Jure Grando of Kringa, Croatia

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Belief in vampire-like creatures spans cultures and history throughout the entire world. Everything from the jiangshi of China and the vrykolakas in Greece to the langsuyar of Malaysia or soucouyant in the Caribbean, and, arguably, they could even go as far back as the Goddess Sekhmet of Ancient Egypt who drank blood or the ekimmu of Ancient Mesopotamia. There are even modern sci-fi stories featuring vampires in space.

Vampires are everywhere, and I mean everywhere.

In stories, there are even Amish Vampires in Space. (Now, that's an attention-grabbing book title.)

But what about historical vampires? Vampires that actual historical documents point to and say, "That guy right there? Yeah, he was an actual vampire. A real one."

Turns out, there are a few of those, maybe more than you'd expect, and the first one in the history of the world that we have on record was a man who lived in and unlived in a place called Kringa during the late 1500s and early 1600s.

That man's name was Jure Grando—the world's first documented vampire.

How to Pronounce "Jure Grando"

You can't have a proper conversation about anything without knowing how to say a name. Imagine if you came across someone who kept trying to tell you about a movie they saw a few months ago about a crud-hucking villain named Derpkurla. You would only know what they were talking about if you could piece it together from other clues like Lad Three Fish and his Chevy Impala in Pennsylvania.

You may think "Jure" sounds like "jury," as in "the jury is still out," but you'd be found guilty of egregious articulation. So...

Listen to a native Croatian recording of the name Jure. (A bit like one might say "Yurae" in English.) Luckily, the pronunciation of "Grando" is similar to what most English speakers would say when reading it aloud.

Of course, this matters only if you converse with speech.

Where is Kringa, Istria, Croatia?

The Republic of Croatia has a long history, and I mean really long. The fossil records of the area show evidence of human habitation (or prehuman) all the way back to the Old Stone Age (Paleolithic period), about 3.3 million years ago, when Neanderthal roamed the land.

Google map showing the location of Croatia.

If you've never been to Croatia, and especially if you didn't know where it was on a map, then you might be surprised to find out that you've probably seen quite a few sites from an old city named Dubrovnik that dates back to at least the 7th century. Dubrovnik was one of the primary filming locations for King's Landing in the Game of Thrones HBO series. Here's a walking tour of the Game of Thrones scenes by David Cao and an entire website dedicated to more information on the filming locations.

If you'd like a quick, fun history lesson on Croatia (and I know you do), check out The Animated History of Croatia (~18 minutes).

About 7 hours by car from Dubrovnik, following the coastline northwest and onto the Istrian peninsula, there's a small village named Kringa, with a population of about 300.

Google map showing the location of Kringa on the peninsula of Istria in Croatia.
Village of Kringa on the Istrian peninsula, Croatia.

It was in this village of Kringa, a few hundred years ago, where the first ever vampire was recorded in official documents. His name was Jure Grando Alilović, and he terrorized the village for a stunning sixteen years.

The Story of Jure Grando

The village of Kringa is full of dry-stone walls built in Ancient Rome, many stone houses, and a few old churches. It sits at the top of a hill, surrounded by forest, less than half an hour's drive from the beautiful Adriatic sea, and is home to a story found in the history books about the world's first documented štrigon—a word that blends the meaning of vampire and warlock.

An old illustration of the village of Kringa.
Illustration of the village of Kringa from the 1689 book "The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola" by Johann Weikhard von Valvasor.

In 1656, a local man named Jure "Grando" Alilović, a stonemason, died from an unrecorded illness and was buried in a nearby cemetery. Though his real name was Jure Alilović, he was nicknamed "Grando" due to his burly stature. He left behind his wife, Ivana, and his children, Ana and Nikola Alilović. At the time, local customs called for piercing the tongue of the deceased with a nail to ensure they were dead and to prevent them from rising from the grave. Unfortunately, this was not done at Jure Grando's burial. A few nights later, Jure was seen wandering the village at night with a gruesome smile on his pallid face, a dead sheep thrown over one shoulder, and a black cat riding on his other. He and the cat are said to have eaten the entire sheep as they roamed the village.

Jure Grando returned, night after night, sometimes appearing in the bedroom of his former home and sexually assaulting his widow Ivana. She said that he just kept grinning and gasping for air. Ivana wasn't the only visit Jure Grando made—he went and knocked on the door of a man in the middle of the night, and the man died a few days later. Jure Grando didn't stop there—the knocks in the middle of the night continued, and every house that received a knock ended up with a resident dying within a few days.

The locals were worried and didn't know how to handle a štrigon. Jure Grando's children, Ana and Nikola, left their mother behind and fled all the way to Italy, 550 km or 340 miles away, at a young age to find safety. So, a local priest, Father Giorgio, held mass at Jure Grando's graveside, hoping to stave off the nightly visits and give Ivana peace of mind, but it didn't go as planned because Father Giorgio's attempts at repelling the štrigon only resulted in Jure Grando paying a personal visit to Father Giorgio's home at night and causing him to flee in terror.

During the day, Father Giorgio and County Prefect Miho Radetić dug up the body of Jure Grando and tried to drive a stake through his heart, but no matter how hard they tried, they couldn't puncture the štrigon's chest.

A small stone church.
A small church in Kringa.

Jure Grando kept on crawling from his grave and visiting Kringa—for sixteen years. Can you imagine? Sixteen years of near-nightly visits from a former resident turned undead, roaming the streets at night, looking to catch someone out after dark. Even if you didn't go outside after sunset, a knock on your door during the night spelled your demise.

In 1672, nine villagers rallied together, exhumed the body again, and found it perfectly preserved, with a grim smile still on his face. Like Father Giorgio and County Prefect Miho Radetić, the nine villagers tried to drive a hawthorn stake through Jure Grando's heart, but they were met with the same result and couldn't pierce it—they claimed it simply bounced off. One of the villagers, Stipan Milašić, took an ax and chopped off the štrigon's head. Fresh blood flowed from the wound, and the moment Jure Grando was beheaded, the winds picked up and howled through the cemetery and village, and his body began thrashing. Some villagers fled, while others worked quickly to reseal the grave.

Jure Grando was never seen again.

The story was first told in the 1689 encyclopedia The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola by Johann Weikhard von Valvasor and continues today. The village of Kringa has since embraced the legend and is now happy to spread the word of the world's first vampire to anyone brave enough to visit. A plaque with the names of the nine villagers who saved Kringa was hung at the local school, and there are walking tours of the sites, vampire exhibitions, and film presentations. There's even a vampire bar that hosts monthly "Vampire Nights" featuring horror literature writers. Though, not all the locals are on board with the newfound vampire tourism, as some of the elderly and many attending the local churches see the stories of Jure Grando as nothing to make light of or bring in tourists for and would prefer that Jure Grando stay in the history books.

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