July 1, 2013
Archaeologists in Poland believe they have found a vampire grave on a construction site in the south of the country.
Skeletons were found with their heads removed and placed on their legs indicating they had been subjected to an execution ritual designed to ensure the dead stayed dead.
Anybody accused of being a vampire in the distant past faced a grim fate.
Sometimes they would be decapitated, while another punishment involved hanging from a gibbet until decomposition resulted in the head separating from the body. In both cases the head was then laid on the legs of the victim in the hope that an inability to locate their head would hinder the progress of those intent on rising from the grave.
Historians say that the practice was common in the Slavic lands during the decades following the adoption of Christianity by pagan tribes.
The remains were found on the construction site of a ring road near the town of Gliwice, and came as a surprise to archaeologists more accustomed to finding the human detritus of the bloody fighting of the Second World War.
Just when the bodies were buried is open to speculation. Doctor Jacek Pierzak, one of the archaeologists on the site, said the skeletons were found with no jewellery, belt buckles, buttons or anything that could aid the task of determining their age.
Unlike the classic Bram Stoker image of a caped, blood-sucking aristocrat, the definition of a vampire in the Middle Ages was far broader. Even people who abided by old pagan customs and left food on the graves of dead relatives could fall foul of accusations of vampirism, and suffer a prompt execution.