Superstition Rules: Death, Murder, and Vampire Hunters

Although it's generally vampires who are considered deadly, those who hunt them down can be just as lethal, as the following modern-day stories reveal.

Shane Chartres-AbbottIn Australia, Shane Chartres-Abbott, 28, was executed in his home in June 2003. He was a male prostitute, and apparently his killers were a pair of hit men. Chartres-Abbott was on trial for rape, and just as its fifth day was about to commence, he was found murdered. At the trial, he claimed he was a vampire, and among the charges was that, during the rape, he had bitten off the tongue of a female client. He also said he drank people's blood. The identity of the suspects is still unknown, but the speculation is that they were hired either by the victim or by clients who feared being exposed. In any event, that supposed vampire was stopped.

Blantyre, Malawi mapAcross the world, in Blantyre, Malawi, a small nation in southeastern Africa, government officials were faced with an epidemic of rumors that vampires were attacking several different settlements, according to The New York Times. In early December 2002, some villagers beat a man to death on the suspicion that he was a vampire, others attacked three Roman Catholic priests passing through, while another contingent destroyed the tent encampment for an aid group drilling wells for drinking water. They believed it was the headquarters for the vampires.

Apparently the rumors began when President Bakili Muluzi made a bargain to trade human blood assistance for food to mitigate the severe hunger crisis. People thought the government was in collusion with vampires, sending the vampires out to collect the blood. Officials were then sent out to target villages to calm these fears and demonstrate that there are no vampires. But that did not stop villagers from taking the defensive, perhaps because they already felt so defenseless against hunger and AIDS. Some had also heard about people being attacked by vampires, so the government's reassurances were unconvincing. Apparently the aid group had sprayed something into the air that adversely affected one woman, so she had beat a drum to alert others to the danger, and they had run out and retaliated. Eventually the region settled down.

While some people kill vampires outright, others just take precautions.

Transylvania mapIn 2002, Nicolae Mihut, living in Transylvania, believed that his mother, who had just died, had become a vampire. A local priest had warned him about the signs: a cat had jumped over her coffin that day, and her cheeks and lips were quite red. Mihut knew that, to release her soul, he had to stab her with a silver knife, either in the chest or the stomach. So he plunged the dagger into her heart. He knew he had done the right thing when he heard a long sigh escape her. Then she became pale. That made everyone involved feel better, and she was buried.

More recently in Martotinu de Sus, Romania, a village of some 300 people southwest of Bucharest, a relative of Toma Petre exhumed his body from the grave, removed his heart to burn, and mixed the ashes with water. He then gave it to three people to drink. It was a routine ritual for that town for slaying suspected vampires, but then something unintended occurred.

The police got involved. They heard about it and they came to investigate. It seems that slaying vampires in that area is illegal. It was considered, according to journalist Matthew Scofield for The Philadelphia Inquirer, an incident of "re-killing."

But the dead man's relatives could not understand. They believed that, by killing this vampire and making certain he could not rise from his grave, they had saved lives the vampire was trying to take. Yet the Romanian police say that, since vampires are mythological creatures, what the Petre relatives had done was a form of corpse abuse known as disturbing the peace of the dead. That carried a three-year stint in prison.

In addition, if this case was so routine for this family, others in the area were probably doing something similar, so a wider investigation was called for. In fact, other villagers acknowledged to reporters that it was occurring quite frequently, not just there but in other villages. Apparently they believed that most families at one time or another had engendered at least one vampire, and they had learned from childhood how to defend themselves.

One can tell when someone has become a vampire, according to their ideas, by digging up the coffin and checking the body's position. It may have rolled to the side, in which case the person could not have been dead. In addition, there will be no decomposition, but bloody fluid will be present around the mouth.

Once a vampire has risen from the grave to feed on the living, he or she must be stopped. That is, the heart must be removed, burned, mixed with water and given to relatives who have fallen ill.

In this case, after Petre was buried, three of his relatives grew ill. Upon opening the grave and coffin, Petre was found on his side, with blood on his mouth. Once the heart was burned--and it allegedly sang as it was trapped and decimated--those who were ill grew better, which was proof enough that they had done the right thing.

Whether it's murder or corpse abuse, people who fear supernatural monsters may act out in whatever way seems necessary for protection. To them it's not a crime.



Written by Katherine Ramsland.
Originally published online at The Crime Library.
Reproduced with the permission of the author.



Fanged Films

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

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