According to the Oxford English Dictionary the vampire is a "preternatural being of a malignant nature (in the original and usual form of the belief, a reanimated corpse), supposed to seek nourishment, or do harm, by sucking the blood of sleeping persons", who is of course, generally to be found in the districts of Transylvania and Wallachia which now form part of the modern state of Romania. What is not generally understood is that as far as the Romanians are concerned there are two kinds of undead. Firstly there are the strigoi, who are a type of restless spirit that leave the grave at night to feed off the blood of the living, and secondly the moroi, who are "the actual, incarnate, walking dead" and thus able to appear during daylight and mount far more serious attacks on the living. The point of the distinction being that once a strigoi has been identified it is necessary to take the appropriate action as otherwise within forty days the strigoi will transform into a moroi, who are apparently far more troublesome and difficult to get rid of.
The appropriate action necessary in such circumstances is evident from the examination of the case of one Petre Toma from the village of Marotinu de Sus in south-west Romania, just south of Transylvania. Described as a "respected and well-liked teacher" and a "heavy drinker with a temper", he died just before Christmas 2003 at the age of seventy-six after "a final, decisive accident in the fields". Although there are normally various indications that an individual will join the ranks of the undead after their death, in Petre Toma's case there were no prior signs, but nevertheless within a few days of his death his niece became seriously ill and began suffering from nightmares. The problem being, as she informed her family, that her uncle had become a strigoi, and was visiting her at night and feeding from her heart. This apparently being the problem with real vampires, or as one Romanian shepherd named Doru Morinescu explained, "They'd be all right if you could set them after your enemies. But they only kill loved ones. I can understand why, but they have to be stopped."
The man determined to put a stop to this current outbreak was
Gheorghe Marinescu the husband of Flora, Petre Toma's sister, and the father of the now tormented niece. Unfortunately he had to wait until the twelve days of Christmas were over before taking any action, but on the 8th January 2004 the corpse was checked and deemed to be a strigoi, given that there were signs of fresh blood seen around the coprse's mouth. At midnight on the following day he returned with five friends Mitrica Mircea, Popa Stelica, Constantin Florea, Ionescu Ion and Pascu Oprea to perform the necessary rite.
They cut open the chest of the corpse with a pitchfork and removed the heart, drove stakes through the rest of the body and sprinkled it with garlic, before returning it to the grave. As far as the heart was concerned, this was speared with the pitchfork and taken to a crossroads outside the village where it was roasted over a brazier. A tea towel was held up to catch some charred flakes from the incinerated heart, which were then ground up and mixed in a glass of water. This was then given to the niece who drank it, being thereby cured from the sickness inflicted upon her.
This might have been the end of the matter except that Toma's daughter, Floarea Cotoran complained to the Romanian State Police about the treatment of her father's corpse, who arrested the six men concerned and charged them with illegally exhuming the body. In the following year they appeared before a court in Craiova where they were sentenced to six months in prison. However after representations made on their behalf by many of the local inhabitants (who were annoyed that the police had interfered with the time honoured practice of vampire slaying) their sentences were commuted. As Gheorghe Marinescu subsequently explained; "We performed a ritual that is hundreds of years old. We had no idea we were committing a crime. On the contrary, we believed that we were doing a good thing because the spirit of Petre was haunting us all and was very close to killing some of us. He came back from the dead and was after us."
Marinescu's views were certainly confirmed by other local inhabitants such as Dumitru Moineasa, who had similarly drunk a solution containing the ashes of his uncle's heart who had died back in 1992 and had also (temporarily) returned as one of the undead, whilst a Domnica Brancusi noted that there "have been dozens of dead men who turned into vampires and were haunting us" and that such occurrences were relatively commonplace.
As it happens all of the above could have been avoided had the family taken the simple precaution of inserting a silver needle through the heart of their deceased loved one before burial.
- Timothy Taylor, The real vampire slayers, The Independent on Sunday 28 October 2007
- Monica Petrescu, The long shadow of Dracula, The Daily Telegraph, 06/02/2005
- Daniel McLaughlin, A village still in thrall to Dracula, The Observer
Sunday June 19, 2005
- Justin Sparks, Village Vampire Slayers in Grave Trouble
The Sunday Times, April 11, 2004
- Matthew Schofield, Romanian villagers decry police investigation into vampire slaying, March 28, 2004 Knight Ridder Newspapers/Tribune News Service
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