Nikolai Ovcharov is not a fan of Halloween. He may be one of Bulgaria’s most famous vampire experts, but he prefers a different kind of glass of red. “Sorry to tell you this, but I prefer the young Beaujolais season to Halloween,” he says, referring to the November festival in France to mark the release of bottles of the new vintage.
In fact, Professor Ovcharov is scathing of anything he feels cheapens or sensationalises his archaeological niche. The world may have been astounded by last year’s discovery of a “vampire grave” – a 14th-century skeleton with a stake through its chest – but the academics are a little blasé about it.
“It was a media bomb, we registered enormous interest on this topic,” he says about the find at Sozopol. But he adds that he had made dozens of similar finds over the last two decades, the stakes being part of burial rituals dating back to the 10th century to stop the dead rising as blood-suckers: “We should use these lower interests to show them higher heritage.”
The archaeologist whose team discovered the Sozopol vampire agrees. “It’s ordinary [here],” says Bozhidar Dimitrov, head of the Bulgarian National History Museum. “We never made a noise about it.”