by Anthony Georgieff; photography by Debra Gwartney
Following the discovery of the "bones of St John the Baptist" in Sozopol, in 2010, Bulgarian archaeologists have had a heady start to this year's season. Again in Sozopol, the birthplace of National History Museum chief Bozhidar Dimitrov, excavations unearthed a series of graves, almost intact, in which an alleged vampire was buried. What led Dimitrov to conclude that the skeleton in question was a would-be "vampire" was a metal road piercing the chest of the man. Dimitrov, who had served as minister for Bulgarians abroad in Boyko Borisov's government ‒ a position he had to resign owing to his past as a Communist-era State Security agent ‒explained that piercing a dead body with a metal rod was a method practised in the Bulgarian lands up until the beginning of the 20th century when someone dead was suspected of having turned into a vampire.
The "vampire" skeleton was transported to Sofia, where it now adorns the permanent collection of Dimitrov's museum.
Although Sozopol failed to turn itself into a "new Jerusalem," as the media predicted last year after the discovery of "St John's bones," Finance Minister Simeon Dyankov granted funds for further excavations. It remains to be seen whether a significant number of rich foreign visitors will converge on the Black Sea coast town to look at old bones, teeth and metal rods.
In the meantime, Nikolay Ovcharov, the archaeologist who represents himself as "Bulgaria's Indiana Jones," discovered a similarly pierced skeleton in his native Veliko Tarnovo.
Bozhidar Dimitrov told residents of Sofia not to worry about the new finds, because a vampire "securely pinned with a metal rod" was "safer than a decommissioned canon shell," a reference to a large-scale accident near Sliven, where hundreds of munitions slated for destruction exploded, killing three and injuring dozens.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers