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A Cretan Tale of Vampires

A Tough Shepherd Thwarts a Vrykolakes

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Anyone who has traveled in Crete, especially in the Sfakia region, will understand how the Cretan shepherd in this story can stay so calm even when confronted with a vampire. When it comes to ferocity, the vampire has no chance against the average Sfakiot shepherd.

from All The Year Round - Vampires and Ghouls May 20, 1871 "Mr. Pashley, in his Travels in Crete, states that when he was at the town of Askylo, he asked about the vampires or katakhanadhes, as the Cretans called them of whose existence and doings he had heard many recitals, stoutly corroborated by the peasantry. Many of the stories converged towards one central fact, which Mr. Pashley believed had given origin to them all.

On one occasion a man of some note was buried at St. George's Church at Kalikrati, in the island of Crete. An arch or canopy was built over his grave. But he soon afterwards made his appearance as a vampire, haunting the village, and destroying men and children.

A shepherd was one day tending his sheep and goats near the church, and on being caught in a shower, went under the arch to seek shelter from the rain. He determined to pass the night there, laid aside his arms, and stretched himself on a stone to sleep. In placing his fire-arms down (gentle shepherds of pastoral poems do not want fire-arms; but the Cretans are not gentle shepherds), he happened to cross them.

Now this crossing was always believed to have the effect of preventing a vampire from emerging from the spot where the emblem was found. Thereupon occurred a singular debate. The vampire rose in the night, and requested the shepherd to remove the fire-arms in order that he might pass, as he had some important business to transact.

The shepherd, inferring from this request that the corpse was the identical vampire which had been doing so much mischief, at first refused his assent; but on obtaining from the vampire a promise on oath that he would not hurt him, the shepherd moved the crossed arms. The vampire, thus enabled to rise, went to a distance of about two miles, and killed two persons, a man and a woman. On his return, the shepherd saw some indication of what had occurred, which caused the vampire to threaten him with a similar fate if he divulged what he had seen. He courageously told all, however.

The priests and other persons came to the spot next morning, took up the corpse (which in daytime was as lifeless as any other) and burnt it. While burning, a little spot of blood spurted on the shepherd's foot, which instantly withered away; but otherwise no evil resulted, and the vampire was effectually destroyed. This was certainly a very peculiar vampire story; for the coolness with which the corpse and the shepherd carried on their conversation under the arch was unique enough. Nevertheless, the persons who narrated the affair to Mr. Pashley firmly believed in its truth, although slightly differing in their versions of it.

-- Charles Dickens Jr.

Note: In this excerpt, spelling has been standardized and paragraph breaks have been added.

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