Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Vampire, article in The International Cyclopædia 1895

The Vampire, article in The International Cyclopædia: A Compendium of Human Knowledge 1895 - Visit my Supernatural blog at

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VAMPIRE (Ger. vampyr), called also by the Servians vukodlak, and by the Wallachians murony, is, according to the popular belief of the Slavonic, Romanic, and Greek population of the Lower Danube and the Thessalian peninsula, a blood-sucking ghost. In the mythology of the ancient Greeks, beings of a similar nature existed—the Lamias, beautiful phantom women who, by all sorts of voluptuous delusions, allured youths to them in order to feast on their fresh, young, and pure blood and flesh. And among the Greek Christians there is a belief that the bodies of those who have died in excommunication are kept by the devil in a kind of life; that they go forth from their graves by night and suddenly destroy other men, and also by other means procure food.and thus keep themselves in good condition. They are called Burkolakke, or Tympanita; and the only way of escaping from their molestation is by digging up their unwashed corpses and burning them, after the removal of the excommunication. The vampire proper is the illegitimate offspring of parents themselves illegitimate, or the troubled spirit of one killed by a vampire. During the day be lies as a corpse, but turned in his grave, with a florid appearance and warm blood, open staring eyes, and skin, hair, and nails still growing. But by night, especially at full moon, he wanders about in the form of a dog, frog, toad, cat, flea, louse, bug, spider, etc., and sucks the blood from living persons by biting them in the back or neck. If a dead person is under suspicion of living a vampire his body is disinterred, and if it is found putrid it is only sprinkled with holy water by the priest; but if it is red and bloody, the devil is driven out, and on re-interring it a stake is driven through the breast, or a nail through the forehead; or it is perhaps burned.

The Vukodlaks, who are particularly greedy for the blood of young girls, pair with the Wjeschitza, a female ghost with wings of fire, which by night sinks down on the breast of the sleeping soldier, presses him in her arms, and inspires him with her fury. As, according to popular belief, every one who is killed by a vampire becomes himself a vampire, an outward sign of the vampire bite usually remains, although not always visible and recognizable by every one; therefore, at the obsequies of every Wallachian, of whatever age or sex, there is always a skilled person, generally a midwife, called in, in order to take precautious against the corpse becoming a vampire. A long nail, for instance, is driven through the skull; it is then rubbed in various places with the lard of a pig killed on St. Iguatius's day, and a stick made of the stem of a wild rose is laid beside it. Thessaly, Epirus, and the Wallachians of the Pindus know another kind of vampire still—living men who by night leave their shepherd dwellings, and, roving about, bite and tear everything that they meet, men as well as beasts. The Priccolitsch and the Priecolitschone of the Moldavo-Wallachians, who wanders about more frequently than the Murony proper, is likewise a real living man, who, by night, in the form of a dog, roams over heaths, pastures, and villages; and especially kills cattle and sucks their blood, from which cause he always looks healthy and blooming. Such a man is known by his backbone being prolonged in the form of a dog's tail. Thus the Vukodlak and the Murony would be something analogous to the nightmare of German mythology; and the Priccolilsch, on the other hand, to the Werewolf. The ghouls of the Arabs and Persians would seem to be identical with the vampires. In 1725 and 1732 exciting rumors about supposed vampires arose in Hungary and Servia, which resulted in the disinterment of numerous corpses and caused the publication of a multitude of writings in Germany for and against the matter, among which the most important is Ranft's Treatise on the True Nature of the Hungarian Vampire, in which an account is given of all the writings which had appeared on the subject (Leip. 1734).

The name vampire has been appropriated to blood-sucking bats. It was erroneously given to bats of the s.e. of Asia and Malayan archipelago, which are really frugivorous. The blood-sucking bats are all South American, and belong to the genus phyllostoma, or specter-bat, and genera nearly allied to it. The true vampires (desmodus) resemble the specter-bats; they have a small bifid membrane on the nose, no tail, and the inter-femoral membrane little developed. They have two great projecting, approximate upper incisors, and similar lancet-shaped superior canines, all of which are very sharp-pointed, and arranged to make a triple puncture like that of a leech. There are four bilobiate inferior incisors, the innermost separated by a wide interval; the lower canines are small; there are no true molars, but two false molars in the upper jaw, and three in the lower, of a peculiar form, apparently unfitted for mastication. The intestine is shorter than in any other mammal, and the whole structure seems to indicate that blood is the sole food. In some parts of South America, vampires are very numerous, and domestic animals suffer greatly from their nocturnal attacks. They seem to take advantage of an existing wound, but they can also make one. In some parts of Brazil the rearing of calves is impossible, on account of these bats, and there are districts, chiefly those in which limestone rocks prevail, with numerous caves, in which cattle cannot be profitably kept. Vampires sometimes attack men, when sleeping in the open air; but the stories of their fanning their victims with their wings, whilst they suck their blood, are fabulous.

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