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Michael Bell
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Posted By Michael Bell

I recently found a newspaper article from 1874 that describes a vampire incident involving a prominent family in Poland (which was part of Germany at that time). The case was so similar to one that I had encountered almost exactly three years ago that I decided to compare the two. One of the remarkable things about the latter is that it occurred in Winona, Minnesota, in 1922.  You read correctly: in the United States, during the first quarter of the twentieth century. The Winona case unfolded over a period of less than a week, but each of the four successive newspaper articles that described the event added new information. The first revelation of this event appeared in the Winona Republican-Herald on January 5, 1922. Following is the first of several installments concerning this fascinating narrative:


Police and Cemetery Officials to Determine
Truth or Falsity of Rumor That Girl’s Body
Was Beheaded in Superstitious Belief That
Such Action Would End Series of Deaths in
Local Family—Parents of Girl Deny Any
Knowledge of Body Having Been Molested
—Sexton Finds Two Graves Tampered With
—Five Sons Have Died Since Death of Girl
About Five Years Ago.



To determine whether the body of Miss Frances Bloch, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Bloch, 879 East Sanborn street, has been exhumed, and, according to persistent rumors, beheaded as a means of ending illness and death in the family, Winona police and officials of the St. Mary’s Cemetery association will tomorrow re-open two graves in the cemetery which, according to Sexton George Kammerer, former chief of police here, have been tampered with in the past 10 days.

No permits to open any of the Bloch family graves have been issued to anyone to date, Coroner E. M. McLaughlin stated this morning. If the graves have been tampered with or molested, local officials declared, it has been in violation of the law, and the offenders are liable to heavy punishment.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Bloch deny any knowledge that their daughter’s grave has been opened and the body decapitated.

The action of the police and cemetery officials were decided upon today in an effort to determine the truth or falsity of reports which have been current for several days. The rumors, some of which are highly fantastic, have found wide currency.

The superstition which is said to have formed the basis for the reported act is one that is said to be common among the peasant classes in many sections of Europe.

In families where death claims several, it is sometimes believed that the spirit of the first to die is responsible for the death of the others. By cutting off the head of this body, according to the superstition, and placing it in another part of the casket, the powers of the dead body are ended.The belief varies in different sections of the continent and among various classes of people.


To be continued . . .

Posted By Michael Bell

The following excerpt from an article about the increasing popularity of cremation, printed in today’s New York Times, connects rather eerily to a vampire narrative I recently found: “Whatever the precise cause for the shift, the funeral industry is having to adapt, making up for lost revenue with higher volume and more services, like catered receptions and ash pendants.”

And here are a couple of random on-line ads for ash pendants:

“Ash pendants also known as memorial pendants, keepsake jewelry or even cremation pendants are quickly becoming one of the most popular ways for families to memorialize their loved ones. . . .Ash pendants can keep a loved-one’s spirit and memory alive and nearby for generations to come.”

“Cremation jewelry has many names and comes in a variety of forms, but no matter the words used, cremation jewelry is among the newest and most popular ways to memorialize loved ones. . . . Cremation jewelry, filled with tiny portions of a loved-one’s ashes assures that family memories will always be nearby for those wanting to preserve them. . . . Cremation Ash Pendants are very private and nobody will know you have your loved one with you.”

And now, an excerpt from Mrs. Farley’s 1842 article. Her neighbor was WAY ahead of his time:

In the house on my left lives a stout athletic man, of little more than middle age, of good natural abilities, and by no means destitute of cultivation, whose ruling error is of a graver cast. I had noticed his wearing a small box suspended to his neck by a cord, and, having once alluded to the circumstance, my neighbor gave me the following relation---

“My parents had twelve children, each of whom as they arrived at the age of maturity, sickened and died of consumption. Just twelve months elapsed between the different burials, until eleven sons and daughters were laid in the grave. When my last brother died I had just attained majority. The sympathies of the people around us were strongly excited. When the grave was digging for Joel, some of our friends opened the coffin of the next older child, and found the body as fresh and fair as if the soul had just departed. As each brother or sister died, they fed upon the life of the next in age. Our friends then urged upon my parents and myself the necessity of burning the heart of my brother and wearing the ashes about my person, as the only means of saving me from a like fate. But I could not consent to such a course, and he was buried. Two months passed away, and I could no longer conceal from my anxious parents the ravages of disease. They again urged burning the heart of my brother as being their only hope, and as I continued to resist, my mother called the aid of a still more powerful advocate. My wife, to whom I was then engaged, entreated me to consent. ‘If I am restored to health by such means, Abby,’ I replied, ‘I cannot live here. You must leave home and friends, and go with me to some uninhabited spot.’ ‘I will,--to any part of the world;’ was her firm response. So the deed was done. I came here with Abby when there were no inhabitants but bears, catamounts and loupcerviers. I hunted, felled trees, tilled the soil, and built this house with my own hands; yet I am, as you perceive, still strong and hearty.”

“But may not your recovery be attributed to air, exercise, change of climate and different mode of living?” I inquired. He shook his head, touched the box, (the charm) and turned away.

Hmmm . . . an apotropaic ash pendant; unique in America’s vampire arsenal, as far as I can tell.