Breslau Vampire

Breslau Vampire (1591–1592) Unnamed VAMPIRE who terrorized Breslau, Germany, after committing SUICIDE.The Breslau Vampire exhibited behavior associated with the Old Hag syndrome. On September 20, 1591, a well-to-do shoemaker stunned his family and the city by slitting his throat with a knife for no known reason. As suicides were a sin and a disgrace upon the family, his wife—who had just given birth—and her sisters sought to hide the cause of his death. They told others he had died of a stroke, and refused visitors. They quietly made funeral arrangements and hired an old woman to wash the CORPSE and completely tie up and cover the fatal wound. The widow and the old woman laid the corpse in the COFFIN. They finally allowed the priest to visit and view the body, but the wound was so well hidden that he detected nothing suspicious. On the third day after the suicide, the shoemaker’s body was buried with a splendid funeral befitting the rich. Despite the family’s efforts, the secret of the suicide leaked out, and rumors began circulating about the city. At first, people refused to believe it, but the rumors grew so persistent that the city’s council made inquiries. The shoemaker’s family made up more lies. They said that he had fallen and injured himself on a sharp rock, and that a sharp awl had been found in his clothing. The rumors persisted, however, and the council considered what action to take. The widow’s friends pleaded with her to prevent her husband’s body from being exhumed or moved to unhallowed ground, or even worse, declared to be a sorcerer. Meanwhile, a restless ghost looking like the shoemaker began appearing both day and night. It terrified people by making horrible noises, causing nightmares, and sexually assaulting them. (See Old Hag.) The harassments increased, and finally the shoemaker’s family went to the president of the court and said the man was being abused in his grave, and they desired to take the matter to the Kaiser. The ghost now appeared at sundown every day, and no one in the city was free of it. According to an account in Prussian folklore:

The ones most bothered were those who wanted to rest after heavy work; often it came to their bed, often it actually lay down in it and was like to smother the people. Indeed, it squeezed them so hard that—not without astonishment—people could see the marks left by its fingers, so that one could easily judge the so-called stroke. In this manner, the people, who were fearful in any case, became yet more fearful, so that they did not remain longer in their houses, but sought more secure places. Most of them, not secure in their bedchamber, stayed in the rooms, after bringing many others in, so that their fear was dispersed by the crowd. Nonetheless, although they all waked with burning lights, the ghost came anyway. Often everyone saw it, but often just a few, of whom it always harassed some.

After eight months of suffering the ghost, the council ordered the body to be publicly disinterred on April 18, 1592. The account continues:

In the opened grave they found the body complete and undamaged by decay, but blown up like a drum, except that nothing was changed and the limbs all still hung together. They were—which was remarkable—not stiffened, like those of other dead people, but one could move them easily. On his feet the skin had peeled away, and another had grown, much purer and stronger than the first, and as almost all sorcerers are marked on an out-ofthe-way place, so that one does not notice it easily, so did he have on his big toe a mole like a rose. No one knew the meaning of this. There was also no stench to be noticed, except that the cloths in which he was wrapped had a repulsive smell. The wound in his throat gaped open and was reddish and not changed in the slightest.

For several days the corpse was aired during the day and stored in a house at night. It was guarded around the clock. During the daytime, curious townsfolk came to view it. But the exhumation did nothing to abate the vampire attacks. The next remedy tried was the burial of the corpse under a gallows, but this only incited the vampire to increase the intensity of his assaults. The corpse seemed to get fuller in flesh. Finally, the widow broke down and admitted that her husband had committed suicide, and said that the city officials could deal with him as they saw fit. According to Montague Summers:

Wherefore the seventh of May he was again digged up, and it was observable, that he was grown more sensibly fleshy since his last interment. To be short, they cut off the Head, Arms, and Legs of the Corps, and opening his Back, took out his Heart, which was as fresh and intire [sic] as in a Calf new kill’d. These, together with his Body, they put on a pile of wood, and burnt them to Ashes, which they carefully sweeping together, and putting into a Sack (that none might get them for wicked uses) poured them into the River, after which the Spectrum was never seen more.

The shoemaker’s maid, who died after him, also returned and assaulted a fellow servant at night, laying on the woman so heavily that her eyes swelled. The spirit appeared also in the forms of a hen, CAT, and goat, and bedeviled others to the point where the maid’s body was disinterred and burned. Her attacks ceased.



  • Barber, Paul. Vampires, Burial and Death: Folklore and Reality. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1988.
  • Summers, Montague. The Vampire in Europe. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1929.


Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters – Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley -Copyright © 2005 by Visionary Living, Inc.

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