Dracula may be the most famous historical figure that has entertained rumors of being a vampire, but the fact remains that vampire hysteria was breaking all across Eastern and Central Europe during the seventeen hundreds. The cases of Arnold Paul (Paole) and Peter Plogojowitz remain two of the most famous factual vampire cases of all time.
The Traditional Vampire
It is no secret that the vampire’s existence was feared centuries before Bram Stoker wrote his most famous novel. Many cultures would often spin their own creature of the night fables to children to keep them from wandering too far away from the village. Traditionally, the vampire has been feared as a night time prowler armed with razor sharp canines and other super natural abilities. They hunted their victims and drank their blood to sustain their own eternal existence. More publicized weaknesses included fire, decapitation, or most famously, a wooden stake through the heart. There were many other debatable weaknesses and abilities that a vampire could possess.
Arnold Paul as Undead: Fact or Fiction?
In the Austrian Empire, near Medvegia, Arnold Paul was working out in the farm, when suddenly he fell from his wagon, and died shortly after. Unknown to most of the townspeople, while Paul had served in the armed forces, he had encountered a vampire in Greece, where he was stationed. The only person he had revealed this information to was his young fiancé. Weeks after his death, reports began to surface from all over town that Paul had returned from the dead. Frightened townspeople and government officials marched on his grave. Soon it was opened, and all in attendance deemed that Paul had become a vampire, and therefore had to be destroyed. Paul was immediately staked, decapitated, and burnt to ashes. This was most famously documented by an army surgeon named Johannes Fluckinger hired by the emperor. His report was published in translated English and titled, “Seen and Heard.”
Plogojowitz Rises Again
In Kisilova, Serbia, Peter Plogojowitz, also a farmer, died of un-natural causes in 1725. Days later he appeared before his son and asked him for something to eat, which was provided to him. When Plogojowitz was denied a meal upon his return the following evening, his son was found dead the next morning. Others in the town began to come forward saying they had been visited by Plogojowitz in a dream, and soon after they fell ill of exhaustion and died. The military was called once more, and brave servicemen and others opened the grave and found Plogojowitz well preserved and smeared with fresh blood. As with Paul, he was staked, beheaded, and cremated. Montague Summers, a noted vampire expert of the twentieth century, features a description of the Plogojowitz vampire hunt in her book, “The Vampire in Europe.”
For more information, resources to be consulted include “The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and other Monsters,” by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, “The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead,” by J. Gordon Melton, and Matthew Bunson’s, “The Vampire Encyclopedia.”