The folklore of the dead returning to life is a worldwide phenomenon. Concentrating on the vampire and revenant legends of eastern Europe, Paul Barber carefully analyzes the few documented cases spanning centuries.
The exhumations of suspected vampires include descriptions of blood on the lips of the dead body, replacement of old skin with new pink skin, a swollen abdomen containing liquefied blood, supple joints, and how the corpse cried out when a stake was driven into its heart. The dead people most commonly accused of being vampires are those dying suddenly or violently and often unobserved—such as by murder, suicide, or drowning. The first person dying at the onset of a sudden epidemic or plague may also be incriminated.
Utilizing modern forensic pathology, Barber argues that the lore of vampire/revenant is an elaborate folk-hypothesis to explain quite natural phenomena of decomposition. Moreover, he notes a universal cultural division between the