The history of vampires is incredibly vast and stretches across every country on the globe. Everyone has their own, sometimes bizarre, vampire myths and legends. Folktales that have existed for hundreds of years are still remembered today among those who love the historical world of vampires. I am one of those people who adore the history of the undead, which is why today I bring you a story of the Bosnian lampir.
Lampir is actually the Bosnian word for vampire, a word that usually popped up during severe epidemics. Due to the lack of medical knowledge ages ago, vampires were often the blame for disease and death. That was the case with the lampir. Disease was what usually triggered the appearance of a lampir in towns, if disease swept through the community it was more often than not attributed to lampirs if no other cause could be found.
The first person stricken by the disease and killed by it was labeled as a vampire, and those who were died after were all considered to be victims of the original vampire, and said to be incredibly dangerous for they could further spread death to the town.
In 1879 when the Austrians took control of Bosnia, officials made note of many cases of people exhuming corpses and burning them as lampirs (a practice common throughout parts of Europe), since fire was the one and only way to destroy this vampire. The Austrians, not agreeing with such practices, later banned them.
This fear didn’t just exist in Bosnia hundreds of years ago, it was also prominent in more recent years. In an article written in 1923 by M. Edith Durham, an English anthropologist studying in Bosnia, reported her experience:
“A recent case was when there was an outbreak of typhus [in 1906] … A young man was first to die. His wife sickened and swore that her husband returned in the night and sucked her blood and said, ‘He is a lampir.’ The neighbours, filled with fear, begged the authorities to permit them to dig up and burn his body. Permission was refused, and panic ensued. The lampir was seen and heard by many people and there were 15 deaths.”
Stories such as this always fascinate me. The things people believe due to fear and ignorance amaze me. But who knows, maybe there really were vampires and not just disease.