The mythological gods, and goddesses of ancient Greece, may well be the ancestors of vampire folklore throughout European history. It was Zeus, the supreme god of Greek mythology, who was responsible for the creation of one of the earliest life-sucking demons in history—and he did it by fooling around with another woman.
Zeus and the Libyan princess Lamia, who was the daughter of the sea god Poseidon, had a romance, and attracted the wrath of Hera, Zeus’s jealous wife. Hera took revenge upon the unfortunate Lamia, by kidnapping and killing all of her God-spawned children, and driving the bereft woman into exile.
Grief-stricken and unable to retaliate against the power of the gods who’d brought her such misery, Lamia began exacting revenge upon humankind by stealing and sucking the life from the babies of mortal mothers. In later legendary incarnations, Lamia evolved into a legion of unearthly beings, with the upper bodies of women, and the lower shapes of serpents. These creatures are called lamiae, and they suck the blood of children. They can also alter their horrific appearances at will to seduce young men and lead them to ruin or death.
Today, the modern vampire is sophisticated, suave, charismatic, charming, and knows how to survive in the modern world. Despite the general disbelief in vampiric entities, occasional sightings of vampires are reported. Indeed, vampire hunting societies still exist.
In 1892 a woman from Exeter, Rhode Island, named Mercy Brown, died when she was 19 years old from an unknown illness, however after her death people around town began to report seeing her walking around. When Mercy’s dead body was examined, it reportedly still looked alive. According to the legend, Mercy’s heart was removed in order to end her wanderings.
One story takes place in the Cumbrian village of Croglin, in the years after the English Civil War. The story goes a Miss Cranswell was attacked and bitten on the neck by a horrible figure that climbed into her bedroom through a window. Her two brothers gave chase with pistols, but it moved too fast.
They believed it was some lunatic, but the creature returned and attacked again, one of the brothers managed to shoot the creature, hitting it in the leg as it escaped again. The villagers banded together and went to the local graveyard, where they found a vault with all coffins smashed but one. Inside was a mummified shrivelled corpse with a leg badly damaged by a pistol ball. To this day there are sightings of this vampire.
In early 1970 local press spread rumours that a vampire haunted Highgate Cemetery in London. Amateur vampire hunters flocked in large numbers to the cemetery. Several books have been written about the case, notably by Sean Manchester, a local man who was among the first to suggest the existence of the “Highgate Vampire” and who later claimed to have exorcised and destroyed a whole nest of vampires in the area.
In January 2005, rumours circulated that an attacker had bitten a number of people in Birmingham, England, fuelling concerns about a vampire roaming the streets. However, local police stated that no such crime had been reported and that the case appears to be an urban legend. In Romania during February 2004, several relatives of Toma Petre feared that he had become a vampire. They dug up his corpse, tore out his heart, burned it, and mixed the ashes with water in order to drink it.
More recently, in September 2013, archaeologists digging at a medieval complex in Perperikon in southern Bulgaria, discovered the skeleton of a man with a heavy piece of ploughshare – an iron rod used in a plough – hammered through its chest. The grave dated back to the first half of the 13th Century, and is one of several vampire graves in the area. This anti vampire ritual was often applied to people who had died in unusual circumstances – such as suicide.
The Bubonic plague, which is said to have begun in Asia in the 1340s, quickly spread to Europe by 1347, is thought to have wiped out one-third of the European population. Commonly called the Black Death.
In Northern and Central Europe, vampires were thought to be bringers of plague. On the other hand, in Southern Europe, it was believed that the Black Death itself attracted vampires. Another belief was that the plague was spread by a vampire known as Taxim. Taxim was an animated corpse fueled by a desire to enact revenge upon everyone who wrong him in life, and nothing will stop him from achieving his goal
Mass burials that resulted from the Black Death were common throughout Europe. Matteo Borrini of the University of Florence in Italy, found the skeletal remains of a woman who had a brick wedged into her mouth, a telltale sign it was assumed that she was a vampire. It was believed that a vampire would eat its way out of a grave, thus a brick was placed in the vampire’s mouth to prevent it from re-emerging The skull of the “Vampire of Venice,” found in a mass plague grave with a brick stuck in its jaw.
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