The Vampire, His Kith and Kin

by Montague Summers

London, K. Paul Trench, Trubner [1928]

New York, E.P. Dutton & Co. [1929]



IN all the darkest pages of the malign supernatural there is no more terrible tradition than that of the Vampire, a pariah even among demons. Foul are his ravages; gruesome and seemingly barbaric are the ancient and approved methods by which folk must rid themselves of this hideous pest. Even to-day in certain quarters of the world, in remoter districts of Europe itself, Transylvania, Slavonia, the isles and mountains of Greece, the peasant will take the law into his own bands and utterly destroy the carrion who–as it is yet firmly believed–at night will issue from his unhallowed grave to spread the infection of vampirism throughout the countryside. Assyria knew the vampire long ago, and he lurked amid the primaeval forests of Mexico before Cortes came. He is feared by the Chinese, by the Indian, and the Malay alike; whilst Arabian story tells us again and again of the ghouls who haunt ill-omened sepulchres and lonely cross-ways to attack and devour the unhappy traveller.

The tradition is world wide and of dateless antiquity. Travellers and various writers upon several countries have dealt with these dark and perplexing problems, sometimes cursorily, less frequently with scholarship and perception, but in every case the discussion of the vampire has occupied a few paragraphs, a page or two, or at most a chapter of an extensive and divaricating study, where other circumstances and other legends claimed at least an equal if not a more important and considerable place in the narrative. It maybe argued, indeed, that the writers upon Greece have paid especial attention to this tradition, and that the vampire figures prominently in their works. This is true, but on the other band the treatise of Leone Allacci, De Graecorum hodie quorundam opinationibus, 1645, is of considerable rarity, nor are even such volumes as Father François Richard’s Relation de ce qui s’est passé de plus remarquable a Sant-Erini, 1657, the Voyage au Levant (1705)

of Paul Lucas, and Tournefort’s Relation d’un Voyage du Levant (1717), although perhaps not altogether uncommon and certainly fairly well known by repute, generally to be met with in every library. The study of the Modern Greek Vampire in Mr. J. G. Lawson’s Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion has, of course, taken its place as a classic, but save incidentally and in passing Mr. Lawson does not touch upon the tradition in other countries and at other times, for this lies outside his purview.

Towards the end of the seventeenth century, and even more particularly during the first half of the eighteenth century when in Hungary, Moravia, and Galicia, there seemed to be a veritable epidemic of vampirism. the report of which was bruited far and wide engaging the attention of curia and university, ecclesiastic and philosopher, scholar and man of letters, journalist and virtuoso in all lands, there appeared a large number of academic theses and tractates, the majority of which had been prelected at Leipzig, and these formally discussed and debated the question in well-nigh all its aspects, dividing, sub-dividing, inquiring, ratiocinating upon the most approved scholastic lines. Thus we have the monographs of such professors as Philip Rohr, whose “Dissertatio Historico-Philosophica” De Masticatione Mortuorum was delivered at Leipzig on 16 August, 1679, and issued the same year from the press of Michael Vogt; the Dissertatio de Uampyris Seruiensibus of Zopfius and van Dalen, printed at Duisburg in 1733; and the De absolutione mortuorum excommunicatorum of Heineccius, published at Helmstad in 1709. Of especial value are Michael Ranft’s De Masticatione Mortuorum in Tumulis Liber, Leipzig, 1728, and the Dissertatio de Cadaueribus Sanguisugis, Jena, 1732, of John Christian Stock. These dissertations, however, are extremely scarce and hardly to be found, whilst even so encyclopaedic a bibliography as Caillet does not include either Philip Rohr, Michael Ranft, or Stock, all of whom should therein assuredly have found a place. In this connexion must not be omitted the De Miraculis Mortuorum, Leipzig, Kirchner, 1670, and second edition, Weidmann, 1687, a treatise by Christian Frederic Garmann, a noted physician, who was born at Mersebourg about 1640 and who practised with great repute at Chemnitz. Garmann discusses many curious details and continued to amass so vast a collection of notes that after his

death there was published in 1709 at Dresden by Zimmerman a very much enlarged edition of his work, “exornatum, diu desideratum et expetitum, beato autoris obitu interueniente.”

During the eighteenth century the tradition of the Vampire was dealt with by two famous authors, of whom both concentrated upon this as their main theme, that is to say by Dom Augustin Calmet, O.S.B., in his Dissertations sur les Apparitions des Anges, des Démons et des Esprits et sur les revenants et vampires de Hongrie, de Bohême, de Moravie, e de Silésie, Paris, 1740, and by Gioseppe Davanzati, Archbishop of Trani and Patriarch of Alexandria, in his Dissertazione sopra I Vampire, Naples, 1774. As I have very fully considered both these important works they require no more than a bare mention here.

Of a later date we find in French a few books such as the Histoire des Vampires (1820) of the enormously prolific Collin de Plancy, the Spectriana (1817) and Les ombres sanglantes (1820) of J. p. R. Cuisin, and Gabrielle de Paban’s Histoire des Fantômes et des Demons (1819) and Démoniana (1820), but these with many more of that class and epoch, although they are sometimes written not without elegance and industry and one may here and there meet with a curious anecdote or local legend, will not, I think, long engage the consideration and regard of the more serious student.

In English there is a little book entitled Vampires and Vampirism by Mr. Dudley Wright, which was first published in 1914; second edition (with additional matter), 1924. It may, of course, be said that this is not intended to be more than a popular and trifling collection and that one must not look for accuracy and research from the author of Roman Catholicism and Freemasonry. However that may be, it were not an easy task to find a more insipid olio than Vampires and Vampirism, of which the ingredients, so far as I am able to judge, are most palpably derived at second, and even at third hand. Dom Calmet, sometimes with and sometimes without acknowledgement, is frequently quoted and continually misunderstood, In what the “additional matter” of the second edition consists I cannot pretend to say but I have noticed that the same anecdotes are repeated, e.g. on p. 9 we are told the story of a shepherd of “Blow, near Kadam, in Bohemia,” and the relation is said to be taken (via Calmet, it is plain,)

from “De Schartz [rather Charles Ferdinand de Schertz], in his Magia Postuma, published at Olmutz in 1706.” On p. 166 this story, as given by “E. p. Evans, in his interesting work on the Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals,” is told of “a herdsman near the town of Cadan,” and dated 1337. Pages 60-62 are occupied with an Oriental legend related by “Fornari, in his History of Sorcerers,” by which is presumably intended the Histoire curieuse et pittoresque des sorciers . . . Revue et augmentée par Fornari, Paris, 1846, and other editions, a book usually catalogued under Giraldo, as by Caillet and Yve-Plessis, although the latter certainly has a cross-reference to Fornari. In greater detail Mr. Dudley Wright narrates this legend which be has already told (pp. 60-62), on pp. 131-137. Such repetition seems superfluous. In the Bibliography we have such entries as “Leo Allatius,” Encyclopaedia Britannica“; “Frazer’s Golden Bough,” Nider’s Formicarius,” “Phlegon’s Fragments,” “William of Newbury,” all of which are not merely unscholarly and slovenly, but entirely useless from the point of view of reference. I also remark blunders such as “Philip Rehrius,” “Nicolas Ramy’s Demonolatrie,” “Rymer’s Varney the Vampire.” Who Rymer might be I cannot tell. Varney the Vampire was written by Thomas Preskett Prest.

It may, I think, not unfairly be claimed that the present work is the first serious study in English of the Vampire, and kindred traditions from a general, as well as from a theological and philosophical point of view. I have already pointed out that it were impossible to better such a chapter as Mr. J. C. Lawson has given us in his Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion, a book to which as also to Bernhard Schmidt’s Das Volksleben der Neugriechen und das Hellenische Alterthum, I am greatly indebted. But any wider survey of the vampire tradition will soon be found o demand an examination of legend, customs, and history which extend far beyond Greece, although in such an inquiry the beliefs and practice of modern Greece must necessarily assume a prominent and most material significance.

In the present work I have endeavoured to set forth what might be termed “the philosophy of vampirism,” and however ghastly and macabre they may appear I have felt that here one must not tamely shrink from a careful and detailed consideration

of the many cognate passions and congruous circumstances which–there can be no reasonable doubt–have throughout the ages played no impertinent and no trivial but a very vital and very memorable part in consolidating the vampire legend, and in perpetuating the vampire tradition among the darker and more secret mysteries of belief that prevail in the heart of man.

In many countries there is thought to be a close connexion between the vampire and the werewolf, and I would remark that I have touched upon this but lightly as I am devoting a separate study to the werewolf and lycanthropy.

The Vampire, his Kith and Kin will be shortly followed by The Vampire in Europe, in which work I have collected and treat of numerous instances of vampirism old and new, concretely illustrating the prevalence and phases of the tradition in England and Ireland, in ancient Greece and Rome as well as in modern Greece, in Hungary and Bohemia, in Jugo-Slavia, Russia, and many other lands. In this volume will be found related in detail such famous cases as that of Arnold Paul, Stanoska Sovitzo, Millo the Hungarian, the vampires of Temeswar, Kisilova, Buckingham, Berwick, Melrose Abbey, Croglin Grange, and many more.

A survey of “The Vampire in Literature” which I attempt in Chapter V of the present volume has not, to the best of my belief, been usefully essayed by any English writer. I cannot hope that my purview is complete, for I feel confident that several pieces must inevitably have escaped me. Here too one is faced with the question what to notice and what to exclude. Vampirism is so wide a term that in some senses it might arguably be held to cover no small range of ghost stories and witch sagas where the victims peak and pine and waste away until they fall into an early grave. The choice is bound to be somewhat arbitrary, and so open to censure and objections, both on account of inclusions and omissions, and, superficially at least, these criticisms will hardly seem a little rigid and unfair. There is one vampire story, an excellent fiction and admirably discoursed, which I heard very many years ago, and which I believe is in print, but it has till now completely baffled all my recent explorations. I have no doubt that some of my readers will know the tale.

The Bibliography has offered its own difficulties with

reference to the choice of books for inclusion, and a certain amount of selection seemed inevitable. I have, I hope, duly listed the majority of those works which deal with the Vampire and the vampire tradition at any length, or which even if they devote but a few pages to the Vampire have given the subject serious and scholarly consideration. The denizens of Grub Street, ever busily agog, have from time to time attempted to scribble something on sorcery, on the invisible world, on occult crafts, and of late they seem to have been especially pretentious and prolific. I am well aware that in a number of trivial and catch-penny compositions it may be found that actually more space has been devoted to the vampire than is afforded in several of the volumes I mention, important studies which cover a fairly wide range in travel, in folk-lore, in demonology. Whilst, obviously enough, all the titles I include have by no means the same value even the least remarkable owns a particular reason to justify its presence. Under fiction it seemed to me that one should cast the net a little wider, and accordingly–on account of its very rarity if for no other reason–I have found a place for so poor a book as Smyth Upton’s The Last of the Vampires, and what is more a rampant tract such as The Vampyre (1858) is not excluded. It will be remarked that many of the books to which I refer in my chapters and whence I quote are not to be found in this Bibliography as they lie something outside its scope. Moreover to rehearse books of reference and the standard authors seemed entirely superfluous.

During the course of a long and arduous task I have been much helped by the kindly and valuable suggestions of many friends amongst whom I must particularly mention Mrs. Agnes Murgoçi, the late Chevalier W. H. Grattan Flood, Dr. Havelock Ellis, Dr. Rouse, Mr. Edward Hutton, Mr. W. J. Lawrence, and Mr. N. M. Penzer. I am especially grateful to Dr. R. Campbell Thompson for generous permission to quote at length the exorcisms from his classic works upon Babylonian demonology and Semitic magic. Both Mr. G. Willoughby-Meade and his publishers have put me under great obligations by allowing me so extensively to use his work Chinese Ghouls and Goblins, Constable and Co., 1928.

I cordially thank my friend Mr. Laurence Housman for giving me leave to reproduce his drawing “Cauchemar,” as also

Messrs. Macmillan for a similar permission with regard to the illustration of Malay vampires, which originally appeared in Dr. W. W. Skeat’s Malay Magic.

The little cylinder delineated upon the cover of the book is a reproduction from the Revue d’Assyriologie, vol. VII, and represents a Babylonian vampire. The original is in the Louvre collections.

IN FESTO B.M.V. del Divino Aiuto.