Archaeologists in Bulgaria have found two medieval skeletons pierced through the chest with iron rods to supposedly stop them from turning into vampires.
The discovery illustrates a pagan practice common in some villages up until a century ago, say historians.
People deemed bad had their hearts stabbed after death, for fear they would return to feast on humans’ blood.
Bulgaria is home to around 100 known “vampire skeleton” burials.
Searchers stumbled across the latest two specimens, dating back to the Middle Ages, in the Black Sea town of Sozopol.
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The short piece notes that vampire legends form an important part of the region’s folklore and that these myths were part of the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
I found a website that contains excerpts from “Bulgarian Superstitions,” Twelve Years’ Study of the Eastern Question in Bulgaria (1877):
By far the most curious superstition in Bulgaria is that of the Vampire, a tradition which is common to all countries of Slavonic origin, but is now to be found in its original loathsomeness only in these provinces.
When a man who has vampire blood in his veins–for this condition is not only epidemic and endemic, but hereditary–or who is otherwise predisposed to become a vampire, dies, nine days after his burial he returns to upper earth in an aëriform shape. The presence of the vampire in this his first condition may easily be discerned in the dark by a succession of sparks like those from a flint and steel; in the light, by a shadow projected upon a wall, and varying in density according to the age of the vampire in his career.
When the Bulgarian vampire has finished a forty days’ apprenticeship to the realm of shadows, he rises from his tomb in bodily form, and is able to pass himself off as a human being, living honestly and naturally. Thirty years since a stranger arrived in this village, established himself, and married a wife with whom he lived on very good terms, she making but one complaint, that her husband absented himself from the conjugal roof every night and all night. It was soon remarked that (although scavengers were, and are, utterly unknown in Bulgaria) a great deal of scavengers’ work was done at night by some unseen being, and that when one branch of this industry was exhausted, the dead horses and buffaloes which lay about the street were devoured by invisible teeth, much to the prejudice of the village dogs; then the mysterious mouth drained the blood of all cattle that happened to be in any way sickly. These occurrences, and the testimony of the wife, caused the stranger to be suspected of Vampirism; he was examined, found to have only one nostril, and upon this irrefragable evidence was condemned to death.
Wow, that’s some crazy stuff there. It does illustrate that legends of the times were seriously scary and the population was extremely superstitious. We also see the vampire blamed for livestock kills instead of the regular predators, like dogs (who are noted to be annoyed by it). Compare that to modern explanations of livestock deaths – where Mexican villagers might invoke the chupacabra or Americans would wonder about aliens.
See more about Bulgarian vampires including more about the above reference at Monstrous.com