Extract on ‘vampires’ from ‘The Antidote to Atheisme’ – Henry More – 1653 (1655 edition)

This extracts is taken from the 1655 edition of The Antidote to Atheism which adds extra material. It involves some elements we might now consider standard and an unusual transformation. Again, the term ‘vampire’ is not used but this text provides an early model of a walking corpse/corporeal ghost which follows the same pattern as ‘vampire’ reports (so named) in the 18th century. The term used here is ‘spectrum’. It is bad practice to assign the term ‘vampire’ to any blood drinker but I am counting this text as relevant to an understanding of the vampire in British consciousness due to the almost complete overlap with sources later self-labelled as about ‘vampires’. The imposition of a Latin term suggests the lack of language available to the English reporter for the phenomenon, over 50 years before the vampire craze of the early 18th century.

Cover of the 1655 edition

The following is taken from Book 3 and is the entirety of Chapter 8. In other editions, it is described thus:

(1. Two memorable Stories, with the credibility of them. 2. The first of a Shoemaker of Breslaw, who cut his own throat. 3. His appearing after death in his usual habit, and his vexatious haunting the whole Town. 4. That he being dug up after he had been eight months buried, his body was found intire and fresh, and his joynts limber and flexible. 5. That upon the burning thereof the Apparition ceased. 6. Which also happen’d in a Maid of his, when she had vex’d and disturbed people for a whole month together. 7. That the Relator of the Story lived in the Town at what time these things fell out.)

The above is the chapter summary provided in some editions. The full version is below. Original spelling and punctuation has been retained.

The stories are two and very memorable, and the more credible because the things happened in the age of the Narrator [Martinus Weinrichus – Silesian Physician], some few years before he wrote them, and in his own Countrey; and he doth avouch them with all Imaginable confidence to be most certainly true. The former of them is this. A certain Shoomaker in one of the chief Towns of Silesia in the year 1591. Septemb. 20. on a Friday betimes in the morning in the further parts of his house, where there was adjoyning a little Garden, cut his own throat with his Shoomakers knife. The family to cover the foulness of the fact, and that no disgrace might come upon his widow gave out, that he died of an Apoplexie, declined all visits of friends and neighbours, in the mean time got him washed and laid linnens so handsomely about him, that even they that saw him afterwards, as the Parson and some others, had not the least suspicion but that he did dye of that disease, and so he had some honest burial with a funeral Sermon and other circumstances becoming one of his rank and reputation. Six weeks had not past but so strong a rumour broke out that he dyed not of any disease but had laid violent hands upon himself that the Magistracy of the place could not but bring all those that had seen the corps to a strict examination. They shuffled off the matter as well as they could at first with many fair Apologies in the behalf of the deceased, to remove all suspicion of so hainous an act; but it being pressed more home to their conscience, at last they confessed he dyed a violent death, but desired their favor and clemency to his widow and children, who were in no fault, adding also that it was uncertain but that he might be slain by some external mishap, or if by himself, in some irresistible fit of frensie or madness.

Hereupon the Councel deliberate what is to be done. Which the widow hearing, and fearing they might be determining something that would be harsh, and toe the discredit of her husband and herself, being also animated thereto by some busie-bodies, makes a great complaint against those that raised these reports of her husband, and resolved to follow the Law upon them, earnestly contending that there was no reason upon meer rumours and idle defamations of malevolent people, that her husbands body should be digged up or dealt with as if he had been either Magician or Self-murtherer. Which boldness and pertinacity of the woman, though after the confession of the fact, did in some measure work upon the Councel, and put them to a stand.

But while these things are in agitation, to the astonishment of the Inhabitants of the place, there appears a Spectrum in the exact shape and habit of the deceased, and that not onely in the night but at Midday. Those that were asleep it terrified with horrible visions, those that were waking it would strike, pull, or press, lying heavy upon them like an Ephialtes, so that there were perpetuall complaints every morning of their last nights rest through the whole Town. But the more freaks this Spectrums plaid, the more diligent were the friends of the deceased to suppress the rumours of them, or at least to hinder the effects of those rumours, and therefore made their addresses to the President, complaining how unjust a thing it was, that so much should be given to idle reports and blind suspicions, and therefore beseech’d him that he would hinder the Councel from digging up the corps of the deceased, and from all ignominious usage of him; Adding also that they intended to appeal to the Emperours Court, that their Wisdom may rather decide the Controversie, tan that the cause should be here determined from the light conjectures of malicoius men.

But while by this means the business was still protracted, there were such stirs and tumults all over the Town, that they are hardly to be described. For no sooner did the Sun hide his head, but this Spectrum would be sure to appear, so that every body was fain to look about him and stand upon his guard, which was a sore trouble to those whom the labours of the day made more sensible of the want of rest in the night. For this terrible Apparition would sometimes cast it self upon the midst of their beds, would lie close to them, would miserably suffocate them, and would so strike them and pinch them, that not onely blew marks, but plain impressions of his fingers would be upon sundry parts of their bodies in the morning. Nay such was the violence and impetuousness of this Ghost, that when men forsook their beds and kept their dining rooms with Candles lighted, and many of them in company together, the better to secure themselves from fear and disturbance, yet he would then appear to them and have a bout with some of them notwithstanding all this provision against it. In brief, he was so troublesome, that the people were ready to forsake their houses and seek other dwellings, and the Magistrate so awakened at the perpetual complaints of them, that at last they resolved, the President agreeing thereto, to dig up the Body.

He had lain in the ground neer eight months, viz. from Sept 22. 1591. to April 18. 1592. when he was digged up, which was in the presence of the Magistracy of the Town, his body was found entire, not at all putrid, no ill smell about him, saving the mustiness of the grave Clothes, his joynts limber and flexible, as in those that are alive, his skin only flaccid but a more flesh grown in the room of it, the wound of his throat gaping, but no gear no corruption in it; there was also observed a Magical mark in the great toe of his right foot, viz. an Excrescency in the form of a rose, his body was kept out of the earth from April 18. to the 24. at what time many both of the same Town and others came daily to view him. These unquiet stirs did not cease for all this, which they after attempted to appease by burying the corps under the Gallows, but in vain; for they were as much as ever, if not more, he now not sparing his own Family; In so much that his widow at last went her self to the Magistrate and told them that she should be no longer against it, if they thought fit to fal upon some course of more strict proceedings touching her husband.

Wherefore the seventh of May, he was again digged up, and it was observable that he was grown more sensibly fleshy since his last interment. To be short, they cut off the Head, Arms and Legs of the corps, and opening his back took out his heart, which was as fresh and intire as in a calf new kill’d. These together with his body they put on a pile of wood and burnt them to Ashes, which they carefully sweeping together and putting into a Sack (that none might get them for wicked uses) poured them into the river, after which the Spectrum was never seen more.

As it also happened in his Maid that dyed after him, who appeared within eight days after her death to her fellow servant, and lay so heavy upon her that she brought upon her a great swelling of her eyes. She so grievously handled a child in the cradle, that if the Nurse had not come in to his help, he had been quite spoiled, but the crossing her self and calling upon the name of Jesus, the Spectre vanished. The next night she appeared in the shape of an Hen, which when one of the Maids of the house took to be so indeed and followed her, the Hen grew into an immense bigness, and presently caught the Maid by the throat and made it swell, so she could neither well eat nor drink of a good while after.

She continu’d these stirs for a whole moneth, slapping some so smartly that the strokes were heard of them that stood by, pulling the bed also from under others, and appearing sometimes in one shape, sometimes in another, as of a Woman, of a Dog, of a Cat, and of a Goat. But at last her body being digged up and burnt, the Apparition was never seen more.

These things were done at Breslaw in Silesia where the Weinrichius then lived, which makes the Narration more considerable. This concealing the name of the parties, I conceive, was in way of civility to his deceased towns man, his Towns mans Widow, and their Family.

Published by SamHirst

This started off as a story blog to share the little fictions that I like to write but it's turned into something a bit more Goth! I'm Dr Sam Hirst and I research the Gothic, theology and romance and at the moment I'm doing free Gothic classes online! We also have readalongs, watchalongs and reading groups. And I post fun little Gothic bits when I have the chance. Find me on twitter @RomGothSam

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