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THE ORIGINS OF THE VAMPIRE
THROUGHOUT the whole vast shadowy world of ghosts and demons there is no figure so terrible, no figure so dreaded and abhorred, yet dight with such fearful fascination, as the vampire, who is himself neither ghost nor demon, but yet who partakes the dark natures and possesses the mysterious and terrible qualities of both. Around the vampire have clustered the most sombre superstitions, for he is a thing which belongs to no world at all; he is not a demon, for the devils have a purely spiritual nature, they are beings without any body, angels, as is said in S. Matthew xxv. 41, "the devil and his angels." And although S. Gregory writes of the word Angel, "nomen est officii, non naturae,"—the designation is that of an office not of a nature, it is clear that all angels were in the beginning created good in order to act as the divine messengers ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), and that afterwards the fallen angels lapsed from their original state. The authoritative teaching of the Fourth Lateran Council under Innocent III in 1215, dogmatically lays down: "Diabolus enim et alii daemones a Deo quidem natura creati sunt boni, sed ipsi per se facti sunt mali." And it is also said, Job iv. 18: "Ecce qui seruiunt ei, non sunt stabiles, et in Angelis suis reperit prauitatem." (Behold they that serve him are not steadfast, and in his angels he found wickedness.)
John Heinrich Zopfius in his Dissertatio de Uampiris Seruiensibus, Halle, 1733, says: "Vampires issue forth from their graves in the night, attack people sleeping quietly in their beds, suck out all their blood from their bodies and destroy them. They beset men, women and children alike, sparing neither age nor sex. Those who are under the fatal malignity of their influence complain of suffocation and a total deficiency of spirits, after which they soon expire. Some who, when at the point of death, have been asked if they can tell what is causing their decease, reply that such and such persons, lately dead, have arisen from the tomb to torment and torture them." Scoffern in his Stray Leaves of Science and Folk Lore writes: "The best definition I can give of a vampire is a living, mischievous and murderous dead body. A living dead body! The words are idle, contradictory, incomprehensible, but so are Vampires." Horst, Schriften und Hypothesen über die Vampyren, (Zauberbibliothek, III) defines a Vampire as "a dead body which continues to live in the grave; which it leaves, however, by night, for the purpose of sucking the blood of the living, whereby it is nourished and preserved in good condition, instead of becoming decomposed like other dead bodies."
A demon has no body, although for purposes of his own he may energize, assume, or seem to assume a body, but it is not his real and proper body. So the vampire is not strictly a demon, although his foul lust and horrid propensities be truly demoniacal and of hell.
Neither may the vampire be called a ghost or phantom, strictly speaking, for an apparition is intangible, as the Latin poet tells us:
Par leuibus uentis uolucrique simillima somno.
And upon that first Easter night when Jesus stood in the midst of His disciples and they were troubled and frightened, supposing they had seen a spirit, He said: "Uidete manus meas, et pedes, quia ego ipse sum: palpate, et uidete: quia spiritus carnem, et ossa non habet, sicut ne uidetis habere." (See my hands and feet, that it is I myself; handle and see: for a spirit hath not flesh and bone, as you see me to have.)
There are, it is true, upon record some few instances when persons have been able to grasp, or have been grasped by and felt the touch of, a ghost, but these phenomena must be admitted as exceptions altogether, if indeed, they are not to be explained in some other way, as for example, owing to the information of a body by some spirit or familiar under very rare and abnormal conditions.
In the case of the very extraordinary and horrible hauntings of the old Darlington and Stockton Station, Mr. James Durham, the night-watchman, when one winter evening in the porter's cellar was surprised by the entry of a stranger followed by a large black retriever. This visitor without uttering a word dealt him a blow and he had the impression of a violent concussion. Naturally he struck back with his fist which seemed however to pass through the figure and his knuckles were grazed against the wall beyond. None the less the man uttered an unearthly squeak at which the dog gripped Mr. Durham in the calf of the leg causing considerable pain. In a moment the stranger had called off the retriever by a curious click of the tongue, and both man and animal hurried into the coal-house whence there was no outlet. A moment later upon examination neither was to be seen. It was afterwards discovered that many years before an official who was invariably accompanied by a large black dog had committed suicide upon the premises, if not in the very cellar, where at least his dead body had been laid. The full account with the formal attestation dated 9th December, 1890, may be read in W. T. Stead's Real Ghost Stories, reprint, Grant Richards, 1897, Chapter XI, pp. 210-214.
Major C. G. MacGregor of Donaghadee, County Down, Ireland, gives an account of a house in the north of Scotland which was haunted by an old lady, who resided there for very many years and died shortly after the beginning of the nineteenth century. Several persons who slept in the room were sensibly pushed and even smartly slapped upon the face. He himself on feeling a blow upon the left shoulder in the middle of the night turned quickly and reaching out grasped a human hand, warm, soft, and plump. Holding it tight he felt the wrist and arm which appeared clothed in a sleeve and lace cuff. At the elbow all trace ceased, and in his astonishment he released the hand. When a light was struck nobody could be seen in the room.
In a case which occurred at a cottage in Girvan, South Ayrshire, a young woman lost her brother, a fisher, owing to the swamping of his boat in a storm. When the body was recovered it was found that the right hand was missing. This occasioned the poor girl extraordinary sorrow, but some few nights later when she was undressing, preparatory to bed, she suddenly uttered a piercing shriek which immediately brought the other inmates of the house to her room. She declared that she had felt a violent blow dealt with an open hand upon her shoulder. The place was examined, and distinctly marked in livid bruises there was seen the impression of a man's right hand.
Andrew Lang in his Dreams and Ghosts (new edition, 1897), relates the story of "The Ghost that Bit," which might seem to have been a vampire, but which actually cannot be so classed since vampires have a body and their craving for blood is to obtain sustenance for their body. The narrative is originally to be found in Notes and Queries, 3rd September 1864, and the correspondent asserts that he took it "almost verbatim from the lips of the lady" concerned, a person of tried veracity. Emma S—was asleep one morning in her room at a large house near Cannock Chase. It was a fine August day in 1840, but although she had bidden her maid call her at an early hour she was surprised to hear a sharp knocking upon her door about 3.30. In spite of her answer the taps continued, and suddenly the curtains of her bed were slightly drawn, when to her amaze she saw the face of an aunt by marriage looking through upon her. Half unconsciously she threw out her hand, and immediately one of her thumbs was sensibly pressed by the teeth of the apparition. Forthwith she arose, dressed, and went downstairs, where not a creature was stirring. Her father upon coming down rallied her a little upon being about at cockcrow and inquired the cause. When she informed him he determined that later in the day he would pay a visit to his sister-in-law who dwelt at no great distance. This he did, only to discover that she had unexpectedly died at about 3.30 that morning. She had not been in any way ailing, and the shock was fearfully sudden. On one of the thumbs of the corpse was found a mark as if it had been bitten in the last agony.
The disturbances at the Lamb hostelry, Lawford's Gate, Bristol, which aroused something more than local interest in the years 1761-62, were not improbably due to witchcraft and caused by the persecutions of a woman who trafficked in occultism of the lowest order, although on the other hand they may have been poltergeist manifestations. The two little girls, Molly and Dobby Giles, who were the subjects of these phenomena, were often severely bitten and pinched. The impressions of eighteen or twenty teeth were seen upon their arms, the marks being clammy with saliva and warm spittle, "and the children were roaring out for the pain of the pinches and bites." On one occasion whilst an observer was talking to Dobby Giles she cried out that she was bitten in the neck when there suddenly appeared "the mark of teeth, about eighteen, and wet with spittle." That the child should have nipped herself was wholly impossible, and nobody was near her save Mr. Henry Durbin who recorded these events, and whose account was first printed in 1800, the year after his death, since he did not wish his notes to be given to the public during his lifetime. On 2nd January, 1762, Mr. Durbin notes: "Dobby cried the hand was about her sister's throat, and I saw the flesh at the side of her throat pushed in, whitish as if done with fingers, though I saw none. Her face grew red and blackish presently, as if she was strangled, but without any convulsion or contraction of the muscles." Thursday, 7th January, 1762, we have: "Dobby was bitten most and with deeper impressions than Molly. The impression of the teeth on their arms formed an oval, which measured two inches in length." All this certainly looks as if sorcery were at work. It may be remembered that in Salem during the epidemic of witchcraft the afflicted persons were tormented "by Biting, Pinching, Strangling, etc." When Goodwife Corey was on trial, "it was observed several times, that if she did but bite her under lip in time of examination, the Persons afflicted were bitten on their arms and Wrists, and produced the Marks before the Magistrates, Minister, and others."
In The Proceedings of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research, Vol. I., 1927, will be found an account of the phenomena connected with Eleonore Zügun, a young Rumanian peasant girl, who in the autumn of 1926, when only thirteen years old was brought to London by the Countess Wassilko-Serecki, in order that the manifestations might be investigated at "The National Laboratory of Psychical Research," Queensberry Place, South Kensington. The child was said to be persecuted by some invisible force or agent, which she knew as Dracu, Anglice the Devil. There were many extraordinary happenings and she was continually being scratched and bitten by this unseen intelligence. It must suffice to give but two or three instances of the very many "biting phenomena." On the afternoon of Monday, 4th October, 1926, Captain Neil Gow an investigator in his report, notes: "3.20. Eleonore cried out. Showed marks on back of left hand like teeth-marks which afterwards developed into deep weals.... 4.12. Eleonore was just raising a cup of tea to her lips, but suddently gave a cry and put the cup down hastily: there was a mark on her right hand similar to that caused by a bite. Both rows of teeth were indicated." Of the same incident, Mr. Clapham Palmer, an investigator who was also present writes: " Eleonore was in the act of raising the cup to her lips when she suddenly gave a little cry of pain, put down her cup and rolled up her sleeve. On her forearm I then saw what appeared to be the marks of teeth indented deeply in the flesh, as if she or someone had fiercely bitten her arm. The marks turned from red to white and finally took the form of white raised weals. They gradually faded but were still noticeable after an hour or so." Such bitings not infrequent occurred, and photographs have been taken of the marks.
It were an interesting question to discuss the cause of these indentations and no doubt it is sufficiently remarkable, but however that may be such inquiry were impertinent here, for it is clearly not vampirism, nor indeed cognate thereto. The object of the Vampire is to suck blood, and in these cases if blood was ever drawn it was more in the nature of a scratch or slight dental puncture, there was no effusion. Again the agent who inflicted these bites was not sufficiently material to be visible, at any rate he was able to remain unseen. The true vampire is corporeal.
The vampire has a body, and it is his own body. He is neither dead nor alive; but living in death. He is an abnormality; the androgyne in the phantom world; a pariah among the fiends.
Even the Pagan poet taught his hearers and his readers that death was a sweet guerdon of repose, a blessed oblivion after the toil and struggle of life. There are few things more beautiful and there are few things more sad than the songs of our modern Pagans who console their aching hearts with the wistful vision of eternal sleep. Although perhaps they themselves know it not, their delicate but despairing melancholy is an heritage from the weary yet tuneful singers of the last days of Hellas, souls for whom there was no dawn of hope in the sky. But we have a certain knowledge and a fairer surety for "now Christ is risen from the dead, the first-fruits of them that sleep." Yet Gray, half Greek, seems to promise to his rustics and his hinds as their richest reward after life of swink and toil dear forgetfulness and eternal sleep. Swinburne was glad:
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.
Only the eternal sleep
In an eternal night.
Emily Brontë lusted for mere oblivion:
Oh, for the time when I shall sleep
And never care how rain may steep,
Or snow may cover me!
Flecker in utter despair wails out:
I know dead men are deaf, and cannot hear
The singing of a thousand nightingales ...
I know dead men are blind and cannot see
The friend that shuts in horror their big eyes,
And they are witless—
Even more beautifully than the poets have sung, a weaver of exquisite prose has written: "Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one's head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time." Poor sorry souls! How arid, how empty are such aspirations when we think of the ardent glowing phrase of the Little Flower: "Je veux passer mon ciel à faire du bien sur la terre!" And "Even in the bosom of the Beatific Vision the Angels watch over us. No, I shall never be able to take any rest until the end of the world. But when the Angel shall have said 'Time is no more,' then I shall rest, then I shall be able to rejoice, since the number of the elect will be complete."
Excerpted from Vampires and Vampirism by Montague Summers. Copyright © 2005 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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Posted June 7, 2010
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