March 26, 2004

What that wooden stake is really for

Those who have been following the vampire language saga (here and here) on Prentiss Riddle's blog will want to take a look at this report from Walachia, south of Transylvania. Apparently in this culture, vampires only prey on their families:

"That's the problem with vampires," said Doru Morinescu, a 30-year-old shepherd who, like many in the village, has a family connection to the current case. "They'd be all right if you could set them after your enemies. But they only kill loved ones. I can understand why, but they have to be stopped."

The methods for dealing with vampires are also not quite as Bram Stoker depicted them.

"Before the burial, you can insert a long sewing needle, just into the bellybutton," he said. "That will stop them from becoming a vampire."

But once they've become vampires, all that's left is to dig them up, use a curved haying sickle to remove the heart, burn the heart to ashes on an iron plate, then have the ill relatives drink the ashes mixed with water.

"The heart of a vampire, while you burn it, will squeak like a mouse and try to escape," Balasa said. "It's best to take a wooden stake and pin it to the pan, so it won't get away."

I'm not sure that I see just how to pin something to an iron plate with a wooden stake. I can see why the reporter didn't ask more about this -- it's the sort of thing that easier to demonstrate than to describe effectively. Whatever the proper technique, it's illegal in Romania, where local authorities are threatening to file charges against the relatives of alleged vampire Toma Petre.

"What did we do?" pleaded Flora Marinescu, Petre's sister and the wife of the man accused of re-killing him. "If they're right, he was already dead. If we're right, we killed a vampire and saved three lives. ... Is that so wrong?"

[news tip from John Bell]

Posted by Mark Liberman at March 26, 2004 07:29 PM