Vampires by Elliott O'Donnell 1911
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According to a work by Jos. Ennemoser, entitled The Phantom World, Hungary was at one time full of vampires. Between the river Theiss and Transylvania, were (and still are, I believe) a people called Heyducs, who were much pestered with this particularly noxious kind of phantasm. About 1732, a Heyduc called Arnauld Paul was crushed to death by a wagon. Thirty days after his burial a great number of people began to die, and it was then remembered that Paul had said he was tormented by a vampire. A consultation was held and it was decided to exhume him. On digging up his body, it was found to be red all over and literally bursting with blood, some of which had forced a passage out and wetted his winding sheet. Moreover, his hair, nails, and beard had grown considerably. These being sure signs that the corpse was possessed by a vampire, the local bailie was fetched and the usual proceedings for the expulsion of the undesirable phantasm began. A stake, sharply pointed at one end, was handed to the bailie, who, raising it above his head, drove it with all his might into the heart of the corpse. There then issued from the body the most fearful screams, whereupon it was at once thrown into a fire that had been specially prepared for it, and burned to ashes. But, though this was the end of that particular vampire, it was by no means the end of the hauntings; for the deaths, far from decreasing in number, continued in rapid succession, and no less than seventeen people in the village died within a period of three months. The question now arose as to which of the other bodies in the cemetery were "possessed," it being very evident that more than one vampire lay buried there. Whilst the matter was at the height of discussion, the solution to the problem was brought about thus. A girl, of the name of Stanoska, awoke in the middle of the night, uttering the most heartrending screams, and declaring that the son of a man called Millo (who had been dead nine weeks) had nearly strangled her. A rush was at once made to the cemetery, and a general disinterment taking place, seventeen out of the forty corpses (including that of the son of Millo) showed unmistakable signs of vampirism. They were all treated according to the mode described, and their ashes cast into the adjacent river. A committee of inquiry concluded that the spread of vampirism had been due to the eating of certain cattle, of which Paul had been the first to partake. The disturbances ceased with the death of the girl and the destruction of her body, and the full account of the hauntings, attested to by officers of the local garrison, the chief surgeons, and most influential of the inhabitants of the district, was sent to the Imperial Council of War at Venice, which caused a strict inquiry to be made into the matter, and were subsequently, according to Ennemoser, satisfied that all was bona fide.
In another work, A History of Magic, Ennemoser also refers to a case in the village of Kisilova, in Hungary, where the body of an old man, three days after his death, appeared to his son on two consecutive nights, demanding something to eat, and, being given some meat, ate it ravenously. The third night the son died, and the succeeding day witnessed the deaths of some five or six others. The matter was reported to the Tribunal of Belgrade, which promptly sent two officers to inquire into the case. On their arrival the old man's grave was opened, and his body found to be full of blood and natural respiration. A stake was then driven through its heart, and the hauntings ceased.
Though far fewer in number than they were, and more than ever confined to certain localities, I am quite sure that vampires are by no means extinct. Their modes and habits—they are no longer gregarious—have changed with the modes and habits of their victims, but they are none the less vampires. Have I seen them? No! but my not having been thus fortunate, or rather unfortunate, does not make me so discourteous as to disbelieve those who tell me that they have seen a vampire—that peculiar, indefinably peculiar shape that, wriggling along the ground from one tombstone to another, crawls up and over the churchyard wall, and making for the nearest house, disappears through one of its upper windows. Indeed, I have no doubt that had I watched that house some few days afterwards, I should have seen a pale, anæmic looking creature, with projecting teeth and a thoroughly imbecile expression, come out of it. I believe a large percentage of idiots and imbecile epileptics owe their pitiable plight to vampires which, in their infancy, they had the misfortune to attract. I do not think that, as of old, the vampires come to their prey installed in stolen bodies, but that they visit people wholly in spirit form, and, with their superphysical mouths, suck the brain cells dry of intellect. The baby, who is thus the victim of a vampire, grows up into something on a far lower scale of intelligence than dumb animals, more bestial than monkeys, and more dangerous (far more dangerous, if the public only realised it) than tigers; for, whereas the tiger is content with one square meal a day, the hunger of vampirism is never satisfied, and the half-starved, mal-shaped brain cells, the prey of vampirism, are in a constant state of suction, ever trying to draw in mental sustenance from the healthy brain cells around them. Idiots and epileptics are the cephalopoda of the land—only, if anything, fouler, more voracious, and more insatiable than their aquatic prototypes. They never ought to be at large. If not destroyed in their early infancy (which one cannot help thinking would be the most merciful plan both for the idiot and the community in general), those polyp brains ought to be kept in some isolated place where they would have only each other to feed upon. When I see an idiot walking in the streets, I always take very good care to give him a wide berth, as I have no desire that the vampire buried in his withered brain cells should derive any nutrition at my expense. From the fact that some towns which are close to cromlechs, ancient burial-grounds, woods, or moors are full of idiots, leads me to suppose that vampires often frequent the same spots as barrowvians, vagrarians and other types of elementals. Whilst, on the other hand, since many densely crowded centres have fully their share of idiots, I am led to believe that vampires are equally attracted by populous districts, and that, in short, unlike barrowvians and vagrarians, they can be met with pretty nearly everywhere. And now for examples.
A man I know, who spends most of his time in Germany, once had a strange experience when staying in the neighbourhood of the Hartz mountains. One sultry evening in August he was walking in the country, and noticed a perambulator with a white figure, which he took to be that of a remarkably tall nursemaid, bending over it. As he drew nearer, however, he found that he had been mistaken. The figure was nothing human; it had no limbs; it was cylindrical. A faint, sickly sound of sucking caused my friend to start forward with an exclamation of horror, and as he did so, the phantasm glided away from the perambulator and disappeared among the trees. The baby, my friend assured me, was a mere bag of bones, with a ghastly, grinning anæmic face. Again, when touring in Hungary, he had a similar experience. He was walking down a back street in a large, thickly populated town, when he beheld a baby lying on the hot and sticky pavement with a queer-looking object stooping over it. Wondering what on earth the thing was, he advanced rapidly, and saw, to his unmitigated horror, that it was a phantasm with a limbless, cylindrical body, a huge flat, pulpy head, and protruding, luminous lips, which were tightly glued to the infant's ears; and again my friend heard a faint, sickly sound of sucking, and a sound more hideously nauseating, he informed me, could not be imagined. He was too dumbfounded to act; he could only stare; and the phantasm, after continuing its loathsome occupation for some seconds, leisurely arose, and moving away with a gliding motion, vanished in the yard of an adjacent house. The child did not appear to be human, but a concoction of half a dozen diminutive bestialities, and as my friend gazed at it, too fascinated for the moment to tear himself away, it smiled up at him with the hungry, leering smile of vampirism and idiocy.
So much for vampires in the country and in crowded cities, but, as I have already remarked, they are ubiquitous. As an illustration, there is said to be a maritime town in a remote part of England, which, besides being full of quaintness (of a kind not invariably pleasant) and of foul smells, is also full of more than half-savage fishermen and idiots; idiots that often come out at dusk, and greatly alarm strangers by running after them.
Some years ago, one of these idiots went into a stranger's house, took a noisy baby out of its cot, and after tubbing it well (which I think showed that the idiot possessed certain powers of observation), cut off its head, throwing the offending member into the fire. The parents were naturally indignant, and so were some of the inhabitants; but the affair was speedily forgotten, and although the murderer was confined to a lunatic asylum, nothing was done to rid the town of other idiots who were, collectively, doing mischief of a nature far more serious than that of the recently perpetrated murder.
The wild and rugged coast upon which the town is situated was formerly the hunting-ground of wreckers, and I fear the present breed of fishermen, in spite of their hypocritical pretensions to religion, prove only too plainly by their abominable cruelty to birds and inhospitable treatment of strangers, that they are in reality no better than their forbears. This inherited strain of cruelty in the fishermen would alone account for the presence of vampires and every other kind of vicious elemental; but the town has still another attraction—namely, a prehistoric burial-ground, on a wide expanse of thinly populated moorland—in its rear.
À propos of vampires, my friend Mrs South writes to me as follows (I quote her letter ad verbum): "The other night, I was dining with a very old friend of mine whom I had not seen for years, and, during a pause in the conversation, he suddenly said, 'Do you believe in vampires?' I wondered for a moment if he had gone mad, and I think, in my matter-of-fact way, I blurted out something of the sort; but I saw in a moment, from the expression in his eyes, that he had something to tell me, and that he was not at all in the mood to be laughed at or misunderstood, 'Tell me,' I said, 'I am listening.' 'Well,' he replied, 'I had an extraordinary experience a few months ago, and not a word of it have I breathed to any living soul. But sometimes the horror of it so overpowers me that I feel I must share my secret with someone; and you—well, you and I have always been such pals.' I answered nothing, but gently pressed his hand.
"After lighting a cigarette, he commenced his story, which I will give you as nearly as possible in his own words:—
"'It is about six months ago since I returned from my travels. Up to that time I had been away from England for nearly three years, as you know. About a couple of nights after my return, I was dining at my Club, when someone tapped me on the shoulder, and turning round, I saw my old friend S——.
"'As I had no idea he was in London, you may imagine my delight. He joined me at dinner and we went over old times together. He asked me if I had heard anything of our mutual friend G——, to whom we were both very much attached. I said I had had a few lines from him about six months previously, announcing his marriage, but that I had never heard from him nor seen him since. He had settled, I believe, in the heart of the country. S—— then told me that he had not seen G—— since his engagement, neither had he heard from him; in fact he had written to him once or twice, but his letters had received no answer. There were whispered rumours that he was looking ill and unhappy. Hearing this, I got G——'s address from S——, and made up my mind I would run down and see him as soon as I could get away from town.
"'About a week afterwards I found myself, after driving an interminable distance, so it seemed to me, through Devonshire lanes, stopping outside a beautiful house which appeared to be entirely isolated from any other dwelling.
"'A few more minutes and I was standing before a blazing log fire in a fine old hall, eagerly awaiting the welcome I knew my old friend would give me. I did not anticipate long; in less time than it takes to tell G—— appeared, and with slow, painfully slow steps, crossed the hall to greet me. He was wasted to a shadow, and I felt a lump rise in my throat as I thought of the splendid, athletic boy I used to know. He made no excuse for his wife, who did not accompany him; and though I was naturally anxious to see her, I was glad that Jack and I were alone. We chatted together utterly regardless of the time, and it was not until the first gong had sounded that I thought of dressing for dinner. After performing a somewhat hurried toilette, I was hastening downstairs, when I suddenly became conscious that I was being watched. I looked all round and could see no one. I then heard a low, musical laugh just above my head, and looking up, I saw a figure leaning over the banisters. The beauty of the face dazzled me for a moment, and the loveliness of the eyes, which looked into mine and seemed to shine a red gold, held me spellbound. Presently a voice, every whit as lovely as the face, said: "So you are Jack's chum?" The most beautiful woman I have ever seen then came slowly down the stairs, and slipping her arm through mine, led me to the dining-room. As her hand rested on my coat-sleeve, I remember noticing that the fingers were long, and thin, and pointed, and the nails so polished that they almost shone red. Indeed, I could not help feeling somewhat puzzled by the fact that everything about her shone red with the exception of her skin, which, with an equal brilliancy, shone white. At dinner she was lively, but she ate and drank very sparingly, and as though food was loathsome to her.
"'Soon after dinner I felt so exceedingly tired and sleepy, a most unusual thing for me, that I found it absolutely impossible to keep awake, and consequently asked my host and hostess to excuse me. I woke next morning feeling languid and giddy, and, while shaving, I noticed a curious red mark at the base of my neck. I imagined I must have cut myself shaving hurriedly the evening before, and thought nothing more about it.
"'The following night, after dinner, I experienced the same sensation of sleepiness, and felt almost as if I had been drugged. It was impossible for me to keep awake, so I again asked to be excused! On this occasion, after I had retired, a curious thing happened. I dreamed—or at least I suppose I dreamed—that I saw my door slowly open, and the figure of a woman carrying a candle in one hand, and with the other carefully shading the flame, glide noiselessly into my room. She was clad in a loose red gown, and a great rope of hair hung over one shoulder. Again those red-gold eyes looked into mine; again I heard that low musical laugh; and this time I felt powerless either to speak or to move. She leaned down, nearer and nearer to me; her eyes gradually assumed a fiendish and terrible expression; and with a sucking noise, which was horrible to hear, she fastened her crimson lips to the little wound in my neck. I remembered nothing more until the morning. The place on my neck, I thought, looked more inflamed, and as I looked at it, my dream came vividly back to me and I began to wonder if after all it was only a dream. I felt frightfully rotten, so rotten that I decided to return to town that day; and yet I yielded to some strange fascination, and determined, after all, to stay another night. At dinner I drank sparingly; and, making the same excuse as on the previous nights, I retired to bed at an early hour. I lay awake until midnight, waiting for I know not what; and was just thinking what a mad fool I was, when suddenly the door gently opened and again I saw Jack's wife. Slowly she came towards me, gliding as stealthily and noiselessly as a snake. I waited until she leaned over me, until I felt her breath on my cheek, and then—then flung my arms round her. I had just time to see the mad terror in her eyes as she realised I was awake, and the next instant, like an eel, she had slipped from my grasp, and was gone. I never saw her again. I left early the next morning, and I shall never forget dear old Jack's face when I said good-bye to him. It is only a few days since I heard of his death.'"