There are many legends and superstitions concerning vampires. The blood drinking faction of the undead seem to have been busy all around Europe from the medieval era until the 1930s when they all moved to Hollywood or Pinewood. Most of the superstitions centre on how vampires can be deterred, killed and interred. The way the corpses of supernatural manifestations should be disposed of in order to stop them becoming undead again is of utmost importance.
Some examples of vampire lore are just silly. The belief that garlic will repel a vampire for example ignores the fact that garlic will repel anybody if we are less than assiduous about dental hygiene after eating it. The legend that iron will repel vampires fails in the same way as anybody who has been hit in the face with a shovel or old fashioned frying pan will testify. In some parts of Europe vampires were not very bright and it was simply sufficient to steal one of a suspected vampire’s socks in order to ensure the unfortunate ceature spent the rest of eternity looking for the missing item of hosery and never left the grave to trouble local virgins.
In other places putting a coin in the vapire’s mouth is believed to do the trick. The vampire swallows the coin when trying to rise from their coffin and their fellow vampires have not yet learned the Heimlich manouvre.
Legends also show vampires to be very anally retentive. For this reason in Germany poppy seds were put in the coffin of a suspected vampire and on revitalising the monster could not resist the urge to count and grade the seeds which kept them busy for along time.
All these methods are proved because people they are used on never acually return to the realm of the living as vampires. What more proof could anybody want.
In Britain and Ireland the coffin of a suspected vampire would be lifted out of the house through a window which was then bricked up as everyone knows vampires can only re-enter a house the same way as they left. In Shropshire when I was young every child knew (because the rustics delighted in telling us) that some old houses had bricked up windows because a vampire had once lived there. It was nothing to do with the pernicious window tax, levied on the number of windows a house had of course. The tax persisted from the seventeenth to the early nineteenth century. It’s abolition marked the end of The Dark Ages :))
(As an exercise readers can work out which parts of the above paragraph might be true)
One of the most persistent and popular superstitions is that a vampire can only be killed with a steak. This may well be true, but only if the steak is from Heston Blumenthals restaurant.
Perhaps the most bizarre of all stop the vampire techniques came to light earlier this week. It was reported in the news archaeologists excavating a sixteenth century graveyard in Italy opened one of the graves to find the female skeleton had a brick between its teeth. After consulting folklore experts the archaeological team concluded this proved the woman was suspected of being a vampire.
Apparently it did not occur to them that maybe she just liked chewing bricks.
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Read CARPE JUGULUM book review. Paul M reviews Terry Pratchett’s comic take on modern politically correct Vampires at Gather.com