The Vampire Heartland

James Lyon, author of Kiss of the Butterfly (2011), was interviewed by KABC-TV’s David Ono for a news item discussing the vampire’s Serbian roots (Ono 2013).

Vampires are real_ David Ono journeys to Serbia to find real story _ - 2013-11-05_14.29.02

Though Transylvania gets the lion’s share of vampire coverage—its very name often serving as shorthand for vampire allusions (e.g. Cox 1993)—Serbia deserves recognition as the vampire heartland. After all, we derived the word, “vampire” (Hogg 2013), and the vampire template—that is, the tropes often associated with vampirism—from the Arnod Paole case, which took place in Medvedja, Serbia (Petersen 2008).

Several years before the Paole case mainstreamed vampires, Peter Plogojovitz terrorised the Serbian village of Kisiljevo. The Wienerisches Diarium‘s July 21, 1725 issue reprinted Frombald’s report on Plogojovitz’s exhumation. It also discussed the context of his appearance in conjunction with similar cases the villagers were familiar with—”so sie Vampyri nennen” (whom they name vampires).

The Plogojovitz case is particularly significant. Apart from its mention in the Ono report, Niels K. Petersen also acknowledges it as the first use of the term “vampire” (2011), even if it was actually spelt “vanpiri” in Frombald’s original report (Petersen 2012). That’s not to say it was the first case of vampirism, though. Frombald’s report alludes to other cases occurring “in Turkish times”, that is, during Ottoman rule. The May 1693 and February 1694 issues of the Mercure Galant also dealt with upir cases in Russia and Poland—bloodsucking corpses whose appellation directly ties in with vampire etymology.

Nonetheless, the Plogojovitz case gave us the first recognisable use of the word, at the expense of other variants. Yes, variants. As Perkowski notes, “Vampire designators vary among the Slavs to the extent that the same word can mean vampire in one village but something else in an adjacent village” (1989, 76). Which is also why we look to recurring characteristics to sort “vampires” out from the real deal.

But back to Ono’s report. Mild sensationalism (it’s doubtful the villagers hang garlic to ward off vampires) and misattribution aside (the Wienerisches Diarium article flashes across the screen when the Paole case is being discussed), the report does a good job reconnecting the world with the vampire’s Serbian heritage. What the Serbians choose to do with this heritage remains to be seen.


Cox, Greg. 1993. The Transylvanian Library: A Consumer’s Guide to Vampire Fiction. Edited by Daryl F. Mallett. Borgo Literary Guides, no. 8. San Bernardino, Transylvania [CA]: Borgo Press.

Hogg, Anthony. 2013. “Bite This!” The Vampirologist, June 25.

Ono, David. 2013. “Vampires are Real: David Ono Journeys to Serbia to Find Real Story.”, October 31. Accessed November 5, 2013.

Perkowski, Jan L. 1989. The Darkling: A Treatise on Slavic Vampirism. Columbus, OH: Slavica.

Petersen, Niels K. 2011. “The ‘First’ Vampire.” Magia Posthuma, July 21.

———. 2012. “Vampire Species.” Magia Postuma, November 4.

———. 2008. “Visum et Repertum.” Magia Posthuma, September 20.


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