ZAROZJE, Serbia — Get your garlic, crosses and stakes ready: A bloodsucking vampire is on the loose.
Or so say villagers in the tiny western hamlet of Zarozje, nestled between lush green mountain slopes and spooky thick forests. They say rumors that a legendary vampire ghost has awakened are spreading fear — and a potential tourist opportunity — through the remote village.
A local council warned villagers to put garlic in their pockets and place wooden crosses in rooms to ward off vampires, although it appeared designed more to attract visitors to the impoverished region bordering Bosnia.
Many of the villagers are aware that Sava Savanovic, Serbia's most famous vampire, is a fairy tale. Still, they say, better to take it seriously than risk succumbing to the vampire's fangs.
"The story of Sava Savanovic is a legend, but strange things did occur in these parts back in the old days," said housewife Milka Prokic, holding a string of garlic in one hand and a large wooden stake in another, as an appropriately moody mist rose above the surrounding hills. "We have inherited this legend from our ancestors, and we keep it alive for the younger generations."
Some locals say it's easy for strangers to laugh at them, but they truly believe.
"Five people have recently died one after another in our small community, one hanging himself," said Miodrag Vujetic, a local municipal council member. "This is not by accident."
Vujetic, however, said "whatever is true about Sava," locals should use the legend to promote tourism.
"If Romanians could profit on the Dracula legend with the tourists visiting Transylvania, why can't we do the same with Sava?"