Vampires exist. Of course this reality is based on how we define “vampire”. The vampire of fiction, a walking, blood-sucking sexy corpse, is not real. However the vampire of folklore actually did exist, if only in people’s beliefs. People actually believed in them enough to act on that belief. In past centuries villagers would go through the trouble to dig up a grave, sometimes entire graveyards, exhuming the buried in search of corpses that did not decay properly. When such a corpse was found, it was killed a second time to make sure it was dead. It could be staked to keep it “down”, or it would be cremated by fire. The goal was to make sure the dead stayed dead. It was believed that the dead could truly be undead.
There was a recent story about the discovery of such a “vampire”. Check out these links below, they include images:
In the National Geographic News: “VAMPIRE” PICTURE: Exorcism Skull Found in Italy
The same story in the New Scientist: ‘Vampire’ discovered in mass grave
The source of this superstition seems to have emerged from people’s lack of understanding concerning the process of decay. There are factors that can slow down decomposition. Temperature, soil conditions, lack of oxygen in a grave and so forth. In the past people were not familiar with such things and if they encountered a grave where a corpse had not decayed but looked “fresh”, they logically assumed it was somehow still “alive” in some fashion and called it a vampire. The best look at the source of this folklore would be Paul Barber’s book “Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality”. He explores the causes behind the vampire folklore. It is the definitive word on the topic and highly recommended for anyone interested in the topic.
However, there remains a mystery. Why would people feel the need to dig up the dead in the first place? What could motivate people to such extreme action? It was an action taken when a community experienced sudden, unexplained illnesses accompanied by haunting phenomena. People back then felt the dead could be a source of menace to society…the vampire.
There was a belief that someone was not truly dead until the skeleton’s bones were bare and decomposition was complete. It was felt that the soul could linger as long as there remained cellular activity continuing on the body. A corpse is still alive in many respects…the process of decay is filled with microorganisms breaking down the body. The soul could remain connected to their body until nothing was left but the bones. This explained the need to kill a corpse a second time.
The vampire was sometimes mistakenly thought of as a walking corpse. However if we examine the folklore carefully, we see is that the vampire’s physical body did NOT leave his grave, only his or her spirit did. What people reported seeing was a predatory ghost that would feed off the life of the living, not sucking blood but one’s life, their chi or ka, causing illness. This ghost still had a connection to their physical corpse and it was thought to return to its body in the grave after feeding. These life-consuming spirits needed to feed to continue their halfway existence. This supposedly prevented the corpse from disintegrating into bones.
In spiritualist and occult theory, there is thought to be an intermediate stage between physical death and the point of permanently leaving the world of time and space. This intermediate stage is commonly referred to as our ghost. A ghost can still interact with the physical world in a subtle way. At death, the path to our final destination is usually swift and our ghost lingers only minutes. But it is possible for our soul to linger far longer for different reasons. Often a tragic death can shock a soul into remaining at the site of the tragedy, attached to it. Or a spirit may become attached to a place they knew in life. A soul may also remain attached to their physical body after death. When a spirit continues this attachment to their body after death, it becomes a vampire…a different and more dangerous type of ghost.
In my next post I will go into further detail about what spiritualism has to say about the nature of the vampire spirit. Ghosts are common, but vampire spirits extremely rare. Why? The answer next.