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Vampyres - Their Crimes and Punishments, article in the Mirror of Literature, Amusement and Instruction 1843
Every age has its unaccountables and horrors. The last had its vampyrism. That was really most marvellous, and to credulity in a more than common degree alarming. While reflecting men laughed at the stories told of vampyres, sovereigns sent officers and commissioners to inquire into their terrific proceedings, just as the late Government sent doctors to Russia to invite the cholera to England. Hungary, Poland, Silesia, Bohemia, and Moravia were the favourite scenes of their appearance and exploits. The people of those countries, sunk in the most abject ignorance, placed implicit faith in such wonders. A vampyre haunted and tormented almost every village. Deceased fathers and mothers, who had reposed for years in their graves, appeared again at their dwellings—knocked at the doors, sat down to table in silence, ate little or nothing, sometimes nodded significantly at some unfortunate relation in token of their approaching death, struck them on the back, or sprang on their bellies or throats, and sucked draughts of blood from their veins. In general, however, this last consummation of vampyrism was left as an inference from the other facts—and the statement was, that certain men or women of the village grew pale, and gradually wasted away-blooming girls in the flower of health lost the roses from their cheeks, and sank into rapid and premature decay then an apparition of some deceased individual was seen, and suspicion instantly fixed on him or her as the cause. The grave of the apparition was resorted to where the corpse was invariably found fresh and well-preserved — the eyes open, or only half-closed — the face vermilion-coloured-—the hair and nails long-—-the limbs supple and unstiffened—and the heart beating. Nothing more was necessary to fix on the body the crime of vampyrism, and to attach to it the guilt of having drained the streams of life from all the pale youths and hectic maidens in the vicinity. Some judicial forms of proceeding were, however, often observed before proceeding to inflict the last penalty of justice on the offender. Witnesses were examined as to the facts alleged-—the corpse was drawn from its grave, and handled and inspected, and if the blood was found fluid in the veins, the members supple, and the flesh free from putrescence, a conviction of vampyrism passed-—the executioner proceeded to amputate the head, extract the heart, or sometimes to drive a stake through it, or a nail through the temples, and then the body was burnt, and its ashes dispersed to the winds. Burning was found the only infallible mode of divorcing the spirit from the frame of these pertinacious corpses. Impalement of the heart, which had been long considered to be the means of fixing evil and vagrant spirits to the tomb, was often ineffectual. A herdsman of Blow, near Kadam, in Bohemia, on undergoing this ceremony, laughed at the executioners, and returned them many thanks for giving him a stake to defend himself against the dogs. The same night he arose to his nocturnal meal, and suffocated more persons than he had ever attacked before his impalement. He was at last exhumed and carried out of the village. On being again pierced with stakes he cried out most lustily--sent forth blood of a brilliant erubescence—-and was at last finally quelled by being burnt to cinders. This fact, with many other similar narratives, is related in a work called ‘Magia Posthuma,' by Charles Ferdinand Schertz, dedicated to Prince Charles of Lorraine, Bishop of Olmutz, and printed at Olmutz in 1706. The Rev. Pere Dom. Augustin Calmet, Abbe de Senones (Abbey, as Voltaire insinuates, of 100,000 livres de rente) quotes, in his grand treatise on apparition: and vampyres, an extraordinary case of vampyrism detailed in the Glaneur Hollandois, No. XVIII.
In a certain half-peopled canton of Hungary, near the famous Tockay, and between the river Teisse and Transylvania, the people called the Heiduques were possessed by a firm conviction of the powers of vampyres. About 1727 a certain Heiduque, an inhabitant of Medreiga, named Arnold Paul, was crushed to death under a load of hay. Thirty days afterwards four persons of the village died suddenly with all the symptoms indicative of death by vampyrism. The people, puzzled and eager to discover the vampyre delinquent, at last recollected that Arnold Paul had often related how, in the environs of Cassova, on the frontiers of Turkish Servia (Serbia), he had been tormented and worried by a Turkish vampyre. This, according to the fundamental laws of vampyrism, should have converted Arnold into a vampyre in his grave; for all those who are passive vampyres on earth, invariably become vampyres active when they descend to the tomb. Arnold Paul had, however, always stated that he had preserved himself from contagion from the attacks of the Turkish vampyre by eating some of the earth of his grave and by embrocating himself with his blood. All precautions appeared, however, to be fruitless, for the inhabitants of Medreiga, on opening his tomb forty days after his death, found upon him all the undoubted indices of an arch-vampyre-—his corpse ruddy, his nails elongated, his veins swelling with a sanguinary tide which oozed from his pores and covered his shroud and winding-sheet. The hadagni or bailiff of the place, “qui etoit un homme expert dans le vampirisme," proceeded to impale Vampyre Arnold through the heart; on which he sent forth horrid cries with all the energy of a living subject. His head was then cut off and his body burnt. Similar execution was then performed on the four deceased persons, the supposed victims of Vampyre Arnold's attacks, and the Heiduques fancied themselves in safety from these terrific persecutors. Five years afterwards, we read, the same fatal prodigies reappeared. During the space of three months, seventeen persons of different ages and sexes died with all the old diagnostics —-some without any visible malady-—others after several days of languor and atrophy. Amongst others a girl named Stanoska, daughter of the Heiduque Stotuitzo, went one night to rest in perfect health, but woke in the middle of the night shrieking and trembling violently— she asserted that the son of the Heiduque Millo, who had died nine weeks before, had attacked her in her sleep and had nearly strangled her with his grasp. Heiduque Millo’s son was instantly charged with vampyrism. The magistrates, physicians, and surgeons of the commune repaired to his grave, and found his body with all the usual characteristics of animation and imputrescence, but they were at a loss to understand from what channel he had derived his faculties. At last it was discovered that the exhausted vampyre Arnold Paul had strangled, not only the four deceased persons, but also a number of cattle, whose flesh had been plentifully eaten by Millo's son and other villagers. This discovery threw the Heiduques into fresh consternation, and afforded a horrid prospect of an indefinite renewal of the horrors of vampyrism. It was resolved to open the tombs of all those who had been buried since the flesh of the cattle had been consumed. Among forty corpses, seventeen were found with all the indubitable characteristics of confirmed vampyres. The bodies were speedily decapitated, the hearts impaled, and the members burnt, and their ashes cast into the river Teisse. The Abbe Dom. Calmet inquired into these facts, and found them all judicially authenticated by local authorities. and attested by the officers of the Imperial garrisons, the surgeon-majors of the regiments, and the principal inhabitants of the district. The proces verbal of the whole proceedings was sent, in January 1735, to the Imperial Council of War at Vienna, who had established a military commission to inquire into the facts. “Proces verbaux" and “juridical authentications“ certainly are high-sounding things -but a sceptical critic has pretended that his Imperial Majesty's surgeons-major and counsellors of war might perchance be deceived in some respects; and admitting a great deal of what they attest to be true, that vampyrism is not a necessary inference from it-—that Miss Stanoska was only a young lady of weak health and head, and strong imagination, who dreamt that young Mr Millo appeared to her in the night, and laid hold on her more rudely than was becoming in a deceased person, which frightened her into fits, and occasioned her death in a few days—that though she professed to be sucked, yet she could not show the Wound, or the dente labris notam of the vampyre—that no person ever caught a vampyre in the fact of his sanguinary
osculations—and that, in this case, no purple aperture was exhibited on any of the individual throats, which the connoisseurs assert is the sure trace of the vampyre's embrace—that as for the fresh and vermilion corpses, allowing for the common exaggeration of two-thirds in the length of the period since their burial, their preservation might be easily accounted for, by certain antiseptic qualities in the soil, similar to those in the abbatial vaults at Toulouse and other places.
Reasonings of this sort by no means either satisfied the poor Hungarians and Poles, or the physicians and metaphysicians of Germany and Sclavonia (Croatia). The universities rang with the names of Stanoska and Arnold Paul; and while the book-stalls every day sent forth ‘Cogitationes de Vampiriis,’ ‘Dissertationes de masticatione mortuorum,’ &c. the churchyards of Sclavonia every day vomited forth fresh bloodsuckers to confound or support their theories. At Warsaw, a priest having ordered a bridle of a saddler, died before it was completed. A few days afterwards he appeared on horseback, clad in the costume in which priests are buried, and demanded his bridle of the saddler. “But you are dead, Monsieur le Cure,” said the man. “I shall soon let you know the contrary,” replied the reverend father, striking him a slight blow. The priest rode home to his grave, and in a few days the poor saddler was a corpse.——Sometimes the people ate bread steeped in the blood of a vampyre; and at the impalement a white handkerchief was dipped in his blood, and handed round to the multitude to suck as a preservative against future attacks. A device resorted to in Walachia, in order to detect suspected vampyres, has something in it singularly wild and poetical. The people would place a virgin youth, about the age of puberty, on a horse as yet insolitus blando labori, of a jet black colour, without a speck of white. The boy rode the horse about a suspected burying-ground, and over all the graves; and when the animal stopped short, and snorted, and refused, in spite of whip and spur, to set foot on any particular grave, it was an unerring indication that a vampyre lay within. The people immediately opened the tomb, and in general found it occupied by a fresh and well-fed corpse, stretched out like a person in a blooming and profound sleep. The Abbé Dom. Calmet, after a diligent inquiry into the subject, satisfied himself on every point, except the manner in which the vampyre escapes from his tomb without deranging the soil, and enters through doors and windows without opening or breaking them. Either the resuscitation of these bodies, says the Abbé, must be the work of the Deity, of the angels of the soul of the deceased, or of the evil demon. That the Deity cannot be the instrument is proved by the horrid purposes for which the vampyre appears--and how can the angels, or the soul, or the demon, rarefy and subtilize gross corporeal substances, so as to make them penetrate the earth like air or water, pass through keyholes, stone walls, and easements?—even taking it for granted that their power would extend to make the corpse walk, speak, eat with a good appetite, and preserve its fresh looks. The only instance directly against Dom. Calmet, where the vampyre has been caught in articulo resurgendi, is one stated before one of the many vampyre special commissions appointed by the Bishop of Olmutz, at the beginning of the last century. The village of Liebava being infested, an Hungarian placed himself on the top of the church tower, and just before midnight (from midday to midnight are the vampyres’ ordinary dinnerhours) saw the well-known vampyre issue from a tomb, and, leaving his winding-sheet, proceed on his rounds. The Hungarian descended and took away the linen —which threw the vampyre into great fury on his return, and the Hungarian told him to ascend the tower and recover it. The vampyre mounted the ladder but the Hungarian gave him a blow on the head which hurled him down to the church-yard, and descended and cut of his head with a hatchet; and although he was neither burnt nor impaled, the vampyre seems to have retired from practice, and was never more heard of.