In 1730, the Count of Cabreras, an Imperial officer who investigated vampires, sent a documented a case to a professor at Freiburg University in Brisgau which involved similarities of vampyre incidents in Hungary.
Fifteen years before, a soldier was quartered in a peasant’s house in Haidamack, Hungary. While he was seated at the table with his host, a stranger came in and sat down with them. The soldier noticed the family acted terrified. The next day, his host died. When he asked about the incident, he was told that the stranger was the ghost of the host’s father who had died over ten years before and came to give him notice of his impending death.
The soldier shared his experience with members of his regiment and the officers were made aware of this. The count was commissioned to investigate. He went to the peasant’s house, accompanied by several officers, a notary and a surgeon and took depositions. They and other inhabitants of the village swore what the soldier had told him was true. The count ordered the body to be dug up and decapitated when it was found to be as if it had just died and the blood like a living person.
There was another vampyre that the count investigated. This man was dead for over thirty years and had visited his house during mealtime upon several occasions. The first time, he bit his brother in the neck and sucked his blood and the next two times, he did the same to one of his children and a servant. All three died instantly.
The count ordered the body dug up and the corpse was found in the same condition as the first. A large nail was driven through his temples. There was a third vampyre and his body was burned because he murdered two of his children by sucking their blood.
In 1732, Gleaner, a Dutch journal, put together a list of vampyre epidemics in Hungary, Moravia and Turkish Serbia. Many cases had been published in Germany between 1728 and 1734, indicating the interest in the Hungarian vampire epidemics.
But, Hungary was not alone in having vampyres. The belief was nearly universal throughout Europe. For easier reading, the beliefs are in the form of a table. Country: vampires’ names, how “killed,” how they become vampires:
Albania: Sampiro, Stake through the heart, Natural, by birth
Bavaria: Nachtzeher, Coin in mouth, Axe decapitation, Born with a second skin
Bohemia and Moravia: Ogoljen, Mura, Vilkodlak, Buried at crossroads, Unknown
Bulgaria: Krvoijac, Chained to grave with wild roses, Unknown
Crete: Kathakanko, Decapitation and head boiled in vinegar, Unknown
Croatia: Pijavica, Head decapitated and placed between legs, Incest with mother
Dalmatia: Kuzlak, Transfixion with hawthorn branches, Weaning too early
Greece: Brukulako, Vrykolako, Decapitation and head burned, Unknown
Hungary: Liderc nadaly, Vampyr, Stake through heart, Large nail through temple, Unknown
Ireland: Dearg-dul, Piling stones on grave, Unknown
Italy: Vampiro, Undetermined, Unknown
Macedonia: Vryolakas, Pour boiling oil on corpse, Driving nail in navel, Natural, by birth
Poland: Upier, Upierzyca, Bury face downwards, Born with teeth
Portugal: Brusxa, No known cure, Unknown
Prussia: Gierach, Stryz, Poppy seeds in grave, Unknown
Rumania: Strigoiul, Muronul, Remove heart and cut in two, Garlic in mouth, Nail in head, Stake through heart
Russia: Myertovets, Vurdalak, Upierzhy, Transfixion with stake though chest, Drive stake through heart once only, if more times, it revives, Son of werewolf or Witchcraft
Saxony: Neuntoter, Lemon in mouth, Unknown
Serbia: Vlkoslak, Mulo, Dhampir, Cutting toes off, Driving nail through neck, Incest, Killed by werewolf, Stillborn
Slovenia: Vukodlak, Undetermined, Unknown
Spain: Vampiro, No known cure, Unknown
Sweden: Vampyr, Undetermined, Unknown
While the epidemic raged in Hungary, the authorities, both state and church, were baffled. It was considered to be like other epidemic. From 1692 to 1694, over 30,000 of Prince Savoya’s soldiers died of the Black Death. During the year 1708, smallpox and sickness caused the deaths of over half a million people. In 1719, over half of the population of Transylvania died of the same causes. Epidemics were considered to be sent by God to the people for their sins.
Different ways to stop the epidemics were tried. There were prayers and penance. Holy Trinity, or pestilence, columns were erected. Pagan practices were revived. Fires, known as living fires were lit. A virgin and a chaste boy lit a fire, then, when the bonfire diminished, cattle were driven through it and the people rubbed themselves with the ashes.
In the early 1730s, a Walloon Officer in the Imperial wrote about his experience with the epidemics.
The vampyre’s victim falls into a state of lethargy. The appetite and weight are lost, and, within about eight or ten days, without any other signs of illness, including fever, except for anemia, dies. The body is dry and withered. It is said a vampyre attacked him and drained his blood. Many of the victims say they saw a white spectre following them and staying as close to them as possible.
Dr. Herbert Mayo, senior surgeon at Middlesex Hospital in 1851, wrote about vampyre attacks and epidemics. He looked for a link between superstitious auto-suggestion and the physical symptoms. He proposed that those who were most vulnerable and fell into the death trance had irritable and weak nervous systems. They are apt to have delusions of terror and to dream or believe that they have seen the last victim of the epidemic.
The dream or delusion is likely to recur. These people talk to others, who, like themselves, succumb to the death trance. Appetite is lost and anemia occurs. Mass hysteria, like that of Salem and its witch hunts, is created.
All properly documented vampyre attack cases have one thing in common. The attack is done by a known vampyre. Usually, it begins with a kiss on the person’s neck, then it turns into a bite where the blood is sucked. Rarely was pain reported. Most victims fell into a state of euphoria.
It is an established fact that people can die from psychological causes. In societies that believe in sorcery, people do die when they think they have been cursed when there is nothing physically wrong with them to cause death.
There is a “vampire” psychosis in which people believe that they are vampires and exhibit this type of behavior, although this is rare. There is also pica, which is the craving for substances that are not normally ingested, which is also rare.
Then, there are the psychopathic thrill seekers who will indulge in this behavior for the momentary “high” it brings.
But, the mystery is that, when the corpses have been exhumed from their graves, they do look like one who has recently died and the blood in their bodies evidences this.
Ronay, Gabriel, The Truth About Dracula. ISBN: 0-8128-1750-8
Author: Jill Stefko, PhD