“Vampire Grave” in Bulgaria Holds a Skeleton With a Stake Through Its Heart

The skeleton likely fell victim to vampire hysteria that gripped Eastern Europe until relatively recently

Photo: Nikolai Ovcharov

Archeologists in Bulgaria haved uncovered a 13th century staked "vampire" at Perperikon, an ancient Thracian site in the south of the country, Archaeology reports. The remains once belonged to a man who was likely in his 40s. An iron rod had been hammered through his chest "to keep the corpse from rising from the dead and disturbing the living," Archaeology continues, and his left leg had also been removed and placed beside the corpse. 

Clearly, this man's neighbors did not trust his remains to stay put. As Nikolai Ovcharov, the archeologist in charge of the dig, told the Telegraph: "We have no doubts that once again we’re seeing an anti-vampire ritual being carried out." At the time of the man's death, vampires were perceived as a real threat in many Eastern European communities. People who died unusually—from suicide, for example—were sometimes staked to prevent them from coming back from the dead, the Telegraph writes. 

Smithsonian elaborates on some of the beliefs held in those days: 

Amongst the Romani, anyone who was missing a finger, had an appendage similar to those of an animal or had a horrible appearance was regarded as “one who is dead,” while in Russia, those who talked to themselves were suspected of having a vampire nature.

Fire could kill these creatures while they walked at night, and iron stakes through the heart of a corpse could prevent it from returning from the grave as a vampire. Persons born on Saturday were thought to have a special talent as vampire hunters, too. Vampire hysteria commonly took hold of Slavic villages, with corpse-stakings occurring frequently. Around the region, archeologists have unearthed over 100 graves in which remains have been pinned down with such vampire-deterring methods.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, these beliefs persisted as recently as a century ago for some people living in the Balkans, so no doubt many more staked corpses await discovery. 

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