Navigation | The Land of Thieves and Ghosts

April 29, 2010

Farewell Post!

I have had a blast writing and researching for this blog! The Land of Thieves and Ghosts serves as the final project for a class on vampire literature I am taking, and the project is due later today. So, sadly, I will no longer post updates to the blog after today.

I hope reading this blog served as a form of entertainment and that it enlightened such topics related to vampirism like the folklore behind vampire myths and even historical people who have influenced the vampire in popular culture. If you are looking for similar blogs, I have a few suggestions. The London Vampire, found here, provides answers to questions related to vampirism and has many entries discussing vampire myths. Once Bitten, Twice Damned is a second vampire blog that may be of interest. The blog covers many topics related to vampires from history and popular culture. A final blog that you may find interesting is Magia Posthuma, a blog focusing on the history of vampirism. This last blog has some entries including parts of documents in their original languages, which I found fascinating, but may be a bit cumbersome if you are not fluent in several languages.

I cannot fully attest to the research conducted by the authors of these blogs, but rest assured that I sought my information from scholarly sources. If you are interested in the sources I used, visit my bibliography page, here.

Filed by ltello at April 29th, 2010 under Miscellaneous
30 persons have commented this post

Arnold Paole

Arnold Paole (otherwise known as Arnold Paul) was the subject of one of the most famous 18th century vampire cases.  During the 18th century there was a “wave of vampire attacks” in central Europe.  This outbreak in vampire attacks caused a resurgence of revived interest in vampires in England and France in the early 19th century. 

Arnold Paole was born in the early 1700s in Medvegia, which is north of Belgrade, in an area of Serbia then part of the Austrian empire.  Paole served in the army in what was then called Turkish Serbia, where the Hapsburgs were trying to capture lands in Serbia from the weakened Ottoman Empire.  Arnold returned home in 1727, where he purchased several acres of land and settled down to farm.  He was pursued by a young woman from a neighboring farm and the two later became engaged.  He is described as being a good natured, honest man, who was welcomed by the townspeople upon his return, though a certain gloom dulled his personality. 


Above: A map of Serbia. Medvegia is said to be located in the North, near the border with Hungary.

Arnold eventually told his fiancé that this gloom resulted from his war days.  In Turkish Serbia, Paole had been attacked by a vampire, which he eventually killed after following it to its grave.  Arnold then ate some of the dirt from the tomb and bathed his wounds in the blood of the vampire in order to cleanse himself from the attack.  Arnold was fearful that he had been tainted by the vampire.  My sources do not describe what happened next very clearly, but it seems that Paole suffered from a fateful accident a few weeks later and was buried immediately.  Three weeks following his death, reports of sightings of Arnold Paole surfaced.  The four people who made these reports died, and a panic began to spread.

The townspeople decided to disinter Paole’s body to see if he was a vampire.  On the 40th day after the burial the grave was opened.  The townspeople found a body that appeared as if it had just recently died!  What seemed to by a fresh, new layer of skin was present under a layer of dead skin, and the nails had continued to grow.  The body was pierced and blood poured forth, which influenced the townspeople to decide that Arnold Paole was a vampire.  He was then staked, and it is said that he uttered a groan as if in pain.  His head was severed and his body burned in order to totally eradicate him.  The four others who had died were treated similarly, to prevent any more attacks, lest they had been infected. 

Later, in 1731 in the same area, 17 people died of symptoms of vampirism in a matter of 3 months.  The townspeople were slow to act until a young girl said a man named Milo, who had recently died, had attacked her during the night.  Word reached Vienna about the “attacks,” and the Austrian Emperor ordered an inquiry be conducted by Regimental Field Surgeon Johannes Fluckinger. 

Fluckinger headed for Medvegia on December 12, and gathered accounts of what had happened.  Milo’s body was disinterred and was found in a state similar to Paul’s.  The townspeople were confused, how could the vampirism that was previously eradicated in 1727, have returned in 1731?


Above: Moo.

It was determined that Arnold Paole had vampirized several cows that the dead had recently fed on.  Interesting.

Under Fluckinger’s orders, the townspeople began to dig up all of the bodies of the recently deceased.  Forty bodies were disinterred, and 17 were found to be in the same preserved state as Paul’s and Milo’s bodies.  All of the bodies were staked and burned.  This scene reminds me a lot of Interview with a Vampire, by Anne Rice, when Louis and Claudia go to central Europe to find other vampires like themselves, and discover a town in hysterics over vampires.  The panic led the villagers to disinter several bodies, and an Englishman visiting the town described the scene, “I tell you, she was as fresh, as pink…as pink as if she were still alive! Buried six months!” (from page 176).  When I had read that scene in Interview I assumed it was a dramatization, but it appears after reading about Arnold Paole, that this sort of hysteria did occur. 

In 1732, a report of Fluckinger’s activities was presented to the Emperor.  This report soon became a bestseller, and by March 1732 the accounts were being circulated in papers in both France and England.  Due to the documentation of the case, these attacks became the focus of future studies and reflections on vampires, and Arnold Paole became the most famous “vampire” of the era.

Such reports of vampire activity caused a stir.  Since so many bodies had been mutilated in relation to these cases, the Church became involved.  It was atrocious for some Catholics to imagine the bodies of Christians who were awaiting resurrection in their death to be mutilated and thus incapable of going to heaven.  Paul’s tale launched a heated debate in the Church over vampirism. 

Giuseppe Davanzati was reeled in to the debate at the request of Cardinal Schtrattembrach, the bishop of Olmutz (Germany), who sought the church’s advice on the supposed vampire attacks.  Davanzati was a learned archbishop from Trani, Italy.  Davanzati spent 5 years studying the vampire problem, and believed that the issue resulted from human fantasies, possibly of diabolical origin.  Davanzati urged that pastoral attention should be directed to the person reporting the vampire, and that bodies should be left undisturbed. 

While Davanzati was pursuing research, Dom Augustin Calmet was also attempting to answer the vampire problem.  Calmet was known throughout France as a Bible scholar, and his dissertation dealt with vampires.  Calmet described in detail reports of Eastern vampires and called upon theologians to give these subjects serious study.  Calmet argued that the bodies were animated by devils or evil spirits, which was a throwback to medieval thinking.  Calmet did not find as much support among contemporaries for his beliefs as Davanzati did, but Calmet did hold popular support. 

There are many explanations that have been presented which may explain these instances of vampirism.  One popular explanation was premature burial, which explained why corpses did not deteriorate.  Catalepsy was a disease which makes the infected appear as if they are dead, which may have prompted premature burial to occur.  Others say perhaps something in the soil or an unusual lack of moisture may have slowed decay.  Shrieks that occurred when bodies were staked may have resulted from air leaving the corpse. 

Some suggest that the plague may have been the true cause for the vampire outbreak, since an epidemic of the plague occurred simultaneously with the vampire outbreaks, and the spread of germs may have accounted for the vampire symptoms.  Rabies may have offered another explanation, since people with rabies would bite, had animal characteristics, and had an unquenchable thirst.  Rabies epidemics occurred at this time in Hungary, Saxony and East Prussia.  Other diseases, like Porphyria, may have provided an explanation.  Porphyria has a symptom which causes the infected to have a severe sensitivity to light.


Above:  Paul Barber’s book, Vampires, Burial and Death: Folklore and Reality.  A copy can be found here.

The explanation I tend to agree with the most is that the villagers who disinterred the bodies of suspected vampires were simply viewing the bodies decay naturally, but the symptoms they witnessed did not live up to their expectations, so vampirism was used to explain the unexpected.  Paul Barber offers a report which backs this claim, in his book Vampires, Burial and Death: Folklore and Reality.

Filed by ltello at April 29th, 2010 under Historical People
448 persons have commented this post

April 26, 2010

Countess Elizabeth Bathory

Countess Elizabeth Bathory (or Erzsébet Báthory) is associated with vampirism due to her lust for killing young servant girls and then draining their blood, in which she bathed in order to retain her youthful beauty. 

Elizabeth was born in 1560 and was the daughter of George and Anna Bathory.  It is frequently cited that Elizabeth grew up in Hungary, but due to the shifting of borders over time, it is likely that she was more closely associated with the Slovak republic.  Elizabeth spent most of her adult life in the castle Cachtice, near the town of Vishine, which is near where Austria, Hungary and the Slovak republic meet.  During Elizabeth’s youth, Hungary had been overrun by Turkish forces and was the battleground for the Turkish and Austrian armies.  This area was also split by religious differences.  The country was largely Catholic, although Elizabeth’s family was Protestant.  It is said that Elizabeth suffered from seizures, intense rage and uncontrollable behavior as a child.

Above: A picture of Castle Cachtice, in Slovenia.

Elizabeth became pregnant in 1574 at the age of 14 after a fling with a peasant.  She was sequestered in order to hide the pregnancy from her betrothed, Count Ferenc Nadasdy.  In 1575 she was married to the Count.  Elizabeth’s husband was a soldier and thus was frequently gone for large periods of time, so she was left in charge of the estate and all the servants, many of which were young girls.

Elizabeth enjoyed punishing her servants.  While it was not strange for nobility to punish their servants at this time, even by giving servants very dangerous reprimands, Elizabeth surpassed the norm for the era.  Elizabeth would often have her servants stuck with pins in fleshy areas, especially under their fingernails, as a form of torture.  She also had woman stripped of their clothing in the winter, then sent outside in the snow, to have ice water poured over them until they froze to death.  Her husband did not shy away from such behavior, he in fact joined in on the atrocious activities and even taught his wife some new forms of punishment.  For example, the Count came up with a summer-time version to the aforementioned torture.  In the summer, servant women were again stripped and then covered in honey.  They were sent outside and would be bitten by numerous insects. 

Above: Artwork depicting Countess Elizabeth Bathory’s bloodlust, from this deviantart.

Count Ferenc died in 1604, when Elizabeth was 44.  After her husband’s death, Elizabeth found a cohort to help in her gruesome activities.  Anna Darvulia aided the Countess until her health failed in 1609.  After this, Elizabeth began working with Erzsi Majorova, the widow of a tenant farmer.  It is believed that Erzsi persuaded Elizabeth to torture a young girl of nobility in 1609, leading to the girl’s death.  The young girl was said to have performed suicide, to cover for Elizabeth’s actions. 

The cover-up failed, however, and Elizabeth was put on trial in 1610.  Elizabeth was put on trial not only due to the high number of victims she had killed but also due to political reasons.  The Crown wanted the Countess’ land, and also had owed her late husband a large sum.  Thus, they used Elizabeth’s tendencies for their own gain, and staged a trial after her arrest on December 29, 1610.  In a secondary trial a register of all 650 of Elizabeth’s victims was used against her as evidence.  The list was said to be written by Elizabeth herself.  All of the Countess’ accomplices were executed, and Elizabeth was sentenced to life in solitary confinement.  She was kept in a room in the castle with no doors or windows for 3 years, until her death. 

Above: An image of Countess Elizabeth Bathory.

Elizabeth Bathory has been accused of being both a werewolf and vampire.  She was said to bite the girls she killed, which was the basis for the werewolf claim.  As mentioned above, the claim that Bathory drained young girls blood and then bathed in the blood to retain her beauty is the leading basis for her association with vampires.  However, there is no testimony that Elizabeth ever drained her victims or bathed in their blood, and she was never accused of drinking her victims blood, so she is merely a vampire through loose metaphor.  It is likely that the stories regarding the Countess’ actions have been embellished over time, resulting in her growth in popularity among vampire folklore.  In fact, one of my sources seemed skeptical of all counts held against Elizabeth Bathory.  If you’re interested in learning more about the Countess from a different perspective, try reading Slayers and Their Vampires, by Bruce A. McClelland.

Elizabeth Bathory has been tied to vampires repeatedly in popular culture.  A surge in her popularity occurred in the 1970s following Valentine Penrose’s Erzebet Bathory: La Comtesse Sanglante, a book from 1962 (the English version is titled The Bloody Countess).  A second work that boosted her popularity was Dracula was a Woman: In Search of the Blood Countess of Transylvania, by Raymond McNally, from 1984.  A fanzine, or magazine for fans, was published briefly in the mid 1990s under the name Bathory Palace.  For more information on Bathory Palace and vampire fiction in popular culture, check out this website.

I found some interesting websites when researching Elizabeth Bathory’s history.  One site is the Frequently Asked Questions page from a website owned and operated by Elizabeth’s (supposed) heir, Dennis Báthory-Kitsz.  To see this website, click here.  The page contains a plethora of information concerning the Countess, but like most websites, the information contained must be taken with a grain of salt.  A second, more entertaining, site is a fanfiction of Elizabeth’s diary.  A fanfiction is merely a work of fiction written by an amateur, or fan, on a certain subject.  In this case, the author decided to write a fictional diary entry from Elizabeth’s point of view during her final days in solitary confinement.  It is an interesting read and can be accessed here.

Filed by ltello at April 26th, 2010 under Historical People
82 persons have commented this post

April 17, 2010

Gypsy Legends on Vampires

Vampires have many ties to the gypsies of Europe.  Gypsies originated in India, not in Egypt, contrary to the etymology of the term gypsy.  Each tribe has slightly different legends that change over time, presumably because the stories are passed down orally.  Overall, it is believed by gypsies that when someone dies their soul hovers around the grave and resides in the corpse.  The souls of the dead may grow restless, so funeral rites are often elaborate and families attempt to visit the grave often in order to keep their ancestor’s souls content.  The gypsies believed in a figure similar to that of Kali Ma from India, called Sara, the black virgin. 

Gypsies believed in the mulo or mullo, which literally means one who is dead.  These beings are the gypsy’s version of the vampire.  Gypsies viewed death as unnatural, so untimely deaths and suicides were especially bad in gyspy culture.  Deaths like these might result in a vampire.  These vampires were said to hunt down the person or persons who caused their death.  Prime candidates for these “death causers” were generally relatives of the deceased who had failed to destroy the remains and instead kept them for themselves.  The vampire could also go after those whom it held a grudge against, usually those who did not observe elaborate burial or funeral rites. 

Above: A remake of Cher’s “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” by Scud Mountain Boys, for your listening pleasure.

Gypsy vampires generally appeared quite normal but could have a slight detection of their supernatural power on their physical body, either a lost appendage like a finger or perhaps an animal-like appearance.  Vampires were believed to be seen at any time in the day or night, although some viewed these creatures as strictly nocturnal.  Interestingly, Slavic and German gypsies believed that vampires did not have bones, since they noticed that the bones were often left behind in the graves… Huh. 

Gypsies thought that these vampires would perform many ghastly activities, such as attacking relatives and sucking their blood, or destroying property and throwing things around at night.  Male vampires were said to return from the dead to have sex with their wives, girlfriends, or other women.  Female vampires could assume normal lives and possibly even marry, though the husband of a female vampire would be exhausted, as these ladies were very demanding in the bed.

Gypsies believed that animals and even plants could become vampires.  Some animals that could return as the undead were snakes, horses, chickens, dogs, cats and sheep.  To learn more about plants as vampires, read this previous blog entry.

Above:  I doubt gypsy vampire cats looked like this…but I wish they did…

Gypsies did believe that vampirism could be prevented.  A victim of a vampire could call upon a dhampir, or the son of a vampire, who resulted from intercourse between a vampire and his widow.  Dhampir were said to have a strong connection with vampires and could easily detect a vampire’s presence.  Some believed that dhampir had a jelly-like body, since it was believed that vampires did not have bones.  Thus, dhampir had shortened lifespans.  I wonder if the dhampir suffered from a physical disability of some sort, and that calling them a dhampir was the gypsy’s way of explaining this phenomenon. 

All in all, the legends and folklore regarding vampires varies based on the geographical location of the gypsy band.  To learn more about the connection between gypsies and vampires, visit this site.

Filed by ltello at April 17th, 2010 under Legends/Folklore
312 persons have commented this post

April 14, 2010

Take that, bloodsucker!

There are many items in folklore and legends concerning protection against vampires. Some of these items are religious in nature, but in this post I will focus on the “secular” items that are used to protect against the living dead.

Garlic is a pungent herb and a member of the lily family. Garlic is used as both a medicine and a food flavoring and is found in nearly all parts of the world, particularly in warmer climates. Garlic is considered a protection against vampires nearly everywhere I have researched so far. It is a tenant of vampire myths in Mexico, South America, China, and Europe. A theory on this coincidence is that garlic derives its powers from its pungent smell and its duality of uses, since it is used medicinally and conventionally in food preparation. Some say that since it holds so many uses it lends itself to being manipulated in a supernatural way to ward off evil forces such as vampires. Medicinally garlic is rumored to have magical powers and has been used as a protection agent against the plague and various supernatural evils. In several societies, garlic was seen as a catch-all remedy to many maladies, giving garlic a reputation for supernatural capabilities. On a side note, I found it interesting that garlic was used against the plague and vampires, since vampires have been tied to the plague in the past. Check out this website to learn a bit more about vampires and their association with the bubonic plague. Garlic could be rubbed on surfaces to keep a vampire from entering a home or room, and it could often be injested to make a persons blood poisonous or simply unappetizing to vampires. In some cultures cattle were even given a rub-down in garlic to ward off vampires from attacking the herd. Garlic might also be placed in the mouth of a corpse or coffin to prevent the deceased from becoming a vampire. In severe cases the corpse was decapitated and garlic was then stuffed in the mouth as a further precaution.


Thorns have a long history of being used to protect humans from vampires. Common thorns used are thorns from the rosebush and from the hawthorn tree. Thorns are used as a protection against vampires in Europe, Asia and the Americas. There are a few reasons thorns are used as a protection against vampires. Thorns could be seen as a nuisance but could also be utilized by humans for good. This duality in their nature may have resulted in their perceived supernatural powers, much like the duality of use that influenced the supernatural attribute assigned to garlic. In ancient times, thorns were used as a symbol of hope against witchcraft. This anti-witchcraft use transferred to vampires in many cultures. Thorns were believed to act as a symbolic barrier that could block intruding supernatural spirits or forces but not physical forces. Thorns were placed on the outsides of coffins, in a corpses’ sock, and on top of corpses. Sometimes stakes were made out of the wood of a hawthorn or blackthorn tree as further protection.

The hawthorn is common across southern Europe, and it is also known as the whitethorn. The hawthorn is associated with Jesus’ death as it is believed that the crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head was made of a hawthorn branch.


Seeds are also a commonly used protection against vampire in folklore.  Seeds are seen as a barrier against vampires and also as a distraction to vampires.  Vampires were said to be fascinated with counting and collecting seeds.  Some types of seeds used as protection were linen, carrot, and poppy seeds and rice on occasion.  Mustard seeds were most common since they are affiliated with Christianity through the parable told by Jesus.  Millet, or seeds from various grasses and grains, were also popular.  Seeds were scattered in the coffin, over the grave, on the path between the grave site and the village, or surrounding a home if the inhabitants feared a vampire would attempt to enter.  The vampire was thought to be distracted by the seeds and it as believed that the vampire would be inclined to collect and count each seed it encountered.  In some cultures it was thought the vampire could only count one seed a year, and in others it was thought that the seeds could simply hold off a vampire until dawn.

Filed by ltello at April 14th, 2010 under Weapons Against Vampires
14 persons have commented this post

Next Page »