Unearthing the Macabre Tale of Abhartach, the Irish Vampire

Arkane Curiosities

We all know about the legend of Dracula, But have you ever heard of Abhartach, the Irish vampire? This lesser-known figure from Irish folklore hails from the hauntingly beautiful County Derry in Northern Ireland. Unlike your typical vampire, the story of the Irish Vampire is rooted in ancient legends with a unique twist.

The First Death

Long ago, in the 5th or 6th century, there lived an evil chieftain named Abhartach. Described as a goblin-like figure with a grotesque appearance, he was a possessive and jealous husband and he harbored suspicions of his wife’s infidelity. 

One fateful night, he attempted to climb outside his wife’s bedroom window to catch her in the act. But in a twist of fate, he slipped and plummeted to his death, his life extinguished in an instant. His subjects, recognizing the need to accord him the honors befitting a chieftain, laid him to rest in a most peculiar manner—standing upright.

Yet, as the sun dipped below the horizon on the following day, Abhartach defied the laws of life and death. He returned, a nightmarish revenant, demanding a gruesome tribute from his terrified subjects. With a sinister thirst for their blood, he ordered them to bleed in order to create a bowl of blood for his consumption.

The Second and Third Deaths

As time wore on, the people grew weary of living in perpetual fear. They turned to a local chieftain, Cathán, to rid them of the curse once and for all. Twice, Cathán dispatched the Abhartach and each time the creature returned, demanding more blood from the terrified populace.

Cathán turned to the local druid, seeking guidance from the wise sage. The druid revealed the key to defeating the undead chieftain. Abhartach could only be vanquished by a sword forged from yew wood, buried upside down with his feet reaching skyward. A massive stone placed upon the grave would act as a barrier against his resurrection. Surrounding the stone, the branches of sacred Irish trees, such as hawthorn and rowan, were to be intertwined to further hinder his return.

The druid’s warning was grave and ominous. Should the stone ever be removed, Abhartach would be unleashed once more upon the world. With unwavering determination, Cathán followed the druid’s counsel, executing the sacred ritual to the letter.

The Abhartach Defeated

Finally, the curse was broken. Abhartach was silenced, and the people could breathe a sigh of relief, freed from the clutches of their undead ruler. To ensure the memory of their harrowing ordeal lived on, the twigs surrounding Abhartach’s resting place grew into a formidable thorn tree, and a colossal stone tomb (a dolmen) was erected to seal the memory of their struggle.

Today, only a solitary stone and the ancient tree remain, standing as silent sentinels to the legend of Cathán, Abhartach, and the extraordinary ritual that safeguarded a world from an evil that should never walk among us again.

Over two decades ago, a bold attempt to clear the sinister thorn tree and massive stone marking Abhartach’s resting place was foiled by inexplicable occurrences. Chainsaws broke down three times while trying to cut down the tree, and the chainsaw chain wrapped around the stone intended for removal, snapping and cutting a worker’s hand. The worker’s blood seeped into the ground, leaving the cursed site untouched since, as if Abhartach’s malevolence still guards his unholy resting place.

Inspiration for Dracula

Collected during the late 1800s by renowned folklorist and historian Patrick Weston Joyce, this chilling folktale would have undoubtedly circulated in Dublin, where Bram Stoker served as a civil servant. The eerie connection between the Irish term “droch fhola,” signifying “bad blood,” and the name “Dracula” is an intriguing linguistic parallel that adds another layer of intrigue to the lore surrounding Stoker’s legendary vampire character.

Tim Kane

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How to Annoy a Vampire

Arkane Curiosities

I watched an old documentary on Vlad Dracula hosted by none other than Vincent Price. Most of the information I was already aware of, but one bit jumped out at me. A unique way to annoy a vampire involving sound.

The Resonant Toaca

This documentary showed an Orthodox priest walking through town carrying a large piece of wood, called a toaca. This is a type of portable sematron used to create sound. He would bang on the toaca with a hammer as a way to keep vampires away. Despite scouring the Internet, I can’t find an exact reason for this. My best guess is that it annoyed the vampire. 

Make Your Vampire Do Math

I’ve posted about this before, but the toaca reminded me of another way to annoy vampires. I’d first learned about this in an X-Files episode (Bad Blood). Here we see the quintessential way to piss off a vampire. 

Many Slavic people believe that vampires were forced to count the holes in fishing nets or the number of scattered seeds. It was common for townsfolk to hang a net over their door or spill seeds on the stoop as a way to deter would be blood-drinkers. The most common seed used was mustard seed, also known as eye of newt.

So folks, want to annoy the bejeezus out of your local vampire? Start banging on some wood. And be sure to scatter seeds all over the place. You’ll be safe… at least until the vampire gets done counting.

Tim Kane

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Flying Head Vampire: The Penanggalan

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In Malaysia the Penanggalan detaches its head, leaving its body behind as an empty husk. This flying head vampire seeks out pregnant women to drain their blood. In fact, “Penanggal” or “Penanggalan” in Malay literally means “to detach” or “to remove”. But it’s not just the head. The internal organs dangle below, twinkling like fireflies.

Invisible Tongues

The Penanggalan, who always appears as a woman, looks completely normal during the day. She’ll avoid eye contact and smell strongly of vinegar (a tool of the vampire trade). Typically, Penanggalans take jobs as midwives. 

At night, it twists its head off and soars through the air, intestines and organs dangling below it. The Penanggalan perches on the roof and waits for the woman to go into labor. Then it wriggles an invisible tongue into the house to drain the blood from the mother. 

Legend has it, the tongue can pass through walls or slither through floorboards to reach its victim. Alternately, it will entwine the victim in its long intestines. 

Vinegar Bath

Upon reaching home again, the Penanggalan takes a quick dip in a tub of vinegar. Why, you ask? The vinegar shrinks the organs so it can squirm back into the body suit and pretend to be a person again. 

Snag Those Intestines

Want to keep yourself safe from this horrific creature? Your best bet is to snag those dangling intestines. Often people will scatter thorny leaves on roof or windows. Additionally, they might plant a pineapple tree under their house (Malaysian houses are built on stilts).

Still want a little more protection? Slide a pair of scissors under your pillow.

Mess With the Body

If your intent is to stop the Penanggalan for good, you’ll need to track the vampire to its lair (possibly by following anyone with the strong scent of vinegar). When the head detaches for the nightly peregrinations, you go to work. 

Fill the empty body with shards of broken glass. Then, when the creature returns to crawl into its body, the glass will shred the vampire’s organs. 

If you simply want to mess with the Penanggalan, just flip the body over. These creatures don’t really understand how human bodies work. It will reattach backward. Then the head will be facing in the wrong direction (an easy way to spot the vampire). 

Tim Kane

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The Murderous Dr. Satan (aka Dr. Marcel Petiot) — The French Serial Killer Who Dissolved His Victims

Arkane Curiosities

Many people in France during World War II wanted to disappear and Dr. Marcel Petiot was more than happy to help them… but their disappearances were permanent. Marcel Petiot (later known as Dr. Satan) was a French doctor and fraudster who operated in Paris during World War II. He is believed to have killed between 26 to 63 people, mostly Jews seeking to escape Nazi persecution. He managed to escape punishment over and over and would go on to be known as the most famous French serial killer.

The Scheme

Petiot’s victims were lured into his home under the guise of providing them with false identity papers and medical certificates. Although he would charge them 25,000 Francs, he also knew they’d be loaded with countless valuables — cash, gold and jewels. 

Upon arriving, Petiot would bring the victims to an airtight basement, claiming it was a safe hiding spot. The supposed destination for these refugees was Argentina. Petiot explained that the Argentinian officials needed any new arrivals to be vaccinated. As a doctor, he administered the injection himself.

Of course, there was no vaccine. Each shot was loaded with cyanide. However, despite what we all think, cyanide isn’t always fatal. Since the basement was airtight, he dealt with any surviving victims by turning on the gas and suffocating them to death. He even installed a peephole to watch the proceedings. 

A Macabre Mortuary

Marcel Petiot disposed of his victims’ bodies by dismembering them and dissolving them in acid. After killing his victims, he would use a saw to dismember their bodies into small pieces, making it easier to dispose of them.

Petiot then placed the dismembered body parts in a large metal container filled with quicklime and water. The quicklime would dissolve the flesh and bones, leaving behind only a sludge-like residue.

Petiot’s use of acid to dissolve his victims’ bodies was a particularly gruesome method of disposal, and it made it difficult for authorities to identify the victims or determine the exact number of people he killed. Later, he was officially convicted of 26 murders, but he may have killed up to 150 people over three years. 

He left behind a macabre assortment of human remains, including 33 pounds of charred bones, three garbage cans filled with unidentified body parts, ten whole human scalps and nine severed heads. 

A Slippery Fish

In the 1920s, Petiot was involved in several fraudulent schemes, including fake stock deals and impersonating a doctor to solicit money from patients. He was convicted of fraud in 1926 and sentenced to five years in prison but managed to escape in 1927 by faking a seizure and being taken to a hospital, from where he fled.

In 1943, the Gestapo discovered his network, believing it was a genuine method to smuggle refugees out of France. They forced a Jewish prisoner, Yvan Dreyfus, to pretend to be a Jew wanting to escape. However, Dreyfus vanished.

The Gestapo eventually captured Petiot and tortured him about his smuggling network, but of course there was no information to give. They did discover that he was murdering his clients but chose to turn a blind eye. The Gestapo may have seen Petiot’s activities as a way to rid France of Jews and other undesirables, and didn’t want to interfere with his activities.

Petiot’s killing spree came to an end in March 11, 1944 when a neighbor reported a foul smell emanating from his property. When police investigated, they found evidence of Petiot’s gruesome activities. Firefighters discovered a furnace furiously burning with a human arm hanging out the side. 

This time, Petiot claimed his victims were, in fact, traitors and Nazi infiltrators. He was a patriot and actually aiding the French resistance. And the French police bought into this and released him. 

A closer examination of the remains as well as the 2000 pieces of clothing and belongings left behind, revealed that the victims were Jewish. 

The Butcher of Paris Captured

A seven month manhunt ensued with Petiot’s story and picture appearing in papers all over Europe. He was finally recognized in a Paris Metro station on Halloween, 1944. After a search, the police found him carrying a pistol, over 31,000 Francs and 50 sets of identity papers. 

Petiot maintained his innocence to the end, but could never support his claims. On May 15, 1946, he strolled down Death Row toward the awaiting guillotine. When asked how he felt, Petiot replied: “My conscience is clear.” That was, because the man had no conscience to begin with. 

Tim Kane

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3 Weird Ways to Confuse a Vampire

Arkane Curiosities

If a vampire has you on their menu, you can reach for a stake or garlic. But another solution is to simply confuse the vampire. Through the years, people have surmised various weaknesses of these nocturnal bloodsuckers and come up with different ways to perplex them. A confused vampire is one that won’t be feasting on you.

Force the Vampire to Do Some Math

Many cultures contend that vampires are obsessive to the point of compulsion. They will count various objects, no matter how many, until the job is done. We can use this to our advantage.

Germans would scatter seeds (poppy, mustard, oat or carrot) around the grave of a suspected vampire. The undead was compelled to count all the seeds before leaving the grave to seek blood. Although this seems like a simple task, often the vampire found themselves delayed till daylight. The Kashubs of Poland believed a vampire could only count a single seed a year, thus keeping it busy for centuries. 

Knots could also delay a vampire. Nets were often buried with the deceased forcing the undead to untie all the knots.

A more macabre practice was to leave a dead cat or dog on your doorstep. In this case, the vampire must count all the hairs on the animal. Personally, I would opt for the seeds. 

Trick the Vampire with Poop

Never has the poop emoji been so powerful. No garlic or crucifix at hand? Just shove a bowl of excrement in the vampire’s face.

In Europe, vampires were thought to exit the grave through small holes (the size a serpent might make). In Bulgaria, they placed bowls of feces (or poison) right outside these holes. The vampire, it seems, is so famished that it will consume the first thing it comes across, devouring the bowl of excrement. 

Get the Vampire Drunk

A happy vampire is one that won’t invade your home. Sometimes a bottle of whiskey was left in the grave with the corpse. If the vampire became too drunk, it might not be able to find the home of its relatives, preventing it from feeding on you. 

In Romania, people would bury a bottle of wine with the corpse. After six weeks, they dug up the bottle and drank it, offering a form of protection from the strigoi (a Romanian vampire).

Tim Kane

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