Moment in Oddity - Floating Violin
I'm sure many of us have heard or used the phrase, "It's the world's smallest violin and it's playing just for you". This is typically said in lack of pity to someone's whining about this, that, or the other. The first pop culture reference was on the TV show M*A*S*H by Major Margaret Houlihan (AKA Hot Lips Houlihan). Now take that tiny violin and flip it on it's ear and imagine the world's LARGEST FLOATING violin. That violin would be named Noah's Violin. The violin was created by Venetian artist Livio De Marchi. The violin was not playable, however, it did host a stringed quartet aboard, playing Vivaldi as it motorboated down Venice's Grand Canal in September of 2021. De Marchi came up with the idea during Italy's lockdown and stated that it represented Venice restarting. Bringing a message of hope, artistically and culturally. Artistry can take so many different forms, but a giant violin watercraft, certainly is odd.
This Month in History - The Completion of Mount Rushmore
In the month of October, on the 31st, in 1941, Mount Rushmore National Monument was completed. In 1923, a South Dakota historian wanted to attract tourists to the state and decided that a sculpture in the Black Hills area may just fit the bill. The historian was Doane (like roan) Robinson and Gutzon Borglum, a Danish-American sculptor was hired to help with the project. Borglum, along with his son, Lincoln, proposed that the sculpture be focused on the Nation and suggested four presidents should be carved. George Washington as the founding father of our nation, Thomas Jefferson for the signing of the Louisiana Purchase and the author the Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln for leading the nation through the Civil War and preserving our country at any cost, and Theodore Roosevelt due to his representation of conservation and the industrial boom. The mountain chosen to be carved was known to the Lakota's as the "Six Grandfathers". The work began in 1927 and until completion, employed more than 400 men which consisted of mostly miners. They may not have been artists, but they knew how to use dynamite and jackhammers. Each president's face is 60 feet high. The original plan was to carve each president to their waist, however, when funds ran out, it was determined that the sculptures were complete on the 31st of October, 1941. Overall, the project cost $989,992.32 and took 14 years to finish.
The Legend of Vampires
Vampire-like creatures have been a part of folklore for centuries. Much of what we believe about vampires has come from fictional works, but is it possible that undead entities that subsist on blood are real? There are several historical figures that either have connections to vampire lore or are cited as possible vampires. Could anyone who consumes blood be considered a vampire? Join us as we explore the origins of vampire lore and examine stories of reputed vampires!
The folklore surrounding vampirism dates back centuries and the initial vampire-like creatures were basically revenants. A revenant is a human corpse or the undead that rises from its grave. In most stories, the revenant is harmful to humans. Depending on the culture, a revenant can be either a spirit, a walking corpse or a demon. The etymology of the term "vampire" is hard to pin down and there are many theories. Some scholars claim it goes back to the Greek, others claim that it has a Hungarian origin. Balkan countries used words that translated as "wolf fairy." The word vampire was introduced in Germany in 1721. It entered the English lexicon in 1732 and the French in 1737. Where the term started really isn't as interesting as the actual subject. Why did cultures even start coming up with vampire lore?
The creation of these stories basically comes down to a lack of knowledge about disease and decay. The typical human corpse goes through a series of changes as it decomposes. Generally, we would not know about these changes unless we dug somebody up. And that is what they did, dug people up. And the reason this would be done was because someone in town got a wasting disease and villagers assumed that someone was taking the essence out of this person. Rumors would start that somebody had returned from the dead. The disinterred corpse would appear to still have growing hair and nails and blood would possibly be streaming from the mouth or nose. Internal decay causes bloating, forcing blood out of the body and that's why it would look like blood had flown out of a mouth. Nails and hair seemed to continue to grow because the skin would pull back as the body dried. And if the circumstances were right, a body might be preserved for a long period of time.
Vampire superstition thrived in the Middle Ages, especially as the plague decimated entire towns. The disease often left behind bleeding mouth lesions on its victims, which to the uneducated was a sure sign of vampirism. It wasn’t uncommon for anyone with an unfamiliar physical or emotional illness to be labeled a vampire. Many researchers have pointed to porphyria, a blood disorder that can cause severe blisters on skin that’s exposed to sunlight, as a disease that may have been linked to the vampire legend. In the late 1800s, tuberculosis of the lungs was referred to as consumption because it took a while to kill its victims. They seemed to waste away as they coughed up blood. The ill would grow pale and stop eating. Eventually, they would look almost like what most people would assume a vampire would appear to look like. At one point, one out of four people were dying from the disease. Villagers were positive that a family of vampires was living in their midst. When did these stories start to be told?
Surprisingly, the belief in vampire-like creatures was very prominent in Arabia. The earliest references found by archaeologists were on Chaldean and Assyrian tablets. Stories were found in Babylonian writing and vampires made it into Roman and Grecian works. Romans started adopting the cremating of bodies to ensure they wouldn't rise again. The Greeks and Romans spread their superstitions to Romania, Hungary, Austria, Poland, the British Isles and even Iceland. The first documented vampire hunt took place in 1345 in France. The aswang was a popular vampire-like creature in Asia starting in the 16th century. Chile had a blood-sucking snake known as a Peuchen. De Graecorum hodie quirundam Opinationabus was published in Greece in 1645 and was considered the first written text on the treatment of vampirism. The height of vampire fever hit Europe from the 1720s to the 1730s (so much for the Age of Enlightenment) and much of the well-known folklore comes out of 18th century Europe. Vampires made it into modern fiction with the publication of "The Vampyre" by the English writer John Polidori in 1819. Vampires got much of their start in America in New England in the late 18th century and early 19th century.
Much of what we have as our vampire lore was developed from Bram Stoker's "Dracula." This tome is really when vampires went from disgusting and horrific looking creatures to charismatic, good-looking and sensual. From the novel "Dracula," we get the following traits of vampires: They are immortal, have the strength of twenty men, they can take the form of an animal like a dog, bat or wolf, have no reflection in a mirror, can appear as a mist, holy water and crosses repel them, cast no shadow, they are pale with lips that can be a deep red depending on whether they have recently fed, they must sleep in dirt from their native land, they can't enter a home unless invited inside and they can change their victims into vampires. It is from the 1922 movie "Nosferatu" that we get the idea that a vampire can be destroyed by sunlight. These are considered the traditional characteristics. Some stories vary from this...you know, like sparkly vampires. The one core characteristic is the need for a vampire to consume blood.
The story element that one can only become a vampire if they are bitten by a vampire is more of a recent idea. It was actually thought to be possible that one could be born a revenant. Folklorist Paul Barber, wrote in his 2008 book, "Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality" that centuries ago, "Often potential revenants can be identified at birth, usually by some abnormality, some defect, as when a child is born with teeth. Similarly suspicious are children born with an extra nipple (in Romania, for example); with a lack of cartilage in the nose, or a split lower lip (in Russia) … When a child is born with a red caul, or amniotic membrane, covering its head, this was regarded throughout much of Europe as presumptive evidence that it is destined to return from the dead."
There were many superstitious practices taken up after a person died to prevent them from rising from the grave and attacking people. We already mentioned cremation. Sometimes a large stone was crammed in the mouth of the corpse before being buried, so that if the person did rise, they couldn't feed on anybody. In some places, a long nail was driven through the skull of the corpse and other places drove a stake not only into the body, but all the way through to the ground, so they would be pinned down. White thorn or ash wood was popular for making stakes. Iron stakes were also used. An interesting touch at some burials was to plant a thorny wild rose-bush near the body or at least put the stem from such o plant on the body, so that if the body tried to rise, the burial shroud would get entangled and trap the undead person. A corpse's arms might be crossed or a crucifix placed over the body to help prevent re-animation. Burial at four cross-roads was also thought to work. The strangest thing we read was that a corpse could be rubbed with the lard of a pig killed on St. Ignatius' Day to prevent vampirism.
Jure Grando Alilovic
The first historical person to be described as a vampire in records is believed to be Jure Grando Alilović who lived from 1579 to 1656. He lived in what is today Croatia. Jure Grando was called a štrigun, which was something akin to a vampire and a warlock. The legend claims that he died from an illness in 1656 and then rose from the grave every night for many years, terrorizing the people of the town of Kringa. There would be a knock on the door of a house in the village and someone from that house would die shortly thereafter. A priest in the town, Father Giorgio, claimed to come face to face with the vampire and said he held out a cross in front of the vampire and yelled "Behold Jesus Christ, you vampire! Stop tormenting us!" In 1672, the corpse of Jure was dug up and found to be perfectly preserved with a smile on his face. The group of villagers tried to pierce the chest with a hawthorne stick, but it didn't penetrate. They then sawed the head off. The vampire screamed through the process. The region was no longer terrorized.
Vlad the Impaler
Vlad Tepes (Tse-pesh) was also known as Vlad Dracul and he was born in Transylvania, Romania and ruled Walachia, Romania at different times from 1456-1462. Depending on who is telling his story, he was either a hero or a sadistic tyrant who was very cruel. He did fight off the Ottoman Empire for his people. Vlad is most known for his favoring of impaling his enemies, giving him the nickname Vlad the Impaler. Many scholars believe that Bram Stoker named Count Dracula in his novel "Dracula" after Vlad Dracul. The name Dracul comes from the Romanian word for dragon because Vlad II was inducted into the knightly Order of the Dragon. Stories about Vlad claim that he dined among his dying victims and even dipped his bread in their blood. Eighty thousand people were said to have been killed by Vlad. It makes sense that his barbaric reputation would inspire the character of Count Dracula. But he was not a vampire.
Mercy Brown was nineteen when she contracted the "galloping" variety of tuberculosis. This meant that the disease moved swiftly. Mercy passed away on January 17, 1892. Her body was placed in a stone crypt awaiting the spring thaw to be buried. Her brother Edwin also had tuberculosis and as his symptoms got worse, the people of the town started blaming a vampire for the Brown family's woes. They were certain that the vampire was living inside one of the Brown graves. This belief was held in more than just the town of Exeter. At least 80 burials have been found in recent years that appear to exhibit signs that people had been exhumed and their bodies desecrated in some way as to stop them from rising from their graves. The patriarch of the family, George Brown, grew desperate as his son became sicker and he started to believe that perhaps the neighbors were right and a vampire was stalking his family. It was decided that they needed to exhume his family members and find out which of them was the vampire. George and Doctor Harold Metcalf exhumed the bodies of George's wife and one of his daughters on March 17, 1892. They were both already skeletal. They next exhumed Mercy's body and it was still fully intact because she had been placed in the cool crypt and it was winter. Decomposition had not really begun. The two men also believe that they found fresh blood on her body. Mercy Brown was the vampire! Mercy's body was cut open and when her organs were found to still be full of blood, everyone was certain that the ritual they were about to embark upon was right. Mercy's heart was removed and burned. The ashes were collected and mixed with water so that Edwin could drink the concoction. It was believed that this would cure Edwin of the vampire attacks and break the spell. Edwin was obviously not cured. Historically, it is recorded that Mercy Brown was the last vampire exhumation.
The Carter Brothers
When taking a Vampire Tour in New Orleans, you will most definitely hear the story of the Carter Brothers. John and Wayne Carter lived in a house in the French Quarter. They kidnapped people, tied them to chairs in their house, slit their wrists open catching the blood in cups and then they drank the blood. They wouldn't completely drain their victims at once. They would leave the home before sunrise and return after dark. They would reopen the wounds at the wrists of their victims and drink the blood. They never did anything to care for their victims, like giving them food or water. They would just let them slowly die. No one knew this was happening until one of their victims managed to escape while the Carter Brothers were gone during the day. This was in 1932 and the victim was a young girl. She ran down Royal Street until she found a police officer. She told him her story and showed him her wrists, but he was skeptical because the story sounded so far-fetched. He did gather a group of officers and they visited the house where they were shocked to find four other victims. They were half dead and tied to chairs with bloody bandaged wrists. Two dead victims were also found wrapped in blankets. The brothers were arrested and they begged to be put to death because they believed they were vampires and couldn't stop what they were doing. They were tried, convicted and executed. Legend claims that when the vault where their bodies were placed was opened a year and a day later, there were no remains. There are actually no records of the Carter Brothers, either in the city or police records. Did they ever exist? There are some who claim that they see the Carter Brothers occasionally in the city. Many times they are reported standing on the second-floor balcony of the home where they used to live. Both thin and smartly dressed.
Let's look at some historical accounts of vampire-like activity. There was a castle in the north of England, where the vampire so frightened all the people that no one ever ventured out of doors between sunset and sunrise. The sons of one of his supposed victims at length opened his grave and pierced his body, from which a great quantity of blood immediately flowed, which plainly proved that a large number of persons had been his victims. In vol. iii. of Borderland by occultist Dr Franz Hartmann he shared a couple of narratives, "A young lady of G—— had an admirer, who asked her in marriage; but as he was a drunkard she refused and married another. Thereupon the lover shot himself, and soon after that event a vampire, assuming his form, visited her frequently at night, especially when her husband was absent. She could not see him, but felt his presence in a way that could leave no room for doubt. The medical faculty did not know what to make of the case; they called it ‘hysterics,’ and tried in vain every remedy in the pharmacopœia, until she at last had the spirit exorcised by a man of strong faith.
Another case is that of a miller at D—— who had a healthy servant boy, who soon after entering his service began to fail in health. He had a ravenous appetite, but nevertheless grew daily more feeble. Being interrogated, he at last confessed that a thing which he could not see, but which he could plainly feel, came to him every night and sat upon his stomach, drawing all the life out of him, so that he became paralysed for the time being and could neither move nor cry out. Thereupon the miller agreed to share the bed with the boy, and proposed to him that he should give him a certain sign when the vampire arrived. This was done, and when the sign was given the miller grasped the invisible but very tangible substance that rested upon the boy’s stomach, and although it struggled to escape, he grasped it firmly and threw it into the fire. After that the boy recovered his health and there was no repetition of the vampire’s visits."
Dr. Hartmann also contributed the following story to the Occult Review for September 1909, under the title of An Authenticated Vampire Story, "On June 10th, 1909, there appeared in a prominent Vienna paper (the Neues Wiener Journal) a notice saying that the castle of B—— had been burned by the populace, because there was a great mortality among the peasant children, and it was generally believed that this was due to the invasion of a vampire, supposed to be the last Count B——, who died and acquired that reputation. The castle was situated in a wild and desolate part of the Carpathian Mountains, and was formerly a fortification against the Turks. It was not inhabited, owing to its being believed to be in the possession of ghosts; only a wing of it was used as a dwelling for the caretaker and his wife. Now it so happened that, when I read the above notice, I was sitting in a coffee-house at Vienna in company with an old friend of mine who is an experienced occultist and editor of a well-known journal, and who had spent several months in the neighbourhood of the castle. From him I obtained the following account, and it appears that the vampire in question was probably not the old Count, but his beautiful daughter, the Countess Elga, whose photograph, taken from the original painting, I obtained. My friend said: ‘Two years ago I was living at Hermannstadt, and being engaged in engineering a road through the hills, I often came within the vicinity of the old castle, where I made the acquaintance of the old castellan, or caretaker, and his wife, who occupied a part of the wing of the house, almost separate from the main body of the building. They were a quiet old couple and rather reticent in giving information or expressing an opinion in regard to the strange noises which were often heard at night in the deserted halls, or of the apparitions which the Wallachian peasants claimed to have seen when they loitered in the surroundings after dark. All I could gather was that the old Count was a widower and had a beautiful daughter, who was one day killed by a fall from her horse, and that soon after the old man died in some mysterious manner, and the bodies were buried in a solitary graveyard belonging to a neighbouring village. Not long after their death an unusual mortality was noticed among the inhabitants of the village: several children and even some grown people died without any apparent illness; they merely wasted away; and thus a rumour was started that the old Count had become a vampire after his death. There is no doubt that he was not a saint, as he was addicted to drinking, and some shocking tales were in circulation about his conduct and that of his daughter; but whether there was any truth in them, I am not in a position to say."
This is a story from Crete, "Once upon a time the village of Kalikráti, in the district of Sfakia, was haunted by a Katakhanás (Which is the term for vampire there), and the people did not know what man he was or from what part he came. This Katakhanás destroyed both children and full-grown men, and desolated both that village and many others. They had buried him at the church of St George at Kalikráti, and in those times he was regarded as a man of note, and they had built an arch over his grave." So this shepherd comes along and seeks shelter from a storm where this vampire was buried and he and the vampire actually strike up a bit of a friendship that evening, but after the vampire returns from killing people and brings the shepherd a liver, the shepherd "lost no time, but gave information to the priests and others, and they went to the tomb, and there they found the Katakhanás, just as he had been buried. And all people became satisfied that it was he who had done all the evil deeds. On this account they collected a great deal of wood, and they cast him on it, and burnt him. His gossip was not present, but when the Katakhanás was already half-consumed, he, too, came forward in order that he might enjoy the ceremony. And the Katakhanás cast, as it were, a single spot of blood, and it fell on his foot, which wasted away, as if it had been roasted on a fire. On this account they sifted even the ashes, and found the little finger nail of the Katakhanás unburnt, and burnt it too."
At the beginning of the eighteenth century several vampire investigations were held at the instigation of the Bishop of Olmutz. The village of Liebava was particularly infested, and a Hungarian placed himself on the top of the church tower and just before midnight saw a well-known vampire issue from his tomb, and, leaving his winding-sheet behind him, proceed on his rounds. The Hungarian descended from the tower and took away the sheet and ascended the tower again. When the vampire returned he flew into a great fury because of the absence of the sheet. The Hungarian called to him to come up to the tower and fetch it. The vampire mounted the ladder, but just before he reached the top the Hungarian gave him a blow on the head which threw him down to the churchyard. His assailant then descended, cut off the vampire’s head with a hatchet, and from that time the vampire was no more heard of.
These are reports from a cemetery in Bulgaria, "1. A woman of the name of Stana, twenty years of age, who had died three months before, of a three days’ illness following her confinement. She had before her death avowed that she had anointed herself with the blood of a vampire, to liberate herself from his persecution. Nevertheless she had died. Her body was entirely free from decomposition. On opening it the chest was found filled with recently effused blood, and the bowels had exactly the appearance of sound health. The skin and nails of her hands and feet were loose and came off, but underneath were new skin and nails.
2. A woman of the name of Miliza, who had died at the end of a three months’ illness. The body had been buried ninety and odd days. In the chest was liquid blood. The viscera were as in the former instance. The body was declared by a heyduk, who recognised it, to be in better condition and fatter than it had been in the woman’s legitimate lifetime.
3. The body of a child eight years old, that had likewise been buried ninety days; it was in the vampire condition.
4. The son of a heyduk, named Milloc, sixteen years old. The body had lain in the grave nine weeks. He had died after three days’ indisposition, and was in the condition of a vampire.
5. Joachim, likewise the son of a heyduk, seventeen years old. He had died after three days’ illness; had been buried eight weeks and some days; was found in the vampire state.
6. A man of the name of Rusha, who had died of an illness of ten days’ duration and had been six weeks buried, in whom likewise fresh blood was found in the chest.
7. The body of a girl ten years of age who had died two months before. It was likewise in the vampire state, perfectly undecomposed, with blood in the chest.
8. The body of the wife of one Hadnuck, buried seven weeks before; and that of her infant eight weeks old, buried only twenty-one days. They were both in a state of decomposition, though buried in the same ground and closely adjoining the others.
9. A servant, by name Rhade, twenty-three years of age; he had died after an illness of three months’ duration, and the body had been buried five weeks. It was in a state of decomposition.
10. The body of the heyduk Stanco, sixty years of age, who had died six weeks previously. There was much blood and other fluid in the chest and abdomen, and the body was in a vampire condition.
11. Millac, a heyduk, twenty-five years old. The body had been in the earth six weeks. It was also in the vampire condition.
12. Stanjoika, the wife of a heyduk, twenty years old; had died after an illness of three days, and had been buried eighteen. The countenance was florid. There was blood in the chest and in the heart. The viscera were perfectly sound, the skin remarkably flush."
Marita Woywod Crandle owns the Boutique du Vampyre shop in the French
Quarter in New Orleans. We loved the shop and while there, we picked up
her book "New Orleans Vampires History and Legend" and in there, she
shares a story about a visitor to her shop that unnerved her and almost
convinced her that vampires may actually exist.
So are there such things as vampires? We guess the answer to this question depends upon the definition used to describe a vampire. If it simply is someone who drinks blood, then the answer is a clear "yes." There are many modern-day Sanguinarians who are vampire lifestylers. These are people involved in consensual relationships with people willing to have their blood drank. There are also spiritual vampires. These are people who drain others of their energy. We've all met a couple of these people. But what about the traditional vampire? The creature that is undead and must drink blood to continue forward. Are they real? Do they exist? That is for you to decide!