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Peter Plogojowitz

The following is a translation of the statement made by Imperial Provisor Frombald, who had witnessed these particular events in 1725.

After a subject by the name of Peter Plogojowitz had died, ten weeks past - he lived in the village of Kisilova, in the Rahm District - and had been buried according to the Raetzian custom, it was revealed that in this same village of Kisilova, within a week, nine people, both old and young, died also, after suffering a twenty-four hour illness. And they said publicly, while they were yet alive, but on their death-bed, that the above-mentioned Plogojowitz, who had died ten weeks earlier, had come to them in their sleep, laid himself on them, and throttled them, so that they would have to give up the ghost. The other subjects were very distressed and strengthened even more in such (beliefs) by the fact that the dead Peter Plogojowitz's wife, after saying that her husband had come to her and demanded his opanky, or shoes, had left the village of Kisilova and gone to another. And since with such people (which they call vampires) various signs are to be seen - that is, the body undecomposed, the skin, hair, beard and nails growing - the subjects resolved unanimously to open the grave of Peter Plogojowitz and to see if such above-mentioned signs were really to be found on him.

To this end they came here to me and, telling of these events, asked me and the local pope, or parish priest, to be present at the viewing. And although I at first disapproved, telling them that the praiseworthy administration should first be dutifully and humbly informed, and its exalted opinion about this should be heard, they did not want to accommodate themselves to this at all, but rather gave this short answer: I could do what I wanted, but if I did not accord to their custom, they would have to leave house and home, because by the time a gracious resolution was received from Belgrade, perhaps the entire village - and this was already supposed to have happened in Turkish times - could be destroyed by such an evil spirit, and they did not want to wait for this.

Since I could not hold such people from the resolution they had made, either with good words or with threats, I went to the village of Kisilova, taking along the Gradisk pope, and viewed the body of Peter Plogojowitz, just exhumed, finding, in accordance with thorough truthfulness, that first of all I did not detect the slightest odor that is otherwise characteristic of the dead, and the body, except for the nose, which was somewhat fallen away, was completely fresh. The hair and beard - even the nails, of which the old ones had fallen away - had grown on him; the old skin, which was somewhat whitish, had peeled away, and a new fresh one had emerged under it. The face, hands, and feet, and the whole body were so constitued, and they could not have been more complete in his lifetime. Not without astonishment, I saw some fresh blood in his mouth, which, according to the common observation, he had sucked from the people killed by him. In short, all the indications were present that such people (as remarked above) are said to have. After both the pope and I had seen this spectacle, while the people grew more outraged than distressed, all the subjects, with great speed, sharpened a stake - in order to pierce the corpse of the deceased with it - and put this at his heart, whereupon, as he was pierced, not only did much blood, completely fresh, flow also through his ears and mouth, but still other wild signs (which I pass by out of high respect) took place. Finally, according to their usual practice, they burned the often-mentioned body, and in hoc casu, to ashes, of which I inform the most laudable Administration, and at the same time would like to request, obediently and humbly, that if a mistake was made in this matter, such is to be attributed not to me but to the rabble, who were beside themselves with fear.

Imperial Provisor, Gradisk District

From Vampires, Burial, and Death , by Paul Barber (Yale University Press, 1988).

This translation by Paul Barber of the 1725 account provides many of the details normally associated with classical folkloric vampirism. The general interpretation of "wild signs" is that upon piercing the corpse, an erection occurred. This phenomenon may have contributed to the tendency for vampires to be regarded as sexual beings.

The vampire Plogojowitz, a Serbian peasant, became a sensationalized case that fueled the region's vampire hysteria after an account was published in the Viennese paper Weinerisches Diarium. The village of Kisilova is possibly the modern Kisiljevo. In the eight days following the death of Plogojowitz, nine other villagers succumbed, often claiming that Plogojowitz had beaten them at night. Following these events, his widow moved to another village. Some accounts describe Plogojowitz returning from the dead, demanding food from his son, and murdering him for refusing. This case was also described by Dom Calmet in his early writings on vampires.

Also worthy of note is the utter brown-nosing that riddles this official communication. Locals pressed for Frombald (the local official) and a priest conduct the investigation immediately (rather than waiting for authorities from Belgrade), since "in Turkish times" entire villages had been wiped out by vampires. While Plogojovitz's gravesite remains unknown today, people in the region bear the surname, which became westernized as Blagojevic, and is shared by a shamed Illinois ex-Govenor.

Also of some interest is a contemporary analysis of the entire episode, which is both charmingly naiive and earnestly scientific. It was published in 1746, just 21 years after the events described.