Let’s Eat Corpses

Soylent Green ain’t just for movies

If you think garlic tastes bad, wait until you read about a more extreme protection against vampire attacks.

There is a familiar arc in classical vampire literature and movies. You already know it: hero realizes that the villain is a vampire, hero finds a weakness, hero exploits that weakness to vanquish the vampire.

But fact is messier than fiction, and the manner in which vampire menaces were vanquished in the historical past could get a little more gruesome.

You might want to finish breakfast before reading on.

See, traditional vampires didn’t attack and kill their prey in a single instance. They drained them over time. People in villages who were getting weaker or slowly losing out to disease were sometimes thought to be the victims of a vampire.

In the movie version, curing these victims would end at staking the vampire or exposing it to sunlight. But in real life… ahem… I’ll just come right out and say it…

In real life, the villagers ate the vampire.

In parts of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, there was a revenant called “Upyr” or “Upir”. These nasty buggers would rise from their grave, feed on the living, weakening them with disease, eventually dragging the living down with them to the grave.

How did villagers stop the Upir? All the usual methods of killing a vampire. But killing it was only step one. They still had to heal the poor sod the vampire had been draining. And that required some bitter medicine.

First, the heart of the Upir was removed, then burned to ashes. The ashes were then fed to the sick and infirm, on the theory that — and stick with me here — eating the agent of disease would heal the patient. As Yakov Smirnoff says: “In Soviet Russia, organs eat YOU!”

This sounds insane, right? But before we judge to harshly, let’s consider how insane vaccines sound on first blush.

And indeed, when vaccines first came to light, even level-headed people were aghast. Michael Bell, in his book Food for the Dead, notes an 1882 editorial in The New York Times scoffing that if trousers were inoculated with holes, people would be protected from broken legs.

Little did they know that that’s how the Gap now sells jeans.

Consider yourself protected from puncture wounds and respectability

The first printed mention of the Russian Upir was in 1047; and it’s mythology was eventually overtaken by the neighboring vampires in Romania and Hungary.

But that’s not the only place they eat organs.

I phrased that poorly. Let’s acknowledge it and move on.

Because lest we be tempted to laugh at Russians with their Upirs and Crimea-annexing, note that American history is also stocked with vampire eating (and Texas-annexing)

Lord Have Mercy

The Mercy Brown Shitshow is the most famous case of an American vampire. It deserves its own blog and I hope to get there, but for now let’s pause to reflect on how young Mercy Brown tasted.

Phrasing. Dammit.

After being posthumously blamed for a series of fatal illnesses in her family, the desperate community, electing that the late 19-year-old Mercy was the cause, disinterred her frozen corpse, burned her heart on a stump, mixed the ashes with water, and fucking ate it.

This was not in 1047. This was 1892. Let that sink in. Coca Cola was available. Cities were getting electrified. Telephones and phonographs had been around for a while. The diesel engine was patented. This isn’t ancient times. These were nice country folks in New England who got newspapers and also ate corpses.

If there’s a silver lining in all of this, I suppose it’s that those who ate “vampire” corpses usually at least burned the organs first. Because — and this is my professional medical opinionthe one thing you shouldn’t do when curing an epidemic is eat the diseased, decomposing organs of someone who died from that same epidemic.

I knew full well that my Yakov Smirnoff joke was dated and yet I have no regrets

Toothpickings will be resting in its coffin next week. Enjoy the break!

Toothpickings is a blog you can read. It is generally about vampires.

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Image sources: Boston Daily Globe, America’s Most Haunted, Shutterstock, Gap.com

Investigating the Western fascination with vampires, one dad joke at a time.