By Augustine Calmet.
The Dutch Gleaner, who is by no means credulous, supposes the truth of these facts as certain, having no good reason for disputing them, and reasons upon them in a way which shows he thinks lightly of the matter; he asserts that the people, amongst whom vampires are seen, are very ignorant and very credulous, so that the apparitions we are speaking of are only the effects of a prejudiced fancy. The whole is occasioned and augmented by the bad nourishment of these people, who, the greater part of their time, eat only bread made of oats, roots, and the bark of trees—aliments which can only engender gross blood, which is consequently much disposed to corruption, and produces dark and bad ideas in the imagination.
He compares this disease to the bite of a mad dog, which communicates its venom to the person who is bitten; thus, those who are infected by vampirism communicate this dangerous poison to those with whom they associate. Thence the wakefulness, dreams, and pretended apparitions of vampires.
He conjectures that this poison is nothing else than a worm, which feeds upon the purest substance of man, constantly gnaws his heart, makes the body die away, and does not forsake it even in the depth of the grave. It is certain that the bodies of those who have been poisoned, or who die of contagion, do not become stiff after their death, because the blood does not congeal in the veins; on the contrary, it rarifies and bubbles much the same as in vampires, whose beard, hair, and nails grow, whose skin is rosy, who appear to have grown fat, on account of the blood which swells and abounds in them everywhere.
As to the cry uttered by the vampires when the stake is driven through their heart, nothing is more natural; the air which is there confined, and thus expelled with violence, necessarily produces that noise in passing through the throat. Dead bodies often do as much without being touched. He concludes that it is only an imagination that is deranged by melancholy or superstition, which can fancy that the malady we have just spoken of can be produced by vampire corpses, which come and suck away, even to the last drop, all the blood in the body.
A little before, he says that in 1732 they discovered again some vampires in Hungary, Moravia, and Turkish Serbia; that this phenomenon is too well averred for it to be doubted; that several German physicians have composed pretty thick volumes in Latin and German on this matter; that the Germanic Academies and Universities still resound with the names of Arnald Paul, of Stanoska, daughter of Sovitzo, and of the Heyducq Millo, all famous vampires of the quarter of Médreiga, in Hungary.
Here is a letter which has been written to one of my friends, to be communicated to me; it is on the subject of the ghosts of Hungary; the writer thinks very differently from the Gleaner on the subject of vampires.
"In reply to the questions of the Abbé dom Calmet concerning vampires, the undersigned has the honor to assure him that nothing is more true or more certain than what he will doubtless have read about it in the deeds or attestations which have been made public, and printed in all the Gazettes in Europe. But amongst all these public attestations which have appeared, the Abbé must fix his attention as a true and notorious fact on that of the deputation from Belgrade, ordered by his late Majesty Charles VI., of glorious memory, and executed by his Serene Highness the late Duke Charles Alexander of Württemberg, then Viceroy or Governor of the kingdom of Serbia; but I cannot at present cite the year or the day, for want of papers which I have not now by me.
"That prince sent off a deputation from Belgrade, half consisting of military officers and half of civil, with the auditor-general of the kingdom, to go to a village where a famous vampire, several years deceased, was making great havoc amongst his kin; for note well, that it is only in their family and amongst their own relations that these blood-suckers delight in destroying our species. This deputation was composed of men and persons well known for their morality and even their information, of irreproachable character; and there were even some learned men amongst the two orders: they were put to the oath, and accompanied by a lieutenant of the grenadiers of the regiment of Prince Alexander of Württemberg, and by twenty-four grenadiers of the said regiment.
"All that were most respectable, and the duke himself, who was then at Belgrade, joined this deputation in order to be ocular spectators of the veracious proof about to be made.
"When they arrived at the place, they found that in the space of a fortnight the vampire, uncle of five persons, nephews and nieces, had already dispatched three of them and one of his own brothers. He had begun with his fifth victim, the beautiful young daughter of his niece, and had already sucked her twice, when a stop was put to this sad tragedy by the following operations.
"They repaired with the deputed commissaries to a village not far from Belgrade, and that publicly, at night-fall, and went to the vampire's grave. The gentleman could not tell me the time when those who had died had been sucked, nor the particulars of the subject. The persons whose blood had been sucked found themselves in a pitiable state of languor, weakness, and lassitude, so violent is the torment. He had been interred three years, and they saw on this grave a light resembling that of a lamp, but not so bright.
"They opened the grave, and found there a man as whole and apparently as sound as any of us who were present; his hair, and the hairs on his body, the nails, teeth, and eyes as firmly fast as they now are in ourselves who exist, and his heart palpitating.
"Next they proceeded to draw him out of his grave, the body in truth not being flexible, but wanting neither flesh nor bone; then they pierced his heart with a sort of round, pointed, iron lance; there came out a whitish and fluid matter mixed with blood, but the blood prevailing more than the matter, and all without any bad smell. After that they cut off his head with a hatchet, like what is used in England at executions; there came out also a matter and blood like what I have just described, but more abundantly in proportion to what had flowed from the heart.
"And after all this they threw him back again into his grave, with quick-lime to consume him promptly; and thenceforth his niece, who had been twice sucked, grew better. At the place where these persons are sucked a very blue spot is formed; the part whence the blood is drawn is not determinate, sometimes it is in one place and sometimes in another. It is a notorious fact, attested by the most authentic documents, and passed or executed in sight of more than 1,300 persons, all worthy of belief.
"But I reserve, to satisfy more fully the curiosity of the learned Abbé dom Calmet, the pleasure of detailing to him more at length what I have seen with my own eyes on this subject, and will give it to the Chevalier de St. Urbain to send to him; too glad in that, as in everything else, to find an occasion of proving to him that no one is with such perfect veneration and respect as his very humble, and very obedient servant, L. de Beloz, ci-devant Captain in the regiment of his Serene Highness the late Prince Alexander of Württemberg, and his Aid-de-Camp, and at this time first Captain of grenadiers in the regiment of Monsieur the Baron Trenck."
This is taken from Phantom World, originally published in 1850.
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