I’ll start with a poem of mine.
Among the Stones
It’s lonely here among the stones
Yet, here I am. Alone.
The brittle scrape of limbs on granite.
An hour. A day. Another minute.
The rousing then from sleepless slumber,
Purple sky. A peal of thunder.
Unchained prisoners rise.
A black cloud mars the skies.
They hunt. They feed. They scream. They shriek.
A den of safety, I should seek.
But who of sanest mind
Would e’re believe that here I find
Among the stones’ deserted yard
Your mem’ry stained and scarred?
Silent neighbors do no care.
They have but Time to spend.
It matters not if I am there.
One sunrise starts. Another ends.
There are no prying eyes.
No whispered sympathies where comfort fails to lie.
Just you and me among the stones.
I lift my head and watch you fly.
Jure Grando (1579 – 1656) is perhaps the first documented vampire. His death was attributed to illness, but it was alleged he rose from his grave each night and visited the people of his village.
A knock on a door in the middle of the night was a precursor of the Grim Reaper’s visit within days. Coming face to face with the vampire, the village priest held up a cross and entreated the vampire to leave the village alone. One villager tried to kill him by stabbing him in the chest, but the stick would not pierce the vampire’s chest.
The head of the corpse of Jure Grande was cut off. According to stories, the flesh of the corpse was cut. The vampire awakened and screamed. It was only after the decapitation of the vampire’s corpse that peace returned to the village of Jure Grando. 1
Nachzehrer – a type of German vampire that devours both its body and burial shroud to survive. 2 This type of vampire is commonly created after a suicide or an accidental death. The nachzehrer is not created by a bite from another creature, rather he is transformed after death. Legend goes that this type of vampire devours himself then attacks his family by shapeshifting into a pig and feasting on their blood. The vampire could ascend to the church’s bell tower, ring the bell, and bring death upon all who heard the bell toll. 3
It’s pretty easy to identify this type of vampire. One tradition says he lies in his coffin with one thumb in the other hand and his left eye remains open. 4
To kill a nachzehrer, legend says you put a coin in his mouth and chop his head off. To prevent a corpse from turning into a nachzehrer, put a stone or drive a spike in its mouth. That way it cannot eat its body and its shroud in the first place. 5
Another very old legend has the first vampire starting out as a man named Ambrogio. 6
He traveled to Delphi, site of the ancient oracles.
A series of blessings and curses turned him into a vampire. 7
- Sun burns skin.
- Soul gambled away to the god of the underworld.
- Skin burns if silver touches it.
- Given immortality.
- Blood of swans was used to write poems.
According to legend, Ambrogio moves to Italy and starts a vampire clan. 8 Volunteers who wished to live forever and have power apparently joined the clan. Ambrogio is said to still haunt the city of Florence to this day. 9
Peter Plogojowitz (died 1725) 10
- A vampire believed to have killed 9 people after his death
- A documented case of vampire hysteria
- Reasons why vampire legends arose: 11
- Before it was understood how diseases were spread, it was thought vampires were responsible for ravaging villages.
- Before decomposition was understood, a corpse that was dug up might have a dark purge liquid at the mouth, where organs had decomposed. Fingernails and teeth appeared longer as the skin of the dead person shrank.
Count Dracula – fictional character created by Bram Stoker in his 1897 novel, Dracula.
The work took six years to complete.
The author researched the legend of the vampire and the customs of Translyvania.
The original novel is now in the public domain, and can be found on Project Gutenberg.
Modern Day Vampire
Friedrich Heinrich Karl “Fritz” Haarmann (1879 – 1925) 11
Serial killer known as the Vampire of Hanover
Liked to kill his victims by biting into or through his victims’ Adam’s apple (he called this a ‘love bite’)
From 1918 – 1924 killed at least two dozen people
Bodies of his victims were dismembered
Most were thrown into a river
He often gave the possessions of his victims as ‘gifts’ to friends
After WW1, everything was scarce in Germany. Haarmann was a known trader in contraband meat. Rumors began after his arrest that he ate human flesh and sold it on the black market as ‘horse’ meat. No evidence proved this. 12
Many of his victims were young male runaways or prostitutes
He was arrested, confessed to the murders, and executed. 13
I think a nice way to end this article is with Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, Spirits of the Dead.
Spirits of the Dead
By Edgar Allan Poe
(1809 – 1849)
Thy soul shall find itself alone
‘Mid dark thoughts of the grey tomb-stone;
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.
Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness — for then
The spirits of the dead, who stood
In life before thee, are again
In death around thee, and their will
Shall overshadow thee; be still.
The night, though clear, shall frown,
And the stars shall not look down
From their high thrones in the Heaven
With light like hope to mortals given,
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee forever.
Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,
Now are visions ne’er to vanish;
From thy spirit shall they pass
No more, like dew-drop from the grass.
The breeze, the breath of God, is still,
And the mist upon the hill
Shadowy, shadowy, yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token.
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!