Researchers in Italy believe that they have found a female 'vampire' buried with a brick between her jaws to stop her feeding on the victims of a plague which hit Venice in the 16th century.
University of Florence anthropologist Matteo Borrini said the discovery demonstrated the medieval belief that the creatures were behind the spread of mass pestilence. "This is the first time that archaeology has succeeded in reconstructing the ritual of exorcism of a vampire. This helps...authenticate how the myth of vampires was born."
According to The Daily Telegraph, the skeleton was found in a mass grave from the plague of 1576. A belief in vampires began because the decomposition of corpses was not fully understood, Borrini said. Gravdiggers reopening mass graves would come across bloated corpses with blood seeping from their mouths and believe them to still be alive, thinking that their decayed shrouds had actually been eaten.
"To kill the vampire you had to remove the shroud from its mouth, which was its food like the milk of a child, and put something uneatable in there. It's possible that other corpses have been found with bricks in their mouths, but this is the first time the ritual has been recognised," Borrini said.