Long dismissed as myth and legend, the vampire is associated with spooky stories or – for many teenagers – a Twilight heartthrob.
But for those who lived in the Middle Ages, it was a deadly serious business – and they took extreme measures against anyone suspected of being able to haunt them in the afterlife.
Now, details of one of the few ‘vampire’ burials in Britain have emerged.
A new archaeology report tells of the discovery of a skeleton, dating from 550-700AD, buried in the ancient minster town of Southwell, Nottinghamshire, with metal spikes through its shoulders, heart and ankles.
It is believed to be a ‘deviant burial’, where people considered the ‘dangerous dead’, such as vampires, were interred to prevent them rising from their graves to plague the living.
Only a handful of such burials have been unearthed in the UK.
The discovery is detailed in a new report by Matthew Beresford, of Southwell Archaeology.
The skeleton was found by archaeologist Charles Daniels during the original investigation of the site in Church Street in the town 1959, which revealed Roman remains.
Mr Beresford said when Mr Daniels found the skeleton he jokingly checked for fangs.
‘In the 1950s the Hammer Horror films were popular and so people had seen Christopher Lee’s Dracula so it would have been quite relevant,’ said Mr Beresford.
A new archaeology report tells of the discovery of a skeleton, dating from 550-700AD, buried in the ancient minster town of Southwell (above) with metal spikes through its shoulders, heart and ankles
In his report, Mr Beresford says: ‘The classic portrayal of the dangerous dead (more commonly known today as a vampire) is an undead corpse arising from the grave and all the accounts from this period reflect this.
‘Throughout the Anglo-Saxon period the punishment of being buried in water-logged ground, face down, decapitated, staked or otherwise was reserved for thieves, murderers or traitors or later for those deviants who did not conform to societies rules: adulterers, disrupters of the peace, the unpious or oath breaker.
‘Which of these the Southwell deviant was we will never know.’
‘Throughout the Anglo-Saxon period the punishment of being buried in water-logged ground, face down, decapitated, staked or otherwise was reserved for thieves, murderers or traitors’
Mr Beresford believes the remains may still be buried on the site where they originally lay because Mr Daniels was unable to remove the body from the ground.
He said: ‘If you look at it in a spooky way you still have the potential for it to rise at some point.’
Mr Beresford added: ‘Obviously this skeleton comes from a time in Southwell’s history that we don’t know much about.’
John Lock, chairman of Southwell Archaeology, said the body was one of a handful of such burials to be found in the UK.
He said: ‘A lot of people are interested in it but quite where it takes us I don’t know because this was found in the 1950s and now we don’t know where the remains are.
Mr Lock said no one could be sure why the body was staked in the way it was.
He said: ‘People would have a very strong view that this was somebody who, for whatever reason, they had a reason to fear and needed to ensure that this person did not come back.’
The discovery comes five months after archaeologists found remains from a third grave in central Bulgaria linked to the practise.
The skeleton was tied to the ground with four iron clamps, while burning ambers were placed on top of his grave.
The bones of a man in his thirties were believed to be at least several centuries old, and experts believed he had been subjected to a superstition-driven ritual to prevent him from becoming one after his death.