In 2005, while uncovering mass plague graves, an unusual discovery was made on the Venetian island of Lazzaretto Nuovo.
Matteo Borrini of the University of Florence in Italy found the skull of a woman with a brick jammed into her mouth. The skeleton was removed from a mass grave of victims from the Middle Ages on Lazzaretto Nuovo Island in Venice.
Hundreds of skeletons were discovered, but this skull was initially believed to be something different, as this was the prescribed method of killing a vampire. Therefore, Lazzaretto Nuovo became the vampire island of Venice, and media around the world reported the discovery of strange bodies.
Some people believed that the plague was spread by “vampires,” which, rather than drinking people’s blood, was spread by chewing on their shrouds after dying, causing the shroud to sink inwards and tear.
The act of putting a brick in the mouth of a corpse had so many different reasoning behind it. Most people believe grave-diggers put bricks in the mouths of suspected vampires to stop a vampire from rising from their grave once more. This was one of the more reputable methods of killing vampires.
Borrini presented his findings at a meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and claimed this might be the first such vampire to have been forensically examined. The detailed study of the earliest grave show archaeological “exorcism evidence against vampires.”
The Black Death and the Dawn of Quarantine
The Black Death descended upon in 1348 and killed up to 25 million people, or one-third of the population, in Europe. Venice was quick to respond to the impending threat. The outbreak was already killing swathes of the world’s population quickly and mercilessly.
Venice, an important trade center in Italy, connected the west and east, for trade and it was a fast infectious disease, and their results could be quickly and devastatingly deadly. As a precaution, two separate quarantine stations were established to keep the diseased and the potentially diseased away from living in the highly populated city center.
In 1423, The Lazzaretto Vecchio (Old Quarantine) was established as a plague hospital.
In 1468, Lazzaretto Nuovo (New Quarantine) was established to isolate incoming crews and goods from incoming ships and cargo searching for disease symptoms. In this period, a peaceful monastic center became a hellhole. This was the only solution to protect everyone’s health and sick people, or suspected sick people.
Devastating outbreaks of the plague hit in 1576 and 1630; thousands were removed and sent to be quarantined on outer islands like the two Lazzarettos.
The skull found on Lazzaretto Nuovo tells the complex story and remains the depressing end to the tale of the poor people.
Analysis shows the skull with a brick wedged in the mouth belonged to a woman aged 61 and 71 years old. Although her exact story is unknown, she is believed to have been a “Shroud Eater,” a type of German vampire and related territories known for making hideous chewing sounds in the grave. These sounds were thought to cause death and destruction from a distance.
A Manuscript called “De Masticatione Mortuorum,” “The Chewing Dead,” explained helpful tips and prescribed practical treatment of such creatures, and the brick placed in the mouth was one such method.
The landmasses, Lazzaretto Vecchio and Lazzaretto Nuovo, are now landscapes of grasses, trees, and worn stone buildings with fascinating insights into Venice.
Explore the cursed island and witness the archives of its remarkable history!