“Vampire” Remains Found in Poland

“Vampire” Remains Found in Poland

 

A female skeleton has been uncovered in a 17th-Century Polish graveyard with a sickle across its neck. The reason for the strange burial has led to talk of the deceased being a vampire and that this would prevent the woman from rising from the dead.

Professor Dariusz Polinski, who headed up the dig that led to the discovery, said,

“The sickle was not laid flat but placed on the neck in such a way that if the deceased had tried to get up, most likely the head would have been cut off or injured”.

The skeleton was discovered in a village called Pien near Ostromecko, Poland. Traces of a silk cap found with the remains suggest that this was the body of someone of higher social status. However, her position did not seem to protect her from being seen as a threat in the 17th century. Further proof that people were concerned that she might rise from the grave was the triangular padlock which was placed around the big toe on her left foot. Scientists are further investigating the remains.

In popular Polish mythology, vampires appear in many folk stories under the names upir, upier, upiór, upierzyca, wąpir, wąpierz, wypiór, łupirz, strzyga. Polish vampires feed on human blood, and there are plenty of them in Slavic tales. The upiór is a frightful demon-like creature who exists between the world of the dead and the living. Less vampire and more zombie, an upiór cannot enter the world of the dead either because they are unbaptised, committed suicide, or died through some great injustice.

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While tales of vampires were most prominent in 17th Century Poland, we continue to be fascinated by them to this day. Mary Shelley’s Dracula was a gothic masterpiece that romanticised vampires. The Twilight films starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson are essentially chick flicks with vampires. Immortal Romance is a vampire love story video slot that can be played at Polish online casinos.  No longer figures of abject terror, vampires are more part of our gothic lexicon. So how did society’s view on vampires change so much?

Vampire burials were not uncommon in Christian Europe between the 14th and 17th Centuries. Vampire outbreaks were often associated with events that led to mass deaths which could not be explained. Without scientific understanding, it was easier to blame a pandemic or mass poisoning on a visitation by vampires.

In the stories of the time, vampires start by hunting and killing family members and then their neighbours before killing everyone else in the village. We now understand how contagious diseases spread, but this was unknown at the time.

A mass grave in Venice from the 16th century contained the remains of a woman with a stone in her mouth. The stone would have been to prevent her from turning into a Nachzerher vampire. It was believed that Nachzehers chewed through their shrouds and rose from the dead. They would then bite the living and spread the plague through the community.

Later stories had vampires rising from the dead and strangling people. This was a way for them to explain chest pains, the leading cause of death in Europe at the time. We now know that tuberculosis is a bacterial disease that is worsened by poor living conditions rather than brought by the undead.

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Vampires only started to bite necks and suck blood in the Victorian period. This is the Count Dracula kind of vampire. The bite is an allusion to sex which could not be mentioned in polite society at the time.

It is yet to be confirmed if the latest skeletal remains are of someone believed to be a vampire or simply a revenant. There were many superstitions surrounding death at that time in Europe. Bodies have been found nailed to the bottom of graves or with stones weighing down their feet. It appears that there were many reasons a person might rise from the grave. Being a vampire was just one of them

Ayhan Fletcher

"Subtly charming zombie nerd. Infuriatingly humble thinker. Twitter enthusiast. Hardcore web junkie."

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