Vampires are in vogue, thanks to the popular ‘Twilight’ series, the TV show ‘True Blood’ and movies like ‘Jennifer’s Body’ with Megan Fox. Thousands of teenage girls dream about being bitten by Eduard Cullen, but the modern image of the vampire has nothing to do with old legends. A vampire was an un-dead, a bloodthirsty dangerous creature that had nothing to do with romantic love stories!
Stories about creatures who feed on human blood are as old as mankind itself. Especially in the Slavic culture, we find a lot of myths relating to vampires. Long before Bram Stoker wrote his famous work ‘Dracula’, the people of Eastern Europe already feared the ‘Upyr’ or ‘Moroi’. There are reports of people being bitten by giant bats, and the dead rising from their graves. Not so surprising, they didn’t have too much medical knowledge about the human body and if you didn’t breathe you were considered dead. Also, these ‘dead’ were buried as soon as possible out of fear of diseases. And more than once these victims turned out to be still alive and kicking!
There existed real vampire hunters, who opened up the graves if people suspected vampirism. Often they found corpses with fresh blood on them, whose hair and nails didn’t stop growing. This was seen as a clear sign of vampirism, thus a stake was hammered through the heart and sometimes the body was burned. The explanation is simple: people who were buried alive and woke up in a coffin, tried by all means to dig themselves out. Sometimes it could take quite some time before they actually died, and only a few were lucky enough to ‘rise’ from their grave (only to be murdered by a vampire hunter).
In Serbia for example, there was a true mass hysteria after the death of a certain Arnold Paole. He claimed to have been bitten on a trip through Kosovo, but he said he cured himself by eating the earth from the vampire’s grave. But after his death (he fell off a hay wagon and broke his neck), some villagers died in suspicious circumstances. They opened up his graved and pierced his heart, which began to bleed. Later they burned the corpse.
Then there is also the story of the Hungarian countess Elisabeth Báthory, remembered as the ‘Blood Countess’, who was the biggest serial killer in history. She lived in the 16th century and supposedly killed more then 500 young girls. She derived pleasure from torturing them, but her main goal was to bathe in their blood. The countess believed this would preserve her youth and beauty.
Do you believe in vampires? Without doubt, the truth is to be found in the Slavic culture. Travel to Hungary, maybe there you will find the answers you are looking for. Rent the most mysterious apartments in Budapest, and please don’t forget to bring your stake and crucifix, just in case!