Vampires are usually associated with dark, foreboding castles in Transylvania; however, stories of the strigoi exist in other cultures as well. In fact, one of the most chilling tales comes from an Istrian town in a small European country known as modern-day Croatia. It is within this Balkan state that in 1672, Jure Grando became the first real person to ever be described in history as a true vampire.
A small village
The legend of Jure Grando begins in a small Croatian town called Kringa, where life was quiet and conventional. Grando was known to be somewhat of a nasty character, yet he did have a pleasant wife and lived as an ordinary citizen, making a decent living a stonecutter.
Jure Grando died in 1656 due to illness and was buried in the local cemetery. According to the legend, he did not remain in his grave, but rose by night and wandered the village, knocking on doors and frightening anyone who saw him. The townspeople reported that whoever received an ominous knock on the door in the middle of the night would always find a family member dead in the next few days.
According to a 17th century historian, the people residing in Grando's town believed in a type of vampire known as a strignon. These creatures were thought to be sorcerers, who fed on human blood and wandered around in the darkest time of midnight, knocking on doors and silently creeping into houses looking for female victims to assault.
The sightings of Grando went on for 16 long years, and the citizens of the community were terrified. Grando's own wife attested that she too had seen him on several occasions. He appeared in her bedroom window regularly, smiling and gasping for breath, and often sexually assaulted her. She had no idea how to escape his horrible visits. It appeared that old Grando had crossed over from human to strigoi.
Facing their fears
Grando seemed to be unaffected by anything the villagers tried to do. When the priest of the village came face to face with the marauding vampire one night, he held out a cross and exclaimed protection in the name of Christ. This seemed to have no effect on Grando, and the problem continued. Another time, the bravest villager chased him, attempting to pierce his chest with a sharp stick but wasn't successful. Although the villagers were petrified, they just couldn't figure out how to vanquish the beast.
Finally in 1672, the mayor of the village and a determined group of brave young men went to hunt Grando down and put an end to his reign of terror. Nine in total, they walked to the local cemetery and opened the vampire's grave. Despite the date of his death 16 years ago, it is said the men found Grando's body perfectly intact, a broad smile on his pale face. The men were so shocked by the vampire's healthy appearance that they turned and ran back to town.
Once the men had secured the help of the local priest, they returned to Grando's grave and opened it once again. This time, they were prepared to do the unthinkable. First, they attempted to pierce his chest with a wooden stake, but it was not strong enough, so the bravest man grabbed an axe and cut off his head. Grando let out a piercing cry, blood spewing from his wound, and the men quickly covered the grave, burying him a second time.
Many people in the Balkans agree Jure Grando was, indeed, a real man who somehow became a legendary monster. Three different scientific writers from the 19th century have extensively documented the details of Grando's life and afterlife in books and essays. Some of them are more sensationalized than others, but the essential details of his vampiric existence remain the same.
Today, the town of Kringa has little excitement outside of the Grando legend, which has been widely embraced by locals through the creation of vampire-themed bars and touristy shops. In this regard, Grando is still very much alive, keeping the streets of his hometown just a little bit more mysterious.