blood drinkers if viewed alone. However, as in the other cases in this chapter, the possible non-occult explanations weaken the case. Some of the characteristics of this incident are similar to those of the previous one.

The incident took place in the village of Kisilova around the mid-1720s. It should be noted, before proceeding, that the facts are taken from the eyewitness report of the Imperial Provisor of the region. He was present, along with the Gradisk parish priest(called a pope), at the exhumation of the "vampire." Whether that makes the information any more reliable than accounts of other incidents remains to be seen. Unfortunately, the victims' accounts of what happened were not recorded in a manner that lends them credibility(there are no surviving quotes from any of those attacked, although one of the victims was identified).

Peter Plogojowitz, the alleged vampire, died(it's not clear of what) and was buried. He was in his grave for about then weeks when the villagers reported seeing him at night. They claimed that he came to them while they were in their bed and attacked them(it is Plogojowitz's alleged materializations in the houses of others that made him a phantom-like vampire). Some victims indicated that the vampire suffocated them. Overall, nine people died within a week.

The general panic worsened when Plogojowitz's wife claimed to have seen her husband. She said that he came to her asking for his shoes(it was a common belief in Europe that vampires desired certain earthly possessions). The woman was so terrified by the encounter that she left the village. After that, the people decided to exhume Plogojowitz's body to dispose of him as a threat once and for all.

The Imperial Provisor who reported the incident was at first against the idea fo the vampire hunt, but he saw that the people could not be discouraged. So he and the parish priest went to the graveyard. When the body was exhumed, the fist thing they noticed was that it was odor-free. They also noticed that the body was not decomposed and was whole, except for the nose, which had fallen away. Also, Plogojowitz's skin had fallen away, and new skin was growing. The same was true for his nails. Finally, there was blood flowing from his mouth.

To destroy the body, the traditional stake was used. When it was driven through the "vampire," plenty of what was believed to be fresh blood issued forth from the body. The body also displayed some "wild signs" which were not made clear in the report. After the staking, the body was burned and the village was no longer troubled.

To avoid repetition, it should be noted that several of the preceding observations can be explained with the arguments presented in the last case. As for the lack of odor, that could depend on a number of factors. It is not clear during what time of year the incident took place. However, if it were winter, it is hard to imagine someone detecting the scent of an exhumed body amid a crowd of people who lived in a less-sanitary time, and who were probably carrying torches. Finally, the condition of the corpse's nose should be noted. Because the nose is shaped by cartilage alone, it is easy to imagine what would happen to that shape after a body had bloated.

As you might have noticed, the similarities between the last two cases resulted in a need for fewer necessary "rational" explanations in the latter one. However, some cases in this chapter seem to defy rational explanation. The next one is a good example. It also takes place in Hungary(we will, of course, deal with cases from other areas of Europe, but for now, keeping tales from related areas together serves as a means of comparison).

The Vampire of Haidamaque

Augustine Calmet, in his hard-to-find The Phantom World, describes a case that, if true, provides some strong evidence for the existence of immortal blood drinkers. Part of the reason for that is the number of years the alleged vampires in the story had already been dead(or perhaps, undead). The following events were reported in 1730 by the Count de Cabreras, who was the captain of the Alandetti infantry of Hungary. However, they were supposed to have occurred around the year 1715(the early 1700s was apparently a popular time for vampirism in Europe). This is one of the few cases of vampirism where a count mentioned in the story is not the vampire.

Some of the count's men were temporarily stationed in the town of Haidamaque, and were consequently staying with the villagers(a common practice at that time). One of the soldiers(whose name is not mentioned) was sitting at a table one day with his host(the master of the house) and some of the man's friends and/or family(it is not clear exactly who the others were). On that evening, a man the soldier did not recognize came in and sat down at the table next to the master of the house. Everyone at the table seemed very nervous at this coming, and the soldier wasn't sure why that was so.

The next morning, the soldier woke up and found that his host was dead. Curious, the soldier asked if the strange visitor had anything to do with it. The others in the house told the soldier that the man who appeared was the host's father, who had been head and buried for ten years! Apparently, they believed he had come to take his son.

Upon hearing that, the soldier informed the others in his regiment, who then contacted the Count de Cabreras. The count was intrigued enough by the report to go the house with some of his men and a surgeon to check the facts for himself. Satisfied that the inhabitants of the house, along with the rest of the village, believed the story to be true, he went with his expedition to the graveyard. They located the grave of the house master's father, and removed the body.

The alleged vampire discovered in the grave seemed to be completely undecayed, as if he were still alive. There was no mention of skin and nails having fallen off and growing back. Also, it is mentioned in the report that his blood was like that of a living man. That was probably an afterthought caused by what happened next. The count had his soldiers cut off the vampire's head, and the preceding statement probably indicates that there was a heavy flow of blood as a result.

After the vampire was disposed of, the count asked if there were any other such creatures in the vicinity. The villagers told him of a couple of instances of vampirism. The first was a man who had died more than thirty years before. He had come back to his own house on three occasions(all of them mealtime). The fist time, the vampire attacked and drank the blood of his brother, who died instantly. The next two times, he did the same to his son and a servant, respectively. Both died as well. When they exhumed the body of that vampire, they found it to be in the same condition as the first. This time, however, the count had his men drive a nail into the head of the creature.

The other vampire the villagers mentioned was a man who had died about sixteen years before. That vampire supposedly drank the blood of his two sons, killing both of them. When they removed that body from the grave, they found that it was in a similar vampiric condition. The count, who apparently liked to vary his methods of vampire killing, ordered that the creature to be burned.

If the eyewitnesses in the preceding case are telling the truth, and if the dates have not been distorted, there is no way the events described could be attributed to the lack of medical knowledge on the part of the count and his hunters. A body that has been in the ground for ten years could not in any way resemble that of a living person. The state of decay in the corpses buried for sixteen and thirty years would be, logically, even worse. Unfortunately, the case happened too long ago to be verified, but if taken at face value, the preceding account does seem to prove the existence of immortal blood drinkers, doesn't it?

The Croglin Grange Vampire

Like all the cases in this chapter, this is a tale that can't be proven. With re-telling, stories often become a little more exciting than they might have been. Eventually, the original facts can be lost even by the storytellers, making some stories in folklore a little hard to accept as truth.

The case of the Croglin Grange Vampire is a good candidate for a story that might have been altered with re-telling. An account of it appeared in Augustine Hare's book Story of My Life in the later 1890s. Although it was not told to him by an actual witness, Hare felt that it must be true and wrote it down. How much of the story has a basis in fact is anyone's guess.

According to Hare's account, Croglin Grange was a house in Cumberland (modern-day Cumbria), England. While no record or remains of such a place exist, the house seems to be a reference to the real Low Croglin Hall of the area.

Sometime in the mid-1870s, the owners of Croglin Grange, the Fisher family, rented the large one-story house to three(un-named) tenants--two brothers and their sister--among a few others. On one night in the fist summer the three spent in the house, the yooung woman decided not to close the shutters on her window. As she lay in the bed, she had a clear view from her house to the belt of trees that separated the churchyard from her yard. She noticed there were two bizarre lights moving in a weaving manner between the trees. In a few moments, the lights emerged from the tree belt, and she realized they were the eyes of some dark, humanoid creature.

The young woman sat up in bed, terrified, as she noticed the thing running across the lawn toward the house. Every so often it would vanish into the shadows, only to re-emerge, closer than before. She wanted to scream, but her voice was paralyzed with terror; she wanted to run to her bedroom door, but the window was too close to it and she feared that the thing might be able to see her.

Eventually, the creature seemed to change course, and the woman thought it was running around the house. She immediately jumped out of bed and ran to her bedroom door, apparently hoping to get to her brothers, but when she reached the door, she heard a strange scratching at her window, and turned to to it. The thing was right outside her window. It had what she would later describe as a hideous brown face with flaming eyes, and it was staring right at her. She screamed and ran back to her bed.

She noticed the creature had started picking at one of the panes in the window, and in moments, one of the pieces of glass fell into the room. The vampire then put its hand in through the window, unlocked it, and opened it. Within seconds, it was in the room and standing over her. It immediately grabbed her by the hair, pulled her head back, and bit into her throat. She screamed loudly, and in a few seconds, her brothers came running to her locked bedroom door and broke it down.

When they entered the room, the two men found their sister lying in bed, unconscious and with her neck bleeding. The vampire was in the process of escaping through the open window. One brother chased it into the woods and noticed that it seemed to disappear over the wall of the churchyard. The other brother tended to his injured sister.

Later, when the woman recovered consciousness, she commented that her attacker was probably some lunatic who had escaped from an asylum. The doctor who examined her the next day felt that she had suffered a great shock, and, regardless of what had caused it, some change in her surroundings would do her much good. So the three decided to go away to Switzerland. They stayed there until the autumn, when the young woman decided that she would like to return, commenting that lunatics do not escape from asylums every day.

She stayed in the same room upon her return, but started closing her shutters from then on. However, the shutters were of the type that did not cover the top pane of the window. One night in March, she heard a scratching again. When she looked out the top pane, she saw the same brown face with the flaming eyes looking at her. She screamed immediately this time, and her brothers, who were ready for such an occasion, ran out the front of the house with pistols. They chased the creature, and one of the brothers managed to shoot it in the leg. The vampire still made it over the churchyard fence, however, and the two watched it vanish into an old, decrepit vault.

The next morning, the brothers went with all the other tenants in the house to the churchyard. There they opened the suspected vault and found that all of the coffins within had been opened and their contents ripped out. One coffin alone was untouched. The group immediately went to that coffin and opened it.

Inside they found the vampire. They described it as being shriveled, brown, and mummified in appearance. On its leg was the mark of a pistol shot, which positively identified the creature to the brothers who had chased and shot it. To destroy the vampire, the group took it out and burned it.

The authenticity of the above story is questionable, as is the case with many folktales of vampirism. However, like those other tales, there might be some truth in it. What makes the story most interesting is the description given of the vampire. Descriptions of brown, mummified-looking vampires with shriveled skin are not exactly common in folklore. There is possibility, however, that the "vampire" was little more than just a decaying corpse, which would explain the creature's appearance, but not the story of the two young men and their sister. What motive they would have for making up such a story is anyone's guess. We will never know for certain if this story is true or false.

Let's say that the three were telling the truth, and really did witness the strange occurrences already described. The case of the Croglin Grange Vampire would then be the first documented instance of vampirism where the attacking vampire was physically proven to be the same entity as the corpse exhumed by a hunting party. The bullet wound found in the creature's leg might very well be the first piece of evidence to put a vampire at the "scene of the crime."

There is still controversy over whether the Croglin Grange Vampire was factual or fictional. The people in the area, as well as researchers from around the world, have differing opinions about the famous case. However, not every case of vampirism is disbelieved after its occurrence. I have learned of a particular incident that as recently as the mid-1970s was definitely accepted as having occurred, although I haven't been able to ascertain if that is still so in the mid-1990s.

Author: Stella


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