'Vampire' Remains, Venice Researchers Debate 'Exorcism' in 1600s

Vampire remains of Venice have sparked a scientific debate in Italy, as some feel a corpse found with a brick in its mouth was evidence of an exorcism. Other scientists, however, discount the theory as sensationalism.

The "vampire" remains, found in Nuovo Lazzaretto, Venice was among other bodies in a mass grave of 16th century plague victims. Researchers suspect that gravediggers at the time thought vampires existed because one corpse of a woman had a brick shoved into its jaw. The rock could have been used to prevent the bones from chewing through the shroud and biting others.

The "stages which reduce the corpse to a skeleton were poorly known because they happen in the grave," Italian anthropologist Matteo Borrini of the University of Florence told LiveScience. "Graves were usually reopened after years, when the body had completely turned into a skeleton."

The position of the skeleton, the decaying shroud wrapped around the bones, and the rampant vampire superstitions around the time of the plague in Europe could have frightened gravediggers, who then shoved the brick in its mouth.

"Vampires don't exist, but studies show people at the time believed they did," Borrini, who along with his colleague Emilio Nuzzolese suggested the theory to the Journal of Forensic Sciences in 2010. It's since been discussed on Italian national TV. "For the first time we have found evidence of an exorcism against a vampire."

Other researchers feel that the anthropologist is sensationalizing his find, though- the brick could have simply fallen into the skeleton's mouth. Simona Minozzi, a physical anthropologist at the University of Pisa said the pair had "inadequate scientific evidence" to support their claims, especially since many skeletons' mouths hang open, allowing debris to fall in.

"Unfortunately, this is a common practice in the last few years in Italy," she said. "This is probably due to the strong cutting of funds for research in Italy, so researchers seek to attract attention and money through sensational discoveries that often have little to do with science."

Although Borrini denies claims of attention-seeking, one thing is for sure- there's no such thing as vampires. A University of Central Florida physics professor, Costas Efthimiou, debunked the claim with mathematics.

Jan. 1, 1600, the population of the world was 536,870,911. By his calculations, if one vampire bit one person a month- who would then be turned into a vampire themselves- there would be two vampires by February. Four would be around by March, eight by April, and so on. In only 2-and-a-half years, every human on earth would be a vampire.