Vampires and zombies, zombies and vampires. You got your vampire people, you got your zombie people, and never the twain shall meet. Right?
Wrong! Just ask the archaeologists who discovered the skull of a woman from the mid-17th century during a recent excavation in Venice, Italy.
Found in one of the mass graves used to bury the thousands of people who died from the plague, the woman's skull stood out from all the rest ... mostly because there was a large brick shoved into the mouth, forcing the jaw wide open into a ghoulish, centuries-old howl.
Odd choice of murder weapon, but whatever, you might be thinking. But no! This woman bit the dust before she bit the brick.
Though the person who put that brick there certainly didn't think she was dead at the time.
They most likely believed her to be undead: A Shroud Eater!
Also known as "The Chewing Dead," Shroud Eaters were a type of vampire known for their ability to inflict death and disease without rising from their graves -- by merely chewing on their burial garments.
See?! Like vampire/zombie hybrids! Two great tastes that taste great together! You got zombie on my vampire. You got vampire on my zombie!
Apparently Shroud Eaters weren't unique to Venice, either. The myth of The Chewing Dead (much like the plague itself) spread all over Europe. How to identify and destroy the creatures was considered practical knowledge. If you lived in black plague-era Poland, for example, and happened to see a corpse/cadaver with blood coming out of its mouth (something that naturally happens as a result of decomposition, by the way) or a chewed-through looking shroud, you'd grab the nearest brick or rock and shove it right in that zombie-pire's mouth. No more chewing for you!
Kind of like driving a wooden stake through a heart except ... yuckier. Because if that Shroud Eater were left to its own devices, it would eventually run out of shroud to chomp and move on to body parts -- its own and those of its corpse neighbors -- until at last it was strong enough to be a full-fledged vampire!
I don't know about you, but I can't believe these guys haven't gotten more play! Where's the HBO series? The best-selling books? The film franchise?
I'd be on that like red on blood!!
Do you think Shroud Eaters sound more like vampires or zombies?
Image via Joshua Veitch-Michaelis/Flickr