When one hears the name Santorini, the fist images that cross one’s mind is usually the volcano, a village with white washed houses nestled on the caldera cliff, a breathtaking sunset or maybe, for the wine enthusiasts among us, a chilled glass of white Santorinian wine by the sea after a particularly warm day! But how many of you ever thought that our sunny island also has an occult side to it?
It was not long ago that Santorini, with its wild scenery, was considered a top destination not for tourists but for vampires! In fact, the legend has it that the locals were some of the best vampire slayers around.
Santorinian vampires though (or vrikolakas in Greek), had little to do with the ‘Twilight’ characters that Hollywood has produced. According to the legend, they were people who died a violent death or had unfinished business to take care of. They were not vulnerable to the sun and their only weakness was that they could not cross water (swim). Apparently, they killed their victims by sitting on their chest and suffocating them in their sleep.
A story reports that once, after a lean year on the island, a wealthy man promised his neighbors to help them out, but died before he could fulfill his promise. When the neighbors went to his wife for help, she declined and closed her door. Then the man came back to life as a Vrikolakas and did not rest until every single one of his neighbors was helped. Talk about ‘living up to your word’!
But the vampires were not the only supernatural beings on the island. In the village of Pyrgos, the locals still talk about ‘Neroulia’. Neroulia was the first-born of twelve children of a wealthy merchant. She was kind and sweet, but not very easy on the eyes. Her father, in order to entice potential husbands, built a mansion as a wedding present for the man who would marry her. A short while later Neroulia was engaged but her fiancée fell in love with her sister and they fled the island together. Neroulia was so devastated that she killed herself to escape her grief once and for all. But on certain nights, as the villagers of Pyrgos say, when the wind subsides and the moon is waning, one can hear her cry.
Of course the authenticity of these stories is always challenged and it is up to each person to decide. As the years go by these stories have slowly faded away with fewer locals taking the time to repeat them. Vampires and ghosts apart, Santorini remains a fascinating place to visit and even more to live on! I guess there are few places on earth that do not have their fair share of occult folklore.