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Skeletons treated for vampirism found in Bulgaria

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Restless dead: An archaeologist cleans a skeleton during excavations in Bulgaria, where the remains of two bodies were found pierced with iron rods to keep them from turning into vampires. (AFP)

Bulgarian archaeologists say they have unearthed centuries-old skeletons pinned down through their chests with iron rods -- a practice believed to stop the dead from becoming vampires.

'These two skeletons stabbed with rods illustrate a practice common up until the first decade of the 20th century.'

- National history museum chief Bozhidar Dimitrov

According to Bozhidar Dimitrov, head of the National History Museum in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, two skeletons from the Middle Ages were found in such a state last weekend near the Black Sea town of Sozopol.

He said Tuesday that corpses were regularly treated in such a way before being buried in some parts of Bulgaria, even until the beginning of the last century.

Widespread superstition led to iron rods being hammered through the chest bones and hearts of those who did evil during their lifetimes for fear they would return after death to feast on the blood of the living.

According to Dimitrov, over 100 corpses stabbed to prevent them from becoming vampires have been discovered across Bulgaria over the years. 

"I do not know why an ordinary discovery like that [has] became so popular. Perhaps because of the mysteriousness of the word "vampire," he said.