Archaeologists have unearthed what appeared to be two vampire skeletons in Bulgaria with iron poles plunged through their chest cavity to keep them from turning into the undead.
They are the latest in a succession of finds across western and central Europe which shed new light on just how seriously people took the threat of vampires and how those beliefs transformed into the modern myth.
The two skeletons are believed to be around 800 years old and were discovered during an archaeological dig near amonastery in the Bulgarian Black Sea town of Sozopol.
“These two skeletons stabbed with rods illustrate a practice which was common in some Bulgarian villages up until the first decade of the 20th century,” Bulgaria’s national history museum chief Bozhidar Dimitrov said in a statement.
According to pagan beliefs, people who were considered bad during their lifetimes might turn into vampires after death unless stabbed in the chest with an iron or wooden rod before being buried.
People believed the rod would also pin them down in their graves to prevent them from leaving at midnight and terrorizing the living, the historian explained.
According to Mr Dimitrov over 100 buried people whose corpses were stabbed to prevent them from becoming vampires have been discovered across Bulgaria over the years.
However, last month Italian researchers discovered what they believed to be the remains of a female skeleton in Venice – buried with a brick jammed between her jaws to prevent her feeding on victims of a plague which swept the city in the 16th century.