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The Source:

William of Newburgh (1136-1198):
"Historia Rerum Anglicarum"
translated by Joseph Stevenson.

The Case

This, more or less, is the story:

There once was a priest. During his live, this cleric had spent most of his time on worldly pleasures and he had been neglecting his religious duties. His love for dogs (and hunting ?) had earned him the name of "Hundeprest" or "Dog Priest". After his death, he was buried in Melrose Abbey. After his burial, he started leaving his grave at night. When he found that the monks were not frightened by his appearance, he went to visit the bedchamber of his former mistress. This Lady was scared witless by these nightly visits and went to see the monks to ask them for help.

Four of the monks guarded the grave of the priest at night. Nothing happened, so 3 of them went back inside, leaving only one monk to stay at the graveside. As soon as the other monks had left, the dead priest came out of his grave. The monk struck him with an axe, upon which the corpse of the priest quickly went back into its grave. The other monks had now returned and together they opened up the grave.

They found that the corpse had a large wound (made by the axe) from which "a great quantity of gore" had run into the tomb. The corpse of the vampire priest was carried outside the Abbey's walls and cremated. The ashes were scattered in the wind.

The Date:

William of Newburgh (1136-1198) informs us that this story has taken place "a few years ago". Therefore, the story (if true) would appear to have taken place in the second half of the 12th Century.

The Place:

Melrose, and its famous Abbey, is located in the South of Scotland, not very far to the North of Jedburgh on the road to Edinburgh.

Possible Follow-Up:

There does not seem to be an awful lot that we can do with a case as old as this. Nevertheless, you can find a translation of William of Newburgh's complete version of the story in our section of "Source Material". It might be interesting to compare this translation against William of Newburgh's original text. A visit to Melrose Abbey could also be of interest.

2009 by Rob Brautigam - NL - Last changed 19 November 2009
"Melrose Abbey" - very old photograph from my collection

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