Bulgarian archaeologists have unearthed centuries-old skeletons with iron rods through their chests - believed to have been victims of an old anti-vampire ritual. According to Bozhidar Dimitrov, head of the National History Museum in the Bulgarian capital Sofia, two skeletons from the Middle Ages have been discovered near the Black Sea town of Sozopol. "These two skeletons stabbed with rods illustrate a practice which was common in some Bulgarian villages up until the first decade of the 20th century," said Mr Dimitrov. 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. People believed the rod would pin them down to prevent them from leaving their graves at midnight and terrorising people as they slept, the historian explained. In 2004, archaeologist Petar Balabanov unearthed six nailed-down skeletons at a site near the eastern town of Debelt. He said the pagan rite also was practised in neighbouring Serbia and other Balkan countries. Vampire legends form an important part of the region's folklore. The most famous tale is that of Romanian count Vlad the Impaler, known as Dracula, who staked his war enemies and drank their blood.
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