|Some years ago an English colonial official stationed at a remote post on a Caribbean island became seriously ill from a cause the district medical officer could not determine. The official asked to be transferred elsewhere, saying he was sure he would die if forced to remain where he was. His superiors refused his request, but the man’s health continued to deteriorate and he grew seriously depressed. Again he asked to be transferred. This time he said he would leave the foreign service entirely if his plea was denied. He got the transfer and recovered his health as soon as he left the area.
A year and a half later another local official experienced a slight attack of fever. But no sooner had he shaken that off than he found he was suffering from an inexplicable melancholy. Strangely, however, the depression would leave him once he had passed a certain distance from his residence. On his return, as he neared his residence, it felt as if a wet blanket were being thrown over him, and he would lapse again into severe depression. When his physical health began to deteriorate, he asked to be transferred.
Shortly after his departure, the district medical officer’s wife, who lived in the same area, became afflicted with depression and ill health. Because she had always been a cheerful, healthy woman, her husband and friends were perplexed and alarmed.
One night at midnight she woke up screaming. When her husband rushed into the room, she said she had awakened in a state of fearsome depression. Her eyes fell on a large and hideous form moving through the room. She described it as something between a spider and a jellyfish. Al-though she insisted she had seen this creature in a waking state, her husband assumed, not unreasonably, that she had had a nightmare.
When the same thing happened the next night, however, the doctor began to sense that he and his wife were confronting an eerie, evil, and very real force. After the second visitation the woman’s health collapsed entirely. In the morning she told her husband that she had to leave or she would die.
He agreed to take her on a week-long vacation. He was sure this would cheer her up, and it did. But when they got back, her black depression immediately returned.
Identifying a Vampire
A few nights later the woman again woke up screaming. Her husband found her in a weakened state, but able to make a curious request. "I want you to examine the back of my neck and shoulders very carefully and see if there is any mark on the skin of any kind whatever," she said.
The doctor looked without success. But his wife was insistent. "Get a glass and look again," she said. "See if you can find any puncture from a sharp pointed tooth." Again he found nothing. Fi-nally the woman explained why she had asked him to conduct the examination:
"I dreamed that I was in a house where I lived when I was a little girl. My little boy called out to me. I ran down to him but when I reached the bottom of the stairs, a tall black man came toward me. I waved him off, but I could not move to get away from him, though I pushed the boy out of his reach. The man came toward me, seized me in his arms, sat down at the bottom of the stairs, put me on his knee and proceeded to suck from a point at the upper part of the spine, just below the neck. I felt that he was drawing all the blood and life out of me. Then he threw me from himself, and apparently I lost consciousness as he did so. I felt as though I was dying. Then I woke up and I had been lying here for a quarter of an hour or 20 minutes before I was able to call you."
The next morning she told her husband, "I have a feeling, somehow, that it will not happen again. I feel quite well and strong and all my depression is gone."
That afternoon the couple were on their way to a social engagement when suddenly the woman stopped. Her eyes focused on a tall Indian farmer, a man who owned a large herd of milk cattle and who was reputed to be quite wealthy. "That is the man I saw in my dream," she declared.
The doctor walked up to the man and said, "I know everything that happened last night at midnight." He threatened to kill the farmer if he did not leave the area in 12 hours.
The farmer was gone by evening, departing so hurriedly that he left behind his cattle and the money in his bank account. "No news had been heard of him five years afterwards," Dudley Wright reported in an article on the case in Occult Review (July 1910). "Since his departure no one has complained of depression and lassitude in that area."
Could a story like this be true?
We who live in an age of science, reason, and materialism are likely to sit back and smile smugly when we hear such tales. We can easily tell ourselves that the Westerners who thought they were victimized by this kind of "psychic vampirism" simply fell prey to native superstition and suffered from psychosomatic illnesses.
The belief that certain persons possess malevolent supernatural powers they may use to harm others is ancient. It underlay the widespread fear in medieval Europe that "witches" and sorcerers were causing misfortunes of all kinds. In a famous (or notorious) 17th century book on witchcraft, Francesco-Maria Guazzo’s Compendium Maleficarum, the symptoms of witch attack are said to include:
- Loss of appetite
- Intense pain in the heart
- Discomfort in the neck, kidneys, or belly
- Yellowing of skin
- Inability to look a priest in the eye
- Sweating even in cold weather
- Stomach disorders
"The sicknesses with which those who are bewitched suffer," Guazzo wrote, "are generally a wasting or emaciation of the whole body and a loss of strength, together with a deep languor, dullness of mind, various melancholy ravings, different kinds of fever … certain convulsive movements of an epileptic appearance; a sort of rigidity of the limbs giving the appearance of a fit; sometimes … such a weakness pervades the whole body that [victims] can hardly move on any account at all … If by chance the witch should come to see the sick man, the patient is at once affected with great uneasiness and seized with terror and trembling. If it is a child, it cries."