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Italians unearth "vampire" in Venice plague grave

By Daniel Flynn ROME (Reuters) - Italian researchers believe they have found the remains of a female "vampire" 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.

Thu Mar 12, 12:46 pm ET

Matteo Borrini, an anthropologist from the University of Florence, said the discovery on the small island of Lazzaretto Nuovo in the Venice lagoon supported the medieval belief that vampires were behind the spread of plagues like the Black Death.

"This is the first time that archaeology has succeeded in reconstructing the ritual of exorcism of a vampire," Borrini told Reuters by telephone. "This helps ... authenticate how the myth of vampires was born."

The skeleton was unearthed in a mass grave from the Venetian plague of 1576 -- in which the artist Titian died -- on Lazzaretto Nuovo, which lies around three km (2 miles) northeast of Venice and was used as a sanatorium for plague sufferers.

The succession of plagues which ravaged Europe between 1300 and 1700 fostered the belief in vampires, mainly because the decomposition of corpses was not well understood, Borrini said.

Gravediggers reopening mass graves would sometimes come across bodies bloated by gas, with hair still growing, and blood seeping from their mouths and believe them to be still alive.

The shrouds used to cover the faces of the dead were often decayed by bacteria in the mouth, revealing the corpse's teeth, and vampires became known as "shroud-eaters."

According to medieval medical and religious texts, the "undead" were believed to spread pestilence in order to suck the remaining life from corpses until they acquired the strength to return to the streets again.

"To kill the vampire you had to remove the shroud from its mouth, which was its food like the milk of a child, and put something uneatable in there," said Borrini. "It's possible that other corpses have been found with bricks in their mouths, but this is the first time the ritual has been recognised."

While legends about blood-drinking ghouls date back thousands of years, the modern figure of the vampire was encapsulated in the Irish author Bram Stoker's 1897 novel "Dracula," based on 18th century eastern European folktales.

(Editing by Phakamisa Ndzamela)

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Comment by Donald Lowery on March 15, 2009 at 10:58am
I believe that the Myths and legends are a base for the facts that can conjure over a long period of time. It is very fun to read and watch as sifi comes to life. The world is full of ghost chasers and paranormal Psych doctors looking to prove the true answers in life.To believe is to open your mind and look out side of the box.
Comment by Jessica Leigh on March 14, 2009 at 2:54pm
hey do you know this?
i've always been fascinated by the whole vampire thing myself...but i'm still not if one showed up at the studio...i would no longer doubt...hehe and if he just happened to be HOT i may be
Comment by Donald Lowery on March 14, 2009 at 6:40am
I know that Vampires are real and were cursed By the Great Ark Angel Lucifer himself For there disobedience. Their Eyes are of fire and their skin is like Ice. They are to live off of human blood and lust for it. So does the curse continue.
Comment by jess marie ✂ on March 14, 2009 at 12:07am
mine as well. i love it.

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