Real Canadian Vampire Stories

Real Canadian Vampire Stories

November 2, 2019 6 By William Hollis


Right now, it’s Halloween season. There’s
a bite in the air, the sidewalks are covered with leaves, and in a few days
neighborhoods all over the country will be crawling with ghouls and goblins on
the hunt for candy. One spectre who often makes his appearance around this time of
year is Count Dracula, a character from an 1897 horror novel written by Bram
Stoker. In the book, Dracula was a Transylvanian nobleman who warred against
the Ottoman Turks. After his death, he transformed into a vampire- an undead
being that survives on fresh blood. Although the book ‘Dracula’ is a work of
fiction, vampires constitute a genuine element of Eastern European folklore. One ethno-cultural group that traditionally
believed in vampires were the Kashubs- northern Poles descended from
Pomeranian Slavs. Like many Polish people, the Kashubs were staunch Roman
Catholics. In addition to their Catholicism, however, many of them adhered
to an older folk religion- a shadowy tapestry of folklore and superstition
that they inherited from their Slavic ancestors. In the 1850s, many Kashubs
brought this old religion with them to Germany, across the Atlantic Ocean, up the
St. Lawrence River, and overland to the Madawaska Highlands in southern Ontario,
where they established Canada’s first Polish settlements. In the 1960s, a
Canadian academic interviewed 15 residents of Wilno, Ontario- Canada’s
oldest Polish settlement- and recorded some of their Kashubian folk tales. During his investigation, he uncovered
chilling tales of Kashub-Canadian vampires that bore little resemblance to
Bram Stoker’s Dracula. These creatures were otherwise ordinary people who bore
certain marks at birth. After they were dead and buried, their corpses would rise
from their graves at midnight, wander over to the homes of their family
members, and kill their kin by sucking out their blood. After it had dealt with
its family, the vampire would make its way to the
village church and ring the church bell. Any unfortunates who heard the bell
would die within the year. Fortunately, there were ways to prevent future
vampires from rising from their graves to torment the living. One method
involved pouring sand into the vampire’s coffin. The vampire could only rise once
it had counted every grain of sand, and it could only count one grain per year.
Another method was to place tiny crosses of poplar wood under the vampire’s tongue.
Back in the Old Country, Kashubs used rosary crucifixes instead. If none of
these steps were taken there was but one recourse: someone had to dig up the
vampire’s grave at midnight and either drive a nail through its forehead or
decapitate the corpse and place its head between its feet. “There was a lot of that
that at Wilno, in the graves,” one informant told the academic. “They had to
dig it up and cut off the head while it sat in the coffin.” After the
academic published his paper, there was considerable outrage in the Wilno
community. Many Kashub-Canadians maintained that the scholar had
misrepresented their beliefs. “I told him the old wives tales,” one informant told a
reporter. “Things my grandmother told me. But we don’t believe these things
anymore.” Even if the people of Wilno, Ontario, don’t believe in vampires
anymore, there are some Canadians who do- some say with good reason. If you’d like
to learn more about the vampires of Wilno, Ontario, and other Canadian vampire
stories, please check out the link in the description. Thanks for watching, and
happy Halloween!