Jure Grando and The First Documented Case of Vampirism in Europe

Jure Grando and The First Documented Case of Vampirism in Europe

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In the English-speaking world today, vampires are perhaps most famously associated with the region of Transylvania in Romania, thanks to Bram Stoker’s Gothic horror novel, Dracula. Nevertheless, stories of vampires also exist in other cultures, and one of these stories comes from the Southeastern European country of Croatia. It is from this Balkan state that we receive the story of Jure Grando, said to be the first documented case of vampirism in Europe.

Jure Grando is recorded to have lived in a small Istrian village called Kringa during the 17th century. It seems that little is known about Grando’s life, and he may have been just an ordinary villager prior to his death. Some sources claim that he was a nasty character. In 1656, Grando died, and is said to have been buried in the local cemetery by the village priest, Father Giorgio. Shortly after Grando’s burial, however, it was reported by the local population that the deceased had been seen wandering around the village, and even knocking on the doors of certain houses.

Illustration of a Vampire.

Illustration of a Vampire. Photo source: (forums.gunbroker.com)

According to the 17th century Carniolan natural historian, Johann Weichard von Valvasor, the people living in the countryside of the Istrian peninsula believed in a type of vampire known as ‘strigon’. These are believed to have been sorcerers who fed on the blood of children during their lifetimes. When they died, they became the undead ‘strigon’, and wandered around their villages around midnight. The ‘strigon’ is also said to have a habit of knocking on the doors of houses, and within a few days, someone from the house would die. It seems that Valvasor’s description fits the story of Jure Grando, or was perhaps derived from it.

An iconic scene from F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu, 1922. 

An iconic scene from F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu, 1922. (Public Domain)

Valvasor goes on to say that if a person died during the period when the ‘strigon’ was sighted, it was generally believed by the other villagers that he / she had been eaten by the undead creature. Valvasor also wrote that the villagers believed that the ‘strigon’ had the ability to silently creep into their beds to sleep with their women. According to the natural historian, the villagers also believed that the ‘strigon’ had a taste for widows, especially if they were young and beautiful.

Illustration of the first Vampire

Illustration of the first Vampire (undiscoveredcroatia.blogspot.com)

It was this firm belief in the nefarious activities of the ‘strigon’ that caused fear amongst the villagers, causing them to seek out the creature in order to kill it. In the case of Jure Grando, the vampire is said to have terrorised his village for 16 years before action was taken against him. In 1672, the mayor of the village, Miho Radetić, gathered a group of brave young men to hunt Grando down, and to put an end to his reign of terror.

The men, nine in total, went to the local cemetery, and opened Grando’s grave. The men are said to have seen that the dead man’s body was still intact, which was taken as a sign of vampirism. In one version of the story, the men fled in fear, but they rallied together, and, led by the mayor, went back to Grando’s grave. Next, the men, or the priest, who was one of the nine, tried to get rid of the vampire by invoking the name of Jesus Christ. This seemed to be of no avail.

The group then tried to stab the vampire in the stomach with a wooden stake. This too did not work, as the stake could not pierce through its target. Finally, one of the men, said to be named Stephen Milašić in one source, beheaded Grando with an axe. The vampire is said to have given out a loud cry, and blood gushed forth from the neck. The men then covered the grave again, and that was the end of Jure Grando.

In a way, Jure Grando the Croatian vampire is not entirely dead yet. In 2006, it was reported that efforts were being made by the people of Kringa to resurrect the legend of Jure Grando. For some modern day villagers, the vampire is viewed not less as a source of fear, and more as a source of income, as they hope to use this story as a means of attracting tourists to their village.

Top image: Stone of Jure Grando. (CC-BY-SA)

By Wu Mingren

References

Hrvatin, S., 2012. Monsters of Croatia: From Baba Roga to Jure Grando. [Online]
Available at: http://slavenhrvatin.com/monsters-croatia-baba-roga-jure-grando/

Rough Guides Limited, 2016. Vukodlaci and Other Vampiric Houseguests. [Online]
Available at: http://www.roughguides.com/destinations/europe/croatia/southern-dalmatian-islands/lastovo/vukodlaci-vampiric-houseguests/

Smith, Z., 2013. Kringa, Croatia – Home to Europe’s Oldest Vampire. [Online]
Available at: http://thingstodo.viator.com/croatia/kringa-croatia-vampires/

Smith, Z., 2013. Kringa, Croatia – Home to Europe’s Oldest Vampire. [Online]
Available at: http://thingstodo.viator.com/croatia/kringa-croatia-vampires/

Veselica, L., 2006. Croatian 'Dracula' revived to lure tourists. [Online]
Available at: http://mg.co.za/article/2006-04-24-croatian-dracula-revived-to-lure-tourists

Vukovac, A.-M., 2016. The Legend of the Croatian Vampire Jure Grando. [Online]
Available at: http://www.slavorum.org/the-legend-of-the-croatian-vampire-jure-grando/

www.istrianet.org, 2015. Giorgio (Jurej) Grando. [Online]
Available at: http://www.istrianet.org/istria/legends/vampires/istria-grando.htm

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