[This is taken from Augustine Calmet's Phantom World, originally published in 1850, revised and edited by D. J. McAdam, 2010. Copyright as such.]
On examining the narrative of the death of the pretended martyrs of vampirism, I discover the symptoms of an epidemical fanaticism; and I see clearly that the impression made upon them by fear is the true cause of their being lost. A girl named Stanoska, say they, daughter of the Heyducq Sovitzo, who went to bed in perfect health, awoke in the middle of the night all in a tremble, and shrieking dreadfully, saying that the son of the Heyducq Millo, who had been dead for nine weeks, had nearly strangled her in her sleep. From that moment she fell into a languishing state, and at the end of three days died.
For any one who has eyes, however little philosophical they may be, must not this recital alone clearly show him that this pretended vampirism is merely the result of a stricken imagination? There is a girl who awakes and says that some one wanted to strangle her, and who nevertheless has not been sucked, since her cries have prevented the vampire from making his repast. She apparently was not so served afterwards either, since, doubtlessly, they did not leave her by herself during the other nights; and if the vampire had wished to molest her, her moans would have warned those of it who were present. Nevertheless, she dies three days afterwards. Her fright and lowness, her sadness and languor, evidently show how strongly her imagination had been affected.
Those persons who find themselves in cities afflicted with the plague, know by experience how many people lose their lives through fear. As soon as a man finds himself attacked with the least illness, he fancies that he is seized with the epidemical disease, which idea occasions him so great a sensation, that it is almost impossible for the system to resist such a revolution. The Chevalier de Maifin assured me, when I was at Paris, that being at Marseilles during the contagion which prevailed in that city, he had seen a woman die of the fear she felt at a slight illness of her servant, whom she believed attacked with the pestilence. This woman's daughter was sick and near dying.
Other persons who were in the same house went to bed, sent for a doctor, and assured him they had the plague. The doctor, on arriving, visited the servant, and the other patients, and none of them had the epidemical disorder. He tried to calm their minds, and ordered them to rise, and live in their usual way; but his care was useless as regarded the mistress of the family, who died in two days of the fright alone.
Reflect upon the second narrative of the death of a passive vampire, and you will see most evident proofs of the terrible effects of fear and prejudice. (See the preceding chapter.) This man, three days after he was buried, appears in the night to his son, asks for something to eat, eats, and disappears. On the morrow, the son relates to his neighbors what had happened to him. That night the father does not appear; but the following night they find the son dead in his bed. Who cannot perceive in these words the surest marks of prepossession and fear? The first time these act upon the imagination of the pretended victim of vampirism they do not produce their entire effect, and not only dispose his mind to be more vividly struck by them; that also does not fail to happen, and to produce the effect which would naturally follow.
Notice well that the dead man did not return on the night of the day that his son communicated his dream to his friends, because, according to all appearances, these sat up with him, and prevented him from yielding to his fear.
I now come to those corpses full of fluid blood, and whose beard, hair and nails had grown again. One may dispute three parts of these prodigies, and be very complaisant if we admit the truth of a few of them. All philosophers know well enough how much the people, and even certain historians, enlarge upon things which appear but a little extraordinary. Nevertheless, it is not impossible to explain their cause physically.
Experience teaches us that there are certain kinds of earth which will preserve dead bodies perfectly fresh. The reasons of this have been often explained, without my giving myself the trouble to make a particular recital of them. There is at Toulouse a vault in a church belonging to some monks, where the bodies remain so entirely perfect that there are some which have been there nearly two centuries, and appear still living.
They have been ranged in an upright posture against the wall, and are clothed in the dress they usually wore. What is very remarkable is, that the bodies which are placed on the other side of this same vault become in two or three days the food of worms.
As to the growth of the nails, the hair and the beard, it is often perceived in many corpses. While there yet remains a great deal of moisture in the body, it is not surprising that during some time we see some augmentation in those parts which do not demand a vital spirit.
The fluid blood flowing through the canals of the body seems to form a greater difficulty; but physical reasons may be given for this. It might very well happen that the heat of the sun warming the nitrous and sulfurous particles which are found in those earths that are proper for preserving the body, those particles having incorporated themselves in the newly interred corpses, ferment, decoagulate, and melt the curdled blood, render it liquid, and give it the power of flowing by degrees through all the channels.
This opinion appears so much the more probable from its being confirmed by an experiment. If you boil in a glass or earthen vessel one part of chyle, or milk, mixed with two parts of cream of tartar, the liquor will turn from white to red, because the tartaric salt will have rarified and entirely dissolved the most oily part of the milk, and converted it into a kind of blood. That which is formed in the vessels of the body is a little redder, but it is not thicker; it is, then, not impossible that the heat may cause a fermentation which produces nearly the same effects as this experiment. And this will be found easier, if we consider that the juices of the flesh and bones resemble chyle very much, and that the fat and marrow are the most oily parts of the chyle. Now all these particles in fermenting must, by the rule of the experiment, be changed into a kind of blood. Thus, besides that which has been discoagulated and melted, the pretended vampires shed also that blood which must be formed from the melting of the fat and marrow.
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