ATG Quirkies: Do Vampires Really Exist?

by | Oct 26, 2021 | 0 comments

Do Vampires Really Exist is by Matthew Wills who has advanced degrees in library science and film studies and has written for numerous publications. It appears in JSTOR Daily.

(Poster promoting a circa-1960s theatrical reissue of the 1931 film Dracula via Wikimedia Commons.)

Strange tales of vampirism in eastern Europe started reaching western Europe in the late seventeenth century. People who were dead and buried were said to return to their villages, even their own families, to suck blood. Such stories sparked a debate among natural philosophers about the nature of knowledge. Could such outlandish things be true—especially when backed up by seemingly reliable eyewitness testimonials?

The early modernist scholar Kathryn Morris explores the debates that greeted these reports of vampires, putting them in the context of the rise of empirical, evidence-based approaches to the facts of the world. It could be dicey to automatically reject the potentially vampirical; new findings from the world beyond Europe were “challenging established ideas about the world’s inventory.”

And vampire evidence came from the testimony of military men, doctors, and clergymen sent by their superiors to investigate the rumors. “The overly credulous risked accepting fabricated or fraudulent facts, while the overly incredulous risked rejecting new facts too quickly because they did not fit expectations,” Morris writes.

Morris quotes Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who wrote, “If there is a well-attested history in the world, it is that of Vampires. Nothing is missing from it: interrogations, certifications of Notables, Surgeons, Parish Priests, Magistrates. The judicial proof is most complete.” But as to whether this paperwork proved the existence of vampires, Rousseau was ambiguous, though he noted that the witnesses to the unbelievable were credible themselves...”

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