Revenans, or Vampires of Moravia

[This is taken from Augustine Calmet's Phantom World, originally published in 1850.]

I have been told by the late Monsieur de Vassimont, counselor of the Chamber of the Counts of Bar, that having been sent into Moravia by his late Royal Highness Leopold, first Duke of Lorraine, for the affairs of my Lord the Prince Charles his brother, Bishop of Olmutz and Osnaburgh, he was informed by public report that it was common enough in that country to see men who had died some time before, present themselves in a party, and sit down to table with persons of their acquaintance without saying anything; but that nodding to one of the party, he would infallibly die some days afterwards. This fact was confirmed by several persons, and amongst others by an old curé, who said he had seen more than one instance of it.

The bishops and priests of the country consulted Rome on so extraordinary a fact; but they received no answer, because, apparently, all those things were regarded there as simple visions, or popular fancies. They afterwards bethought themselves of taking up the corpses of those who came back in that way, of burning them, or of destroying them in some other manner. Thus they delivered themselves from the importunity of these specters, which are now much less frequently seen than before. So said that good priest.

These apparitions have given rise to a little work, entitled Magia Posthuma, printed at Olmutz, in 1706, composed by Charles Ferdinand de Schertz, dedicated to Prince Charles, of Lorraine, Bishop of Olmutz and Osnaburgh. The author relates that, in a certain village, a woman being just dead, who had taken all her sacraments, she was buried in the usual way in the cemetery. Four days after her decease, the inhabitants of this village heard a great noise and extraordinary uproar, and saw a specter, which appeared sometimes in the shape of a dog, sometimes in the form of a man, not to one person only, but to several, and caused them great pain, grasping their throats, and compressing their stomachs, so as to suffocate them. It bruised almost the whole body, and reduced them to extreme weakness, so that they became pale, lean and attenuated.

The specter attacked even the animals, and some cows were found debilitated and half dead. Sometimes it tied them together by their tails. These animals gave sufficient evidence by their bellowing of the pain they suffered. The horses seemed overcome with fatigue, all in a perspiration, principally on the back; heated, out of breath, covered with foam, as they are after a long and rough journey. These calamities lasted several months.

The author whom I have mentioned examines the affair in a lawyer-like way, and reasons much on the fact and the law. He asks if, supposing that those disturbances, those noises and vexations proceeded from that person who is suspected of causing them, they can burn her, as is done to other ghosts who do harm to the living. He relates several instances of similar apparitions, and of the evils which ensued; as of a shepherd of the village of Blow, near the town of Kadam, in Bohemia, who appeared during some time, and called certain persons, who never failed to die within eight days after. The peasants of Blow took up the body of this shepherd, and fixed it in the ground with a stake which they drove through it.

This man, when in that condition, derided them for what they made him suffer, and told them they were very good to give him thus a stick to defend himself from the dogs. The same night he got up again, and by his presence alarmed several persons, and strangled more amongst them than he had hitherto done. Afterwards, they delivered him into the hands of the executioner, who put him in a cart to carry him beyond the village and there burn him. This corpse howled like a madman, and moved his feet and hands as if alive. And when they again pierced him through with stakes he uttered very loud cries, and a great quantity of bright vermilion blood flowed from him. At last he was consumed, and this execution put an end to the appearance and hauntings of this specter.

The same has been practiced in other places, where similar ghosts have been seen; and when they have been taken out of the ground they have appeared red, with their limbs supple and pliable, without worms or decay; but not without a great stink. The author cites divers other writers, who attest what he says of these specters, which still appear, he says, pretty often in the mountains of Silesia and Moravia. They are seen by night and by day; the things which once belonged to them are seen to move themselves and change their place without being touched by any one. The only remedy for these apparitions is to cut off the heads and burn the bodies of those who come back to haunt people.

At any rate, they do not proceed to this without a form of justicial law. They call for and hear the witnesses; they examine the arguments; they look at the exhumed bodies, to see if they can find any of the usual marks which lead them to conjecture that they are the parties who molest the living, as the mobility and suppleness of the limbs, the fluidity of the blood, and the flesh remaining uncorrupted. If all these marks are found, then these bodies are given up to the executioner, who burns them. It sometimes happens that the specters appear again for three or four days after the execution. Sometimes the interment of the bodies of suspicious persons is deferred for six or seven weeks. When they do not decay, and their limbs remain as supple and pliable as when they were alive, then they burn them. It is affirmed as certain that the clothes of these persons move without any one living touching them; and within a short time, continues our author, a specter was seen at Olmutz, which threw stones, and gave great trouble to the inhabitants.





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