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Petar Blagojević: The Case of the Vampire that Chilled Serbia

Since time immemorial, humans have been terrified of vampires
Since time immemorial, humans have been terrified of vampires

Petar Blagojević was a peasant from Serbia who was said to have turned into a vampire after his death and slaughtered nine people from his hamlet. In terms of the history of vampire mania, this instance stands out as one of the oldest, most spectacular, and best-documented examples.

The account of Austrian administration official and Imperial Provisor Ernst Frombald, who was present at Blagojević’s stake, is available in this report. It details one of the most frantic vampire manias and how it played out.

Academics have cited the Blagojevich case as a significant factor in shaping the current vampire stereotypes in Western popular culture.

How This Horror Story Unfolded: A Vampire Named Petar Blagojević

Peter Blagojević was a resident of Kisilova (Kisiljevo), a hamlet in the Serbia region that was returned to the Ottomans after the Treaty of Belgrade (1795) and briefly transferred from Ottoman into Austrian hands after the Treaty of Passarowitz.

Blagojević passed away in 1725. As a result of his passing, several unexpected fatalities occurred (after very short maladies of about twenty-four hours each). Nine people died in a span of eight days. Before their passing, the deceased victims reportedly said that Blagojević had choked them on their beds at night.

The wife of Blagojević claims her husband came to see her and requested shoes. Afterward, she relocated and moved to a new town. According to several narratives, Blagojević returned home and brutally killed his son because he refused to provide him with food.

The locals dug up the corpse to check for telltale indicators of vampirism, such as a full beard, long fingernails, and a lack of decay.

An artwork depicting a vampire being put down

An artwork depicting a vampire being put down

Kisilova residents insisted on seeing their local priest and the Kameralprovisor Frombald present during the proceedings as state representatives. Frombald argued that they should first get approval from the Austrian authorities in Belgrade.

The villagers turned down the offer because they were worried that the vampire would wipe off the whole town before the permission could reach, as they said had occurred “in Turkish times” or when their hamlet was still under Ottoman authority in Serbia. They insisted that action be authorized immediately by Frombald, or else they would have to leave the hamlet for their lives. Frombald needed to agree.

While accompanying the Gradika priest to view the corpse, he was shocked to see that all the hallmarks of a vampire were there. There was no sign of decomposition on the body; hair and beard had grown, “new skin and nails” had replaced the old ones, and blood was visible in the mouth.

The crowd then “became more enraged than distressed” and staked the body through the heart, resulting in a massive quantity of “perfectly fresh” blood gushing out of the corpse’s ears and mouth. Once it was all said and done, the corpse was burnt.

Frombald closes his report on the case by pleading that he not be held responsible for the villagers’ conduct if they were later proved inappropriate; the authorities did not see it essential to take any action about the occurrence.

Explanations and History

This account was one of the first to be recorded on vampirism in Eastern Europe. Wienerisches Diarium, the predecessor of today’s Die Wiener Zeitung, was the newspaper responsible for its publication. It was extensively translated West and North, adding to the vampire panic of the eighteenth century in Germany, France, and England, along with the story of the highly similar Arnold Paole case of 1726-1732.

In De mastication, Michal Ranft aimed to explain the widespread belief in vampires at the time. He claims that if anyone in a town were to die, everyone who came into contact with the corpse would ultimately die, either from a sickness acquired from the body or the shock and resulting madness.

A scene from Nosferatu (1928) Petar Blagojević

A scene from Nosferatu (1928)

Some of the dying would claim to have seen the deceased man, who tormented them mercilessly. The rest of the villagers would dig up the body to investigate its actions. Regards to Peter Blagojević, he provides the following rationale:

A chain reaction begins with “This brave man perished by a sudden or violent death. Whatever this death is, it can provoke in the survivors the visions they had after his death. Sudden death gives rise to inquietude in the tight circle. Inquietude has sorrow as a companion. Sorrow brings melancholy. Melancholy engenders restless nights and tormenting dreams. These dreams enfeeble body and spirit until illness overcomes them.”

As a result of this news, several journalists in Serbia began paying attention to the little town of Kisiljevo. Local official Bogii, quoted by the Belgrade daily Glas javnosti, claims that the locals have no idea where Blagojević (Blagojevich) is buried or if the local family with that surname is linked to him.

However, one resident did remember hearing tales of a female vampire named Rua Vlajna, who was said to stalk the town not too long ago during her grandfather’s time. She was seen roaming on the surface of the Danube and was known to make her presence known by smashing pots dangling from houses, although it is unclear whether she was ever staked.

Other Famous Instances of Vampires and Vampirism Across the World

These tales about vampires have frightened humans for generations. But some have a basis in reality, which only adds to their eerie quality. Here are some terrifying urban legends that turned out to be genuine if you’re looking for more eerie tales.

Elizabeth Báthory

Blood, torture, sex sensationalism, and growing scholarly disagreement characterize this narrative. Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory (1560-1614) was either a homicidal maniac or a pawn incriminated by relatives and enemies eager to acquire her riches, depending on the version.

More than 600 young ladies are said to have been murdered in Báthory’s opulent castles, leading many to call her the Most Prolific Female Serial Killer in History. They say she was under the impression that a bath in their fresh blood would keep her young forever. In contrast, it ensured she would forever be remembered for all the wrong reasons. The rumored sadism of Báthory has spawned everything from feature films to stage productions to television series to computer games.

The Báthory Castle and Wax Museum in Nyrbátor, Hungary, allows visitors to gaze at wax effigies of the countess and her kin. Nyrbátor is located about 170 miles east of Budapest. The museum is housed in the refurbished castle where she was born in 1560 to a powerful family that ruled the Transylvania province in modern-day Romania.

Aleksandra Bartosiewicz of the University of Poland released a study on Báthory in 2018. She claims that despite the countess’s wealthy background, she was exposed to violence and suffered health issues. She had epileptic convulsions, erratic mood swings, and terrible headaches by the time she was four or five.

A painting of Elizabeth Bathory

A painting of Elizabeth Bathory

Báthory experienced cruelty as well. At age six, she saw a public execution, and it was common to practice beating servants during this period. At thirteen, Báthory became betrothed to Count Ferenc Nádasdy of another prominent Hungarian family; the couple wed two years later. Over time, they multiplied their family to four children.

At the heart of yet another massive castle, Báthory’s violence reached a fever pitch. Haunting visitors from afar, the ruins of practice Castle may be seen above the town of choice in western Slovakia, some 50 miles northeast of the capital, Bratislava. Spectators are welcome to explore this high location, from which shocking whispers rolled down the hillside in the early 1600s.

After the death of her husband in 1604, Báthory relocated. According to Tony Thorne, a linguist at King’s College London and author of Countess Dracula: The Life and Times of Elizabeth Bathory (published in 1998), rumors of her cruelty against servants traveled so far and wide that nearby families concealed their girls from her service.

Rachael Bledsaw, an adjunct professor in the history department at Highline College in Washington State, claims that the widow countess’ undoing was caused by her abuse spreading to higher social-level victims.

According to Bledsaw, who authored a thesis on Báthory, “Killing serfs and slaves, who had fewer rights, was gauche but not truly unlawful for a noble.” It was a far bigger deal when nobles started killing other nobles, even those lower in rank.

In 1610, King Matthias II of Hungary ordered an inquiry into hundreds of mysterious murders and disappearances in practice. According to Bledsaw, Báthory was caught and incarcerated in her Castle for the murder of eighty young ladies based on the evidence of dozens of witnesses. Several eyewitnesses put the number of her victims at above 600. The countess, however, was never found guilty. In her place, four of Báthory’s employees were convicted of crimes against young ladies committed in her castles. The countess spent the next 54 years of her life incarcerated in her roomy cell. She passed away in 1614.

Vlad the Impaler: The Count Dracula

Dracula’s moniker is one of the most terrifying in history. The fictional character of Dracula, created by Bram Stoker for his 1897 book of the same name, has served as the basis for countless horror films, TV episodes, and other bloodcurdling stories of vampires.

Though Dracula seems to be an original work of fiction, Stoker was inspired by a historical figure with an even more gruesome love for blood: Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, or — as he is better known — Vlad the Impaler (Vlad Tepes).

Vlad and his younger brother were educated by Ottoman scholars in all the usual subjects, plus horsemanship and martial skills. However, he may have spent some of that time in jail and under torture, during which he would have seen the impalement of his opponents by the Ottomans, as is suggested by some stories.

But Vlad’s family didn’t fare much better: in 1447, his father was murdered in the Wallachian marshes after being deposed as king of the country by local warlords (boyars). In addition to being tortured and blinded, Vlad’s elder brother Mircea was also buried alive.

Whether or whether these incidents radicalized Vlad III Dracula (the “Son of The Dragon”) into a cold-blooded murderer is open to historical debate. One thing is known, however: Vlad’s reign of blood started when he was released from Ottoman captivity not long after the deaths of his family.

Vlad the Impaler is said to be the real life Count Dracula

Vlad the Impaler is said to be the real life Count Dracula

His domains were in ruins because of war and internal struggle between rival boyars, even though he was now the ruler of the principality of Wallachia. Vlad consolidated his control by hosting a feast for hundreds of them. In anticipation of a challenge to his power, he had his visitors stabbed and their still-twitching corpses impaled.

What is impaling, you ask? Impaling is a particularly horrific method of torture and execution in which a person is forced to endure the pain of having a wooden or metal rod put into their body from front to back or vertically through the rectum or vagina. The victim’s neck, shoulders, or lips might be the departure point.

Instead of being pointed and risking internal organ damage, which would have led to premature death, the pole was sometimes rounded. If the victim were to live for hours or days after being impaled, the bar would be lifted vertically to show their agony.

While watching this play out, Vlad would wine and dine while some historians even mention that he ate their flesh while they were still alive.

Vlad always worried about the approaching Ottoman Turks and kept his frontiers tight. In 1459, at a private session with Vlad, diplomatic envoys refrained from removing their caps out of respect for the religious beliefs of those involved. Vlad praised the ambassadors for their religious fervor and then had their hats permanently affixed to their skulls using iron nails.

The Legend of The Ka

Vampires and bloodsuckers were also a part of Egyptian folklore. According to the Egyptian Book of the Dead, if the Ka, a specific component of the soul, didn’t get good gifts, it would leave the tomb and drink blood, much like the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet, who was notorious for her appetite for blood.

Vampirism is the most prima facie plausible explanation for the pleasure of blood consumption. Even while there are physical and psychological conditions that might cause a need for blood, the mythology of an Egyptian goddess seems like an unusual starting point for discussing this topic.

The gods and goddesses helped explain natural occurrences, but mental illness was not. It is widely believed that the ancients’ attempts to explain and excuse slaughter and strife were the source of Sekhmet’s insatiable need for the crimson substance.

Sekhmet is often shown in crimson, and her bloodthirsty lifestyle—including drinking a river of blood and being readily tricked by wine disguised as blood—is central to numerous mythologies. Because of her status as the goddess of blood, she was a military deity who guarded the pharaohs in battle and a spiritual guide for women during their monthly periods and pregnancies.

A god or goddess has many facets, like vampires.

Due to association with violence, the Ka is a diety that protected the Pharaoh

Due to association with violence, the Ka is a diety that protected the Pharaoh

Most of us learned that Egypt was one of the world’s first great civilizations, but many vampirologists believe it was also where vampires initially emerged.

While ancient Egyptian beliefs about death and the afterlife were nuanced and pleasant, they were far from simplistic. The ancient Egyptians, who believed in eternal life, considered the end the beginning of a new life, in contrast to the beliefs of most other nations.

Author Matthew Benson suggests that the earliest clue of vampirism was offered by mortuary (or funerary) cults, groups of individuals who presented sacrifices and repeated the name of the deceased at the tomb of the dead. Most corpses were dubbed “beloved Osiris.”

The ancient Egyptian concept of the Ka, an astral companion to each living person, was another factor that sparked vampiric speculation. The gods endowed every human being with a unique set of abilities, and these abilities, are represented by the Ka.

Every human being is thought to have a spiritual twin called the Ka that survives after death so long as it has a home to call its own. Since the Ka had made its home in the human body, it would be unable to survive without it even after death.

The Egyptians mummified their dead for this exact reason. If the body decayed, the soul’s “twin” or “Ka” would also perish, and the deceased would have no possibility of living forever. It was believed that after death, the Ka would continue to guide the soul (the ba or khu) into eternity, just as it had done throughout life.

The Ch’iang Shih

The Ch’iang Shih, also known as the “Hopping Corpse,” has deep historical roots in China. In many ways, their lore is identical to that of European and Western Vampires. Night-active Ch’iang Shih has trouble crossing moving water and may be deterred using a garlic-based repellent. The Chi’ang Shih were notoriously violent and often cut off victims’ limbs before draining their blood.

There are several fascinating differences between the Ch’iang Shih narrative and the West’s and Europe’s stories. Thunder, in particular, is said to be lethal to the Ch’iang Shih, although salt and loud sounds are also effective deterrents. As the Ch’iang Shih cannot see, another strategy for evading it is to stop breathing.

Chiang-Shih as depicted in the scripts

Chiang-Shih as depicted in the scripts

Ch’iang Shih is prone to attacking women due to their insatiable sexual appetites; however, Ch’iang Shih may be safely contained by sweeping them back to their lair, where a barrier of iron filings, rice, or red peas will hold them.

The Ch’iang Shih, like their Western and European counterparts, the vampire, gets stronger with age. For certain Ch’iang Shih, the ability to transform into a wolf is accompanied by the development of a long, white beard as they mature.

The Ekimmu

The Ekimmu was a kind of monster native to the Mesopotamian Empire. The word “snatched” translates to Ekimmu. The people of Mesopotamia were terrified of the Ekimmu and hoped beyond hope that they would not be transformed into one of these vengeful, bitter spirits.

According to legend, the Ekimmu is a demon ghost that haunts the night in pursuit of human victims’ torment. They were also known as “evil wind gusts” to the Mesopotamians who first encountered them. In contrast to popular belief, the Ekimmu does not need to drink blood to survive; instead, it draws energy from the auras of living things, including people, to sustain itself.

A painting of the Mesopotamian Ekimmu

A painting of the Mesopotamian Ekimmu

Mesopotamians think you may join the ranks of these malevolent spirits if you:

  • being brutally put to death by homicide
  • age-related deaths
  • combat-related fatalities
  • loss of life before romance
  • inadequate or no funeral observance
  • prenatal mortality
  • drowning to death
  • starving to death
  • inadequate sacrifices presented to the Gods

To have an Ekimmu come up at your door is not a good omen. In most cases, the Ekimmu would infiltrate a home, and the occupants perish within a few days. An Ekimmu also can inflict sickness and criminal behavior on the living.

There are still myths and stories spoken about the Ekimmu. The Ekimmu of today is said to be destitute nomads who make their homes in abandoned structures, tunnels, and sewers. They like the shabbier parts of town.

Vampire Mercy Brown

During the latter two decades of the nineteenth century, numerous members of George and Mary Brown’s family in Exeter, Rhode Island, had TB. In those days, tuberculosis was known as “consumption,” and it was a condition to be dreaded. Mary Eliza, the mother, died from the illness first, and then Mary Olive, the oldest child, died in 1884.

Edwin’s daughter Mercy and son Edwin both became sick in 1891. The family’s friends and neighbors suspected a vampire (though they never called her that) was responsible for Edwin’s illness. This jived with strands of modern mythology that connected many deaths within the same family to the presence of the undead. There was much mythology around consumption since it was a poorly understood medical illness.

(Left) The grave of Mercy Brown (Right) Mercy Brown

(Left) The grave of Mercy Brown (Right) Mercy Brown

After the family patriarch consented, several of George Brown’s relatives’ remains were exhumed. On March 17, 1892, community members, including a newspaper writer and the town doctor, unearthed the remains of Mary and Mary Olive. Mary and Mary Olive’s bodies had the typical degree of decomposition, so they were not suspected. Mercy, the daughter, was dead, yet her body showed no signs of decay, and blood was still in her heart. This led some to conclude that the girl was a vampire and the cause of Edwin’s affliction. Her corpse showed no signs of decomposition since it had been in a freezer-like state for two months in an above-ground crypt.

Edwin was given a tonic made from the ashes of Mercy’s burnt heart and liver to cure his condition and rid himself of the undead’s influence, as superstition demanded. Two months later, the young man passed away, and his desecrated remains were laid to rest at the Baptist Church Cemetery in Exeter.

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The Oldest Recorded Vampire in History: The tale of Jure Grando

Peasant Jure Grando resided in the community of Kringa, not far from the Croatian city of Tinjan. When he passed away in 1656, he left behind a widow and a wave of fear that would continue reverberating through Kringa for the next 16 years.

Over those 16 years, the decent citizens of Kringa often awoke to the sound of knocking at their doors. The raps on the door were omens of impending doom for whoever lived there.

Village priest Giorgio, who had buried Jure, quickly pieced together what had happened. For some reason, the ghost of Jure Grande had come back to terrify the residents of his hometown. He still had more to finish there.

Jure used to pay nightly visits to his wife’s grave. Even after he died, his rotting body and horrifying visage, which made him simultaneously appear happy and begging for air, continued to terrify and violate her nightly.

It took 16 years for the villagers to break their habit of living in perpetual terror every night. At one point, Giorgio walked up to Jure, brandishing a crucifix, and screamed, “Behold Jesus Christ, you strigoi (vampire)! Let us be!” And as he backed away, tears started streaming out of his eyes.

A few nights later, a courageous man called Miho Radetic gathered a group of villages to face and contain Jure. As they were pursuing him, Miho stabbed Jure in the chest with a hawthorn branch.

The stick bounced against Jure’s chest, and he took another step back.

Nine locals sneaked into the cemetery the next night armed with crosses, candles, and a hawthorn stick. Gently they approached Jure Grando’s tomb and unearthed his casket. The corpse of Jure, who had been wonderfully preserved, greeted them with a grin as they opened it.

A tombstone depicting the grave of Jure Grando

A tombstone depicting the grave of Jure Grando

Giorgio then pointed to the dead man and said, “Look, strigoi, there is Jesus Christ who redeemed us from hell and died for us. You, Strigoi, are an enemy of tranquility!” When Giorgio struck the hawthorn stick into Jure’s chest, it did not break through the thick hide.

The body of Jure Grande was exorcised as soon as possible but to no use. An industrious local called Stipan Milasic took matters into his own hands. Rapidly locating a saw, he attempted to cut off Jure’s head with it. Jure’s eyes sprang up as the saw sliced his flesh, and he let out a scream that could have been heard for miles.

His victims’ blood started seeping back into the soil as it gushed from his wound and flooded the cemetery.

Kringa was finally at rest once more.

This is how the story of Jure Grando unfolded, the first person to be labeled a vampire in folklore. Johann Weikhard von Valvasor heard the tale while stopping at Kringa on his travels. He learned about it in 1689 and published it in his anthology, The Glory of the Duchy of Cariola. Still, nobody paid much attention to it until the Croatian translation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula arrived. They’ve gone all in on the urban mythology by opening a vampire bar to attract tourists.

Some have speculated that Bram Stoker based Dracula on a tale by Jure Grande, whose protagonist predates Vlad the Impaler. It also has many of the hallmarks of the vampire genre, such as bloodshed and sexual tension.

It’s an old tale about a creature we now know so little about that we nearly don’t notice it. This is what the myth of Jure Grando entails.

RIP Victims.

Did you like the tale on vampires? Bet you did! Well, here is the story of How the Nazis Escaped to the Center of the Earth, and the tale of How a Ship Watched the Titanic Sink!

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Written By

Abin Tom Sebastian, also known as Mr. Morbid in the community, is an avid fan of the paranormal and the dark history of the world. He believes that sharing these stories and histories are essential for the future generations. For god forbid, we have seen that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

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