Halloween in the Czech Republic

By Erin Naillon

A New Holiday

Halloween in the Czech Republic is quickly becoming a popular holiday. Although Halloween began in Ireland, it has quickly spread throughout the world. In one Prague neighborhood, children even go trick-or-treating, due to the high number of Americans and other foreigners living there. Carved pumpkins are displayed in windows and on doorsteps. Costumes abound. The chilly, brisk atmosphere here provides the perfect backdrop for the spookiness of Halloween.

Ancient Beliefs

The Czechs, as it happens, have a tradition of vampire lore, fitting in perfectly with Halloween. These days, of course, nobody believes in them – but such was not always the case. Archaeologists have found considerable evidence that the living took precautions – sometimes grisly – to keep the dead from rising.

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The Undead

In 1966, a homeowner in the town of Čelakovice, on the outskirts of Prague, decided to add to his house. During the preliminary digging, he made a startling discovery. His yard contained a human skeleton, with the head severed from the body.

The police were called. More digging unearthed even more remains. In total, fourteen adult bodies had been buried on the family’s property. At first, the police treated the area as a crime scene, and pathologists were called in. Investigation revealed that the bodies were not murder victims. In fact, they had been buried approximately 1,000 years earlier. All of the bodies had been beheaded, with the heads turned around so that they faced the earth. The bodies had also been weighted with stones in order to keep them down.

Unexpected Cemetery

A suspected vampire cannot, of course, be buried in hallowed ground. Thus, the fourteen corpses were laid to rest in what, centuries later, became the site of a house. Other bodies have been entombed in a casket surrounded by iron bars, as in the city of Prostějov. Another “anti-vampire” measure was to thrust a knife into the mouth of the corpse, to prevent it from drinking the blood of the living.

At this time of year, these old beliefs are brought to mind more frequently – under the light of a full moon…

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