If Romania didn't exist, Ananova.com would have to invent it. Seems not a week goes by without another freakshow headline from the land of Vlad the Impaler -- 66-year-old Woman Gives Birth, Driver Fined for Having 'Face Like a Moron,' and this weekend, Murder Charge for Nun-Crucifying Romanian Priest.
On behalf of my Romanian friends, all of whom are much smarter and more sophisticated than me, I'd like to report that their homeland is not an easy place to find quotes like, "They took out his heart, burnt it and drank the ashes in a glass of water." But I'd be lying.
A year ago, I spent a weekend in a small subsistence-farming village in southern Romania near the Danube, and heard that exact same heart-gobbling story told by several different people about separate incidents, though if memory serves it was tea and not water that washed down the blood-organ of the dearly departed. An energetic local Orthodox priest, one of the best commie-haters I've ever met, explained and demonstrated in detail how his parishioners cling to the spooky pre-Christian superstitions of their ancestors, who have lived in the fertile Oltenia region for something like 6,000 consecutive years.
"Ask any priest in this region, and he'll tell you he knows these things are going on," he said. "I know it sounds like a bad B movie, but it's a pagan ritual that happens several times a year . . . Before the dead is put in the coffin, his relatives insert a needle above his bellybutton to prevent him from becoming a strigoi. But if he is already buried, they have to dig up his grave in the middle of the night. The family drinks a lot before opening the coffin!"