BELGRADE Nov. 29, 2012— -- For the people in a tiny Serbian village there is nothing sexy or romantic about a vampire. In fact, they are terrified that one of the most feared vampires of the area has been roused back to life.
Rather than 'Twilight's' Edward, the people of Zorazje fear that Sava Savanovic is lurking in their forested mountains of western Serbia.
They believe that he is on the move because the home he occupied for so long, a former water mill, recently collapsed. Savanovic is believed to be looking for a new home.
"People are very worried. Everybody knows the legend of this vampire and the thought that he is now homeless and looking for somewhere else and possibly other victims is terrifying people," Miodrag Vujetic, local municipal assembly member, told ABC News. "We are all frightened."
Vujetic said villagers "are all taking precautions by having holy crosses and icons placed above the entrance to the house, rubbing our hands with garlic, and having a hawthorn stake or thorn."
"I understand that people who live elsewhere in Serbia are laughing at our fears, but here most people have no doubt that vampires exist," he says.
According to legend, Savanovic would kill and drink the blood of the peasants who came to grind their grain at his watermill on the Rogacica River. Tour groups from around the Balkans would come to see the mill. But even tourism had its limits.
"We were welcoming tourists, but only during the day. Nobody ever overnighted there," said Slobodan Jagodic, whose family owned the mill for over 60 years.
"We were too scared to repair it, not to disturb Sava Savanovic," says Jagodic. "It's even worse now that it collapsed due to lack of repair."
Traditions die slowly in this part of the world. "In the dark forested mountains of Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Croatia, many people still believe in vampires and take them quite seriously," says Dr. James Lyon, Ph.D, a noted Balkan historian who has done extensive research on the folklore behind vampires.
"In local folklore, vampires are not potential boyfriends. Rather, they are hideous, blood thirsty creatures with red eyes and iron teeth that bloat when they feed, and are able to shift their shape," says Lyon, author of "Kiss of the Butterfly," a historical thriller about vampires in the Serbia.
Savanovic has maintained his notoriety in modern Serbia. He was featured in a 19th century book "Ninety Years Later" written by Milovan Glisic, whose book inspired a 1972 horror film "Leptirica" (Butterfly), widely watched throughout all of former Yugoslavia. More recently, Savanovic appeared in an award winning book "Fear and Its Servant" written by Mirjana Novakovic.
The Balkans have long established itself as Ground Zero for vampires when it comes to fanged folklore, and Serbia is a leader in this, according to Lyon.
"Vampires originated in Serbia, not Romania," says Lyon. "The word vampire entered western languages from Serbia in the late 1720s."
Austrian forces returning from conquests in Ottoman Serbia in the early 1700s brought back vampire stories, which circulated throughout Europe, later inspiring Byron, Keats and Coleridge, he claims.
"In 1730-31 the Austrian Army sent a military surgeon into Serbia to conduct autopsies on suspected vampires. He and other Austrian Army officers wrote of their experiences, and these records still exist today," Lyons said.
Documented reports of vampire-related activity continue to this day throughout the Balkans, the most recent having occurred in 2011 in Serbia.
Back in Zarozje, villagers will have to be on their guard for at least seven more months, because local legend holds that vampires are most active between Christmas and the Feast of the Ascension on June 7.