'Vampire' Unearthed in Venice

Gravediggers took steps to stop corpse feasting on other plague victims
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 14, 2009 2:04 AM CDT
The 16th-century remains of a woman with a brick stuck between her jaws, unearthed in an archaeological dig near Venice, northern Italy.   (AP Photo/Matteo Borrini of Florence University)
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(Newser) – Italian archeologists have discovered evidence of an ancient vampire-slaying ritual in a 16th-century plague pit near Venice, the AP reports. A female skeleton was unearthed with a brick wedged between her jaws, in what experts believe was an attempt by superstitious gravediggers to stop the corpse from eating through its shroud to feast on the bodies of other plague victims.

Historians say that when mass graves were opened again for reuse during plague outbreaks, diggers would sometimes find bloated bodies with blood in their mouths and holes in their shrouds—all caused by decomposition—and believe the corpses had come to life to drink blood. Scientific texts of the time taught that the plague was spread by "shroud-eaters" seeking to increase the ranks of the undead.