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Vampires Greece

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Andros (2)
Chios (2)
Santorini (2)

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The Sources:

Paul Lucas :
"Voyage du Sieur Paul Lucas au Levant"
Paris, 1704

James Emerson :
"Letters from the Aegean"
New York, 1829

Montague Summers :
"The Vampire in Europe"
London, 1929

The Cases:

First of all, let us see what Paul Lucas has to say:

"There are people, who appear to be sensible enough, and talk about something remarkable that often happens in this country, and also on the Island of Santeriny ; dead people - they say - come back, show themselves in the light of day & even go back home, which causes great fear to those who see them. Therefore, if one of them appears, people immediately go to the cemetery to dig up the corpse, they cut it into pieces, after which it is cremated by order of the Governor and the Magistrates. Once this has been done, these alleged dead do not come back again. Mr. Angelo Edme, Commander & Governor of the Island has assured me that he himself had given such an order when there were more than fifty people who had confirmed the facts."

In James Emerson's book (and other books as well) we can find the story of a shoemaker called Alexander, who lived and died in the town of Pyrgos. A couple of days after his burial he returned to his family. Unlike other vampires he was quite harmless. He did all kinds of jobs around the house, went out to fetch water and firewood, etc. Despite his good behaviour, he frightened the people of Pyrgos. So they opened up his grave and cremated his corpse.

Emerson continues with a story that he says to have found in a book that was written by a Jesuit priest, Père Richard. This, more or less is the story:

On Santorini there lived a notorious usurer called Jeannetti Anapliottis. When he was getting old, and felt that his death was coming near, he started worrying about the many sins that he had committed during his life. On the advice of his priest, he announced that he was going to pay back the money to everyone who would come forward and make a claim. And so he found half the island's population waiting outside his door. He spent his final days paying back money, and before he died he signed over the rest of his money to his wife with instructions to continue his good works. I will quote Emerson:

"But the burden of remorse did not press so deadly on the conscience of the lady as it had done on that of her lord; for a few weeks she satisfied all who came, but as her funds waxed low and lovers pressed around her, she began to make a selection among her claimants, distributing justice merely to her friends at first, and finally withdrawing in toto even from these, and abandoning herself to the society of her gallants."

Unsurprisingly, the dead Jeannetti was not amused. His corpse was seen going around the streets of Emborio. He went into the houses, overturned the furniture, cut the boats loose from their mooring, destroyed fishing nets, broke the watercontainers, emptied out the wineskins, etc., etc. An interesting point is that all these acts of destruction were exclusively aimed at the friends and suitors of his wife. His terrified wife went to find help from the Church. She was told that she should pay the money back just like she had promised. As soon as she started doing this, the vampire returned to its grave. Pleased with this success, his wife immediately stopped making further payments. And so it did not take long before the Vroukolakos was roaming around in the streets again. Once again I will quote Emerson:

"Again the priests were resorted to, but while they prepared to exhume and exorcise the body, reparation was made to the last of the injured claimants: the grave of the Vampire was however opened, his still untainted flesh was burned upon the shore, his spirit was appeased, the demon was expelled, and Jeannetti returned no more from the land of forgetfulness."

Next let us quote Montague Summers who tells us that he has found the following passage about Santorini in "Murray's Handbook for Travellers in Greece".

"The antiseptic nature of the soil, and the frequent discovery of undecayed bodies have given rise to many wild superstitions among the peasantry of the island. It is supposed to be the favourite abode of the Vrukolakas, a species of Ghoul or Vampire, which, according to a belief once popular in Greece, has the power of resuscitating the dead from their graves, and sending them forth to banquet on the living".

But Summers has more to offer. He tells us that he himself has visited Santorini in 1906-1907, and heard "many a gruesome legend of vampire events which were said to have taken place there quite recently".

Then he mentions Professor N. P. Polites of Athens University, who appears to have written a book or article that states that the inhabitants of Santorini have a reputation of being experts on destroying vampires. He also reports that there had been two recent incidents where vampires had been sent over from Mycomos (sic) and Crete to be taken care of in Santorini.

Summers mentions much more, but unless I first find the original sources, I think that for the moment it should be sufficient for me to suggest that you do read his "Vampire in Europe".

The Dates:

We have two specific cases. But at this stage there is no indication of when they are supposed to have taken place. Père Richard's book seems to date back to 1657. Paul Lucas book was published in 1704. James Emerson's book was published in 1829. The edition of "Murray's Handbook for Travellers in Greece" that Summers is quoting was published in 1900. Summers seems to have visited Santorini in 1906-1907, and some of the cases that he refers to appear to have taken place not too long before.

The Place:

Santorini is one of the Cyclades. The island is in fact an old volcano that was partly destroyed by a giant eruption around 1450 BC. Much of the original island/volcano was destroyed during the eruption. There are those who try to connect the island to the disappearance of the legendary Atlantis.

The original name of the island is said to be "Kalistè (the Beautiful). Later it has been renamed "Thera" or "Thira", whatever that may mean. According to James Emerson it has also been known as "The Isle of Demons". And it have been the Venetians who have renamed it to Sant-Erini or Santorini (named after Saint Irene).

Here is a link to Santorini : www.travel-to-santorini.com

Personal Comments:

Somehow, the two cases that we have been given sound rather unconvincing. So it will be important to try and find Père Richard's book. Montague Summers gives us further details: Francois Richard - "Relation de ce qui s'est passé de plus remarquable a Sant-Erini Isle de l'Archipel,depuis l'etablissement des Peres de la compagnie de Jesus en icelle", Paris, 1657. Supposing that we find the book, we can see if the people who are repeating Father Richard's tales are doing justice to the original work. There may be additional material. We may even find Richard's sources.

I have checked both of the Summers editions ( my 1929 first edition and the 1968 reprint) and found that in both cases there was a reference to "Mycomos". A spelling or printing mistake seems not impossible, Summers could have been referring to the island of Myconos. On the other hand, and as far as I am concerned, it seems possible that there could be a Greek location called Mycomos. This is a point that definitely needs further investigation.

Possible Follow-Up:

First let us try to find a copy of the book by Père Richard. So far we have only seen his work reflected in other books. So it is important to find the original text. Likewise, it would be interesting to find a copy of the book by Professor Polites. For further details, please check the book by Summers.

It seems clear that in the past a serious vampire tradition must have been part of the island. And, in fact, it may still continue. Not so long ago I watched a program (on Belgian TV) which had been filmed on Santorini. Among other things we were shown what was said to be the grave of a vampire in one of the local cemeteries. A personal visit to Santorini could be pleasant as well as interesting. Who knows what you may find...

© 2009 by Rob Brautigam - NL - Last changed 19 November 2009 - Link last checked 18 September 2008

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