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Chateau des Eperviers
Chateau Deux-Forts
Chateau du Vampire
la Penne-sur-Huveaune
Paris (2)
Paris (3)

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The Sources:

Frédéric Ortoli:
"Comment se forment les Légendes: La Légende du Père-Lachaise"
in: "La Tradition - Revue Internationale du Folklore et des Sciences qui s'y rattachent", Paris, 1894

Patricia Tozzi:
"Porphyries - Maladie des Vampires ?" [2010]

The Case:

I first read this story in Ortoli's article many many years ago. I had almost forgotten about it. So I was surprised to meet it again in a publication researching the possible connection between porphyria and vampirism. But, hey, these urban legends - like fictional vampires - seem to live forever...

This - more or less - is what Ortoli tells us:

Around 1889 a legend started when some newspapers began running a story about a Russian princess who would leave a fortune to the person who would stay inside the chappel on top of her tomb for a year and a day. It was written that the princess was inside a glass coffin, and to make sure that her companion would see her at all times, the walls of the chappel had all been covered with mirrors. The only thing he was allowed to do was read. There should be no contact with any living soul, not even the servant who would bring food for him on a daily basis. That's the story.

Now this weird bit of news got picked up by foreign newspapers and started circulating around the world. Soon, the director of the Père-Lachaise Cemetery received letters from everywhere, from people who wanted to take up this challenge and stay in the tomb. Quite a few of them were women.

Now some of the more recent material about this case suggests that the princess is a vampire. There are also tales about strange phenomena, people fainting and even losing their mind within the tomb.

The Date:

At least our sources seem to agree upon the fact that the Princess Demidoff, née Stroganoff died in 1818. According to Ortoli the newspaper stories about the will first started around 1889 or so. It would be nice to know when and where this was turned into a vampire story.

The Place:

There seems to be little doubt about the location of the Demidoff tomb. The giant mausoleum can hardly be overlooked, among the other smaller tombs of the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Please note, however, that the description of the tomb in the original newspaper stories is quite different from the mausoleum.

Personal Comments:

There appears to be a lack of clarity about Ms. Demidoff's exact title. Some say she is a Baroness, some say she is a Countess (could this be on account of the ridiculous idea that vampires should be counts or countesses ?), and others refer to her as being a Princess.

I once read a story that must have been inspired by this tale. But it's a long time ago that I used to read fiction. So who wrote it... Jean Louis Boutet ? Karl Heinz Strobl ? Jean Ray ?

Possible Follow-Up:

A visit to Père-Lachaise is no punishment. I don't want to encourage "vampire tourism", but it may be a good idea to see the mausoleum for yourself as it is indeed something beyond description. Of course there is the usual overdose of information on the internet. Check it out, use it, but don't trust it until you have found other confirmation of your facts. Go read Patricia Tozzi's writings. And by all means, check out Frédéric Ortoli's article.

© 2011 by Rob Brautigam - NL - Last changed November 2011

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