[This is taken from Augustine Calmet's Phantom World, originally published in 1850, revised and edited by D. J. McAdam, 2010. Copyright as such.]
In order to omit nothing which can throw light on this matter, I shall insert here the letter of a very honest man, who is well informed respecting ghosts. This letter was written to a relation.
"You wish, my dear cousin, to be exactly informed of what takes place in Hungary concerning ghosts who cause the death of many people in that country. I can write to you learnedly upon it, for I have been several years in those quarters, and I am naturally curious. I have heard in my lifetime an infinite number of stories, true, or pretended to be such, concerning spirits and sorceries, but out of a thousand I have hardly believed a single one. We cannot be too circumspect on this point without running the risk of being duped. Nevertheless, there are certain facts so well attested that one cannot help believing them. As to the ghosts of Hungary, the thing takes place in this manner: A person finds himself attacked with languor, loses his appetite, grows visibly thinner, and, at the end of eight or ten days, sometimes a fortnight, dies, without fever, or any other symptom than thinness and drying up of the blood.
"They say in that country that it is a ghost which attaches itself to such a person and sucks his blood. Of those who are attacked by this malady the greater part think they see a white specter which follows them everywhere as the shadow follows the body. When we were quartered among the Wallachians, in the ban of Temeswar, two horsemen of the company in which I was cornet, died of this malady, and several others, who also were attacked by it, would have died in the same manner, if a corporal of our company had not put a stop to the disorder by employing the remedy used by the people of the country in such case. It is very remarkable, and although infallible, I never read it in any ritual. This is it:—
"They choose a boy young enough to be certain that he is innocent of any impurity; they place him on an unmutilated horse, which has never stumbled, and is absolutely black. They make him ride about the cemetery and pass over all the graves; that over which the animal refuses to pass, in spite of repeated blows from a switch that is delivered to his rider, is reputed to be filled by a vampire. They open this grave, and find therein a corpse as fat and handsome as if he were a man happily and quietly sleeping. They cut the throat of this corpse with the stroke of a spade, and there flows forth the finest vermilion blood in a great quantity. One might swear that it was a healthy living man whose throat they were cutting. That done, they fill up the grave, and we may reckon that the malady will cease, and that all those who had been attacked by it will recover their strength by degrees, like people recovering from a long illness, and who have been greatly extenuated. That happened precisely to our horsemen who had been seized with it. I was then commandant of the company, my captain and my lieutenant being absent. I was piqued at that corporal's having made the experiment without me, and I had all the trouble in the world to resist the inclination I felt to give him a severe caning—a merchandize which is very cheap in the emperor's troops. I would have given the world to be present at this operation; but I was obliged to make myself contented as it was."
A relation of this same officer has written me word, the 17th of October, 1746, that his brother, who has served during twenty years in Hungary, and has very curiously examined into everything which is said there concerning ghosts, acknowledges that the people of that country are more credulous and superstitious than other nations, and they attribute the maladies which happen to them to spells. That as soon as they suspect a dead person of having sent them this illness, they inform the magistrate of it, who, on the deposition of some witnesses, causes the dead body to be exhumed. They cut off the head with a spade, and if a drop of blood comes from it, they conclude that it is the blood which he has sucked from the sick person. But the person who writes appears to me very far from believing what is thought of these things in that country.
At Warsaw, a priest having ordered a saddler to make him a bridle for his horse, died before the bridle was made, and as he was one of those whom they call vampires in Poland, he came out of his grave dressed as the ecclesiastics usually are when inhumed, took his horse from the stable, mounted it, and went in the sight of all Warsaw to the saddler's shop, where at first he found only the saddler's wife, who was frightened, and called her husband; he came, and the priest having asked for his bridle, he replied, "But you are dead, Mr. Curé." To which he answered, "I am going to show you I am not," and at the same time struck him so hard that the poor saddler died a few days after, and the priest returned to his grave.
The steward of Count Simon Labienski, starost of Posnania, being dead, the Countess Dowager de Labienski wished, from gratitude for his services, to have him inhumed in the vault of the lords of that family. This was done; and some time after, the sexton, who had the care of the vault, perceived that there was some derangement in the place, and gave notice of it, who desired, according to the received custom in Poland, that the steward's head might be cut off, which was done in the presence of several persons, and amongst others of the Sieur Jouvinski, a Polish officer, and governor of the young Count Simon Labienski, who saw that when the sexton took this corpse out of his tomb to cut off his head, he ground his teeth, and the blood came from him as fluidly as that of a person who died a violent death, which caused the hair of all those who were present to stand on end; and they dipped a white pocket-handkerchief in the blood of this corpse, and made all the family drink some of the blood, that they might not be tormented.
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