Since vampires have been so much in the news lately, here is a sensational tale from Russia.
The Vampire Governor of Tch___
About the beginning of the present century, there occurred in Russia, one of the most frightful cases of vampirism on record. The governor of the Province of Tch___ was a man of about sixty years, of a malicious, tyrannical, cruel, and jealous disposition. Clothed with despotic authority, he exercised it without stint, as his brutal instincts prompted. He fell in love with the pretty daughter of a subordinate official. Although the girl was betrothed to a young man whom she loved, the tyrant forced her father to consent to his having her marry him; and the poor victim, despite her despair, became his wife. His jealous disposition exhibited itself. He beat her, confined her to her room for weeks together, and prevented her seeing any one except in his presence. He finally fell sick and died. Finding his end approaching, he made her swear never to marry again; and with fearful oaths, threatened that, in case she did, he would return from his grave and kill her. He was buried in the cemetery across the river; and the young widow experienced no further annoyance, until, nature getting the better of her fears, she listened to the importunities of her former lover, and they were again betrothed.
On the night of the customary betrothal-feast, when all had retired, the old mansion was aroused by shrieks proceeding from her room. The doors were burst open, and the unhappy woman was found lying on her bed, in a swoon. At the same time a carriage was heard rumbling out of the courtyard. Her body was found to be black and blue in places, as from the effect of pinches, and from a slight puncture on her neck drops of blood were oozing. Upon recovering, she stated that her deceased husband had suddenly entered her room, appearing exactly as in life, with the exception of a dreadful pallor; that he had upbraided her for her inconstancy, and then beaten and pinched her most cruelly. Her story was disbelieved; but the next morning, the guard stationed at the other end of the bridge which spans the river, reported that, just before midnight, a black coach and six had driven furiously past them, toward the town, without answering their challenge.
The new governor, who disbelieved the story of the apparition, took nevertheless the precaution of doubling the guards across the bridge. The same thing happened, however, night after night; the soldiers declaring that the toll-bar at their station near the bridge would rise of itself, and the spectral equipage sweep by them despite their efforts to stop it. At the same time every night, the coach would rumble into the courtyard of the house; the watchers, including the widow’s family, and the servants, would be thrown into a heavy sleep; and every morning the young victim would be found bruised, bleeding, and swooning as before. The town was thrown into consternation. The physicians had no explanations to offer; priests came to pass the night in prayer, but as midnight approached, all would be seized with the terrible lethargy. Finally, the archbishop of the province came, and performed the ceremony of exorcism in person, but the following morning the governor’s widow was found worse than ever. She was now brought to death’s door.
The governor was finally driven to take the severest measures to stop the ever-increasing panic in the town. He stationed fifty Cossacks along the bridge, with orders to stop the spectre-carriage at all hazards. Promptly at the usual hour, it was heard and seen approaching from the direction of the cemetery. The officer of the guard, and a priest bearing a crucifix, planted themselves in front of the toll-bar, and together shouted: “In the name of God, and the Czar, who goes there?” Out of the coach-window was thrust a well-remembered head, and a familiar voice responded: “The Privy Councillor of State and Governor, C___!” At the same moment, the officer, the priest, and the soldiers were flung aside as by an electric shock, and the ghostly equipage passed by them, before they could recover breath.
The archbishop then resolved, as a last expedient, to resort to the time-honored plan of exhuming the body, and pinning it to the earth with an oaken stake driven through its heart. This was done with great religious ceremony in the presence of the whole populace. The story is that the body was found gorged with blood, and with red cheeks and lips. At the instant that the first blow was struck upon the stake, a groan issued from the corpse, and a jet of blood spurted high into the air. The archbishop pronounced the usual exorcism, the body was reinterred, and from that time no more was heard of the vampire.
How far the facts of this case may have been exaggerated by tradition, we cannot say. But we had it years ago from an eye-witness; and at the present day there are families in Russia whose elder members will recall the dreadful tale.
Isis Unveiled, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, 1877
While the story parallels much in the Eastern European vampire tradition, we should always keep in mind that Madame Blavatsky was a superb story-teller. Here we find the usual vampire merged with the death-bed promise ghost.