Item acquired by the Curator
Origin: Ghent (Belgium) and Gutta (Hungary)
Kit assembled for hunting vampires (ca 1899).
Various documents and recordings on wax cylinders made in 1906.
Contents of the vampire hunter's kit
The hunter's kit is, of course, a key 'player' in this story.
Restoring it required an enormous investment in time and patience. The fact that it
was kept in a dry attic explains why some of the objects are in such
good condition and why the leatherwork is so fragile.
The large case contains a smaller case, as well as a variety of
objects. It is the main container. The large case is used for travelling,
whilst the small case is used during the hunt itself.
Originally, the large case contained the hunter's travel gear,
but sometime around 1906, when he recounted his story, he also included
objects which he felt supported his story. We, too, have added objects
recovered from the hunter's descendants, including the postcard from Linz and a medical dictionary (1858) that
probably belonged to the hunter's father.
1) The large case contains:
an umbrella, a handwritten book on blood medicine (1878),
a crowbar and a long cast-iron stake wrapped in a page from a Belgian
Catholic newspaper from 1899, a daguerreotype portrait of the hunter's
mother (ca 1850), a document
on Hungary's millennium (1896) including an article by Arminius Vámbéry,
a 'book safe' (a hollowed-out book used to hide objects) containing the evidence (a shard from a vampire's jawbone as
well as various objects from a 2nd century Pannonian tomb, including a
fibula in the shape of a swastika with its arms pointing anticlockwise),
an empty wallet, some old German and Hungarian coins, binoculars,
sunglasses, a Tibetan magic mirror, wax cylinders on which he recorded
the accounts of his hunts, as well as various odds and ends.
2) The small case contains:
a Baedeker's guide to southern Germany and Austria (1893), a
Hayem and Nachet haemacytometer dating from 1899, a stethoscope, a
pencil microscope for the blood, a relic of a crucifix (19th century), a crucifix
in a box (18th century), an unbreakable metal pocket mirror purchased
in Vienna, a hypodermic syringe, an unused bottle of chloroform, a Lefaucheux miniature
pocket revolver, a travelling flask filled with holy water, a bottle
filled with ash and shards of bone,
a bottle of salt, a portable oil lamp, a phurbu
(a Tibetan demon dagger given as a gift by Vambéry),
a book of prayers in French and another one in German (prayers for the
dead), a small metal box containing a consecrated host in a reliquary (18th
century) as well as some silver coins, a small 'book safe' containing a
phial of blood and boxes of matches (all hidden in the false bottom of
the case), a post card sent from Linz on 12 October 1899 by the hunter
to his fiancée
living in Ghent, a compass, a pencil, a propelling pencil, etc.
Survey of the hunter's descendants and
an account recorded on wax cylinders in 1906
To ensure confidentiality, and at the request of his descendants, the
true name of the main player in this story will not be revealed. We will
call him 'Pieter Schlemihl'.
All other names are real individuals who are, of course, all dead now. Pieter's
travelling case, now in our possession, contains all of the components
and documents needed to confirm the story.
Professor Pieter Schlemihl was unable to sleep. Ever since reading
that novel, a gift from his friend Max Müller (at Cambridge
University), he felt that the solution to his problem
might be within his grasp.
How, in 1899, could he successfully carry out a blood transfusion?
His recently deceased mother could have been saved by a successful
Trials with the blood of sheep and horses, and even milk, had proven
dangerous and often deadly, causing fatal haemolysis. This meant that
doctors were severely limited in the treatment they could offer patients. Any haemorrhaging at all was almost certainly fatal.
But this book Dracula, by Irish author Bram Stoker,
had got his mind thinking along different lines. A Catholic and
initiate of the Rose-Croix, an esoteric sect with magical overtones, he was convinced that vampires were more than a mere
There were simply too many first- and second-hand accounts confirming the existence of
these creatures. And he could not shake off the idea that
their blood might be compatible with all other blood, or that it had the
effect of making blood from
different individuals compatible with each other.
Moreover, certain bats were known to secrete a substance that
prevented blood from coagulating; evidence of a vampire in the true
sense of the word..
Then there was the evidence that had been brought back by an
archaeologist acquaintance of his from a village in Hungary, a curious
individual who went by the pseudonym of the 'Collector': a strange piece from a human jawbone and a curious fibula from a Panonnian tomb (Hungary) dating from the 2nd century AD.
Of course, there was no question of alerting the college.
This kind of theory would not go down very well at the Institute of
Pathological Anatomy of the University of Ghent.
He had made up his mind! He would take advantage of an upcoming trip to
Vienna so that he could monitor up close the work being done by his
young colleague Karl Landsteiner, and would then extend his trip to
visit Budapest. Professor Arminius
Vàmbéry, who taught oriental languages at the
University of Pesth, could give him good advice.
He was without a doubt one of the greatest living specialists in
Hungarian and foreign mythology.
A few years previously, he had retraced the steps of Marco Polo across
central Asia - an adventure rich in learning. In fact, Bram Stoker
quoted him in his novel.
Vienna, mid-September 1899
The meeting with Professor Landsteiner at the Whilhelminaspital in Vienna proved very interesting indeed.
In addition to his transfusion technique, which was more advanced than
many others, the professor took Pieter Schlemihl's idea seriously.
Although he introduced it as a bit of a joke,
he would have been a fool indeed not to try everything in his power to
solve the problems of blood compatibility.
During a meal at Hotel Sacher in Vienna, Karl Landsteiner introduced
him to a gentleman:
"My friend here, Hans Reiner, works in Linz.
He is German, but he has family in Gutta, a village in Hungary.
A little while ago (on 26 April 1899), the village was destroyed by a
bizarre fire. A woman, frightened by an apparition, dropped an oil lamp,
causing a fire that soon grew into a raging inferno leading to 17 deaths and
burning the village to the ground.
It is said that the initial victim had been attacked by a vampire. I
believe he would be willing to take you there, if you so wish!"
"And if your hunt is a success, you could even carry out some
tests here or in Linz. Of course, I would ask you to keep me apprised of
any discoveries you make."
And so, he continued his trip to Budapest.
Budapest, late September 1899
The meeting with Professor Vámbéry
also provided a wealth of learning. I will attempt to summarise the key
points of what was discussed:
"To fully grasp the nature of the vampire, you have to situate
yourself within a magical view of the world. Indeed, that was the
universally held view of things prior to the Age of Enlightenment. Man
has a soul and that soul must, during its voyage here on earth, return
to the cosmic soul - to god. In other words, magic is interpreted by the
soul. It does not replace the rationalist world view, but incorporates
"Man is presented with three paths: He may choose to advance
along the path of Light, Arta in ancient Persia, and enrich his
individual soul. In doing so, he enriches the cosmic soul and creation.
He may choose the path of Arhiman, the path of Darkness, and try to
destroy creation. Or he may opt not to choose, in which case he will be
a slave for his entire existence."
"Once one of the first two paths has been chosen, it is
impossible to turn back. In other words, he becomes a servant of either
Light or Darkness - and in either case a formidable warrior."
"While the warrior of Light has contemplated his soul, the
warrior of Darkness must have destroyed and dissolved his.
At that point he can easily fall prey to fearsome entities: larvae,
ghouls, demons and vampires. Ultimately, the host body ends up
modifying and acquiring unusual physical capabilities. In vampires, the
thirst for souls is insatiable, and since blood represents the vehicle
of the soul...
"It is very likely that a vampire's very blood exhibits strange
properties, but take care not to consume any! For if you do, you will
expose yourself to a fate worse than death."
"In addition to their desire for power, vampires exert - by means
of their presence and voice - a fascination over lower creatures: rats,
bats, vermin, as well as the weak and undecided,
the third category mentioned above.
The legions of the night."
"Vampires must be fought with magical weapons.
The crucifix is a formidable weapon, because Christ offered his blood
so that humanity could be redeemed, but it will not necessarily
guarantee you absolute victory. And if, by misfortune, the vampire were
to place his mark, the mark of blood, in the centre of the cross, his
power would become unimaginably strong - and would be likely to provoke
the Götterdämmerung, the Twilight of the Gods in Norse mythology.
The holy water will react upon contact with the earth in which the
vampire lies (2) and prevent him from resting again. By placing a small
amulet on a magic mirror you will be able to find the creature's hiding
"The ultimate weapon is still a stake driven through the
vampire's heart or forehead, but not just any stake. In the Tibetan and
Indian traditions, this ritual dagger is called the kila or
represents the active, cosmic energy which pins and strikes down the
terrestrial dragon. The dragon is the Fire which Dries, that which
burns the soul and to whom the vampire is the most loyal servant."
"Otherwise, the vampire is invulnerable. Daylight weakens the
vampire, but does not kill it. Only the host's suicide can possible
destroy it, provided it takes place during the night of sorcerers, Walpurgisnacht (30
April), and provided the body is cremated immediately afterwards.
Suicide represents the final waking of the soul before annihilation. "
"The dagger is used by hand, or with the help of a mallet, which
symbolises passive cosmic energy. "
Having made these recommendations, Professor Vámbéry
handed the ritual weapons over to the haematologist and wished him good
Gutta, early October 1899
And so the hunt began.
It took three days of travel by train and coach for Pieter Schlemihl
and Hans Reiner to reach the desolate village of Gutta. The countryside
was imposing and gloomy.
A big surprise awaited them there.
After two days of fruitless and exhausting excavation work in the icy
early October winds, the ritual instruments reacted near the tomb of a
recently buried priest.
"That's why they couldn't find him. The creature must be very
powerful." said Hans.
They exhumed the coffin and prised open the lid with a crowbar.
The body within did not show the slightest trace of decomposition. The
wide-open eyes glowed with burning hatred, and the corpse was saturated
with fresh blood.
The crucifixes worn by the two men seemed to paralyse the vampire in
his coffin. Hans stuck the needle of the transfusion device in the
priest's arm and drew out about one litre of blood. At that very moment,
the creature sat up. Was it a reflex brought on by the cold, or was it
attacking them? Pieter instinctively hit the monster in the face with
the crowbar as hard as he could, shattering his teeth, and plunged the phurba into the vampire's heart. The
back and decomposed immediately
They burned the remains and sprinkled holy water on the ground.
Initial analyses made by Pieter on-site using his portable microscope
seemed to confirm that the vampire's blood could indeed make other types
of blood compatible with each other, preventing agglutination. Nevertheless, they decided to travel to Linz so that they could carry out more in-depth tests.
Linz, 12 October 1899
They reached Linz on Thursday, 12 October by Orient Express.
The next day, they began testing the blood at the city's main hospital:
the counted the red and white corpuscles, tested the coagulation time, etc.
That afternoon, a child was brought in.
The child had been run down by a carriage in the neighbouring town of Leonding.
He was in critical condition. Just 10 years old, the child was urgently
in need of a blood transfusion; the doctors had already written him off.
Internal bleeding was usually fatal.
Pieter and Hans talked briefly and decided to inject the child with 2 ml
of the blood from Gutta. They then transfused normal blood and life
seemed to flow back into the small body. The transfusion was a success.
One hour later, the child had been completely cured and he left the
hospital the next day.
After returning to Ghent, Professor Pieter Schlemihl continued
experimenting on rats and other small animals. Then, one day in 1902,
part of his laboratory was destroyed by fire. During the years that
followed, he was always seen wearing sunglasses. Apparently, he suffered
from a rare conditions - later called porphyria - making the subject
sensitive to light. Professor Schlemihl disappeared mysteriously during
the First World War.
In 1901, Professor Karl Landsteiner, who had received a sample of the
blood, discovered blood groups and the
ABO system. From 1909 to 1919, he taught in Vienna and then emigrated
to the United States. He went on to discover the Rhesus system and won
the Nobel Prize in 1930. He died in 1943.
Albert Hustin, a Belgian (1870-1961), carried out the first successful
blood transfusion on 27 March 1914 using blood preserved with sodium
Professor Vámbéry, already 68 when he met Pieter,
published his memoirs in 1904, the crowning achievement on top of his many other works that had won
Bram Stoker died on 20 April 1912, shortly after the Titanic
Hans Reiner pursued a career in the German civil service and was
"für Treue Dienste" in the late 1930s. He was awarded the
medal by the young man they had saved and who had gone on to become the
adored head of state of a country that was not even his own. His name
was Adolf Hitler.
After miraculously surviving a number of assassination attempts, he
committed 'suicide' on 30 April 1945 in his bunker (his crypt) and his
body was incinerated.
At least partially...
Voyage by Mr Pieter Schlemihl
Pieter Schlemihl was over 40 years old when he set out on his trip.
He left his hometown of Ghent on Thursday, 14 September 1899, probably
taking the Orient Express in Brussels.
He arrived in Vienna on Thursday, 15 September and moved into the
He met Professor Landsteiner the next day and worked alongside him
until Monday, 26 September.
During this period, he became friends with Karl Reiner.
The left Vienna together on Tuesday, 26 September 1899 by train (Nagelmakers wagons-lits
They arrived in Budapest that same day.
They met and consulted with Professor Arminius
Vámbéry between 27 and 30 September.
They left Budapest on 1 October by stagecoach, heading for
Gutta, where they spent five days looking for the creature's grave.
They returned to Budapest, and then travelled to Linz.
They reached Linz on Tuesday, 10 October 1899.
A postcard was sent to Ghent on Thursday, 12 October.
On Friday, 13 October 1899, they injected the 'contaminated' blood.
Pieter Schlemihl returned to Ghent on Monday, 16 October, to pursue
The entire voyage lasted one month.
Jonathan Harker's adventure began on 30 April. Bram
Stoker died on 20 April 1912, shortly after the sinking of the Titanic.
Adolf Hitler was born on 20 April 1889 and died on 30 April 1945.
Bram Stoker died at the age of 65; Adolf Hitler at the age of 56. The
tomb of Vlad Tepes was opened in 1933, the same year that Hitler took
In the unabridged version of Dracula, Jonathan Harker began his trip at
the Four Seasons Hotel in Munich. In 1919, that same hotel was the
headquarters of the Thule Gesellschaft, the secret society that brought Adolf
Hitler to power.
Hitler was called the Wolf, an animal associated with vampires. The
medal Für Treue Dienst is a silver or gold cross with the swastika
in the centre, the mark of the vampire in the centre of the crucifix.
The oldest trace of the swastika in Europe was found in
Are these just coincidences?
1. We analysed and checked the account given by Mr Schlemihl. The
analysis revealed that there was a rational explanation for everything.
A dead body can keep without any trace of deterioration and it is possible
for a body that has been dead for a long time to sit up in its coffin if
there is a sufficiently sudden and drastic change in temperature and
humidity. There are two very well known cases of this happening: the
mummy of Ramses II, which moved its arm in the Cairo Museum in 1923, and
the body of Rasputin, which sat up on its pyre, terrifying onlookers.
In addition, the blood transfusion performed on the young Hitler may
well have succeeded if the blood types happened to be compatible or if
the donor happened to have type O+ blood. Or the doctors may simply have
been mistaken about the severity of his injuries.
Finally, a medical friend of ours advanced the following theory: The
young Adolf had been a brilliant pupil until that time. It was only
afterward that his behaviour changed. His brother died from a brain
disease not long afterwards, and he himself may have been affected by it.
Suppose Mr Schlemihl did not give him vampire blood, but infected him
with a virus that would turn him into the monster that he became?
In the view of the Surnateum's personnel, these explanations are
all much the same.
2. We also carried out two, reproducible experiments at the Surnateum.
The phial of dried blood contained in the kit was liquefied in the
presence of a living being, which then lost its life force. The blessed
medal placed on the magic mirror reacted violently in the presence of
the fragment of jawbone.