In the 17th and 18th century, teenagers didn’t dream of being swept off their feet by sparkly vegetarian vampires.
Rather, the people of the 1600s and 1700s tried to do everything in their power to make sure there weren’t vampires roaming their streets, even undertaking special funeral rites to prevent the dead from returning from the grave.
And six ‘vampire’ skeletons buried with large rocks and sickles by villagers have been unearthed in a cemetery in Poland, with scientists saying the objects were there to ensure the dead stayed dead after succumbing to infectious disease.
The bones, found in large and unusual graves in the north-west part of the country, had been buried with either a sickle across the neck or a large rock placed under the chin. The former would sever the head of the ‘vampire’ if they tried to get up while the latter would stop them biting.
According to researchers, the practice was a traditional rite to ward off evil that was often employed for individuals that had died from infectious diseases like cholera.
‘People of the post-medieval period did not understand how disease was spread, and rather than a scientific explanation for these epidemics, cholera and the deaths that resulted from it were explained by the supernatural – in this case, vampires,’ said Dr Lesley Gregoricka, from the University of South Alabama.
The research, which is published in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE, says that cholera epidemics were common in eastern Europe during the 17th century, and rituals like this became regular practice.