One of the most characteristic legends of villages in Eastern Europe has to do with vampires. Scientists claim to have found their very source - a number of fatal cases caused by cholera.
New research shows that during the 17th and 18th century, so-called vampires were buried with strange rituals - apotropaic funerals. They were done with the intention of warding off evil and preventing the dead from rising from the grave.
Analyses and tests, however, lead to the same conclusion - the vampires were actually all victims of cholera. This is mainly due to the fact that the emergence of these ritual burials coincides with the time when the malicious disease was rampant in Eastern Europe.
Commonplace practices for apotropaic burials were sickles and stones placed in the throats of the skeletons. Recently, it was this exact type of burials that were found in a Polish cemetery.
Initially, the graves were labeled as vampire graves. They were intruders who moved to the region shortly before they died. However, the tests showed that these were not vampires but the first victims of cholera.
Samples were taken from the tooth enamel of 6 vampires, and from 60 other people buried in the same place. The "vampires" turned out to be local residents. But the burial ritual was quite different since their contemporaries thought their deaths to be unusually strange and quick.
The emergence of this type of rituals fully coincides with the first epidemics of cholera in Eastern Europe. The discovered skeletons were probably of the people first devastated by the disease. The lack of knowledge regarding diseases, epidemics and death at that time inevitably led them to the theory of the supernatural, and in this case - vampires.
The local legends went that a vampire's powers could be transferred to its victims through biting. Even today, in the most popular vampire movies, vampirism is spread by a virus.
Scientists also postulate that the first person to die of cholera was most likely immediately thought to be a potential vampire. And for every death at the time, whether caused by unfortunate circumstances, such as a premature death, death by violence, suicide or disease, it was thought that the deceased would come back from the grave. From this, we logically see the appearance of new burial practices with the aim of protecting the living from the same fate.