Clearly, one of the best ways to prevent a vampire from feeding on the living is to bury it with a well-positioned sickle over its throat. Upon reanimation, the vampire will unavoidably cut off its own head as it works to free itself from the grave. This fail-safe, if employed by characters in movies, would make some pretty anti-climactic scenes around the midpoint of many vampire films. However, in real life it is an easy way to keep loved ones from joining the ranks of the feasting undead.
Evident use of this method is what archaeologists believed they had come upon when they unearthed bodies from a cemetery in northwestern Poland. These bodies of potential vampires had been entombed with blades over their throats and abdomens, and sometimes with large stones wedged under their chins. Since medical science has yet to devise a reliable test for vampirism, these researchers were left to speculate what it was that had led denizens around Drawsko living almost two centuries ago to suspect these bodies might eventually turn, creating fiends that crawl from the funereal earth to walk thirstily among the living.
At first, it was theorized that these were the bodies of out-of-towners, immigrants to the region and objects of suspicion among the locals. “Not being from around these parts” is one of the tell-tale signs of vampirism. So if Lesley Gregoricka and her colleagues from the University of South Alabama could determine the foreignness of the bodies, then the belief that these graves contained responsibly disposed vampires would be more or less verified. History was already on Gregoricka’s side, for, according to Discovery in a report on this story earlier today, there is plenty of documentary proof that post-medieval Poland experienced “waves of immigrants.”
Using biogeochemical analysis, specifically the study of radiogenic strontium isotope ratios from the dental enamel on adult molars pulled from 60 corpses, it was determined that these former people had, in fact, been residents of the area in which they’d died. What would have made villagers turn on their own? How could the trust of citizens be eroded to the point where accusations of maybe eventually changing into a vampire were tossed about?
In addition to bands of roving strangers, it appears that cholera also swept through Poland around the same time that these people died. Since these townies were free from the blight of foreignness, that they were interred proactively as vampires suggests that they probably died from cholera instead. Cholera was another symptom associated with the early stages of becoming a vampire; at least this is the contention of one of the leading vampire doctors of the nineteenth century, “Dracula” author Bram Stoker.
Whether or not any of the corpses showed signs that they had, at some point, returned from the dead only to be quickly made dead again by the sickles secured over their necks did not seem to get much attention in the study. In any event, this does nothing to suggest that vampires have disappeared from the Earth. Take for instance Paul Reubens, a vampire who was believed to have died during a lengthy credit sequence in 1997. Earlier this year, it was announced that Reubens will return to star in a film featuring the character he made famous, Pee-Wee Herman, a wan man-child who doesn’t age.