The belief that sufferers of “bad” death were able to return from the grave and haunt the living circulated widely in early modern Europe. There are many such accounts of “revenants” attacking the unwary as they slept, spreading disease among local communities, and causing further deaths. For the townsfolk among whom revenants walked, the destructive nature of the undead corpse was never in doubt. Decapitation, staking, and/or cremation were the main methods used to prevent the deceased's influence from spreading. While contemporary scholars came to dismiss “vampires” as being a product of an unenlightened mind-set, little emphasis has been placed on the importance of the emotional makeup of the local community in propagating such beliefs. With reference to recent research on practice theory and the concept of “emotional contagion,” this article will explore the relationship between ill-performed death, social stress, and the agency of the troublesome dead.

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