Recently I came upon some information about Vampires that I just knew you would be interested in hearing. Years before Brahm Stoker wrote his famous novel, Dracula there really was a vampire scare in Europe. How did such a thing get started? This is actually a pretty amusing story. Someone, there is no record on the who or even the actual where of this story, but someone in some unknown grave yard, for some unknown reason dug up a body. (Now, I could get into grave robbing or even go off the map and suggest Frankenstein's cohort in crime Igor, but I will refrain... for now.) Back to the story... someone dug up a grave. He, I make a generalization here as back in those days it was highly unlikely to find a woman of any status digging up anything but flowers, anyway... he found something that he had never seen before, something that in his limited understanding simply could not be unless... the corpse was not really a corpse. Da da da... I wish my computer could write musical notes.
What pray tell did this 18th century brainiac find in this freshly dug grave do you think? He found a body whose face had decomposed enough to obscure natural features, making them look... well dead, but the inconsistencies made them appear to have just recently fed and in fact to have gained weight! How can this be? Their hair had grown, their fingernails had grown and their body was... chubby, not bloated. For surely this person had seen bloated bodies before. In the 18th century they did not have the strict codes that we have today when it comes to the dead. Today in most civilized countries the dead are collected within hours after discovery. They are not left in their beds to rot or thrown into the street like trash. So this body that he found, was not bloated, it was pleasantly plump.
This discovery started a wave of grave robbing, not for valuables, but for the undead. Now, in none of these bodies did they find a beating heart, but these graduates of gutter wisdom felt that to finally kill something that clearly was not quite dead, one needed to impale the heart. This worked for some, but others were stronger and had the ability to remove the stake from their hearts and rise again. So... off with their heads!. But, the really strong demon spawn Vampires could simply put their head back on if they could reach it in their coffin. So the severed head was put between their legs, and to prevent the Vampire from rising up enough to retrieve it, heavy stones were put onto their limbs, both the arms and the legs. Thus the Vampire was rendered inert, but never really dead.
Finally the Vampire was denied access to heaven by burying them in a East to West configuration, opposite of a Christian burial. What pray tell would happen to our beloved Saints and the host of heaven if one of these unholy Vampires managed to rise in heaven? Oh woe is me what a disaster that would be!
Now of course all of the accused Vampires were of the lower class. In 18th century Europe there were only four classes and they were nothing like what we have today. They had the rich and those that served them directly as servants and those that served them as slaves and then there were those that served them as serfs. The servants of the rich were the best off. They had some privilege and a pot to piss in and a window to throw it out of. Some would argue that the slaves had it worst, but I would argue that the serfs had it the worst. Slaves had no debt and no expectation, other than to work and be fed enough to continue to work. Serfs are expected to work, feed themselves, pay taxes and live in squalor. They were often beaten and hung just for sport and everything they had, including their wives and daughters, belonged to the rich guy.
Okay, back to the story... there were no nobles accused of Vampirism, except one. She was a solitary woman, a princess. She was not overly attractive and not massively rich. In fact when her husband died, he income dropped dramatically, even though he was the one that married into money. When he died, her money reverted to the crown, and she wasn't wearing it. She lived her early life as a very active woman, but she had some trouble conceiving an heir. So, she listened to the learned idiots of the day and began to drink Wolfs milk. Wolves of course are considered in some places as representing fertility. In others the Wolf is the minion of the Devil and they exist only to help Vampires. She did eventually conceive and bear a son at the age of 41. In those days, that meant that either God had intervened or the Devil had.
But, her husband died a few years later and her son was sent to be raised by the King. The poor princess was left in her castle alone. She grew sick. The best doctors were summoned. But none would ever diagnose her despite the fact that they prescribed her with up to 40 treatments a day. All of which were ridiculous by today's standards. The princess did not improve. She was in extreme pain. She lost her appetite and her skin turned pale. Had a noble actually contracted the dreaded disease of Vampirism? Say it isn't so! Well they didn't say it was so. No-one would even suggest it. But, they had no idea what was wrong with the woman.
Finally she was taken to the Capital, where she could receive the very best of round the clock care. Nothing they did helped her. She was wasting away and as her body fed on itself she began to hallucinate. She couldn't sleep, she couldn't eat. She vomited out anything and everything that she was given. Finally, mercifully she died.
But then, the Crown ordered a very strange thing. They ordered that an autopsy be performed on the Princess. This was simply not done! The aristocracy was exempt from such invasive things, and yet it was done and a journal was kept of the procedure. They opened the poor woman up and found a growth the size of a child's head inside of her abdomen cavity. It was growing into her lungs, her stomach, her womb and everything else. It had been there a really long time. This sealed the poor princess's fate. Clearly she was a very powerful Vampire to have such a devilish growth inside of her. But, she was also a princess. As part of the autopsy her heart was removed. There was no need to drive a stake into it. But they weren't done yet.
They could not place this powerful a Vampire into the family crypt. Vampires are known to rise from the grave and either devour or infect anyone near them... even the dead. They simply couldn't risk an outbreak of Vampirism amongst the aristocracy. So they whisked the princess back to the town in which she had lived her life. She was given a funeral, one that none of her relatives including her own son attended. Then she was buried inside the church, but this was no normal burial. Her coffin was placed inside of a concrete tomb that was buried beneath earth that had been removed from the local cemetery (holy and doubly consecrated ground) then a massive solid stone tombstone was placed flat on top of the ground, and here is the worst part... for hundreds of years it was covered over with a rug, no-one, not even the priests that lived there knew that the princess was buried in their church.
The princess had died a horrible, painful, lonely and terrifying death from cancer. The fact that she conceived at all is nothing short of amazing. Yet because of the Vampire scare that had infected Europe in its own kind of cancer, the Princess was denied a resting place next to her family, something that many people cling to in their final days. She was essentially forgotten, deliberately. She was spared the indignity of being beheaded because she was royalty, she was even spared the rumors or the terror that many commoners felt when they were accused of being Vampires. But, in death she was shunned. Did she know what would happen? Yes, in her final hours, probably with help, she penned a final will and asked to be returned to the home that she had known her entire life. It was her signature at the bottom and it bore her seal. The lettering in the document is consistent with her writing. Did she think she was a Vampire and want only to help preserve and protect the family by banishing herself to exile even in the afterlife? We will never know.
So what was it that the original idiot saw that condemned so many to a horrible death and indignity in death? When a body is placed in the ground it begins to decay. We all know that. Bodies do not continue to grow hair or finger nails. In truth the thin skin of the skull and fingers pulls back as it dries. This gives the illusion that the nails and hair have grown. Gasses in the stomach cause a body to expel air out of the only exits that it has, through the mouth, nose and butt. This gives the illusion that a body is talking. The lips will move and sound will emerge that sounds like blubbering. Sometimes the gasses are expelled with great force and they will actually blow the nose off of a corpse, because without blood the tissue that makes up our noses rot quickly. It doesn't take a lot of pressure to remove a nose when it is healthy, imagine how little it takes when it is not. Also, gasses build up inside the abdominal cavity that cause a body to bloat. Now the bloating does slowly subside. When it does it gives a body the appearance of looking just plump, not bloated. This is the stage that these scholars saw when they opened that first grave.
Now, in all their stupidity they did have a detector for finding bodies in this condition. They used a black horse. Now if the horse shied away from a grave then there was a Vampire within. In each case they found a body in this condition. It had nothing to do with the color of the horse. It had a lot to do with the horse's nose. Can you imagine the smell? This body is in advanced decomposition. It would reek! No animal wants to smell that... well except for Vampire hunters. They would climb in on top of this thing and drive a stake through the heart and then chop its head off and then drop rocks on it. Really.... OMG! That's just gross!
So now you know that Brahm Stoker didn't make it all up. His methods of killing and warding off Vampires came from real life. He took his story probably from the poor Princess, because there were no other aristocratic Vampires. He used Count Vladimir Dracul Tsepish, a Transylvanian hero of the Turkish wars as a template for his Vampire. He put the facts and the stories into a big bowl, added some of his own flair and gave it a stir. Hence Dracula, Lord of the Night was born... or died... or was unborn... whatever!
On that note, live well and be good to each other.