While stories of vampire graves are nothing new, a recent discovery in the Polish town of Gliwice may suggest that residents had much more to fear from zombies! Skeletons found in nearby graves showed signs of the ritualistic decapitation of several villagers.
The practice of decapitating bodies of those who died due to some unfortunate virus or disease was actually a common practice in many Slavic countries. And often the head would be laid across the legs of the deceased in the hopes that they would be unable to rise from the grave.
Villagers have also mistaken ordinary decomposition processes for the supernatural. “For example, though laypeople might assume that a body would decompose immediately, if the coffin is well sealed and buried in winter, putrefaction might be delayed by weeks or months; intestinal decomposition creates bloating which can force blood up into the mouth, making it look like a dead body has recently sucked blood,” writes LiveScience’s Bad Science columnist Benjamin Radford.
In fact, according to anthropologist Matteo Borrini, the remains of a woman who died during a 16th-century plague in Venice was apparently buried with a brick wedged into her mouth; a popular method of preventing the dead from returning to prey on the living!
Many of these accounts cite the superstitious belief in vampires, however they actually have very little in common with what Europeans of the time believed centuries ago. No silver bullets, no stakes through the heart and no crosses erected as protection. Sounds like these ritual burials were geared more towards what we would call zombies today!