Vampires Bosnia Herzegovina

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The Source:

Harry de Windt "Through Savage Europe"
published by T. Fisher Unwin, London, England, (no date)

The Case:

I am quoting verbatim:

"Herzegovinians are even more superstitious, if possible, than Italians. No man, or woman, or child would dream of stirring abroad without one or two of the charms, which have a ready sale in the bazaar. These talismans mostly consist of gold and silver crosses and stars, death's-heads in ivory, tiny tortoises, rabbits in cornelian, coral hands against the Evil Eye, and innumerable others, and the amulet worn during life is always buried with the wearer in order to ensure a safe passing across the Styx. Nor is this practice confined to Herzegovinians, for nearly every Austrian officer I met here wore a fetish - which he would probably have scorned to do at home. It is not surprising, therefore, that the superstition regarding vampires should have reached here from the adjacent country of Servia, the land of its birth (Serb = Wampir).

In Herzegovina a vampire is said to be the soul of a dead man, which leaves his grave at night-time to suck the blood of its living victim. I was told quite seriously that when one of these monsters was exhumed near Belgrade it showed every sign of life, and was sleeping and breathing as peacefully as the man had done before his death, a century before ! This occurred thirty years ago, and according to custom the corpse was decapitated, and a stake driven through the body, which was then burnt - the grave being purified with water and vinegar.

A gaunt, cadaverous individual who frequented the Hotel Cafe at Mostar, was pointed out to me as the victim of a vampire's nocturnal visits, in consequence of which he would after death become one himself. My informant was a grey-haired major, whom I deeply offended by suggesting that indigestion and its kindred ailments sometimes produce an unnatural pallor. But the major was a Hungarian, where this superstition is almost as prevalent as in White Russia, Poland, and Servia, and he therefore received the suggestion with silent contempt."

The Date:

The date when this book was published seems uncertain. It is my guess that it was probably published some time around 1903.

The Place:

About the location of the place where the intrepid Harry de Windt - special correspondent of the "Westminster Gazette" - learned about these things, there can be little doubt. It was in Mostar, one of those enchanting places in Bosnia that I have had the pleasure of visiting myself on quite a few occasions, long, long before Yugoslavia was violently split up into different countries. Here is a link to Mostar:  http://www.mostar.ba/ 

Personal Comments:

Unfortunately, the book - interesting as it may be - has very little to offer in terms of a concrete case of vampirism. There is the rather vague mention of a case that is said to have taken place "near Belgrade" some 30 years earlier. Apart from that, there is the suggestion that someone in Mostar was the victim of a vampire and thus destined to become a vampire himself after death.

Possible Follow-Up:

With so very little to go on, I am afraid that Harry de Windt's story offers us hardly anything that seems worth a further investigation. Having said that, this does not necessarily mean that the file should be closed. I have seen other cases that I thought were a complete dead end. In several of those cases it turned out I was wrong.

2009 by Rob Brautigam - NL - Links last checked 02 October 2008 - Last changed 19 November 2009
"Mostar around 1895" - photograph from a 19th Century book

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