How to kill a vampire

Vampire’s hunter’s tales teach us that here are only two sure methods of destroying a vampire permanently.

One is to expose the vampire to direct sunlight and then scatter its ashes.

Another is to pierce its heart with either wood or silver, stuffing the head with garlic cloves, and then severing it from the body. The head and body should then be burnt in two separate places, scattering the two subsequent piles of ashes in separate locations.

The other known vampire remedies included dismemberment, decapitation and/ or burning. Decapitation and dismemberment, however, were also connected with punishment for crimes. Some criminals were beheaded, including traitors, who were also dismembered. Burning was also an old and widely practiced method of killing witches.

The most widely recognized method of killing a vampire was by staking him through the heart. As the heart is organ which contains and pumps blood, it is a logical place to strike to kill a vampire that sucks away blood and life.

Among the ancient Egyptians, the heart was considered the seat of the soul and organ or both emotions and intelligence. As vampires were often believed to be animated by a soul still in the body, staking the heart may have been seen as a way of releasing the trapped soul from the body.

While there were various beliefs as to what the stake should be made of, a large majority of stakes were made from a thorn tree. These included Ash, Blackthorne, Maple, Hawthrone, Buckthorne and Aspen.  This connects back to the belief that thorns prevent evil. Staking the heart both released the soul and pinned down evil.

A stake was driven through the chest cavity to ensure deflation of a bloated corpse, so it would be deflated before its transformation into a revenant was complete. Groans were reported to escape the “vampire’s” mouth when the chest was either pushed on or staked.

However, there is a natural explanation since intestinal gas may be forced through the throat by the entry of the stake into the body, and that may account for the sound.