Undergraduate Research Journal


Vampires have continually been depicted in literary and cinematic works as pale, undead human beings that consume the blood of the living .4,7,19 Evidence that vampires were a part of culture before they grew in fiction has been observed in ancient burial rituals known as apotropaic observances, which consisted of practices to prevent evil.8 Excavation of a cemetery in Poland dated between the 17th and 18th centuries uncovered several abnormal burials in which apotropaic practices were used. These burials included sickles placed over the neck or abdomen of the deceased, large stones placed under the chin in a few of the cases, and coins placed with the body or under the tongue that were intended to ward off evil spirits.8 What made these individuals feared by their community enough to take measures to prevent them from returning from the dead? This paper explores the plausibility that the fictitious depiction of vampires and apotropaic observances of past burials could have been fueled by individuals infected with various diseases and engaging in cult activity.



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