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“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.
The town of Devnya, 30km west of Varna, is now known only for its highly noxious chemical industry, but during the last century its reputation was widespread as Bulgaria’s vampire capital.
As most Eastern Europe countries belief in vampires was widespread among the Bulgarian peasantry of the time and they had means of dealing with the night creatures.
Local wise men [known as vampirdzhiya or dzhadzhiya] were paid handsomely by villagers to drive the fiends away and vampire hunters of Devnya were considered the best in eastern Bulgaria.
To chase the vampires away, a dzhadzhiya would be summoned to walk among the flocks, holding an icon aloft. The icon also came in handy when trying to identify the resting place of the vampire. If it began to tremble when held above a particular grave, it meant that the culprit had been found. If the vampire was in spirit form, it could be driven into a bottle which was then thrown onto a fire.
We do have an example for such a ritual, presented in “Bulgarian Mythology” by Ivanichka Georgieva.
Acording to the author the incident takes place in 1882 somewhere in the Varna district. An epidemic broke out in two villages and the locals declared that they were caused by vampires so they called in the help of a couple of dzhadzhiya.
The dzhadzhiya marched around the village streets holding up a holy icon. When they came to a place where the icon started shaking in their hands, they knew that the vampire must have touched it.
They chased the vampire until they came to its grave and after opening it, they found a blooded corpse that was lying on its belly. The vampire hunters stuck a thorn into the heart of the corpse after which the vampire was cremated on a fire of hawthorn branches.
The vampire is said to have screamed when it was burned.
Two weeks later, the epidemics had come to an end.
As you can see the superstitions greatly differ from one region to another, but one thing remained the same… sometimes the dead came back to feed on the living so they had to be put down again!
Croatia is a country that believes in legends to this day, so it is not difficult to believe that the elders of some communities still hold much sway on the way certain issues are dealt with.
The story is said to have happened in 1936 in the region of Varazdin – specifically in the village of Kneginec. It is recounted in “Le Vampirisme – de la légende au réel” [vampirism – from legend to reality] by Robert Ambelain.
Suspicious things would happen in the area from time to time, with rather big intervals of time in between – therefore the legends and ways of cleansing the purge were passed on from father to son.
That is why, despite both the authorities and the clerics being against vampire superstitions, grave inspections were still practiced by the elders.
A number of young men and women had become the victims of a mysterious disease. Several died within a few weeks, others within two or three months at most. All of the victims had on their throats one or two bluish marks. Some of the victims would wake up during the night after suffering from horrible nightmares but this happened during the first couple of nights.
After that they would just slowly fade away, supposedly because of a corpse that had been buried in the Castle of Herdody in Varazdin!
In “Les Vampires” by Jean-Paul Bourre we are given a theory about the vampire that might have been responsible. Le points to the identity of the supposed vampire as Barbara of Cillei. The ritual for getting rid of the presence took place in the ruins of Varazdin, performed by an orthodox priest of the Oriental Church [Croatia is of orthodox religion, not catholic]. It is said that the haunting stopped after that.
NOTE: In a footnote, Ambelain adds: “This legend has perhaps inspired Sheridan LeFanu for his episode about the hidden tomb of Mircalla von Karnstein.”
The story takes place around the 1880s in the Croatian town of Opatija [in the documents the Italian name for it is used: Abbazia].
The authorities uncovered the corpse of an old man who had been shunned by the villagers while he was alive and who was given a rather unusual burial.
His tongue had been pierced and his hands and feet had been nailed to the bottom of his coffin in order to prevent him for leaving his grave.
The culprits were found and punished on account of the desecration of the corpse, however the whole community took the side of the criminals: the old man had been a vampire and the measures had only been taken to prevent the vampire from attacking and killing the local children and young girls.
NOTE: The same report mentions that the villagers opened another grave a couple of weeks after the first and proceeded to a bizarre ritual: they tied the corpse to a wooden stake and, by adding some rocks to the strings, sank it in the sea.
Yet another strange mix of traditions is the story of the Tirnova vampires, based on a letter written by Ahmet Sukru Effendi, that was sent in 1833 to Istanbul.
They have elements of ghost stories intertwined since it was reported that they would roam the village at night spoiling the food, messing up people’s belongings and throwing stones at people. Note that there was no blood sucking involved!
The hysteria became to widely spread that some families even started to relocate to other regions.
In an effort to save the community an exorcist called Nikola was brought in and paid [supposedly with 800 Kurus – currency at that time] to rid the people of their plague.
He used a stick and a Saint icon to locate the graves that needed to be opened, and, with the aid of the village elders proceeded to the examination.
They only found 2 suspicious graves, those of soldiers who`s corpses were found to be bloated, with grown hair and nails.
Nikola decided that a stake should be driven through the stomach, the heart should be cut out and boiled, while the rest of body was to be cremated.
The following events took place in the village of Tupanari in the district of Vlasenicki [to locate it on the map of Bosnia and Herzegovina simply go NE of Sarajevo]
An old peasant called Paja Tomic had died on the 9th of April 1923.
His wife Cvija complained that her dead husband returned to the house at night and had become a vampire. But apparently the widow wasn’t believed so quickly by the rest of the villagers and her nightmares continues for another full month until her sons Stevo and Krsto confirmed their father’s return from the grave.
The villagers gathered and decided that the vampire had to be destroyed so the dead man’s corpse was taken out of the grave, pierced with a hawthorn stake, and then cremated. The remaining bones were reburied.
Please take notice at the fact that we have a missing part here. We have no description of how the corpse was discovered upon unearthing. Usually we are given details and signs as to convince us that the deceased really was a vampire and that the villagers were in their right to proceed to the elimination of the undead.
In this case it seams that the family`s testimony was enough to get a “conviction”
NOTE: You will find a couple of other sites that give you details on this but I would like to make a clarification. The supposed vampire died in April of 1923! Some other authors give you the date of 23 May because that is when an article on the matter was published in a local newspaper.
The case can be found in “The Vampires: A casebook” by Alan Dundes and you may also find a transcript of the news article above mentioned.
According to the farmer Lako Petrovic from Zabrgje the following happened around 1758 in the village of Cengic in the Zvornik district [region East of Sarajevo].
The story is that of the wife of a priest [regionally called a “popadija”] and it can be found in a series of books I will list in the notes.
After she died other people started dying immediately.
Having had lost almost all of his family an old farmer called Pero kept watch at night and saw the popadija coming into the house. He chased her away with a piece of burning hawthorn.
At this point it seams the vampire tried to lure him out of the house but Pero warned her that he will not allow her to cross his doorstep but won`t come out either. Apparently the vampire remained near the house until dawn and threatened Pero by telling him that none of his family will survive to help him in his quest to destroy it.
The next day he told the priest but he would not believe that his wife was the undead.
Then he went to the authorities and got permission to open the grave. He went to the cemetery with the most respectable people from the village and they found that the popadija’s body was terribly inflated so it was decided to deal with her in the usual manner – they drove a stake through her stomach and set the corpse on fire, burning it to the ash.
When they wanted to fill in the grave a snake came out [sign of the devil], which was killed straight away.
This put an end to the deaths in the village.
The original text was published in 1908 in “Slavische Volksforschungen” by Friedrich S. Krauss and from this date I drew my approximate date for the events because in this text the timeframe is given as “some 150 years ago”. The case is also mentioned in “The Vampires: A casebook” by Alan Dundes.
In “Isis Unveiled” by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky we find the account of a Russian vampire and I must say that we do have quite a tale here.
“About the beginning of the present century” is when the story begins, with the wedding between the governor of the Provence Tch and a young woman, daughter of one of his servitors.
Needless to say that the union was forced upon the young girl. She was in love with someone her own age and was enthusiastic thinking of a wedding with him.
But the 60 year old influential man was infatuated and he was used to having his way! He was of a “malicious, tyrannical, cruel and jealous disposition”.
He beat her and locked her up in her chambers for weeks at a time and his jealousy was so great that he wouldn`t allow her to see anyone alone.
He eventually fell ill and, guessing that the end was near, he made her promise that she would never marry again – threatening her that if she ever did he would return from the grave to punish her.
After he died, he was buried in the cemetery across the river.
Time passed and the widow`s fears crumbled because she could now see her former love interest. As it was natural, the two were betrothed again.
On the night of the customary feast well after all the guests had retired, the house was disturbed by the screams of the young widow. She had been attacked by her dead husband – apart from the black and blue bruises she also had two small pierced wounds on her neck.
At first the peasants didn`t believe her but the next morning the guard stationed at the bridge reported that a black coach had passed him by [heading from the cemetery towards town] just before midnight.
Despite the fact that the new governor did not believe the story he doubled the number of guards from the bridge crossing the river. All was in vain, even the family of the young widow moving into the house to help her… every midnight the couch would pass the bridge and head for the house. The guards couldn`t stop it and the people in the mansion fell into a lethargic state leaving the widow vulnerable to the attacks of the undead.
Morning after morning she would be found bruised, bleeding and closer to death.
Even the local priest came to pass the night in prayer for the young girl; but he too subdued to the strange state so it was necessary for the archbishop to come and perform the exorcism ritual.
Initially they went and tried to stop the vampire on the bridge by posting a priest with a crucifix in front of him, but he succeeded in getting to his victim.
They then resorted to the ultimate solution – the corpse was exhumed and pinned to the ground by planting a stake through the heart. As the story goes, the corpse had the ckeeps and lips reddish but the rest of him was of an unnatural pale.
The usual ceremony was presided and the corpse re-interred. Then the attacks ceased.
You will find this case mentioned in Robert Laffont`s “Le Vampirisme – de la légende au réel” [Vampirism – from legend to reality]. The author gives the account of a young man by the name of Nicholas C.
The date we are given, 1911, is the year that Nicholas had finished his studies and gone for a vacation over at his relatives, in a small village in Ukraine. Sadly we aren`t given any more info on the location and you will agree with me when I say that it`s a large country.
Upon arrival in the village, the student observed a general state of excitement and when he asked what the main event was, his relatives told him that only a few days earlier they had destroyed a vampire.
During the last couple of weeks several young girls had been experiencing all kinds of trouble during the night and complained about an invisible creature that would lay on top of them so that they could not breathe. It was feared that they could have died of suffocation.
Some of them said that they had seen a couple of small lights that looked a bit like eyes.
And when they woke up in the morning they all found that they had strange blue marks on their necks.
Having decided that the girls could only be the victims of a vampire, the villagers struggled with finding a way to “execute” the undead – the mutilation of corpses was a crime punishable by law – so it took some time before they could act.
Conveniently enough it seamed that the local policeman had to go away for a couple of days [in those times some investigations required people to travel from one village to another just in order to get all the facts together so they could compare the crimes].
This provided them with a perfect window of opportunity.
No sooner had they left the village, or half the population rushed to the churchyard. People started running around, looking for suspect graves.
They soon decided that the most promising one would be the grave of an old sorcerer who had died about a month before.
The grave was opened, the lid was torn off the coffin, and the corpse was found to look much too healthy. The dead man’s eyes, which had been closed after his death, were now open wide. The clean white shroud that had been put around him was now covered in blood.
There could be no doubt that the dead man was a vampire!
The villagers hammered a wooden stake through the heart of the undead and cremated the body. The glowing ashes were thrown into the grave and then covered up with dirt. After these measures, the mysterious nocturnal phenomena ceased completely.