Friday 13 February 2009

Eighteenth-Century Vampirism

A few years ago I found this nice bit of foreign journalism in the Gentleman's Magazine. I think it's worth sharing:

From Madreyga in Hungary, That certain dead Bodies called Vampyres, had kill’d several Persons by sucking out all their Blood. The Commander in Chief, and Magistrates of the Place were severally examin’d and unanimously declared, that about 5 Years ago, a certain Heyduke named Arnold Paul, in his Life Time was heard to say, he had been tormented by a Vampyre, and that for a Remedy he had eaten some of the Earth of the Vampyre’s Graves, and rubbed himself with their Blood. That 20 or 30 Days after the Death of the said Arnold Paul, several Persons complained they were tormented; and that he had taken away the Lives of 4 Persons. To put a Stop to such a Calamity, the Inhabitants having consulted their Hardnagi took up his Body, 40 Days after he had been dead, and found it fresh and free from Corruption; that he bled at the Nose, Mouth and Ears, pure and florid Blood; that his Shroud and Winding Sheet were all over Bloody; and that his Finger and Toe Nails were fallen off, and new ones grown in their room. By these Circumstances they were perswaded he was a Vampyre, and, according to Custom, drove a Stake thro’ his Heart; at which he gave a horrid Groan. They burnt his Body to Ashes, and threw them into his Grave. ‘Twas added, that those who have been tormented or killed by the Vampyres become Vampyres when they are dead. Upon which Account they served several other dead Bodies as they had done Arnold Paul’s, for tormenting the Living.
The item appeared in 1732, and predates the earliest citation of the word 'vampire' in the OED. It must therefore be one of the earliest accounts of vampirism in English. John Polidori refers to it (or, at least, another version published elsewhere) in the introduction to his brilliant 1819 short-story 'The Vampyre'.