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The Source:

Raymond T. McNally :
"A Clutch of Vampires" [1974]
Warner Paperback Library, New York, USA, 1975

The Case:

In his book Professor McNally informed us that in 1969 he was passing through Rodna, a village not very far from the notorious Borgo Pass, known to us all from Bram Stoker's "Dracula". McNally noticed that there was a funeral going on in the village graveyard. So he went over to have a look. He talked to some of the people who were there and was told that they were burying a girl from the village who had killed herself. The people from the village were afraid that she might become a vampire. And now let us quote McNally:

"So they did what had to be done - and what I had read about for so many years. They plunged a stake through the heart of the corpse."

The Date:

We have been presented with the year: 1969

The Place:

The village of Rodna is situated on the bank of the Somesul Mare. You should be able to find it on a decent road map, about 30 kilometres to the NorthEast of Nasaud.

Personal Comments:

In his book "Dracula Country" [1977], Andrew Mackenzie tells us about his meeting with Dr. Corneliu Barbulescu of the Institute for Ethnological and Dialectological Research of Bucharest. During this conversation he mentioned McNally's story. Dr. Barbulescu declared that there was no belief in Romania that suicides should be staked in the grave and that the observation by Dr. McNally was a singular incident and "a probable erroneous interpretation of the things discussed with the people from Birgau". He also declared that the last case where a corpse had been staked in the grave had been reported in Hateg, way back in 1937.

Of course I would not dream of suggesting that McNally has made up this story, but Barbulescu's remark does not seem totally misplaced. On the other hand, Barbulescu's suggestion that anti-vampire measures were something of the past is contradicted by other sources. Of course we must remember that Barbulescu's remarks were made during the Ceausescu regime. It seems more than likely that Barbelescu could have got himself into serious trouble if he had revealed things that did not fit in with Ceausescu's ideas of a "modern communist society".

Although McNally's story seems to suggest that he actually witnessed the alleged staking, he does not really say so. Had he been present at such an event, I am sure that he would have managed to build a 300 page book around it. The way it is, all he has to offer is a short anecdote of less than a hundred words. Personally I do find it rather hard to believe that people who were about to commit an illegal act, would reveal their intentions to a total stranger.

Possible Follow-Up:

We could have invited Professor McNally to publish a more detailed report on these happenings. Unfortunately he is no longer with us as he has died in October 2002. We could try to check the relevant records and find out if a young girl killed herself in Rodna in 1969. We could even go visit the village of Rodna and find out for ourselves if the local population is willing to discuss vampires with strangers.

2009 by Rob Brautigam - NL - Last changed 19 November 2009

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