Belief in vampires existed in the folklore of all the Slavonic ethnic groups. Vampire, vapir, upir, lampir, lapir, vjedogonja, tenac, even werewolf – all these words denote the same: a soul that cannot move on to the “other world”, a dead person who rises from the grave by night and feeds on blood. A Serbian vampire is not at all pale and gaunt as we can see him represented in films – he is just the opposite – red in the face and all swollen, and sometimes it is believed he is invisible, that animals are the only ones who can sense him, or persons born on a Tuesday or a Saturday; he can squeeze in through a tiniest hole, and may present himself to his relatives as a man or a dog. Only the evil people could become vampires, whilst a good person may become one only if jinxed, that is, if a cat jumps over his dead body. So there were some preventive measures to be taken: a catafalque would be placed along a wall, animals would be put in their pens, a coffin would be rubbed with garlic and surrounded with blackberry thorny bushes. Generally, all types of thorns would do, and if nothing else could help, as we may well know, a vampire could be stabbed, particularly with a hawthorn thorny stick, or of course, a stake. A vampire’s body has to be burnt in a fire.
The word „vampire“ is the only one Serbian word to be adopted by all other world languages!
The myth of vampires, those who have risen from the dead, the undead, has become one of the most popular motifs in literature and film. In this country there is a short story by Milovan Glišić, “After Ninety Years” (“Posle devedeset godina”), which served a synopsis for a horror movie Leptirica “A Moth”.
The Medveđa village near Kruševac, a mill in the Zarožje village near Bajina Bašta
The oldest existing laws that ban burning “werewolves” date as early as from the 7th century. The legal code of the Serbian emperor Dušan foresees punishments for those who dig out “vampires” and burn them in order to destroy them. A world sensation was a case of “vampire hunt” in a village of Medveđa dating from 1730 (at that time, the part of Serbia was under Austrian rule). On that occasion, a committee of physicians and army officers arrived to Medveđa, and their official report found its way even to the Berlin Academy of Science. That is when the word vampire was used in Europe, still highly superstitious at the time. Then an Irishman Bram Stoker and the Romanian legend of Dracula came along, and the Serbs lost their “copyrights” on vampires.
Famous Serbian vampires: Sava Savanović, Petar Blagojević, Arnaut Pavle. The first is a character in a legend, the other two were real people from the 18th century, who became notorious as vampires out of sheer superstition.