How did 18th-century vampire hunters identify the undead? Blood and fingernails

Gruesome accounts from eastern Europe, collected in a scholarly work on the supernatural, detailed the methods used to detect and destroy vampires.

The 1922 silent film Noseferatu, an unauthorized adaption of Bram Stoker's Dracula, starred actor Max Schrek as Count Orlock, whose appearance resembles to vampires from eastern European folklore.
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Bram Stoker’s original manuscript of Dracula included a preface that was cut before the novel was published in 1897. In this outtake, the creator of the world’s most famous vampire believed that he was not writing pure fiction: “I am quite convinced that there is no doubt whatever that the events here described really took place, however unbelievable and incomprehensible they might appear at first sight. And I am further convinced that they must always remain to some extent incomprehensible.”

Count Dracula was the literary culmination of two centuries of a resolute belief in the undead who walked among, and attacked, the living in eastern Europe. One of the strongest influences on Stoker, and other 19th-century authors, was the work of 18th-century Benedictine monk and distinguished biblical scholar Antoine Augustin Calmet. (Learn how vampires were scapegoats for disease.)

A valuable repository for vampire lore, Calmet’s two-volume supernatural survey, Dissertations Upon the Apparitions of Angels, Daemons, and Ghosts, and Concerning the Vampires of Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia, was published in 1746. The author carefully collected and examined numerous reports of vampire attacks that were emerging from eastern Europe in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. These accounts triggered an intense scholarly debate as philosophers and physicians alike sought to resolve the disconnect between the reports’ fantastic details and their reputable sources.

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