In 2012, a report in the BBC highlighted the skeletons of Bulgaria, which were pierced through the chest with iron rods to prevent them turning into vampires. There are around 100 ‘vampire skeletons’ across the country and this highlights the beliefs of the areas, which inspired the novels of Bram Stoker.
The Romanian Strigoi were the troubled souls of the dead who rose from the grave but can also be living people who have particular magic abilities. These include the ability to transform themselves into an animal and making themselves invisible. They drained their victims of vitality through loss of blood and were thought to be immortal.
The Strigoi were first spoken of by the Dacians, who lived in the area around the Carpathian Mountains which is today Romania, Moldova and Bulgaria amongst other countries. They believed they were the spirits of the dead who could not enter the kingdom of Zalmoxis after death because of their unworthy actions.
The first named Strigoi was a Croatian named Jure Grando. He died in 1656 and returned as a Strigoi after which he continued to terrorise his native village of Kringa until the local beheaded him in 1672. The village priest who had buried him originally stated that Grando would knock on the door of someone around the village and somebody in the house would die in the next few days.
Petar Plogojowitz was another Strigoi from what is now Serbia whose staking was witnessed an Austrian official. He had lived in a village called Kisiliova and died here in 1725, after which there was a series of mysterious deaths. Nine people died in eight days and all claimed to have been throttled by Plogojowitz at night. The locals demanded his grave was dug up and when officials did, they found the body had no decomposed, the hair was grown and there was blood in his mouth. The body was staked through the heart and burned.
Modern Romanian vampires
In 1970, Bucharest saw a series of terrible crimes, which all took place at midnight in a rainstorm. The victims were mostly waitresses returning home from a late shift. The following year, Ion Rimaru was arrested and identified from his teeth marks on his victims. During the trial, he was constantly drowsy and incoherent and in the end was interrogated at night as it was the only time he was lucid. He was sentenced to death. Shortly after, his father died in a strange accident and it came to light that his fingerprints matched a series of crime dating back to 1944. The crimes were very similar to those committed by his ‘son’ including weather conditions and even some of the victims having the same names.
Other types of Strigoi
Apart from the traditional vampiric type Strigoi, there are two other types commonly mentioned in the stories of the area. The Strigoi viu is a sorcerer, a living creature that steals from people but can also stop the rain and replace it with hail, leading to drought.
The other type is the Strigoi mort, the dead Strigoi, which is very dangerous. It is demonic yet human and visits his family from the grave, acting almost normal until he bleeds his relatives until death.