In Romanian mythology, strigoi (English: striga, poltergeist) are the troubled souls of the dead rising from the grave. Some strigoi can be living people with certain magical properties. Some of the properties of the strigoi include: the ability to transform into an animal, invisibility, and the propensity to drain the vitality of victims via blood loss. Strigoi are also known as immortal vampires.
According to Adrien Cremene, strigoi date back to the Dacians. The strigoi are creatures of Dacian mythology, evil spirits, the spirits of the dead whose actions made them unworthy of entering the kingdom of Zalmoxis. As these stories were transmitted only by oral tradition, the legend has lost its original substance, and Romanians have transformed strigoi into bloodthirsty creatures.
The Croatian Jure Grando, who died in 1656, was allegedly the first vampire whose existence is documented. In his native Istria, he was called strigoi, a local dialect word to describe a vampire. He terrorised the villagers until beheaded in 1672.
A Serbian peasant named Petar Blagojevich, who died in 1725, was believed to become an authentic strigoi after his death. Blagojevich came back to his house to haunt his own son and demand food, but the son refused, so Blagojevich brutally murdered him.
In 1909, Franz Hartmann mentions in his book An Authenticated Vampire Story that peasant children from a village in the Carpathian Mountains started to die mysteriously. The villagers began to suspect a recently deceased count was a vampire, dwelling in his old fortress. Frightened villagers burned the castle to stop the deaths.
In his book In Search of Dracula: The History of Dracula and Vampires, Radu Florescu mentions an event in 1969 in the city of Căpăţâneni, where after the death of an old man, several family members began to die in suspicious circumstances. Unearthed, the corpse did not show signs of decomposition, his eyes were wide open, the face was red and twisted in the coffin. The corpse was burned to save his soul.
In 1970, a series of hideous crimes shocked Bucharest. The attacks took place at midnight during rainstorms. The victims were usually waitresses returning home from work. In 1971, Ion Rîmaru was arrested and identified by teeth marks on the corpses. During the trial he was in a state of continual drowsiness. He was interrogated at night because he was not lucid at any other time. During daylight hours, Rîmaru was intractably lethargic. Sentenced to death, Rîmaru became violently agitated. Several policemen were needed to restrain him. After the execution, Rîmaru’s father died in a suspicious accident. During the investigation of the accident, it was discovered that the father’s fingerprints matched those of a serial killer active in 1944 whose crimes looked remarkably similar to those of Ion Rîmaru. The similarities included the weather conditions and similar or identical names of some of the victims. It was rumored that the accident was engineered by the Securitate, who decided to eliminate the dangerous individual.
During the Romanian Revolution of 1989, the corpse of Nicolae Ceaușescu did not receive a proper burial. This made the ghost of the former dictator a threat in the minds of superstitious Romanians. Noted revolutionary Gelu Voican carpeted the apartment of the Conducător with braids of garlic. This is a traditional remedy against the strigoi.
Before Christmas 2003, in the village of Marotinu de Sus, a 76-year-old Romanian man named Petre Toma died. In February 2004, a niece of the deceased revealed that she had been visited by her late uncle. Gheorghe Marinescu, a brother-in-law, became the leader of a vampire hunting group made up of several family members.
After drinking some alcohol, they dug up the coffin of Petre Toma, made an incision in his chest, and tore the heart out. After removal of the heart, the body was burned and the ashes mixed in water and drunk by the family.
However, the Romanian government anxious to maintain a good image in preparation for the country’s accession to the European Union had banned this practice, and six family members were arrested by the police of Craiova from Dolj County for “disturbing the peace of the dead”, and were imprisoned and sentenced to pay damages to the family of the deceased.
Since then, in the nearby village of Amărăştii de Sus, people drive a fire-hardened stake through the heart or belly of the dead as a “preventative”.