“There are such beings as vampires, some of us have evidence that they exist. Even had we not the proof of our own unhappy experience, the teachings and the records of the past give proof enough for sane peoples” – Bram Stoker
Vampire slaying is a rough and tumble business. Many are called, but few are chosen, and while times may often have looked tough for new recruits in Sunnydale, consider what you might face if you were the designated 18th Century Imperial Hapsburg monster hunter just a hop, skip, and a jump west of the Carpathians (ancestral haunt of Vlad Dracula and unsurprisingly, Vigo the Carpathian), in what is modern day Serbia. The 1718 Treaty of Passarowitz ended both the Ottoman-Venetian War (1714-1718) and the Austro-Turkish War (1716-1718) by ceding Ottoman controlled Serbia and northern Bosnia to the Austrian Hapsburg Empire. Serbia was in rotten shape, heavily depopulated and devastated by two years of war, but the Austrians determined to solve the problem by encouraging immigration of Serbian settlers, particularly those from nearby territories still held by the Ottomans, with land grants in exchange for militia service as an enticement. As the Hapsburgs tried to re-establish economically viable communities and displaced Serbians began resettling the area, a new problem emerged. Vampires. 18th Century Serbia was infested with the bloodsuckers. As the inheritors of the Holy Roman Empire, the Hapsburg monarchy probably figured they had enough theological weight to deal with the issue, which were it to persist, would likely impact real estate values in the Balkans, thus they sent in their appointed vampire slayer, Dr. Johannes Flückinger, Surgeon Major to the Regiment of Furstemburch of the Hapsburg Imperial Army, without even the benefit of a secret identity.
Flückinger arrived at the epicenter of the vampire plague centered in Madveiga, Serbia in 1732, and his adventures are particularly well documented due to the scrupulous official reports he submitted to the Honorable Supreme Command of the Imperial Austrian Army in Vienna, and through diligent investigation and forensic examination, identified patient zero as the undead Arnold Paole (Arnont Paule), a Serbian soldier and hadjuk (a Balkan version of Robin Hood), and as reluctant a revenant as one might ever wish to encounter. Paole’s non-vampiric career, that he himself reportedly described prior to his unfortunate demise in 1725 involved being stalked and bitten by a Turkish vampire in Gossowa. Aware as he was of the standard Serbian folkloric prophylactic measures against becoming a vampire once bitten, Paole undertook to scarf down some of the dirt from the offending vampire’s grave and give himself a thorough rubdown in its blood, thenceforth believing he had effectively countered the vampire contagion. Given that the traditional etiology of the Balkan vampire was that those bitten by a vampire would not themselves become vampires until after they expired, Paole could never be sure that his impromptu decontamination efforts did the trick, and as it turns out it appears they did not, since by most accounts he rose from the dead. There was no record of the Paole case until Flückinger arrived and documented the origins of the 1732 vampire infestation, tracing it back to Paole’s death seven years earlier. The Paole affair had been investigated by a local administrative official, and after four more, apparently vampire-related deaths, locals exhumed Paole (and the four additional victims) and performed the requisite stakings and burnings without recourse to higher authorities on the matter. It was nonetheless common knowledge, openly shared by villagers with Johannes Flückinger.
The well authenticated story of Arnold Paole has frequently been told. It is vouched for in a document signed in 1732 by three army surgeons, a lieutenant-colonel and a sub-lieutenant, whose joint endorsement should be accepted without question. Arnold confessed to his young wife that, while abroad, he had been bitten by a vampire. This, according to the accepted creed, doomed him to become a vampire after death. He died young, and was accorded – perhaps unwisely – a decent burial. He then began to haunt the countryside, and those who saw him showed signs of anemia, fell into a decline, and subsequently died. The military authorities investigated, and exhumed the body of Arnold which had been buried forty days. The corpse had moved to one side of the coffin, and fresh blood had trickled from its moist lips. In order to “play safe” and satisfy the insistent demand for entertainment by overwrought villagers, the military authorities drove a stake through the heart, and then burned the body. This would unquestionably have put an end to the trouble if it had not been for the fact that the unfortunate victims who had been bitten by the ghost of Arnold had themselves become vampires and continued their nocturnal activities until their corpses had been disposed of in a similar manner (Still, 1950, p129).
In 1731, yet another vampire infestation erupted in Madveiga, Serbia and a military doctor named Glaser (the nearest Imperial infectious disease specialist) stationed in a nearby town, was brought in to make inquiries at the request of the local military commander. Glaser reported a total of thirteen deaths in six weeks, without evidence of previous illness and a rapid decline unto death within days. Some of the victims reported having eaten meat from livestock bitten by vampires (which many said were originally attacked by Paole – who never really wanted to be a vampire in the first place) or having rubbed vampire blood on themselves as a protective measure. By the time Flückinger arrived on scene in January 1732, seventeen deaths had occurred, but Glaser had thrown up his hands and suggested that it was malnutrition, as he could find no indication of an incipient epidemic of the natural variety. Glaser filed a report with his superiors suggesting that the Imperial Army fulfill the local request to “execute” the suspected vampire corpses, if for no other reason than to assure the local population that the authorities had things under control. Austrian Vice-Commandant Botta d’Adorno in Belgrade, upon receiving the report from Glaser did not like the sound of things. He “sent in the wolf”, which in this case was Johannes Flückinger to open up a can of “whoop-ass” on either the Serbian settlers or the vampires, whoever was more deserving. Flückinger was thorough. He did his research and detailed the origins and progression of vampire attacks in Madveiga, compiling a detailed report, witnessed by several other military officials, including autopsies of the suspected corpses for the army command (a portion of which is excerpted below).
Medreyga in Hungary, Jan. 7, 1732. Upon a current Report, that in the Village of Medreyga certain dead Bodies (called here Vampyres) had kill’d several Persons, by sucking out all their Blood, the present Enquiry was made by the honourable Commander in Chief; and Capt. Gofcbutz of the Company of Stallater, the Hadnagi Bariacraf, and the Senior Heyduke of the Village were severally examined; who unanimously declared that about five Years ago a certain Heyduke, named Arnold Paul, was kill’d by the Overturning of a Cart Load of Hay, who in his Life-time was often heard to say, he had been tormented near Caschow, and upon the Borders of Turkish Servia, by a Vampyre; and that to extricate himself, he had eaten some of the Earth of the Vampire’s Graves, and rubb’d himself with their Blood. That 20 or 30 Days after the Decease of the said Arnold Paul, several Persons complain’d that they were tormented, and that, in short, he had taken away the Lives of four Persons. In order, therefore, to put a Stop to such a Calamity, the Inhabitants of the Place, after having consulted their Hardnagi, caused the Body of the said Arnold Paul to be taken up, 40 Days after he had been dead, and found the same to be fresh and free from all Manner of Corruption; that he bled at the Nose, Mouth and Ears, as pure and florid Blood as ever was seen; and that his Shroud and Winding-Sheet were all over bloody ; and lastly his Finger and Toe Nails were fallen off and new ones grown in their Room. As They observed from all these Circumstances, that he was a Vampyre, They according to Custom drove a Stake through his Heart; at which he gave a horrid Groan, and lost a great deal of Blood. Afterwards They burnt his Body to Ashes the same Day, and threw them into his Grave. These good Men say farther, that all such as have been tormented, or kill’d by Vampyres, become Vampyres when they are dead; and therefore They served several other dead Bodies as They had done Arnold Paul’s, for tormenting the Living. Signed, Batruer, first Lieutenant of the Regiment of Alexander; Flückinger, Surgeon Major to the Regiment of Furstemburch; three other Surgeons; Gurfchitz, Captain at Stallath (D’Anvers, 1732, p120-122).
Flückinger concluded that the corpses he examined were das Vampyrenstand (“in a vampiric condition”), enlisted the help of local Gypsies, beheading the bodies, burning them, scattering the ashes in a river, and re-intering the headless bodies in fresh graves, effectively ending the vampire reign of terror in Madveiga. The investigative and historical quality of both Glaser and Flückinger’s reports was such that the case garnered enormous amounts of attention throughout Europe, sparking a debate about whether the dead could rise, and what the nature of vampires was.
In 1731, seven years after these events, seventeen persons died in the village near about one time. The memory of the unlucky Arnold recurred to the villagers; the vampyre theory was again appealed; he was believed to have dealt with the seventeen as he had previously dealt with the four; and they were therefore disinterred, the heads cut off, the hearts staked, the bodies burned, and the ashes dispersed. One supposition was that Arnold had vampyrised some cattle, that the seventeen villagers had eaten of the beef, and had fallen victims in consequence. This affair attracted much attention at the time. Louis the XV directed the Ambassador at Vienna to make inquiries in the matter. Many of the witnesses attested on oath that the disinterred bodies were full of blood, and exhibited few of the usual symptoms of death – indications which the believers in vampyres stoutly maintained to be always present in such cases. This has induced many physicians to think that real cases of catalepsy or trance were mixed up with the popular belief, and were supplemented by a large allowance of epidemic fanaticism (Clark, 1873, p248-249).
Even the King of France, Louis XV (1710-1774) caught wind of the happenings in Serbia and requested his ministers obtain copies of the Glaser and Flückinger assessments, presumably passing them own to his own royal monster hunters as important reference material.
In a newspaper published in the reign of Louis XV there appeared an announcement to the effect that Arnold Paul, a native of Madveiga, being crushed to death by a wagon and buried, had since become a vampire, and that he had been previously bitten by one. The authorities being informed of the terror his visits were occasioning, and several people having died with all the symptoms of vampirism, his grave was opened; and although he had been dead forty days his body was like that of a very full-blooded, living man. Following the mode of exorcism traditionally observed on such occasions, a stake was driven into the corpse, whereupon it uttered a frightful cry—half human and half animal; after which its head was cut off, and trunk and head burned. Four other bodies which had died from the consequences of the bites, and which were found in the same perfectly healthy condition, were served in a similar manner; and it was hoped these vigorous measures would end the mischief. But no such thing; cases of deaths from the same cause—i.e., loss of blood—still continued, and five years afterwards became so rife that the authorities were compelled to take the matter up for the second time. On this occasion the graves of many people, of all ages and both sexes, were opened, and the bodies of all those suspected of plaguing the living by their nocturnal visits were found in the vampire state—full almost to overflowing with blood, and free from every symptom of death. On their being served in the same manner as the corpse of Arnold Paul the epidemic of vampirism ceased, and no more cases of it have since been reported as occurring in that district. A rumour of these proceedings reaching the ears of Louis XV, he at once ordered his Minister at Vienna to report upon them. This was done. The documents forwarded to the King (and which are still in existence) give a detailed account of all the occurrences to which I have referred. They bear the date of June 7, 1732, and are signed and witnessed by three surgeons and several other persons (O’Donnell, 1912, p134-135).
The incidents in Medveiga were discussed in the learned academies of the time, with even the pious and well-known Benedictine monk Antoine Augustin Calmet (1672-1757) authoring an entire well-received treatise on the “Apparitions of spirits and vampires, or ghosts of Hungary, Moravia “. Contemporary reviewers of Calmet’s work describe his efforts in an idiom that modern anomalists can appreciate, saying “The learned Germans got up dissertations on vampires and vampirism: the French press did the same: the most moderate (among whom was Dom. Calmet himself) did not dare wholly to deny the possibility of the reappearance of deceased persons; though they inclined to discharge the devil from the imputation of creating vampires. The Doctors of the Sorbonne commended the work of Dom. Calmet for avoiding two rocks, equally fatal, said they, on the subject of reappearances—that of vain credulity, on the one hand, that of dangerous phyrhonism, on the other. It should seem, therefore, that he concluded, somewhat like Dr. Johnson, “Why, Sir, all testimony is for it; and all argument is against it” (Cabinet of Curiosities, 1824, p167). Calmet ultimately equivocated on whether vampires were real or not, but pointed out that the Serbian infestation had certainly engendered some problematic medical and spiritual questions.
A little before he says, that in 1732 they discovered again some vampires in Hungary, Moravia, and Turkish Serbia; that this phenomenon is too well averred for it to be doubted; that several German physicians have composed pretty thick volumes in Latin and German on this matter; that the Germanic Academies and Universities still resound with the names of Arnold Paul, of Stanoska, daughter of Sovitzo, and of the Heyducq Millo, all famous vampires of the quarter of Medreiga, in Hungary (Calmet, 1850, p55).
So well known and well documented was the 18th Century Serbian rash of vampires that even notable French writer Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) included a discussion of the subject in his memoirs.
But indeed it is a known, registered and well established fact! Do you doubt it? . . .Read Don Calmet’s Traitt des apparitions, vol ii. pp. 41; you will find a record signed by the hadnagi Barriavar and the ancient hei’duques; further by Battiw, first lieutenant of the regiment of Alexander of Wurtemberg; by Clercktinger, surgeon-major of the Fiirstenberg regiment; by three other surgeons of the company and by Goltchitz, captain at Slottats, stating that in the year 1730, a month after the death of a certain heiduque, who lived in Medreiga, named Arnold-Paul, who had been crushed by the fall of a hay waggon, four people died suddenly, and, from the nature of their death, according to the traditions of the country, it was evident that they had been the victims of vampirism; they then called to mind that, during his life, this Amold-Paul had often related how, in the neighbourhood of Cossova, on the Turko-Servian frontier, he had been worried by a Turkish vampire,—for they too hold the belief that those who have been passive vampires during their lives become active vampires after their death,—but that he had found a cure in the eating of earth from the vampire’s grave, and in rubbing himself with its blood, precautions which did not prevent him from becoming a vampire after his death; for, four persons having died, they thought the deed was due to him, and they exhumed his body forty days after his burial: he was quite recognisable, and his body bore the colour of life; his hair, his nails and his beard had grown; his veins were filled with a bloody fluid, which exuded from all parts of his body upon the shroud in which he was wrapped round: the hadnagi, or bailiff of the place, in the presence of those who performed the act of exhumation, and who was a man experienced in cases of vampirism, caused a very sharp stake to be driven through the heart of the said Arnold-Paul, after the usual custom, piercing his body through and through, a frightful cry escaping from his lips, as though he were alive; this act accomplished, they cut off his head, burned him to ashes, and did the same with the corpses of the four or five other victims of vampirism, lest they, in their turn, should cause the deaths of others; but none of these precautions prevented the same wonders from being renewed, five years later, about the year 1735, when seventeen people, belonging to the same village, died from vampirism, some without any previous illness, others after having languished two or three days; among others a young person, named Stranoska, daughter of the heiduque Jeronitzo, went to bed in perfect health, waked up in the middle of the night, trembling all over, uttering fearful shrieks, and saying that the son of the heiduque Millo, who had died nine weeks before, had tried to strangle her during her sleep; she languished from that instant, and died in three days’ time: since what she had said of the son of Millo led them to suspect him of being a vampire, they exhumed him, and found him in a state which left no doubt of the fact of vampirism; they discovered, in short, after prolonged investigation, that the defunct Arnold-Paul had not only killed the four persons already referred to, but also many animals, of which fresh vampires, and particularly Millo’s son, had eaten; on this evidence, they decided to disinter all who had died since a certain date, and among about forty corpses they discovered seventeen which bore evident signs of vampirism; so they pierced their hearts, cut off their heads, then burnt them and threw their bodies into the river (Dumas, 1907, p289-299).
Interestingly, 19th Century scholars, with acute hindsight, were not so nearly as open to the possibility that the dead might walk, as the men on scene investigating and actively slaying vampires in the 18th Century. The Dublin Inquisitor (a gentleman’s Literary magazine), concluded in 1821 that considerations such as those of the French philosopher and writer Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d’Argens (1704-1771), who mused about the odd events in Serbia at length, to be an utter waste of time, despite the voluminous official testimony surrounding the case.
The Marquis D’Argens, from one of whose Jewish Letters we have taken the foregoing extract, copied it from the Mercure Historique et Politique, Oct. 1736, p. 403 to 41 J, and has wasted several pages of erudition and subtle argument in endeavoring to account on probable grounds for such extraordinary appearances. He however acknowledges, that he is ashamed to spend so much time in exposing the delusion of the witnesses, who could place their signatures to a document so totally incredible; and after expressing his opinion that it would be ridiculous to give credit to such stories, however well attested, he overturns their possibility by a regular dilemma. We cannot, however, imitate his example, as we think it unnecessary to present to our readers a refutation of facts which would startle the most credulous and most ignorant peasant (The Dublin Inquisitor, 1821, p260).
The Dublin Inquisitor elected not to undertake a “refutation of the facts”. This is a shame, in that we are unable to make fun of them on a more comprehensive basis, as while the Marquis D’Argens no doubt was aware of the Serbian vampires, widely detailed in the French press, D’Argens Jewish Letters was actually a work of fictional correspondence between two invented rabbis. In essence, they would have, at length, been proving that a fictional account was indeed fictional. Sneering skeptics and wonder-impaired rationalists often point to the presence in the popular consciousness of the anomalistic as a refutation of the strange or sinister. Writers imagined aliens, spaceships, and intelligent life on other planets long before our modern flying saucers started appearing, thus our sudden awareness that the “truth might be out there” must be attributable to our easily-influenced little brains, internalizing a common meme and projecting it onto the universe. Vampires don’t exist, simply because in the vapid world of logical positivism, they can’t. Thus, unsung heroes like Johannes Flückinger never wind up receiving the credit they deserve for fighting back the darkness, and keeping the world safe for mere mortals. Flückinger was an ordinary surgeon, who when faced with the living dead, put on his big girl panties and commenced slaying. Would that we could all be so brave when the monsters come, but perhaps there is hope for us, for as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer”.
Calmet, Augustin, 1672-1757. The Phantom World: Or, The Philosophy of Spirits, Apparitions, &c. London: R. Bentley, 1850.
Clark, Daniel, 1835-1912. Pen Photographs of Celebrated Men And Noted Places, Ghosts And Their Relations, Tales, Sketches, Essays, Etc., Etc.: a New Canadian Work. Toronto: Flint, Morton, 1873.
Dumas, Alexandre, 1802-1870. My Memoirs. London: Methuen & co, 1907.
O’Donnell, Elliott, 1872-1965. Werwolves. London: Methuen, 1912.
Still, Alfred, 1869-. Borderlands of Science. New York: Philosophical Library, 1950.
The Dublin Inquisitor. “Vampirism”. Dublin:: Published by C.P. Archer, Dame Street., 1821.
D’Anvers, Caleb. “Untitled Article on Vampirism”. The Craftsman, no. 307 (May 20). Eds. Caleb d’Anvers, of Gray’s-Inn, esq., Henry St. John, viscount Bolingbroke, W. Pulteney, afterwards earl of Bath, and others. London: Printed for R. Franklin, 1732.
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