Vampire Lore
Strigoi (Patick Johnson)


As we all know, most vampires in modern fiction have fangs, and it is there most distinguishing feature. But in the original lore about vampires, fangs are quite rare, In fact, the only cases I know of are from China where the vampire is called a chiang-shih, though not all chiang-shih display this feature.

The Vampire's Bite, Blood Drinking, Soul Sucking, and Heart Eating

The "fresh blood" found in the corpse of an alleged vampire and/or ruddiness of the face or trunk of the corpse, was sometimes, if not quite often, taken to be the blood of his victims.

The earliest case of this is that I can find is that of the Knight of Ainswick Castle which occured in 12'th century England and was chronicled by William of Newbury. When the knight's corpse was exhumed, it was found to be ruddy and swollen. They attributed this condition to the corpse being bloated with the blood that it had drank from his victims. William of Nerburgh applies the Latin name sanguisuga, which literary means blood sucker, to the revenant.

In his Treatise on Vampires and Revenants, Dom Augustine Calmet wrote:

"The public memorials of the years 1693 and 1694 speak of oipires which are seen in Poland, and above all in Russia. They make their appearance between noon and midnight, and come and suck the blood of living men and animals in such abundance that sometimes it flows from them at the nose, and principally at the ears, and sometimes the corpse swims in its own blood oozed out into the coffin."

In old European lore and historical reports, bite marks or suck marks (what might be called "dynamite hickeys", to borrow a term from the movie, Love at First Bite) are not always found on the victim of a vampire. But there are some cases where they were.

In Chapter 14 of his Treatise on Vampires and Revenants published in 1753, Dom Augustine Calmet quotes a letter that he received from an Austrian officer who had served in Serbia. According to this, Duke Charles of Wirtemberg himself, then serving the Habsburgh ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as the Viceroy of Serbia, went with a special deputation from Belgrade to investigate a case of vampirism occurring in a village not far away. When they arrived at the village, they found that three people, nieces and nephews, and also a brother of the dead person alleged to be a vampire, had already died as the result of his attacks upon them. He had begun to victimize the beautiful young daughter of one his nieces, having already sucked from her twice.

"The persons whose blood had been sucked found themselves in a pitiable state of languor, weakness, and lassitude...At the place where these persons are sucked, a blue spot is formed; the part whence the blood is drawn is not determinate, sometimes it is in one place, sometimes in another. It is a notorious fact, attested by the most authentic documents, and passed or executed in the sight of 1,300 persons, all worthy of belief."

The vampire in this case had been buried for three years and a light resembling a lamp could be seen over his grave. With the permission of the viceroy, the corpse was exhumed and found to be in unusually fresh condition - it is even said that the heart was still beating. The heart was then pierced with an iron stake, causing blood mixed with a whitish fluid to come out. The corpse was next decapitated with an axe, causing more blood to gush out. Then the corpse was dumped back into the grave and quicklime was poured over it to chemically consume it.

Another case is "The Undead in Bulgaria." This is from Twelve Years Study of the Eastern Question in Bulgaria by St. Clair and Brophy. In this case, bite marks are found on cattle and horses whose blood the vampire dranks.

A third case is given in The Vampire in Europe by Montague Summers. Summers says the incident occurred in 1905 gives the source as a certain Russian-Lithuanian military officer, Captain Pokrovsky, whom he knew through a mutual acquaintance.

In this account, a young man who was a rich farmer became ill soon after he had married a second wife. He shriveled every day, though he ate ravenously, and he cried out at night. This farmer was pointed out to Pokrovsky while he was visiting his own uncle, and his niece told him that it was suspected that the man was the victim of a vampire. The captain observed that the man was indeed pale and listless, and sent for doctor from some distance away. After examining the farmer, the doctor reported that, though not anemic in the regular medical sense, he had lost a great deal of blood, and that he had no wounds except for a small puncture mark on the neck. The doctor prescribed hearty foods and red wine. In spite of following this prescription, the afflicted man soon died. In spite of the wife attending mass regularly and other evidence of being a normal young woman, the villagers' suspicions that she was a vampire grew after husband's death. Taking the advise of those less given to superstition, she left the district before harm could come to her.

On page 32 of in his book Vampires, Death, and Burial (Yale University Press, 1988, Paul Barber gives other examples of vampire bites associated with blood sucking together with his source of information for each:

  • Among the Russians, they leave a small wound in the area over the heart. Source: Lowenstimm, Aug. Aberglaube und Strafrecht. Berlin, 1897. p. 96.
  • Among the Kashubes, it is said that the vampire chooses the area of the left breast. Source: Mannhardt, W. "Uber Vampyrismus", Zietschrift fur deutshe Mythologie und Sittenkunde 4 (1859), p. 260.
  • In Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland) they bite on the nipple. Source: Mannhardt, W., same article as above, p. 264.
  • In the district of Krain in Romania, vampires both suck blood and create new vampires by doing so. Source: Mannhardt, W., same article as above, p. 264.
  • In Romania, the bite is in never on the neck but usually on the chest over the heart. More rarely, the victim is bitten over the eyes. Source: Cremene, Adrien. Mythologie du Vampire en Roumanie . Monaco: Editions du Rocher, 1981, p. 100.

To this I can add that, also according to Cremene in his Mythologie du Vampire en Roumanie , in Romania it was sometimes said that the vampire fed on the heart itself as well as the blood within it. And that sometimes the vampire fed on the soul at the same time as the heart, or fed on the soul alone by sucking it out through the victim's nostrils. Cremene also says that in Romania and elsewhere the blood was sometimes viewed as the vehicle of the soul.

Another example is one from trial testimony recorded in the Croatian coastal city of Dubrovnik in 1737. The defendants were from the island of Lastova, about 60 miles by sea from Dubrovnik. Earlier that year, there was an outbreak of severe “diahrea” on the island of Among
the defendants were a band of vigilante style vampire hunters, who believed the epidemic was due to vampirism, and parish priests accused of cooperating with them. The trial began on October 14. On the next day, a man, evidently an Italian, named Lovro Lucenta testified:

“I was on Lastovo about 16 years ago and gathered coral...Many people died on the island at that time...Vampires (kosci) would enter houses at night, and they would chew on people’s hearts, because they feed on the hearts and innards of the living and drink their blood, above all those with whom they’ve had a quarrel....”

The last quotation is from an English translation of the trial testimony, on page 88 of The Darkling by Jan Perkowski (Slavica Publishers, 1989).

Some Romanian folklorists today contend that Romanians never attributed blood drinking to what has been interpreted by Westerners as Romanian vampires (the revenants given such names as strigoi, moroi, pricolici, and varcolac and who often match Slavic vampires in many ways).

All of the citing on this to the contrary given by the French scholar Adrien Cremene in his Mythologie du Vampire en Roumanie are from articles written by Romanians in Romanian academic journals or trace ultimately back to such a source.

And here below are three English translations from such Romanian writings.

In the Romanian journal of folklore and ethnology, Ion Creanga, vol. 4, p. 202, a folktale recorded in the town of Botosani in the Romania province of Moldavia begins with:

“There once was a time when vampires were as common as leaves of grass, or berries in a pail, and they never kept still, but wandered around at night and mingled with the people. They walked about and joined the evening gatherings in a villages, and, when there were many young people together, the vampires could carry out their habit of inspiring fear, and sucking blood like leaches.”

(This last English translation is given in Agnes Murgoci’s article, “The Vampire in Roumania”, Folk-Lore, vol 37, no. 4, Dec. 1926, p. 341. But it can also be found in some American university libraries which have the original English editions of Ion Creanga.)

In the article "The Romanian Folkloric Vampire" by Jan Perkowski, published in the September 1982 issue of the journal, East Europe Quarterly, there is the following tale recorded by the eminent Romanian linguist, Professor Emil Petrovici, in the Romanian town of Ohaba, in southwestern Transylvania, on June 21, 1936:

"Once a strigoi turned into a handsome young man and a young girl fell in love with him. They were married, but the girl also wanted a religious wedding. He rejected this idea. Her parents insisted, so he agreed to go to the church, but when they emerged from the church he looked at his wife in a strange way, baring his teeth. She became afraid and told her mother about it. Her mother said, 'Don't be afraid. He loves you. So that's why he bared his teeth.' When their parents came to visit them, they couldn't find them. They had locked themselves in, but the people could see them through the window. He was sucking her blood. When the people saw it, they shot him through the window."

In the same article, there is another anecdote involving eating the heart.. This one was recorded by Professor Petrovici on June 21, 1933 at the village of Bals in the Romanti district of the
Romanian province of Oltenia, in the eastern part of former Wallachia:

“They say that a corpse leaves his grave as a moroi and feeds on his relatives. He prefers their hearts. The solution is to exhume him and if he is ruddy in the face, you have to stab his heart with something sharp like a needle, a pin, or a nail.”.

(The two anecdotes, along with many others, were published in 1943 as a supplement to the linguistic atlas of Romania that Professor Petrovici had published earlier. Professor Jan Perkowski translated those about vampires into English with the help of Emil Vabrie, Professor of Romance and Slavic Linguistics at the University of Bucharest.)