400-year-old "vampire" child found padlocked in its grave to prevent an undead escape

Originally published at: 400-year-old "vampire" child found padlocked in its grave to prevent an undead escape | Boing Boing


Did vampires get to all the replies that used to be here?


Fx Networks Yes GIF by What We Do in the Shadows


Adjacent, Dr. Betsinger’s work in this area is really cool.


It’s really cool that Dr. Betsinger lists some of the “causes” of vampirism such as “not being baptized, being born out of wedlock, being the first to die in a disease outbreak, committing suicide, even practicing witchcraft”.

If you really delve into the folklore, and I’m sure she has, some of the other ways to become a vampire include your corpse being carried out of your home feet first, your corpse being carried out head first, a cat or other animal leaping over your grave during the funeral, being born with teeth, having red hair and blue eyes, being a terrible person, or having a corpse that doesn’t decay.

At times, depending on where you were in central or eastern Europe, it seems like it was almost impossible to not become a vampire.


It speaks to fear of “other” in a way I’ve not read about (but that could certainly exist) in other cultures at the time. Anything that doesn’t meet the absolute up-the-middle norm was feared.


So, basically like being a witch?



I love that scene. It’s actually one I love showing to students when I teach the section on “The Witch Craze” in Western Civ. It was great to dissect it in terms of “what did they get right.” There’s a bunch of very good history in that classic movie.


It was very funny to me, and also not surprising, that the scene was used in an article titled “How Do You Know She’s a Witch?”: Witches, Cunning Folk, and Competition in Denmark" in the journal Western Folklore (v.59 no.3/4, 2000):

Already in the seventeenth question, “How do you know she’s a witch?” is not, “She turned me into a newt,” or some other example of physically verifiable maleficium, but rather, “Because I say so.”


That’s an interesting article, thanks for posting it. I’m especially interested in the mention of 21 accusations of witchcraft for “ruining beer” (p.283). There’s an interesting tradition of accusing “beer witches” of spoiling beer. I’ve been digging around trying to find an account of what constituted “spoiled” to the degree that an accusation of witchcraft followed.

Or, what would be credible when making such an accusation. Beer spoiled easily, and anyone who made beer would encounter a batch spoiled to one degree or another. Anyone who consumed beer would have encountered sour batches. So at what point of “spoiled” would someone think “aha! A witch.” Also, if one wanted to accuse someone of witchcraft, how bad would a batch have to be, or in what state, for a witchcraft accusation to be met with anything other than “Sven, your beer is always like this.”


I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, of course.

Accusations of witchcraft were rarely about specific extraordinary misfortunes, they were about quotidian regular misfortunes, plus existing social and/or interpersonal stresses and resentments.

If Sven blames Magnus for spoiling his beer with witchcraft, but Magnus is popular and easy-going, and Sven is known to have a beef with him over that cow that strayed that time, then everyone is likely to say “yeah, Sven, and it was trollies who hid your tunic after the goat got into your clothes chest.” But if Sven was to accuse Gunner, who nobody really likes, and keeps to himself, and is a mean drunk, and has been looking (pleased with himself/especially worried about something) recently, and a whole bunch of things have been going wrong around the place as well, and there’s worry about political tensions in the kingdom, and there are mutterings of “unnatural practices” going around anyway, then Sven’s accusations might be met with “you know, I never trusted that bastard, but he couldn’t have done it alone: we have to find out if there was anyone working with him.”, and things go to shit.


The linked article adds another level of subtlety to what you’ve written. That is, that in that area anyway, people who were “cunning folks” (ie. healers but also probably able to perform other low-key “magic”) had a level of immunity, and worked to keep accusations of witchcraft at bay. The author makes the [insightful, IMO] point that by the time a formal accusation of witchcraft was leveled, the person was done for. In all likelihood rumors had been swirling for a long time. Cunning folks had good PR, so even those on the “outs” socially could immunize themselves from the accusations, and if accused from the harshest of punishments.


Hey, don’t look at me; that was the Colin Robinson variety, in action.

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