Okay, so vampire don’t really exist, right? I mean, we’ve never found a real vampire. Well, now we might have real evidence.
Matteo Borrini of the University of Florence in Italy exhumed a skeleton from a grave in Venice that bears the hallmarks of a true vampire. He found the remains of a woman with a small brick in her mouth. He certainly wasn’t on the look out for vampires. Instead, Borrini had been excavating mass graves of plague victims on Lazzaretto Nuovo Island in Venice.
The island is believed to be the world’s first lazaret—a quarantine colony intended to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases. The lazaret was opened during the plague outbreaks that decimated Venice, as well as much of Europe, throughout the 15th and 16th centuries A.D.
Many people believed the plague was spread by vampires which, rather than suck blood, spread disease by chewing on their shrouds after dying. Grave-diggers put bricks in the mouths of suspected vampires to stop them doing this, Borrini says.
This wasn’t the only method of stopping vampires from rising. The association of Death and the scythe ultimately derived from vampire lore. Since the body would rise after death, people in the Balkans would bury their dead with scythes across the throat. This way, when the vampire rose, it would cut it’s own head off.
Later, when these graves were exhumed, the corpse was found with a scythe next to it. Ergo, the image of death holding a scythe.
Another way to stop a vampire was to drape a net with a multitude of knots. It seemed that vampires were obsessive compulsive, and would have to count all the knots. Another method was to scatter rice, forcing the creature to count all the grains. For a good example of this phenomena, check out the X-Files episode “Bad Blood” from season five. Here, Mulder tosses sunflower seeds, forcing the would be vampire to count them all.
Many of the beliefs in vampires were spawned by a misunderstanding of how bodies decomposed. Fingernails and hair will continue to grow. Yet when this corpse was dug up, it seemed to be still alive. Also, blood would sometimes be expelled from the mouth, causing the shroud to sink inward and tear.
Borrini, who presented his findings at a meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in Denver, Colorado, last week, claims this might be the first such vampire to have been forensically examined.
However, Peer Moore-Jansen of Wichita State University in Kansas says he has found similar skeletons in Poland and that while Borrini’s finding is exciting, “claiming it as the first vampire is a little ridiculous”.
Borrini says his study details the earliest grave to show archaeological “exorcism evidence against vampires”.