Nachtzehrer

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The Nachtzehrer was a revenant (visible ghost or animated corpse that had returned from the grave to terrorize the living), similar to that Slavic vampire. Nachtzehrers were recently deceased who returned from the grave to attack the living, usually family and village acquaintances.

The nachtzehrer usually originated from an unusual death. A person who died suddenly from suicide or an accident was a good candidate for vampirism. A child born with a caul was destined to become a vampire, especially if the caul was red. Nachtzehrers were associated with disease epidemics. If a person’s name was not removed from his or her burial clothing, that person may return as a vampire, as well.

In the tomb, a nachtzehrer was known to chew on their own extremities and clothes, which was a belief that originated when bodies were found that had been subject to predator damage after being buried in a shallow grave without a coffin. The face would be left intact, but their hands and other appendages would appear cut open and devoured. The activity of the vampire within the grave would continue until he ceased consuming his body and clothes.

The vampire would then rise and eat the bodies of others, often accompanied by the corpse of a woman who had died in childbirth. Their deeds were traced by a sucking sound attributed to the woman nursing a baby. When their coffins (for those who had enough money to be buried in one) were opened, the nachtzehrers were found laying in pools of blood because the vampires gorged themselves to the point they could not retain all of the blood consumed.

To prevent the vampire from attacking, various measures were proposed. Some people placed a clump of earth under the vampire’s chin, while others placed a coin or stone in their mouths. Some people tied a handkerchief tightly around their necks. As a more drastic measure, people would cut off the head, drive a spike into the mouth, and pin the head to the ground or fix the tongue in place of potential nachtzehrers.