In 1753, in the village of Hermsdorf, a woman died. During her lifetime, everyone had known her as the “Tyroler Doktorin”. She had cured lots of people with the help of the mysterious potions that she brewed at home. When the “Doctor” realised that her life was coming to an end, she called her husband to her bedside. He had to promise her that, after her death, he would make sure that her head was cut off before her corpse was buried. Furthermore, she made him swear that under no circumstance would she be buried in the Catholic churchyard. After she had died, her husband found that he did not have the stomach to carry out the gruesome task that his late wife had put upon him. To make things worse, the local priest came around to remind him of the fact that it were only the most depraved sinners who would bury their wives elsewhere. Well, you know how things go. Frau Doktorin, much against her wish, ended up resting in the Catholic Churchyard, and of course her head was still firmly attached to her neck and shoulders.
Fortunately for us, the story does not end there. It did not take long before strange stories started circulating. There were rumours that the “Tyroler Doktorin” had come back from the grave as a vampire. The guilty husband had started drinking after the death of his wife. And one night, when he was very drunk, he told his terrible secret to his drinking companions in the local inn. The next day, the whole village had heard the story, and it did not take long before the authorities had heard about it too. And thus, in 1755, the grave of the Doktorin was opened. Another thirty corpses, who were also suspected of having become vampires, were dug up as well. Ten of the corpses turned out to be in a pretty sorry state, so it was obvious that they could not be vampires. But the vampire hunters had better luck with the other ones. Twenty-one corpses, which included the Tyroler Doktorin, looked remarkably fresh, so there could be little doubt that they were vampires. The undead monsters were staked, after which they were cremated.
by Richard Wilbur
Even as children they were late sleepers,
Preferring their dreams, even when quick with monsters,
To the world with all its breakable toys,
Its compacts with the dying;
From the stretched arms of withered trees
They turned, fearing contagion of the mortal,
And even under the plums of summer
Drifted like winter moons.
Secret, unfriendly, pale, possessed
Of the one wish, the thirst for mere survival,
They came, as all extremists do
In time, to a sort of grandeur:
Now, to their Balkan battlements
Above the vulgar town of their first lives,
They rise at the moon’s rising. Strange
That their utter self-concern
Should, in the end, have left them selfless:
Mirrors fail to perceive them as they float
Through the great hall and up the staircase;
Nor are the cobwebs broken.
Into the pallid night emerging,
Wrapped in their flapping capes, routinely maddened
By a wolf’s cry, they stand for a moment
Stoking the mind’s eye
With lewd thoughts of the pressed flowers
And bric-a-brac of rooms with something to lose,–
Of love-dismembered dolls, and children
Buried in quilted sleep.
Then they are off in a negative frenzy,
Their black shapes cropped into sudden bats
That swarm, burst, and are gone. Thinking
Of a thrush cold in the leaves
Who has sung his few summers truly,
Or an old scholar resting his eyes at last,
We cannot be much impressed with vampires,
Colourful though they are;
Nevertheless, their pain is real,
And requires our pity. Think how sad it must be
To thirst always for a scorned elixir,
The salt quotidian blood
Which, if mistrusted, has no savour;
To prey on life forever and not possess it,
As rock-hollows, tide after tide,
Glassily strand the sea.