Vampire child remains with padlock found in Polish cemetery

Archaeologists find a child skeleton with a padlock on foot in a Polish graveyard, supposedly meant to prevent the child from becoming a ghost.
Rizwan Choudhury
Generic skeleton image featuring a skull.
Generic skeleton image featuring a skull.

Source: iStock  

A team of archaeologists in Poland has made a shocking discovery: the 400-year-old skeleton of a child buried face-down with an iron padlock on its foot. The bizarre burial was meant to prevent the child from rising from the dead and haunting the living, according to the researchers.

The child, who was between 5 and 7 years old when she died, was buried in the 17th century in a village graveyard in Pień, near the northern city of Bydgoszcz. The graveyard was used for “abandoned souls” and poor people who could not afford a proper funeral in a churchyard.

Undead or myth?

As  Live Science reports, the child’s skeleton was found near another unusual burial: that of a woman who was buried with a sickle over her neck and a padlock on her foot. She was also believed to be a potential revenant or an undead creature that could harm the living. She was found last year by the same team of archaeologists from the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń.

“The padlock shows people were afraid of this child after its death,” Dariusz Poliński, the leader of the team, told Live Science. He added that this is probably the only known example of such a burial of a child in Europe.

The archaeologists also found a third padlock in the same graveyard, but no complete skeleton nearby. They think that the padlock was attached to another corpse that was later disturbed by animals or grave robbers.

The villagers did not usually bury their dead in the Pień graveyard, as they wished to rest in the holy ground of a church. But the churchyard burial was costly, and only those who had the means could afford it. The rest had to settle for a different place.

This lesser graveyard also seems to have been the place where “abandoned souls” were buried away from the church, even if they had money. For example, another woman's remains were found earlier with a sickle and the padlock was wealthy: she had gold threads in her clothes and gold flecks on her skull, indicating that she had consumed a medicine containing gold. She was also severely ill, according to the archaeologists.


The team is waiting for the results of DNA analysis of both skeletons, which could reveal more details about their identities and causes of death. They also hope to find out if the child was male or female.

The archaeologists said that dead children were especially feared by living people, who thought they might return as ghosts. This fear was even stronger if the child had died suddenly or in an unusual way.

The researchers also clarified that the term “vampire” is not accurate for these burials, as it was not used at that time. The modern concept of vampires emerged later, influenced by folklore and literature.

The team has discovered about 100 graves in Pień so far and plans to continue excavating next year. They have also found bones of other children at the site, but none of them were buried like this one. One child’s jaw had a green stain on it, suggesting that it had a copper coin in its mouth - a common burial tradition at that time.

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board