“A Residence in Bulgaria” – or – “Notes on the Resources and Administration of Turkey: The condition and character, manners, customs, and language of the Christian and Mussulman populations with reference to the Eastern question”
by S.G.B. St.Clair & Charles A. Brophy [John Murray, London, 1869]
We will now give the unadulterated Bulgarian superstition, merely prefacing that we ought to be well acquainted with it, inasmuch as a servant of ours is the son of a noted vampire, and is doing penance during this present Lent by neither smoking, nor drinking wine or spirits, in order to expiate the sins of his father and to prevent himself inheriting the propensity. [Poor Theodore is head over ears in love with Miss Tuturitza, the young lady next door, who fully reciprocates his affection, but her parents refuse to sanction the marriage on account of the vampire father.]
When a man who has vampire blood in his veins – for this condition is not only epidemic and endemic but hereditary or who is otherwise predisposed to become a vampire, [As when a man is strangled by one of these beings.] dies, nine days after his burial he returns to upper earth in an aeriform shape. The presence of the vampire in this his first condition may be easily discerned in the dark by a succession of sparks like those from a flint and steel, in the light, by a shadow projected upon a wall and varying in density accordingly to the age of the vampire in his career. In this stage he is comparatively harmless and is only able to play the practical jokes of the German Kohold and Gnoine, of the Irish Phooka, or the English Puck, [He only resembles these spirits in their misdeeds; unlike them, he never does a good turn to anybody.] he roars in a terrible voice, or amuses himself by calling out the inhabitants of a cottage by the most endearing terms and then beating them black and blue.
The father of our servant Theodore was a vampire of this class. One night he seized by the waist (for vampires are capable of exercising considerable physical force) Kodja Keraz, the Pehlivan or champion wrestler of Derekuoi, crying out, “Now then, old Cherry Tree, see if you can throw me.” The village champion put forth all his strength, but the vampire was so heavy that Kodja Keraz broke his own jaw in throwing the invisible being who was crushing him to death. [Of course, sceptical persons may be found who would explain this story by the hypothesis of too much wine and a fall over a heap of stones; fortunately our village does not contain any such freethinkers, and Old Cherry Tree will be happy to relate his tale, as we have given it, to my inquirer after truth: to prove its accuracy, he can call many witnesses who will swear to the fact of his jaw having been broken.]
At the time of this occurrence, five years ago, our village was so infested by vampires that the inhabitants were forced to assemble together in two or three houses, to burn candles all night, and to watch by turns in order to avoid the assaults of the Obours who lit up the streets with their sparkles, and of whom the most enterprising threw their shadows on the walls of the room where the peasants were dying of fear; whilst others howled, shrieked, and swore outside the door, entered the abandoned houses, spat blood into the flour, turned everything topsy-turvy, and smeared the whole place, even the pictures of the saints, with cow-dung. Happily for Derekuoi, Vola’s mother, an old lady suspected of a turn for witchcraft, discovered the Ilatch we have already mentioned, laid the troublesome and troubled spirits, and since then the village has been free from these unpleasant supernatural visitations.
When the Bulgarian vampire has finished a forty days’ apprenticeship to the realm of shadows, [Since commencing this chapter, we have learned that the village of Dervishkuoi, six hours from here, is just now haunted by a vampire; he appears with a companion who was suppressed by means of the usual remedy, but this one seems to be proof against poison, and as he will shortly have completed his fortieth day as a shadow, the villagers are in terrible alarm lest he should appear as flesh and blood.] he rises from his tomb in bodily form and is able to pass himself off as a human being. Living honestly and naturally. Thirty years since a stranger arrived in this village, established himself, and married a wife with whom he lived on very good terms, she making but one complaint, that her husband absented himself from the conjugal roof every night and all night. It was soon remarked that (although scavengers were and are, utterly unknown in Bulgaria) a great deal of scavengers’ work was done at night by some unseen being, and that when one branch of this industry was exhausted the dead horses and buffaloes which lay about the streets were devoured by invisible teeth, much to the prejudice of the village dogs; then the mysterious mouth drained the blood of all cattle that happened to be in any way sickly. These occurrences and the testimony of the wife caused the stranger to be suspected of Vampirism, he was examined, found to have only one nostril, [A thoroughly Slavonic idea: in Poland the vampire is also supposed to have a sharp point at the end of his tongue, like the sting of a bee.] and upon this irrefutable evidence was condemned to death. In executing this sentence, our villagers did not think it necessary to send for the priest, to confess themselves, or to take consecrated halters or daggers; they just tied their man hand and foot, led him to a hill a outside Derekuoi, lit a big fire of wait-a-bit thorns, and burned him alive.
There is yet another method of abolishing a vampire, that of bottling him; there are certain persons who make a profession of this, and their mode of procedure is as follows; the sorcerer, armed with a picture of some saint, lies in ambush until he sees the vampire pass, when he pursues him with his Eikon; the poor Obour takes refuge in a tree or on the roof of a house, but his persecutor follows him up with the talisman, driving him away from all shelter, in the direction of a bottle specially prepared, in which is placed some of the vampire’s favourite food: having no other resource, he enters this prison, and is immediately fastened down with a cork, on the interior of which is a fragment of the Eikon. The bottle is then thrown into the fire, and the vampire disappears for ever. This method is curious as showing the grossly material view of the soul taken by the Bulgarians, who imagine that it is a sort of chemical compound destructible (like sulphuretted hydrogen) by heat, in the same manner that they suppose the souls of the dead to have appetites and to feed after the manner of living beings, ‘in the place where they are.’
To finish the story of the Bulgarian vampire we have merely to state that here he does not seem to have that peculiar appetite for human blood which is generally supposed to form his distinguishing and most terrible characteristic, only requiring it when his resources of coarser food are exhausted.