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The Beast of Croglin Grange

The Beast of Croglin Grange - origins

What are vampires?

Vampire and Woman
  • Vampire and Lady
  • A vampire is a being from myth or folklore that drinks the blood of animals or humans.

    Our modern idea of a vampire as creature that has returned from death to prey on humans at night, is based on the Eastern European vampires myths and inventions from made up stories, such as vampires wearing capes or turning into bats.

    Belief in vampires was once widespread in Eastern Europe, particularly amongst the Slavic people of Russia, Bulgaria and Serbia and, of course, neighbouring Romania. Several times between the 11th and 18th centuries, there were cases of 'vampire hysteria' when people were sure local deaths were caused by vampires.

    However vampire myths go back thousands of years and they appear in many different forms. In early Babylonian writings, there were the Lilu, spirits with vampire like habits. The Greek Lamia had the upper body of a woman and the lower body of a winged serpent. In northern India, there was the brahmaparusha, a vampire-like creature with a head encircled by intestines and a skull from which it drank blood. The most famous Indian vampire is Kali who had fangs and drank the blood of the demon Raktabija, so he could not reproduce himself from the drops spilled.

    In Romania 'strigoi mort' are the bodies of dead witches which return to suck the blood of family, livestock and neighbours. There are Chinese vampires and, in Japan, there is even a vampire fox.

    It is thought Vampire myths were transported from places like China, Tibet and India with the trade caravans along the silk route to the Mediterranean. Here they spread out along the Black Sea coast to Greece, the Balkans and the Carpathian Mountains, including Hungary and Transylvania.

    Although vampire myths occur in almost every culture around the world, such myths are very rare in England, where the idea was almost unknown until the 18th century, when reports from Europe started a spate novels based on the idea.

    Was there really a vampire at Croglin Grange?

    Varney cover
  • Varney the Vampire
  • This account may have had more to do with Victorian imagination and mischief than reality. Although it may have been based on some strange event set many years before the time of the story.

    Augustus Hare, who had the story printed, said he heard it from a Captain Fisher who leased the property after the Cranswells. He dated the events to around 1875. This immediately aroused suspicion that he had actually adapted certain sequences in a 'penny dreadful novel' possibly by James Malcolm Rymer, 'Varney the Vampire' published in 1847. Penny dreadfuls were deliberately sensational. The books sold for a penny; often authors did not want to admit they wrote them.

    In 1924, Charles G. Harper decided to challenge Hare's account of the vampire. He went to Cumberland and could not find Croglin Grange, although he found both a Croglin High Hall and a Croglin Low Hall. There was no church nearby. The closest was a mile away. There was no vault as described by the brothers and the villagers.

    Later a man called F. Clive-Ross visited the area and, in turn, challenged Harper's findings. He interviewed the local people and deduced that Croglin Low Hall was the Grange. He also noted that a chapel had existed near the house and its foundation stones were still there in the 1930s.

    Then in 1968, D. Scott Rogo, a writer, using a book published in 1929 that contained both stories, concluded that it was likely that one story was based upon the other and therefore Croglin Grange was most likely a hoax.

    However some years later F. Clive-Ross found a witness, Mrs Parkin who lived at Slack Cottage in Ainstable, who said she had known one of the Fishers. However this gentleman was born in the 1860's and had heard the story from his grandparents. Mrs Parkin also said that according to the deeds of Croglin Low Hall, it was commonly called Croglin Grange until 1720.

    So Hare had made a huge blunder. If the story had taken place it was two centuries earlier in 1680-1700 not the 1870s. Clive-Ross published his research in 'Tomorrow magazine, spring 1963'.

    More recent research by Lionel Fanthorpe also suggests that the events took place in the late 1600s. A vault close to the Grange was demolished during Cromwell's time. Hence these findings, place the events before the publication of Varney the Vampire.

    So what exactly happened? We shall never know. It is possible that Varney's author heard the legend and decided to write about it as a Penny Dreadful. It was said the book was based on events that took place during the reign of Queen Anne (1702-14), near the time of the incident. Maybe Hare used Varney the Vampire for his book or perhaps he heard about the legend independently and wrote his own account. Whatever the truth, the Croglin beast will remain a mystery.

    Are there similarities to any other tales?

    Vampire escapes through window
  • The vampire escapes through the window
  • Usually in vampire tales the bodies look fresh, like they have just died, not shriveled as in this story. However the gunshot wound is similar to occurrences in other vampire myths.

    Although vampires are usually killed with a wooden stake, traditionally this was just one way to defeat them. In Slavic folklore, a vampire could be destroyed by cutting off its head, by driving a wooden stake into its heart or by burning the corpse, as in this story. Other means included putting poppy seeds at the gravesite. Vampires were obsessed with counting and would continue to count until the sun came up.

    To stop them arising in the first place, you could place a crucifix in the coffin or sprinkle them with holy water, nail their clothes to the coffin, pierce the body with thorns or even just repeat the funeral service.

    One piece of evidence that a vampire was at work in the neighbourhood included the death of cattle and sheep, as in this story.

    What caused people to believe in Vampires ?

  • Early film portrayal
  • There have been lots of theories put forward to explain vampires. In folklore, they are usually linked to a series of mysterious deaths and it has been suggested that the legends arose from diseases that give the appearance of vampire like tendencies.

    One disease put forward is rabies. People with rabies are sensitive to light. The disease can also affect the brain, leading to sleep disturbance and a drive to bite others. It can also lead to a bloody frothing at the mouth.

    Another rare illness, called porphyria, can give sufferers a very pale skin colour, with teeth that appear larger than normal. These people would have been very anaemic (lacking in red blood cells), and drinking (animal) blood was a traditional treatment for anaemia.

    Another theory includes burial of people still living. Unfortunately, many years ago when medicine was not so advanced, some people were buried who were not really dead and later awoke. In their efforts to get out they would scrape the coffin lids or bash their faces making them look bloody and causing noises from within the coffin.

    Other theories say that vampires arose just from hysteria and bad dreams after a string of unexplained deaths and a misunderstanding of the way a corpse rotted. These changes can often cause swelling and even movement of the body. Hence, when people investigated the graves, they were really just seeing naturally occurring changes.

    Whatever the causes of the myths, they have become some of the most well known the world over and the idea has been reinforced by books such as Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' and many films, keeping the legend alive. It is one the few myths where cases are still claiming to have occurred into modern times.

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