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The Source:

Robert Pashley :
"Travels in Crete" [1837]
John Murray, London, UK, 1837

The Story:

"Once upon a time the village of Kalikráti, in the district of Sfakiá, was haunted by a Kathakhanás, and people did not know what man he was or from what part. This Kathakhanás destroyed both children and many full-grown men; and desolated both that village and many others. They had buried him at the church of Saint George at Kalikráti, and in those times he was a man of note, and they had built an arch over his grave.

Now a certain shepherd, his mutual Synteknos, was tending his sheep and goats near the church, and, on being caught by a shower, he went to the sepulchre, that he might be shaded from the rain. Afterwards he determined to sleep, and to pass the night there, and after taking off his arms, he placed them by the stone which served as his pillow, crosswise. And people might say, that it is on this account that the Katakhanás was not permitted to leave his tomb.

During the night, then, as he wished to go out again, that he might destroy men, he said to the shepherd: "Gossip, get up hence, for I have some business that requires me to come out." The shepherd answered him not, either the first time, or the second, or the third; for thus he knew that the man had become a Katakhanás, and that it was he who had done all those evil deeds. On this account he said to him, on the fourth time of his speaking, "I shall not get up hence, gossip, for I fear that you are no better than you should be, and may do me some mischief: but, if I must get up, swear to me by your winding-sheet, that you will not hurt me, and on this I will get up."

And he did not pronounce the proposed words, but said other things: nevertheless, when the shepherd did not suffer him to get up, he swore to him as he wished. On this he got up, and taking his arms, removed them away from the monument, and the Katakhanás came forth, and, after greeting the shepherd, said to him, "Gossip, you must not go away, but sit down here; for I have some business which I must go after; but I shall return within the hour, for I have something to say to you.

And the Katakhanás went a distance of about ten miles, where there was a couple recently married, and he destroyed them. On his return, his gossip saw that he was carrying some liver, his hands being moistened with blood: and, as he carried it, he blew into it, just as the butcher does, to increase the size of the liver. And he shewed his gossip that it was cooked, as if it had been done on the fire. After this he said, "Let us sit down, gossip, that we may eat." And the shepherd pretended to eat, but only swallowed dry bread, and kept dropping the liver into his bosom, Therefore, when the hour of separation arrived, the Katakhanás said to the shepherd, "Gossip, this which you have seen, you must not mention, for, if you do, my twenty nails will be fixed in your children and yourself."

Yet the shepherd lost no time, but gave information to priests, and others, and they went to the tomb, and there they found the Katakhanás, just as he had been buried. And all people became satisfied that it was he who had done all the evil deeds. On this account they collected a great deal of wood, and they cast him on it, and burnt him. His gossip was not present, but when the Katakhanás was already half consumed, he too came forward in order that he might enjoy the ceremony. And the Katakhanás cast, as it were a single spet of blood, and it fell on his foot, which wasted away, as if it had been roasted on a fire. On this account they sifted even the ashes, and found the little finger-nail of the Katakhanás unburnt, and burnt it too."

The Date:

Sadly we are not given any information about the date. So all that we know is that it must have taken place before the publication of Pashley's book, which means before 1837.

The Place:

We have better luck here. I have never been to the island of Crete, but on my maps I did find a very small mountain village called Kalikratis. As it is located in the district Sfakia, which can be found in Chania, the most western part of the island, to me, this seems like a likely candidate. But for those who want to do historical research I have some bad news. It appears that during World War II the mountain village was a base for the Greek resistance. So in 1943 the German troops stormed the village, killed everyone who had not managed to escape, and burnt the whole place down.

Personal Comments:

Now in case you are wondering about words like "Synteknos" or "Gossip", I suggest that you find and read Pashley's original book, which comes with extensive footnotes, explaining such things in the greatest of detail, and bringing you much more material about Greek vampires. All that I can offer is that apparently both the shepherd and the vampire seem to have had the same, let us say, Godfather. In the region of South-East Europe we can find unusual or remarkable relationships. Like the "Pobratim" kind of thing that you can (or could) find in places like Serbia. There, if two men were really close friends (and I do not mean that they were gay) they could officially become something like "bloodbrothers". They had to go to a priest and go through some ceremony not unlike a wedding, and from then on they would be "Pobratim". Or at least that is what I have gathered.

Possible Follow-Up:

For a start, if you want to learn more about this particular vampire, or Greek vampires in general, go find yourself a copy of Pashley's book. There is a lot of fascinating material in there. I know that the story seems much like a gruesome fairy tale, but that often is the shape in which stories like this are handed on. It is not impossible that some of it is based on actual events,

A trip to Crete could be both pleasant and interesting. I wouldn't mind going there myself. Even despite its reported destruction, the village of Kalikráti sounds like a good starting point for further investigations. I know that Pashley mentions the Church of Saint George as being situated in Kalikráti. But considering the small size of the village, it is not impossible that this church was or still is located some place nearby. And although we were told that the vampire has been destroyed, his grave might still be there. I guess, as always, there is only one way to find out. In the meantime, as always, we do welcome information from people who actually live there.

2009 by Rob Brautigam - NL - Last changed 19 November 2009
Links last checked 05 October 2008

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