The vampire concept has given rise to some extreme behaviour. In October 1974 a drunkard was lured to the home of a Mr Lorca in Germany. Promising him food and shelter, instead, Mr Lorca descended on the man and bit him hard on the neck, drawing blood.
Passing out, he hurried out of the house when the drunkard came round and went to the authorities. Arriving a short time later, they found Mr Lorca asleep in a coffin with blood on his lips. Mr Lorca, it seems, liked to be called Count, ate only raw meat and was only active at night.
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Polish immigrant to the UK, Demetrious Myicura, was found dead in 1973. His room was covered in ceremoniously placed garlic. Said to have been terrified of a vampire attack, he choked to death on a clove of garlic he had placed in his mouth to protect him while he slept.
Although tragic, we can see a degree of irony in such cases. But ideas of vampirism can affect entire societies. For instance, the Kashubs are a Christian sect of Slavs living mainly around Ontario who retain many pagan practices. As professor of Slavic languages Jan Perkowski discovered when he visited a Kashub farm in 1968, principal is their belief in vampires. Indeed, one wife had her upper incisors removed because she was a vampire. Upon death, elaborate measures must be taken otherwise the person will rise at midnight and suck the life and blood from family members.
The above cases are modern survivals of a rich vampire mythology. Consider the ‘al’, the half human, half animal vampire from Armenian folklore, thought to be based on the alu of Babylonian myth. One eyed with iron teeth, tusks and snake-like hair, it wears a triangular hat that makes it invisible.
Its victim is the pregnant woman and her unborn child, whom it strangles. The best defence against the al is to surround yourself with, and use, iron implements. The empusa is an ancient Greek vampire spirit which often appears as an alluring young woman. Its intention is to seduce young men and eventually enter them and consume their flesh and blood. Ancient magician Apollonius was said to have told one story of Menippus from Lycia.
Extremely handsome, he met a beautiful woman on a road and fell in love with her. As he decides to marry, Apollonius is suspicious and tells the man he is marrying a vampire. The magician is asked to leave, but he has broken the spell, the woman admitting her desire to kill him and consume him.
They get everywhere
The mullo is a boneless, restless spirit associated with Gypsies. The word means living dead, and it comes back to strangle animals and people it didn’t like in life. Invisible to all but the former spouse, it has hair that touches the ground and enjoys repossessing the spouse, often thought to make them pregnant. The spouse, however, will have his or her life sucked out by this supernatural rape.
A Romanian curse is the usual way to get rid of the mullo. Of very ancient pedigree is Ornias, a fallen angel who appeared as a man to suck the life out of boys before flying off as a heavenly winged creature. He makes his appearance in the apochryphal text, Testament of Solomon, where he hindered the building of Solomon’s
Temple by terrorising the boys working there. Solomon asks God for powers to control the demon. Archangel Ariel assists Solomon in forcing Ornias to cut stone from the quarry before despatching him to Beelzebub, Prince of Demons.Even Native Americans have their vampiric folklore.
Cherokee lore tells of the Iron Fingered Demon. As recorded in North Carolina in 1892, the demon can enter a household at night by impersonating an absent member. In a person’s sleep, he can pierce the side with his finger and remove parts of the liver and lungs. The sleeper awakes, unaware of the attack, but begins to whither away and die.
On a rational level, many of these tales can be seen as moral or social warnings, such as being careful with strange beautiful young women, and a way of frightening young boys to keep away from strangers. Even more interesting is the high incidence of iron in such tales. Did old medicine have an understanding of the need for iron to help cure anemia, which could give classic symptoms of a vampire attack?
Superstition was always the best way to frighten a people into sensible moral and healthy behaviour. As such, myths such as the above played a vital function in pre-scientific times. And it seems it began a culture of the supernatural – of vampires – that remains to this day.