Arnold Paole and His Successors
This is one of the instances in folklore where a person is turned into a
vampire by another such creature. Arnold Paole was a Serbian soldier who lived
in the early 1700s. While alive, he admitted that he witnessed and was part
of some ghastly occurrences. Paole said that while he was in Gossowa(in Turkish
Serbia), he was attacked by a vampire. The people of that are and era believed
that the only way to rid oneself of a troublesome vampire was to eat some of the
earth from its grave and smear oneself with the creature's blood. Paole claimed
to have done just that, although it is unclear how he obtained some of the
Apparently, the method worked as a deterrent but not as a cure. Paole was
able to return to his home in 1727; however, he died soon after from a fall off a
haywagon, and was buried. Within a month after Paole's death, the people of his
village started reporting that he was attacking them at night. Four of the
victims eventually died.
The villagers began to fear the vampire, and decided to dig up his body.
When the "hunters" did so, they found that Paole's body was undecayed, his skin
and nails had fallen away and had been replaced by new skin and nails, and(of
course)streams of "fresh blood" were flowing from his orifices. To rid themselves
of the monster, the villagers drove a wooden stake through Paole, and according
to them, the vampire groaned and blood erupted from his body. They then burned
Paole never again bothered anyone, but the hunters were still not satisfied that
the curse ws lifted from their village. They believed that all of Paole's victims
were also vampires, and to make sure the village was free from vampires for good,
the hunters dug up those bodies as well. They found them also to be in the
"vampire condition," and disposed of them in the same manner.
Several years later, another epidemic apparently broke out, because another
vampire hunt occurred in the same graveyard. In the account of that expedition,
Visum et Repertum, which is translated in Paul Barber's book Vampires,
Burial, and Death, sixteen alleged vampires were exhumed. All of the "successors" of
Paole seemed to have the same characteristics as he did(lack of decomposition,
new skin and nails, and the presence of fresh blood). Also, all the vampires were
buried for approximately the same amount of time--around two months.
Four of the vampires were infants, and three of them were buried along with
their mothers(who were among the alleged sixteen vampires). The belief that a
vampire's child would also become a vampire was common in Greece as well.
There is no surviving written testimony of just what Paole's victims saw, or of
how they were attacked by him. The only evidence we have is the secondary
source already mentioned, the Visum et Repertum. That is a secondary
account because it was written by the hunters who investigated Paole's successors.
How reliable is this source for determining what actually happened at the
graveyard in either instance?
There is no accurate way to determine that for certain, but something is clear:
Even if the hunters in both instances did see exactly what they reported, that still
does not provide actual evidence for the existence of immortal blood drinkers.
The vampire hunters of years ago did not possess the medical knowledge we
have today. When they exhumed bodies in those days and commented on their
appearance, the hunters did not exactly have anything to compare that physicaly
condition to. The only partially decomposed corpses they might have come across,
besides those of "vampires," were ones that were accidentally discovered in remote
locations, and which animals or the elements had helped along in decomposition.
Even medical doctors in Europe at the time did not have a good knowledge of how
decomposition progressed in a human corpse.
Add to that lack of knowledge the superstitious beliefs of the investigators,
and it becomes easy to doubt their judgment. In many countries, it was believed
that the soul of a person remained among the living for forty days. For that
period of time, many cultures practiced strict mourning and various traditions,
such as covering all the mirros in a house until the spirit was gone. However, after
the forty-day period ended, the general belief was that the soul would move on, and
the corpse would consequently decompose.
Various occult theories either agree or disagree with the theory that souls
remain among the living for forty days; however, no modern scientific theory
supports the idea that a corpse should fully decompose after forty days. Decomposition
actually begins a few hours aftre death, as free-redicals begin to have free reign
over the organism, and decay is accelerated by bacteria and other parasites.
Decomposition to skeletal remains can take several months or even years, depending
on a large number of factors. Also, the process does not resemble what the
vampire hunters of yesterday expected.
Therefore, even though Arnold Paole was discovered in a "non-decomposed" state,
according to the account we have, it is the perception of decomposition or the lack
thereof that is important. The fact that Paole's body was not a skeleton after
forty days would probably have been enough to make the hunters believe they
were seeing a vampire. However, that was not all they found. Paole's skin and
nails had fallen away and were replaced with new skin and nails. Despite what the hunters
thought that evidence is also not conclusive.
When a corpse decomposes, the state of its tissues changes. Sometimes, outer
layers of skil fall off as the inner layers begin to liquefy. The inner layers
would often have a ruddy appearance, and could appear to be "new skin" to someone
who didn't know better. Also, nails, and eventually hair, begin to fall off a
decomposing body. The shape of the skin under the nail could look as if new
nails were forming.
As for the last vampiric characteristic of Paole's body--the flowing of blood
from the orifices--there is also a scientific explanation. During decomposition,
gasses build up in a corpse, causing many stange-looking things to occur. As
the gases continue to build, the body begins to swell. At the same time, liquefaction
of the internal tissues and organs continues. The pressure from the gases could
cause the resulting dark liquids(not really pure blood) to be forced from the body
through the areas of least resistance(the eyes, the nostrils, and of course, the
While we're discussing the swelling of the body, a couple of things should be
mentioned. If the swelling is observed in this early stage(before the body
begins to look unusually distended) or in its late stages(after it has begun to
subside), the body would have the appearance of being quite whole. In fact, a
deceased elderly person might even look younger because any wrinkles or
discolorations would seem to have vanished. Because Paole's hunters(and those
who came after) expected to find little more than bones, a slightly bloated
corpse could look like it was alive.
Also, the bloating would cause one other characteristic noticed in this case.
When the body of Arnold Paole was staked, it emitted a groan and a large of
amount of blood. Both of these occurrences could have been caused by the sudden
expelling of gas and liquid that had built up in the body. Driving a stake
into a body in that state of decomposition would be like popping a water balloon
with a pin.
That about covers both sides of the Paole case. As you can see, because we
can't be sure of exactly what Paole's alleged victims experienced, we are left
with nothing more than observations of a corpse that could have been decomposing
naturally. So the question of whether or not Arnold Paole was a vampire remains
unanswered. It is interesting to remember that once his body was destroyed,
there were no more instances of vampirism attributed to him. Of course, if
superstitious fear is the only thing that made the villagers think Paole was a
vampire in the first place, simply reporting that hsi body was destroyed would
probably have had the same peace-giving effect.
To continue our examination of immortal blood drinkers, we'll look at one of
Paole's fellow countrymen who also entered the pages of history as a possible
vampire; his story follows.
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