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The Source:

Antony de Fontmichel:
"Voyage a Madagascar - pendant les Années 1823 et 1824"
in: "Nouvelles Annales des Voyages et des Sciences Géographiques"
Librairie de Gide Fils, Paris, 1830

The Case:

"La croyance aux vampires est générale en Orient elle a pénétré jusqu'aux îles de la Sonde, où je l'ai retrouvée à Achem, dans l'île de Sumatra; elle s'est répandue même en Espagne et en Provence, soit que cette superstition singulière y ait été naturalisée dans le moyen-âge par les Sarrasins ou les Maures, soit que les Provençaux l'aient introduite du Levant dans leur pays avec la pistache et l'essence de rose des îles mahométanes.

Le peuple désigne les vampires à Marseille, à Aix et même à Grasse par le nom d'hommes blancs. Le caractère extérieur de ce redoutable fantôme est, comme on sait, une blancheur éclatante. Du reste, les attributs, le naturel férocement amoureux de ce spectre sont absolument les mêmes dans les contes populaires de nos provinces méridionales que dans les chroniques religieuses de l'Orient. Il n'y a pas long-temps qu'un matelot réputé homme blanc faillit subir le supplice de saint Etienne des mains des poissardes marseillaises."

Well, I have given you the whole works, just like I found it. The main thing that is said in the first part is that the author isn't sure if, during the Middle Ages, it were the Sarrasins and Moors who picked up their belief in vampires in Spain and the Provence, or that it were the people from the Provence who brought it back home from the Levant.

The people in Marseille, in Aix and even in Grasse named these vampires 'Les Hommes Blancs' or 'The White Men'. These phantoms could be recognised by a blinding whiteness. For the rest, the violent nature of this spectre is excactly the same in the popular tales of the provinces along the Mediterranean Sea, just as in the religious chronicles of the East.

And then comes the most intersting bit:

It is not long ago that a sailor who had the reputation of being a "homme blanc", barely escaped from being stoned to death by the fish sellers of Marseille.

The Date:

No date is given, but there is mention of "il n'y a pas long-temps" or "not long ago" which was written in or after 1823. So let us file it around that date.

The Place:

Marseille, as we all know, can be found in the South of France, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. I have never been to Aix so I am not going to make any comments there. But I once got stranded near the little "Perfume" town of Grasse and spent a couple of days having a look around. I enjoyed some of the nice views up there. I had some beers, enjoyed a couple of excellent meals and tasted some very nice wine. Made lots of photos. But I never came around to visit the Perfume Museum or one of those factories, maybe because fancy smells just isn't my kind of thing. In the unlikely event that I ever go back to Grasse, I promise that I will try to find out if there is anyone there who has heard about the "Hommes Blancs".

Possible Follow-Up:

First of all, go find and check the source I have given you. Just to make sure that I haven't been making it all up. Then try to find out more about the superstition of the "hommes blancs". I did find some material that seems to suggest that this superstition may be linked to some other vampire belief from Normandy (see: Elbeuf) and Bretagne (see Plancoët). It would also be interesting to try and find out more about the incident with the sailor in Marseille.

© 2015 by Rob Brautigam - NL - Last changed January 2015

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