Arnold Paole, an ex-soldier from the district of Medvegia, located at the Morava river near the town of Paraćin, in Serbia which was at that time part of the Austrian Empire.
His case, like the similar case of Peter Plogojowitz, became famous because of the direct involvement of the Austrian authorities and the documentation by Austrian physicians and officers, who confirmed the reality of vampires.
Their report of the case was distributed in Western Europe and contributed to the spread of vampire belief among educated Europeans. Paole had been a likeable, good-natured character who had gone off to serve in the Emperor’s army in Turkish Serbia, returning home in 1727.
He settled down as a farmer and became engaged to a local girl. However, his neighbours noticed that, since his return from the Army, his character had subtly changed.
This outbreak is only known from Flückinger’s report about the second epidemic and its prehistory. According to the account of the Medvegia locals as retold there, Arnold Paole was a hajduk who had moved to the village from the Turkish-controlled part of Serbia.
Although still extremely pleasant, he had become almost brooding and fearful, ready to jump at any shadow. He privately told his fiancée a strange story as an explanation. When stationed in Turkish Serbia, his regiment had been subject to the nightly attentions of a vampire.
A group of men including Paole himself had been sent out to find the creature and destroy it. It was Paole who had located the creature’s grave and who had dug it up, killing it after a brief struggle.
However, in its death throes, the thing covered the young soldier in blood and grave earth. He had washed it away but ever after he still felt contaminated. He felt as though some unclean shadow was hanging over him and that something was watching him as he went about his work. His fiancée told him not to be foolish, but Paole’s gloomy attitude continued.
A week after the confession, he was killed in a fall from a cart and was quickly buried in the local cemetery. Three weeks later, a number of people complained of seeing Arnold Paole about the town and several said that he had come into their bedrooms at night for some unspecified purpose.
Shortly after, four of these complainants died from an unknown disease. The ghost of Arnold Paole was blamed for these deaths and the word “vampire” began to circulate in the district—people now heard of the curious story that he had told his fiancée. Even so, nothing was done immediately. Arnold Paole’s grave was opened forty days after his death.
To the alarm of everyone present, his body was found to be undecayed—and it got worse. Fresh blood had oozed from his eyes, nose, and ears and the front of his shirt, all across his chest, was found to be soaked in it.
His fingernails had fallen off but had been replaced by new growths and his hair appeared to have grown considerably. For the locals, this was a sure sign that Arnold Paole had become a vampire, so a wooden whitethorn stake was driven into the corpse’s heart in accordance with local custom.
In response, the dead man gave a loud groan, which was heard by everyone present. The body was left in the open and surgeons were brought from Belgrade in order to examine it.
They announced that Paole had been a vampire, and the four people who had died after reputedly seeing his ghost, were also exhumed and staked. However, the danger had not passed.
Four years afterwards, in 1731, seventeen people reputedly died, due to some sort of vampiric activity, evoking memories of Arnold Paole. A twenty-year-old woman by the name of Stana had suddenly and inexplicably died after an illness which had lasted three days and which came directly after her confinement.
On her deathbed, she confessed that she had secretly anointed herself with the blood of an alleged vampire in order to protect herself from its attentions whilst pregnant. (This, apparently, was a common belief in that part of Serbia.)
Nevertheless, both she and her baby died. Both were rather carelessly buried and the body of the infant was subsequently dug up and devoured by a wolf pack. The body of the woman, however, was left untouched by the wolves and seemed to be in an undecayed state.
When her grave was opened, it was found that her chest cavity was full of fresh blood and that she looked as fresh as when she had been alive. Both her finger and toenails were loose and came away when touched, revealing new ones growing underneath. The body was adjudged to be in “the vampire condition” and was burned.
Another body, that of a sixteen-year-old boy that had been buried for ninety days, was also exhumed and found to be as perfectly fresh as it had been when he was alive. The body of his companion was also unearthed and found to be in a similar condition.
Another young girl was dug up some time after being interred, and her body was also found to be fresh and supple and when a stake was thrust into her, she disgorged a large amount of blood. These, and a number of others, provoked yet another vampire scare. Soon the name of Arnold Paole was circulating far and wide, adding to the debate on vampires.
Sources: Encyclopedia of the Undead: “A Field Guide to the Creatures That Cannot Rest In Peace” by DR. Bob Curran