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The Source:

Otto Steiner:
"Vampirleichen - Vampirprozesse in Preussen" [1959]

The Case:

A woman had died and it did not take long before her sister died as well. Holy Moly ! An obvious case of vampirism if ever I have seen one... So the husband of the first woman organised a team made up by two of his brother-in-laws and a friend. At night those three went to the churchyard and opened up the grave. They tried to decapitate the corpse with a spade, but - and I realise that it must sound like something from a Laurel & Hardy film - instead of chopping off the head they ended up breaking their spade. So in the end they had to use an axe to finish their dirty necroclastic work. Apparently word got out and the three vampire slayers were arrested. In court they were each sentenced to a week in prison for dammaging a grave. They all seemed happy to accept this sentence. And I can not blame them for that. I have known people go to jail for much less and much longer.

The Date:

We are told that the trial took place in the summer of 1873. So we can safely assume that the criminal facts will have taken place some time before. Possibly the same year, possibly a little earlier than that.

The Place:

Sadly we are not given the location where the vampire was buried and executed. So I have put this case under Schwetz, the place where the trial took place. "Schwetz" seems to be renamed to "Swiecie". Unfortunately for us, there appears to be more than one "Swiecie" these days. I bet not all of them will be a place where there used to be a District Court. So there still is some hope for us. I have got my bets placed on one particular location. Now it is your turn.

Personal Comments:

Personally I don't think that we have to have any doubts about the authenticity of this case. Apparently Otto Steiner used to be an "Oberstaatsanwalt" which means that he was a rather important person within the German Department of Justice. Much of his book, small as it may be, is a very technical analysis of the way in which the existing legislation has been applied to these vampire trials. Fascinating material if you are into this kind of thing.

The court sentences seem rather mild to me. One week in jail for opening up a grave and decapitating a dead person ? The judge must have accepted the claim that these people were acting in self-defence against a vampire. I have seen present day sentences in Romania for similar cases that were much heavier than this.

Possible Follow-Up:

Otto Steiner - who in his position as "Oberstaatsanwalt" must have had access to whatever legal information that he wanted - has tried to find further material about this case. Apparently he has not succeeded. Well, if he could not do it, I think our chances to find any court records or stuff like that do not seem very promising. So I guess that our best bet will be to try and find old newspaper articles about the case. Apparently - or so we are told - the case got quite a bit of (printed) media attention at the time.

© 2009 by Rob Brautigam - NL - Last changed 21 December 2009

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