Vampire Superstition in Pennsylvania
In a paper recently read before the New York Folk-lore Society, Mr. Lee J. Vance narrates some curious facts showing the survival of the vampire superstition among the Hungarian miners in Pennsylvania. One of these miners at Antrim, who was suffering from consumption, conceived the idea that his suffocation and shortness of breath was caused by the ghost of a former boss, who in life had tyrannized over him, sitting on his breast and sucking his life-blood. In Hungary, ghosts who thus prey on the living are exorcised by burning the hearts which beat in the bodies they inhabited before death. The proof that a body is that of a vampire is a heart still fresh and full of blood when the rest of the corpse may be decayed. When a heart which is thus proved to be that of a vampire is burned the live person who has been the ghost’s victim recovers from the effects of the visitation. Believing all this implicitly, the miner, aided by his brother, dug up the corpse of the dead boss and cut out the heart. It was found to be fresh and full of blood, as they expected, and they accordingly burned it, with full faith that good results would follow to the sufferer from consumption. The immediate result was the arrest of the disturbers of the dead. They were not prosecuted, however, allowances being made for their ignorance. In spite of the burning of the boss’ heart the consumptive miner, although he professed at first to feel perfectly well, died not long afterward.
Times-Picayune [New Orleans, LA] 24 April, 1893: p. 4
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The custom was well-known in New England, where it was believed that burning and ingesting the deceased’s heart would prevent “The White Death,” as consumption was called, from spreading to the rest of the family. Sadly, it did not.
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.