Friday 4 May 2007

Joh. Frid. Glaser's tale of horror

Mortui nimirum humati illaesis surgentes sepulcris vivos enecant, hique necati et sepulti similiter surgentes alios interficiunt; quod sequenti contingit modo: Mortui nempe dormientes noctu adoriuntur, sanguinemque ex illis exsugunt, ut cuncti tertio exspirent die. Huic autem malo hucusque nulla medela inventa est.

This tale of horror was to be found in the scientific journal, Commercii litterarii ad rei medicae et scientiae naturalis incremementum institute, on March 22nd 1732. Written in a letter from the Viennese doctor Johann Friedrich Glaser to one of the journal’s editors, Johann Christoph Götz (1688-1733), it is so remarkably reminiscent of words found in so many novels and vampire movies ever since. In my translation these lines are:

People that are certainly dead rise from undisturbed graves and kill the living, and these killed and buried people similarly rise and kill others; it happens in the following fashion: At night they attack sleeping people and suck out their blood, so that they all expire on the third day. Against this evil no remedy has been found.

Glaser wished to inform the learned world of a remarkable experience his son had had in a village in the part of Serbia occupied by the Habsburgs, and close to the border to Ottoman territory, namely a case of a kind of magic (magicam aliquam) that Glaser in his letter names Vampyres!

Glaser certainly got the attention of the learned world. The Nürnberg journal which otherwise was mostly interested in more ordinary scientific topics, put in print a large scale debate on vampires throughout the year of 1732.

Personally, I find it fascinating to read those lines from Glaser, because in my view he takes the more diffuse vampire of the official reports one step further and establishes it as something that anyone today will recognize. This in my opinion is a piece of cultural history!

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