The Vodka Vampire

The Vampires That Time Forgot Part 1

This events described below were widely reported in 1892 as having taken place in a remote area of what is now Ukraine, but was then part of Moldavia. It had also previously been Russian, part of the Ottoman Empire as well as Rumanian for a short period of time.

Be warned – it’s not for the squeamish.[i]

One night in the October 1892, a giant of a woman arrived in the isolated hamlet of Sariera, in the district of Izmail.

The stranger told the first person she met that she was a ‘footsore wayfarer’ and asked for shelter for the night. The host was Mrs Yooreskaya, whose husband was away from home at the time. Hospitality is taken seriously in Slavic lands and so Mrs Yooreskaya invited the strange woman into her cottage where her 18 month old baby boy was sleeping in his cradle and her three year old daughter lay in bed.

As soon as she had crossed the threshold, the stranger pulled out a bottle of vodka which the two women drank.

When it was empty, the stranger gave her host some money to go and buy another bottle. She was left alone with the children.

When the mother returned with the vodka she found that her cottage was in utter darkness. As she opened the door, she heard her daughter Elizabeth screaming in terror: ‘Mamma, help me; oh, do help me!’ Her mother called for her neighbours who came running with some lights and revealed a horrific scene.

In the middle of the room was the stranger with Elizabeth face up on her lap. With one hand the woman had grasped the girl’s throat and with the other she held a kitchen knife above her about to strike.

The neighbours dashed the knife out of the woman’s hand and the girl was rescued. As the stranger muttered incoherently, the mother ran to the cradle in which her baby boy Pantelimon had been sleeping, but found to her horror that it was empty.

After a quick search the boy was found under the bench. His skull had been smashed. The floor and wall were stained with his blood and brain. The boy’s cheeks had been bitten out and blood had been sucked from all the soft parts of his body.

His mother, wild with grief, grasped the discarded breadknife and tried to put an end to her life, but after a struggle was prevented from doing so.

The murderer’s name was Anna Yaroshevskaya, the wife of a trader from the city of Akkerman. It was said that this giantess had the strength of three men when she had a belly full of vodka.

Yaroshevskaya was so strong that it took five men to handcuff her and get her to prison. Yaroshevskaya reportedly looked at these men with scorn and said, ‘Oh, if I could only get a drop of vodka to rouse me a bit I’d pound the whole lot of you to a pulp’.

The guards had great difficulty getting this giantess through the crowd of furious locals that had gathered. The women of the village believed that  Yaroshevskaya was a witch and that was why she had sucked the boy’s blood. The killer narrowly escaped being lynched.

Even when she was locked up, the police had to take ‘extraordinary measures’ to stop the villagers from breaking in to the prison to execute Yaroshevskaya.

We don’t know what happened to Yaroshevskaya, but we are told that she was unrepentant. Her husband, who no longer lived with her, commented dryly ‘She was always doing strange things when under the influence of vodka.’

This story was first reported in the Odessa News and picked up by a Saint Petersburg newspaper before being widely reported in an almost word for word translation across the UK and USA, often with the headline ‘A Female Vampyre’. This headline isn’t used in the Russian version, and it shows the extent to which vampires had permeated western culture five years before Bram Stoker’s seminal novel Dracula was published.

The English language papers certainly seemed to relish the exotic horror of the story, but is it true? The structure is reminiscent of urban legends, with its moral message about the dangers of drink, strangers and leaving children alone.

The dramatic conclusion and horrible twist also seem to suggest an urban legend, or dark fairy tale. Anna Yaroshevskaya also puts one in mind of Baba Yaga, the evil witch of Russian and Eastern European folklore who lived in the forest in a house with chicken legs. Baba Yaga would eat children and babies, like many a folkloric witch.

Baba Yaga and a bagpipe player

The quote from Yaroshevskaya’s husband about her always doing strange things when she was drunk on vodka almost reads like a dark punchline to the story, and only appears in the English versions.

Could the report be a late nineteenth century kind of creepy pasta?

On the other hand, the news reports about Anna Yaroshevskaya contain names and the places referred to are real. Unfortunately, I can’t find any other reference to the vodka vampire.

Stay tuned for more vampires that time forgot…

[i] ‘A female vampyre’, Framlingham Weekly News, 19 November 1892, p.3; Peterburgskiĭ listok (Петербургский листок), 20 October 1892, p.4

Published by Paul Weatherhead

Author of Weird Calderdale, musician and songwriter

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