Mar
09
2009

Hmm. Vampires are sort of cool.

Quick! Someone get a brick in her!: Oh, Edvard...
Quick! Someone get a brick in her!: Oh, Edvard...Courtesy Edvard Munch
Halloween is right around the corner, and everybody has ghouls and ghosts on the mind, so naturally this story caught my eye today: “Vampire” discovered in mass grave.

You know how they could tell it was a vampire? Come on, guess.

Pointy teeth? Nope.

Moldering eveningwear? Not that the article mentions.

Batty features? Wooden stake in the ribs? Crosses and garlic?

No.

So what, then?

A brick in the mouth. Duh.

Yeah, one of the skeletons in a Venetian mass grave of plague victims had a brick in its mouth, making it a vampire. And the age of the grave (the plague hit Venice in 1576) makes it possibly the oldest vampire.

Some explanation may be in order, but I’m afraid that I might not be able to offer up anything totally satisfactory. According to the article, at the time of the “vampire” woman’s death, it was thought that vampires didn’t actually drink blood, but spread the plague by chewing on their shrouds after death. I’m not sure how that spread the plague (maybe they traded shrouds afterwards?), but gravediggers at the time would put bricks in the mouths of “vampires” to stop them from doing this.

Something seems to be lacking in that explanation, but, still, it got me looking into vampire folklore, which is kind of gross and awesome.

Ghosty vampirey stories go way back into folklore, but when people started connecting them with actual dead bodies, things got to be pretty interesting.

Folks suspected a vampire when they dug up a body that didn’t appear to have decomposed the way it should have. (Don’t ask me why they were digging up bodies in the first place.) Bodies can decompose in all sorts of ways (check this post out for an icky example) depending on soil conditions, etc, so sometimes people might find a body that would be swollen, or starting to turn dark, or where tissue had contracted to give it a strange expression, or expose more if its teeth—that sort of thing. Blood (and blood-like stuff) might sometimes well up in a dead person’s mouth, giving the impression that they had recently been out eating something ghastly. If the body was jostled, trapped gas escaping through the mouth (or any orifice…) could make life-like sounds. And if any body tried to put a stake into the body, those same gases could cause a really exciting, messy situation.

Original descriptions of vampires follow this rotting-corpsey theme. Instead of being gaunt and pale, they were described as bloated and dark or ruddy-colored, and they walked around in shrouds causing trouble (which, I think, is way creepier than a guy in an opera cape).

Another archaeologist (back to the article here) pointed out that it’s a neat find, but it’s not necessarily the “first vampire,” as there have been similarly dated finds in other European countries.

I’m still a little confused about the brick-mouth and plague thing. Maybe the brick was there to stop general vampire mischief, and the fact that it stopped the undead from spreading the plague was a bonus.

Anyway, happy Halloween, everybody.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Roosevelt81's picture
Roosevelt81 says:

Wha? Yeech!

posted on Tue, 03/10/2009 - 4:48pm
Esmeralda's picture
Esmeralda says:

Do vampires excist????? Or did they excisted?
This is creepy but at the same time is interesting!!! =)

posted on Fri, 03/13/2009 - 6:38pm

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