‘‘Magia Posthuma’’ (of C. F. de Schertz)
A short treatise on the vampire published at Olmutz (now
in the Czech Republic) in 1706 and written by Charles Ferdinand
de Schertz. Reviewing it, Dom Antoine Augustin Calmet
stated in his Dissertation sur les apparitions, des anges . . . et sur les
revenaus et vampires (1746; trans. The Phantom World, 2. vols.,
1850) that the author related a story of a woman that died in
a certain village, after having received all the sacraments, and
was buried with the usual ceremonies in the churchyard. About
four days after her death and for several months, the inhabitants
of the village were frightened by unusual noises and many
saw a specter, sometimes shaped like a dog and sometimes like
a man, who tried to choke or suffocate them. Several were
bruised all over and utterly weak, pale, lean, and disfigured.
The specter took his fury out even on the beasts cows were frequently
found beaten to the earth, half dead, at other times
with their tails tied to one another, lowing hideously. Horses
were found foaming with sweat and out of breath, as if they had
been running a long and tiresome race.
Schertz examined the subject in the capacity of a lawyer and
was clearly of the opinion that if the suspected person were
really the source of these noises, disturbances, and acts of cruelty,
the law would justify the burning of the body, as is practiced
in the case of other specters that come again and molest the living.
He related several stories of apparitions of this sort and the
mischief done by them. One was of a herdsman of the village
of Blow near the town of Kadam in Bohemia, who appeared for
a considerable time and called upon several persons, who all
died within eight days. The inhabitants of Blow dug up the
herdsman’s body and fixed it in the ground with a stake driven
through it. The man, even in this condition, laughed at the
people that were employed about him, and told them they were
very obliging to furnish him with a stick to defend himself from
the dogs.
The same night, he extricated himself from the stake, frightened
several persons by appearing to them, and occasioned the
death of many more than he had hitherto done. He was then
delivered into the hands of the hangman, who put him into a
cart in order to burn him outside the town. As they went along,
the carcass shrieked in the most hideous manner and threw its
arms and legs about as if it had been alive. Upon being again
run through with a stake, it gave a loud cry, and a great quantity
of fresh, florid blood issued from the wound. At last the body
was burnt to ashes, and this execution put a final stop to the
specter’s appearing and infesting the village.
The same method was practiced in other places where these
apparitions were seen, and upon taking them out of the
ground, their bodies seemed fresh and florid, their limbs pliant
and flexible, without any worms or putrefaction, but not without
a great stench.
The author quoted several other writers, who attested to
what he related concerning these specters, which, he stated,
still appeared in the mountains of Silesia and Moravia. They
were seen, it seems, both by day and night, and the things that
formerly belonged to them were observed to stir and change
their place without any person being seen to touch them. And
the only remedy in these cases, he claimed, was to cut off the
head and burn the body of the persons supposed to appear.
Sources
Calmet, Augustine. The Phantom World. 2 vols. London
Richard Bentley, 1850.