How come that it is OK to blur the boundaries between fact and fiction when dealing with the (historical) subject of vampires, when no serious historian or documentarist would attempt to do so when dealing with e.g. various episodes in 20th Century history?
Consequently, I am pretty much surprised that scholars and academics are willing to lend their names and professional reputations to bogus historical docudrama like Die Vampir Prinzessin, which is the subject of this post.
The premises of this documentary are:
- 3 skeletons from the first half of the 18th Century are found by archaeologists in Cesky Krumlov in the Czech republic. They are buried North-South, and show signs which could be interpreted as if they had been treated for Magia Posthuma (decapitation, stone in a mouth, impaling)
- In Cesky Krumlov, a princess called Eleonore Amalie von Schwarzenberg resided in the 18th Century. She suffered from a mysterious illness (actually, cancer), a seemingly mysterious autopsy was carried out on her corpse, and she was buried beneath the floor of a local church.
- Bram Stoker quotes Bürger's famous poem, Lenore, in his tale Dracula's Guest, and an Austrian noble woman is referred to.
Well, today Stoker's working notes have been studied by various authors and scholars, and it is quite certain that Stoker was not inspired by this Bohemian princess but rather by a literary tradition instigated by John William Polidori's character Lord Ruthven. So this whole idea is certainly humbug.
What about the rest of this documentary?
Well, I assume that some of the facts concerning e.g. the three skeletons and princess Eleonore are in fact correct, but I don't find the conclusions very convincing.
Were the three corpses actually treated to prevent them from becoming vampires? The evidence presented is not so convincing that alternative explanations are ruled out.
Furthermore, it is claimed that a certain Dr. Frantz von Gerstorff inspected many cases of vampirism and that he also examined princess Eleonore. Oh, well, Frantz von Gerstorff was actually an Inspector at a mining facility in Transylvania who was involved in examining the case of a certain Dorothea Pihsin who was claimed to be a vampire in 1753. So he wasn't a doctor, and he probably had nothing to do with Eleonore Amalie who died in 1741. So this is even more humbug!
It is also claimed that Stoker probably based his character Abraham van Helsing on Gerard van Swieten, but to my knowledge there is no evidence that he had ever heard of van Swieten. So it's pure speculation.
As for 18th Century doctors, we are required to believe that some of them seriously believed in vampires, whereas the fact is that hardly any enlightened and well educated physician of that day believed in vampires. So when we furthermore are presented with the hypothesis that the autopsy conducted on Eleonora Amalie may have been carried out to prevent her from becoming a vampire, we are required to suspend our disbelief more than anyone can expect.
But then we are assumed to believe that her coffin was put into a specially walled up cavity beneath the church floor to prevent her from coming back, whereas this as far as I'm told isn't a particularly unique way of placing coffins in crypts and church floors.
Well, there's a lot more I could say about the speculations and nonsense that is presented in this documentary, but the above should suffice. What is perhaps even more strange is the appearance of various scholars from universities in e.g. Vienna, whose presence lends credibility to this ludicrous documentary.
So why do they do it? Why don't they tell the true story of the vampires of Serbia, the Magia Posthuma of Bohemia and Moravia, of van Swieten, Maria Theresa, Augustin Calmet etc.? In my opinion the true story will always be more fascinating and interesting than the speculative fantasies presented in documentaries like this one.
It actually really worries me that documentarists don't feel that they owe the public a true understanding of history? Do they really believe that it doesn't matter if we are told the true story or not?
The only redeeming thing about this documentary are the bonus features on the DVD which I have mentioned in an earlier post.
The photo shows Rainer Köppl from the University of Vienna, who hosts the documentary.