Back in 2013, a group of archaeologists discovered a mysterious grave near a highway construction site in Gliwice, Poland. What they found in those graves will haunt them forever: vampire skeletons. Yes, vampires. What is most disturbing is the heads were severed and placed on their legs — an archaic Slavic practice for discarding of supposed vampires, so the decapitated corpses wouldn’t rise from the dead (or shall we say, undead). Shockingly, this isn’t the first time scientists have discovered suspected vampire graves.
Yet another startling discovery happened in the Slavic country of Bulgaria where a 700-year-old toothless skeleton was unearthed near church ruins in the Black sea town of Sozopol according to National Geographic. Further propelling speculations of vampire graves. Scholars suspect villagers would pull the teeth out of suspected vampires as a way of preventing them from “turning.”
University of British Columbia archaeologist Hector Williams and his colleagues found an adult male corpse who had been staked to the ground on the Greek island of Lesbos back in the 1990s. Several eight-inch-long iron spikes were driven through his neck, pelvis, and ankle. But the most incriminating aspect of the discovery was the fact “He was also in a heavy but nearly completely decayed wooden coffin,” Williams said, “while most of the other burials [in the cemetery] were simply in winding sheets in the earth.” If that doesn’t put the literal nail on the coffin regarding the existence of vampires, we don’t know what does.
Another eery example was when an archeology team led by University of Florence forensic anthropologist, Matteo Borrini, stumbled upon a vampire burial on the Italian island of Lazzaretto Nuovo. The remains of an elderly female with a brick in her mouth — an ancient practice of Italian exorcism for suspected blood-suckers — was discovered among the ruins.
But these peculiar undead graves aren’t limited to Europe. Researchers found the burial site of a middle-aged man whose head and thigh bones had been removed from the body and placed in a creepy “skull and crossbone” formation at a cemetery near Griswold, Connecticut back in the 1990s. Upon further inspection, scientists concluded the man died from tuberculosis, or what was called “consumption” back in the 18th and 19th centuries. Common symptoms of tuberculosis include paleness of the skin and severe weight loss, giving the victim an emaciated look. “The vampire’s desire for ‘food’ forces it to feed off living relatives, who suffer a similar ‘wasting away,” the archaeologists noted in a paper in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. At the time, villagers may have misconstrued the disease with vampirism and decapitated the body for reassurance.
Most experts now believe the myth of vampires may have sprung from false impressions of diseases such as tuberculosis. Even though Americans and Europeans in the 19th-century understood what happened to bodies immediately after death, they seldom took notice of the decaying process weeks or months after being deceased. We know now rigor mortis eventually goes away, triggering the limbs to become pliable; the gastrointestinal tract starts to putrefy, yielding a dark fluid easily misconstrued for fresh blood when unearthing, constituting what may appear to be a postprandial blood-sucker. But who knows? Perhaps these bizarre graves really are an indication of vampires. Whatever you choose to believe, at least science has a cure for tuberculosis.