One way to spot a vampire burial is to look for something obstructing the mouth of the deceased, like a brick, said Matteo Borrini, principal lecturer of forensic anthropology at the Liverpool John Moore University, told Insider. Borrini discovered the body of this 16th-century woman in Venice. He found a brick had been shoved in her mouth, a bizarre occurrence for burials at the time.After careful forensic analysis, Borrini concluded that the brick would have likely been placed there by people fearing she may have risen as a type of vampire called Nachzehrers. In this myth, the body would stay somewhat alive after it was buried. The first sign of a Nachzehrer would be that the body would chew through the shroud they were buried in.While this happened, they would either suck the life force of their living relatives from the grave or rise as an almost dead body. As they did, they would spread the disease, making their family members sicker and sicker until they died. The rock placed in the mouth would have prevented that chewing from happening. Though it sounds very bizarre to us today, the idea that the dead were affecting the living was not so crazy by the standards of the day. The woman's body was buried in a mass grave, at a time when the bubonic plague was causing a lot of deaths.Grave diggers may have come across this body when they opened up the grave to add more bodies. It may have been in an earlier state of decomposition. Maybe it was still pink rather than pale. The shroud may have decomposed around the mouth first, prompting grave diggers to think it had been chewed on. Coming across this body, the frightened grave diggers may have put a brick in the body's mouth, just in case.We can clearly explain all of this. We know that all these changes can be actually explained as a decomposition stage. However, the people in the past didn't have a relation with the body as we have nowadays, right? Borrini said.Vampire burials are also often found in times of strife. This child, who died in the fifth century, was found in an ancient Roman site called the Poggio Gramignano cemetery in Teverina, Italy. The child, who died at about 10 years old, was found buried with a stone in the mouth, in a cemetery for infants and young children.There is evidence that the child died at a time when malaria was sweeping across the area. There's also a very ancient idea of breath being linked to life and the soul and the mouth in particular as being sort of the portal through which the soul exits after death, Jordan Wilson, the lead bio archeologist for the via Romana Poggio Gramignano archeological project, told Insider. The stone may have been a way to keep the child's body or spirit from spreading the disease or generally tormenting the living.It could also have been with the intent to keep the child's body safe from witches, she said.Romans, in particular in Umbria, where the body was found, thought witches had the power to raise the dead and use their souls, she said. There's a very long history of the vampires being linked to disease, said Wilson. In European folklore — you actually also see some of that in the earliest folklore of the United States from the 1600s to the 1800s — there's this idea that if someone in a family dies, especially unexpectedly or under mysterious circumstances, then they might come back and torment the living, starting with their own family, she said.These mythical creatures were blamed for all sorts of misery that couldn't be explained with the science of the time. One example might be if a contagious disease like tuberculosis was spreading through the village, said Borrini. These 'vampires' start to hunt and kill family members first, then the neighbors, and then all the other village. This is the classical pattern of a disease that is contagious, he said.Unlike modern-day myths about vampires, in older myths, vampires were not thought to be nearly as sexy as we think of them today.A lot of stereotypical images of vampires (a noble person, sucking blood by a bite on the neck, hypnotic eyes, fascinating individual with a sexual appeal, etc.) are the results of Victorian novels and more modern movies, said Borrini. Before then, the vampire had a lot less sex appeal, a version that Borrini described as a corpse that is not completely dead and rises from the grave to spread death and diseases.It is the poet Lord Byron who first started shaping the idea of the vampire from a kind of rotting zombie, like a corpse to a sexy aristocrat, Wilson said. Their lurid behavior and neck biting was then used as a sort of metaphor for sex in the books, per Borrini.However, the idea that 'vampirism' is contagious, so that someone that has been lured and caught or killed by a vampire can become a vampire themselves is present in both early traditions and Victorian novels, said Borrini.This body of a man found in a monastery near the Black Sea city of Sozopol, Bulgaria, is another example of a vampire burial.The body was found stabbed through the chest with a piece of iron. Modern depictions of vampires would have us think that staking them through the heart would turn them to dust.But originally, people who buried the bodies were more interested in making sure they didn't get out of the grave. The stake would have been hammered through the body to pin it to the bottom of the grave, Bozhidar Dimitrov who headed the National History Museum in Sofia, Bulgaria, said in 2012 per Reuters. Other ways to keep the body in the grave, spiritually or physically, would be to nail down the shroud that they were wrapped in, to weigh them down with stones, or to place rose thorns on their graves, Borrini said.This body found in a cemetery in Drawsko, Poland, is also thought to be a vampire burial. The body was one of six that had so-called deviant burials in the cemetery buried between the 17th and 18th centuries. Two of the bodies interred as deviant burials had stones under the chins. A 2014 study looking at these bodies concluded that this may be to prevent them from biting others or to block their throats to keep them from feeding. Others in the cemetery were found with sickles positioned across their necks or waists. In the 2014 study, the authors said these were intended to remove the head or open the gut should the corpses attempt to rise from the grave. In a lot of cultures, metal has special ritual and magical significance. So it could have a dual purpose: the physical pinning down or binding, but also the kind of ritual binding, said Wilson.A set of remains that could possibly be a vampire burial was uncovered last month in a cemetery in Pién, Poland.The body is of a woman who died in the 17th century, who was likely of high status and was found with a sickle across her throat and a padlock on her left big toe. Though the remains are still under investigation, scientists who uncovered her believe this means she was likely someone people were concerned may rise from the grave, perhaps because they thought she was a vampire. For Borrini, the evidence they presented so far doesn't amount to a vampire grave, at least for now.The fact that the feet were locked in the graves is something well known, not necessarily for vampires, but for all the situations in which we had the fear that the person was coming back, he said.