(Illustrated by Maria Clemente)
The Vampire; a work of fiction, a metaphor for primal lust, an ancient fear of the dead, a figurative embodiment of evil, or perhaps something far more tangible. Something rooted in highly strange, albeit entirely ‘human’ behavior.
Across countless cultures throughout history, the vampire, or beings of a similar nature (comparisons further elaborated in ᴛʜᴇ DARK ORIGIN ᴏғ ᴛʜᴇ VAMPIRE) appear in myth and legend, time and time again. But how long ago were such vampiric superstitions actually taken seriously? You might think of isolated communities across the Balkan Peninsula, maybe several hundred years ago, but in truth, such superstitions, much like the theoretical “vampire” itself, simply refuse to die.
With the use of TROVE, an initiative of research groups and the National Library of Australia, it isn’t a difficult endeavor to search how very often the term VAMPIRE, actually appears. Something that should be mentioned, however, is that the title of ‘Vampire’ was often applied to a variety of lascivious, lecherous, perverse or macabre individuals. For instance, the French ‘Vampire of Reuil’, was not actually believed to have been a literal creature of some sinister supernatural origin. But a man of abhorrently deplorable behavior, due to his penchant for sexually assaulting women in the dead of night (news article of the ‘Vampire of Reuil’, 15th of May, 1949 included below).
Yet aside from this use of the term as a means of condemnation, scattered throughout the pages of history, a far more conventional ‘vampire’ appears. I’ve gathered a small sample of historical reports that once made their way to Australian shores, telling tales of ‘vampiric’ activity. Stretching from 1906 to 1954, events pertaining to unusual torment and the consumption of blood. Keep in mind, news stories were just as likely to be falsified or misunderstood in the past as they are today. Also the concept of the vampire was popularized in the media, with the success of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, and the subject matter of many films (Nosferatu, 1922. Dracula, 1931. Vampyr, 1932. Horror of Dracula, 1958. etc).
Claims of ‘Vampiric’ Activity:
7th of July, 1906
The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 – 1931)
An extraordinary case has just been heard in the Viennese law courts. The daughter of a rich merchant accused her husband, an artist’s model, of hypnotizing her. She declared that he was in the habit of hanging her up naked by her feet for hours, in which position she was hypnotized. The husband never took his meals in the ordinary way, but consumed oranges and milk in the course of the day. When he returned late at night he used to satisfy his hunger by sucking her blood, which he obtained from a wound in her neck.
4th of August, 1906
Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931)
An almost incredible story of a child bloodsucker comes from Sweden. A clergyman in Nassjo, a small village in that country, was in the habit of educating a number of boys, among whom was a clever, but morose and dreamy, lad, who shunned all company, and took long walks in the woods alone. One day the clergyman’s favorite dog, a small spaniel, disappeared. It was believed that he had been stolen by gypsies. Shortly afterwards a peasant in the village lost a valuable sheep dog, and several cats, chickens, and a lamb. Suspicion fell on the boy living with the clergy man. One day when the boy returned from a walk it was found that his white sailor jacket was covered with blood, for which he was unable to account. After that he was “shadowed.” He was seen to enter a hut in the wood, and after he had been there several minutes, an agonized scream, evidently from an animal in pain, was heard. The watchers burst in the door. On the floor of the hut sat the boy, holding in his hand a shrieking black cat, from the neck of which he was sucking the blood. In the hut were found the carcasses of a number of dead cats, dogs, a lamb, and a chicken. The peasants tried to lynch him, and he was only rescued with difficulty.
15th of May, 1949
Truth (Brisbane, Qld. : 1900 – 1954)
PARIS, Sat. — Detectives who set out to catch the “Vampire of Reuil,” arrested police constable Eugene Henry. The vampire has been responsible for many attacks on women in the Paris suburbs. The detectives saw a man who was wheeling, a bicycle accost a woman. They arrested him and later confronted him with several of the women who have been attacked. Henry is said to have made a statement confessing to the attacks.
ORIGINAL SOURCE, TROVE.NLA.GOV.AU
3rd of July, 1951
Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld. : 1906 – 1954)
The terrorizing legends of bloodsucking vampires are just legends— right? Not to credulous burghers of Dusseldorf, it seems. A rumor that vampires were in the city kept the Chief of Police and his assistants answering frantic phone calls from thousands of citizens for three days and nights. Newspaper and radio denials of the rumor eventually helped still the alarm.
29th of November, 1952
Daily Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1915 – 1954)
MANILA, Thursday,— A vampire woman was caught on Tuesday in the Central Philippines town of Ilono. A 35-year-old woman had just caught a small child, hit his head against the concrete pavement and bitten his face to suck his blood when townspeople rescued the boy.
13th of May, 1953
The Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser (NSW : 1856 – 1861; 1863 – 1889; 1891 – 1954)
MANILA, May 12 (A.A.P.- Reuter). — A “Vampire” mystery is baffling Manila police. The most bizarre case in police memory began on Monday night when an 18-year-old girl was held in the women’s detention cell on a vagrancy charge. The girl began yelling that she was being bitten by a flying human being with big bulging eyes and wearing a black cape.” Other women in the jail made such a noise that police investigated, took the girl out, and held her for observation at police headquarters. About midnight as the police lieutenant held the girl’s left arm, she yelled, “here he comes again.” Police reporters saw nothing around them, but saw the girl begin squirming in the police officer’s grip. As horrified police and reporters looked on, eight human bite marks surrounded by what looked like saliva, appeared on the girl’s left arm. A police medical examiner said the bites, by now also showing on the girl’s right arm, were unmistakably human. As the girl cried in pain and terror, more bite marks appeared. The girl told police she had not encountered the “Dracula” apparition before she went to the jail. It did not resemble anybody she had met before. The chief medical examiner of the Manila police said the girl was an epileptic and the wounds were self-inflicted. But his assistant was still disputing his diagnosis. The girl was taken this afternoon to the Philippines Government Psychopathic Hospital for observation.
ORIGINAL SOURCE, TROVE.NLA.GOV.AU
23rd of May, 1953
The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954)
Australian Associated Press MANILA, Fri. — A former dancing girl, who claims that a Dracula-like invisible “thing” bites her, startled watching police here tonight when she went through the motion of fighting an invisible being in her detention cell. Police claimed that when they opened her clenched fists they found hair she claimed she had pulled off the “thing.” A laboratory analysis showed that the hair came from a dead man, police said. Earlier, local United States Methodist Church ministers exorcised the devil in the girl’s body, but were surprised when another girl, in an adjoining cell, began yelling, claiming that she was being attacked, police said. The new girl also exhibited bite marks on her arms and legs.
ORIGINAL SOURCE, TROVE.NLA.GOV.AU
“Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.”
—Ariel, The Tempest, Act 1 Scene 2, William Shakespeare.