By Augustine Calmet.
The affair of ghosts having made so much noise in the world as it has done, it is not surprising that a diversity of systems should have been formed upon it, and that so many manners should have been proposed to explain their return to earth and their operations.
Some have thought that it was a momentary resurrection caused by the soul of the defunct, which re-entered his body, or by the demon, who reanimated him, and caused him to act for a while, whilst his blood retained its consistency and fluidity, and his organic functions were not entirely corrupted and deranged.
Others, struck with the consequence of such principles, and the arguments which might be deduced from them, have liked better to suppose that these vampires were not really dead; that they still retained certain seeds of life, and that their spirits could from time to time reanimate and bring them out of their tombs, to make their appearance amongst men, take refreshment, and renew the nourishing juices and animal spirits by sucking the blood of their near kindred.
There has lately been printed a dissertation on the uncertainty of the signs of death, and the abuse of hasty interments, by M. Jacques Benigne Vinslow, Doctor, Regent of the Faculty at Paris, translated, with a commentary, by Jacques Jean Bruhier, physician, at Paris, 1742, in 8vo. This work may serve to explain how persons who have been believed to be dead, and have been buried as such, have nevertheless been found alive a pretty long time after their funeral obsequies had been performed. That will perhaps render vampirism less incredible.
M. Vinslow, Doctor, and Regent of the Medical Faculty at Paris, maintained, in the month of April, 1740, a thesis, in which he asks if the experiments of surgery are fitter than all others to discover some less uncertain signs of doubtful death. He therein maintained that there are several occurrences in which the signs of death are very doubtful; and he adduces several instances of persons believed to be dead, and interred as such, who nevertheless were afterwards found to be alive.
M. Bruhier, M.D., has translated this thesis into French, and has made some learned additions to it, which serve to strengthen the opinion of M. Vinslow. The work is very interesting, from the matter it treats upon, and very agreeable to read, from the manner in which it is written. I am about to make some extracts from it, which may be useful to my subject. I shall adhere principally to the most certain and singular facts; for to relate them all, we must transcribe the whole work.
It is known that John Duns, surnamed Scot, or the Subtle Doctor, had the misfortune to be interred alive at Cologne, and that when his tomb was opened some time afterwards, it was found that he had gnawed his arm. The same thing is related of the Emperor Zeno, who made himself heard from the depth of his tomb by repeated cries to those who were watching over him. Lancisi, a celebrated physician of the Pope Clement XI., relates that at Rome he was witness to a person of distinction being still alive when he wrote, who resumed sense and motion whilst they were chanting his funeral service at church.
Pierre Zacchias, another celebrated physician of Rome, says, that in the hospital of the Saint Esprit, a young man, who was attacked with the plague, fell into so complete a state of syncope, that he was believed to be really dead. Whilst they were carrying his corpse, along with a great many others, on the other side of the Tiber, the young man gave signs of life. He was brought back to the hospital and cured. Two days after, he fell into a similar syncope, and that time he was reputed to be dead beyond recovery. He was placed amongst others intended for burial, came to himself a second time, and was yet living when Zacchias wrote.
It is related, that a man named William Foxley, when forty years of age, falling asleep on the 27th of April, 1546, remained plunged in sleep for fourteen days and fourteen nights, without any preceding malady. He could not persuade himself that he had slept more than one night, and was convinced of his long sleep only by being shown a building begun some days before this drowsy attack, and which he beheld completed on his awaking. It is said that in the time of Pope Gregory II a scholar of Lubec slept for seven years consecutively. Lilius Giraldus relates that a peasant slept through the whole autumn and winter.
This is taken from Phantom World, originally published in 1850.
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