After so many starring roles in recent movies and TV series, the world seems a bit saturated with vampires these days. They've become so commonplace that you might not think twice if you saw one riding the bus, or standing on a downtown corner, or working in the cubicle beside you. But it makes you wonder: Where did the idea of vampires even come from? Who was the inspiration that started it all? Before Twilight and True Blood, before Nosferatu, before Bram Stoker's Dracula, there once lived a man named Jure Grando — the world's first real vampire! Read on to discover the truth behind the legend!
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In 1897, Bram Stoker's novel Dracula was first published.
His fictional tale of a Transylvanian vampire with a thirst for blood is thought to be inspired by a medieval ruler named Drăculea (in old Romanian), but who was more commonly known as Vlad the Impaler. As his nickname might suggest, Vlad wasn't the kindest fellow of his day.
One 15th-century poem claims Vlad even liked to wash his hands in the blood of his victims before eating his meal. Vlad was certainly horrifying and cruel, but he was still a long way from being a creature of the undead with supernatural powers.
But over 200 years earlier, another book was written — and this one told the story of an actual vampire.
You've probably never heard of Jure Grando, but he's the first real person ever to be described as a true vampire, with supernatural powers and all. He lived in Croatia, in a small village called Kringa. A written account of Grando first appeared in a book called The Glory of the Duchy of Kranj, written by Janez Vajkard Valvasor (a Slovenian travel writer and historian). It was first published in 1689.
Even in life, Jure Grando was known as a repugnant man.
But he was said to have a pleasant wife and forged a living as a stonecutter until succumbing to an illness in 1656. Upon his death, his body was laid to rest in the local cemetery by a priest named Father Giorgio. And then things got real.
Despite being dead, Jure Grando began perpetrating a reign of terror on his village that lasted for 16 long years.
The legend says Grando continued to roam the streets at night after his death, knocking on doors and frightening the townsfolk. And according to the story, if he happened to knock on your door, a member of your family inevitably died a few days later. He also made unwelcome visits to his wife.
But the strange happenings didn't end there. And neither did Jure Grando's inexplicable supernatural power.
The villagers believed Grando had become a "strigoi" — which was really, really bad news.
In certain parts of Europe, a "strigoi" was considered to be a creature or being that had crossed over from the land of the dead. It wandered in the night knocking on doors, it consumed human blood, and it would enter the bedrooms of beautiful women. Some believed the creatures preferred young widows. It definitely seemed to describe Jure Grando.
After years of torture, the locals finally decided to deal with Jure Grando.
Accounts of what happened next vary, but what follows are the details included in most versions. In 1672, a group of nine brave men from the village of Kringa marched to the grave of Jure Grando. And when uncovered, the men found Grando's body perfectly intact.
Not only did his body appear to be healthy and alive — Grando was actually smiling from ear to ear.
Some versions of the story say the men fled in fear at this point only to return later with the priest. Others say the men simply steeled their weakened resolve on the spot. But all agree that the next move made involved a wooden stake.
But the stake wouldn't pierce Grando's body. In fact, it bounced right off of him.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and when dealing with an undead sex-offending vampire, desperation calls for a mighty swing with a lumberjack axe. Which is exactly what one of the men did, slicing Grando's head clean off. According to the legend, blood spilled from the tremendous wound and Grando let forth a shrill, nightmarish cry. The men then quickly reburied him.
Rather than hide this once-forgotten story, the people of modern-day Kringa are promoting it.
The town is hoping the legend will boost tourism. And area bars are already offering vampire-themed drinks. They are also planning to unveil a plaque dedicated to the nine men who courageously defeated the demonic Grando.
What do you believe?
Do you think a man came back from the dead to terrify his local village? Or has folklore and superstition clouded the history books? Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in-between!
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