[French, from German Vampir, of Slavic origin.]vampiric vam·pir'ic (văm-pĭr'ĭk) or vam·pir'i·cal (-ĭ-kəl) or vam'pir'ish (-ĭsh) adj.
The predatory aristocrat whose blood-lust leads him to drain the blood of peasants, usually young women, is the stock figure of the vampire as represented by the cinematic Nosferatu, John Polidori's Lord Ruthven, and Bram Stoker's Count Dracula. For the ‘undead’, this exsanguination is a reproductive act, that conflates both food and sex. The most effective means of reproduction for the vampire, however, has been textual. Novels such as Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla (1872), Stoker's Dracula (1897), and Prest's Varney the Vampire (1847) have perpetuated an image that continues to replicate itself throughout our culture rather like a virus. Vampirism is encoded within popular culture through a complex nexus of literature, folklore, and fantasy.
Traditionally the revenant, or undead, is a mouldering corpse dragging itself out of graves to feed off the life-blood of the living. Premature burial arising from times of plague is one explanation for the prevalence of the vampire phenomenon at certain periods in history. The mecca for vampires is Eastern Europe. The word itself is believed to be of Magyar origin, possibly derived from the Turkish uber, meaning witch. The term was first used in English in 1734, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, where vampires are described as ‘The bodies of deceased persons, animated by evil spirits, which come out of the graves in the night-time, suck the blood of many of the living, and thereby destroy them’.
In contrast, Stoker's eroticized and glamorous cloaked Count is a hybrid of the Wandering Jew and his hypnotic gaze, the libertine Lord Ruthven, who is based on Byron, and at least two notorious historical figures, whose careers were drenched in the blood of Eastern European peoples. These were Vlad Tepes, impaler and Romanian Prince, and Elizabeth Báthory, a Hungarian aristocrat, who was known as the Blood Countess of Cachtice. A sixteenth-century mass murderer whose sadomasochistic practices included biting off the flesh of her victims, Báthory's cruelties towards her servants escalated into capturing women and young girls who were then tortured and killed. Estimates of the numbers range from from thirty to over seven hundred. Their blood was drained for the Countess's rejuvenating bloodbaths, by such torturous contraptions as the cruelly spiked Iron Maiden. The horrors of Báthory's necro-sadism were written out of criminal history into fairy-tale, where she is represented as the wicked queen in Snow White, who contemplates her beauty at her looking-glass for hours on end. As this pathological behaviour suggests, vampirism can be a clinical phenomenon within which folklore, fantasy, and deviant behaviour converge.
The ingestion of blood can complement necrophilia, which consists largely of sexual satisfaction derived from physical contact with a dead body. Auto-vampirism can include self-induced bleeding, or auto-haemofetishism, which is a condition whereby sexual pleasure is derived from the sight of blood.
The most well-known association of pathological conditions with vampires and werewolves was with the rare group of diseases called porphyrias. Caused by the body's over-production of porphyrins — a normal component of haemoglobin (due in fact to an inborn error of metabolism), one type of this condition caused George III to produce blue urine and to collapse, foaming at the mouth. More obviously vampiric forms of the illness present themselves as an intolerance to light, wherein the skin cracks and bleeds, the gums and upper lip recede, and there is redness of the eyes, teeth, and skin. Seclusion from daylight and, ironically, drinking blood were prescribed remedies.
anaemia has also been attributed to the vampire. During the nineteenth century, sufferers on this side of the grave were treated with animal blood, which they were expected to imbibe. In Joseph-Ferdinand Gueldry's painting, The Blood Drinkers, of 1898, a line of pale and languid women queue up in an abattoir for a glass of warm ox's blood. It is likely that their anaemia had been caused by menstrual losses.
A link between menstruation and vampirism is made by Freud in his essay ‘The Taboo of Virginity’ (1918). Again, among the myriad ways in which Dracula may be read is as an anti-menstrual subtext, which pathologizes femininity and constructs female blood as polluted and male blood as pure. From the writings on menstrual taboo of Stoker's contemporary, James Frazer, in The Golden Bough, we can infer similarities between vampires and menstruating women. Both are condemned as unclean, agents of pollution, and instigators of corruption. Sharing an avoidance of mirrors and crucifixes, they have been barred from many churches, temples, and synagogues. Some pre-industrial societies believed that a man could die from having contact, particularly intercourse, with a menstruating woman — and to make love with a vampire was potentially lethal. In such cultures, after menarche, a young girl would be kept out of the sun lest she, vampire-like, shrivel up into a withered skeleton. Frazer explains that for their own protection these adolescent girls were kept in tenebrous seclusion, where they were suspended between life and death, heaven and earth, until marriage. Likewise, the vampire exists in a bodily state that is between life and death and in a spiritual limbo betwixt heaven and earth. The coffins to which vampires retreat in the day serve, like menstrual huts, as places of seclusion and safety. For both vampires, their victims, and menstruating women, it is normal for blood to flow outside the body. Mythologized as transgressing the natural order, menstruating women in some cultures have a kinship with vampires.
Psychic vampirism is an affliction that, according to the Victorian physician Jules Michelet, affects young girls: ‘A hysterical girl is … a vampire who sucks the blood of the healthy people around her.’ The female vampire is a species of the femme fatale, whose deadly vampiric embrace can be seen as a metaphor for the transmission of syphilis — a potentially lethal, sexually transmitted disease. Not just young female patients but also the male doctors, too, who are known as leeches or blood-suckers and who practise blood-letting, partake of the nature of vampires.
In his vampire-hunter's manual, called Traité sur les Apparitions des Ésprits et sur les Vampires (Paris 1746), Dom Augustine Calmet provides case histories of how he set out to ‘cure’ the supposed plague of vampires that was infecting eighteenth-century Europe. His first resort was decapitation, staking out the heart, and then incineration. The overkill of this zealous Benedictine monk was presumably due to the ambivalent attitude towards death which characterized the average vampire. More apotropaic methods (techniques for turning evil away) included stuffing objects into the orifices of corpses or confronting the ambulatory blood-sucker with a crucifix. The latest breed of fictional vampires, such as Ann Rice's androgynous vampires in her Vampire Chronicles, which began publication in 1976, have proved to be a strain resistant to such apotropaics, while Poppy Z. Brite's vampires are immune to the deleterious effects of religious symbolism. For them vampirism is drained of signification. In Lost Souls (1992), which is an appropriate title for the vampire entering post-modernism, the sexual significance of vampirism is no longer a means of reproduction but a sadomasochistic diversion.
The vampire is a sublimation of our fears of death and disease, articulating our resistance to an acceptance of the process of decomposition. Human decay involves discolouration, bloating, and leaking of blood-stained fluid from the mouth and nostrils — which have been misinterpreted as the superfluities of a blood-satiated cadaver. The taboos surrounding putrefaction and funereal rights, which can involve the second burial of the exhumed undead, suggest that it is not until a corpse no longer resembles the living, and only when it resides in its skeletal state as a momento mori, that the living can truly rest in peace.
— Marie Mulvey-Roberts
Thanks to Bram Stoker and his ilk, we know all about vampires. We know that they once were people but now are dead; that they can't stand sunlight and spend their days in their coffins; that they have no reflections in mirrors because they have no souls; that they cannot enter a house without being invited but once invited can enter again and again; that for convenience they can change into vampire bats; that they drink the blood of others with the result that these others become vampires after death; and that, being dead already, they're very hard to kill, the effective methods being beheading, cremation, or a stake through the heart.
But what about the name vampire? Where did that come from? That's harder to determine. We know that words like vampire were thick as bats in the Slavic languages of eastern Europe in the Middle Ages. Russian, Polish, Czech, Bulgarian, and Serbo-Croatian all had vampir, while Bulgarian also had vapir or vepir. There is also a variant beginning with u, as in Polish upiór, Russian upyr', Ukrainian uper or upyr. It is possible that this u-word came from Turkish uber, meaning "witch," and also possible that that u-word was the ancestor of vampire. And perhaps not. For our purposes, Serbo-Croatian is as good a candidate for the word's source as any other. Its word is vampir, the same form that made its way through such intermediate languages as Hungarian, German, and French to arrive in England by 1734. An English document of that date declares that "These Vampyres are supposed to be the Bodies of deceased Persons, animated by evil Spirits, which come out of the Graves, in the Night-time, suck the Blood of many of the Living, and thereby destroy them." That about sums it up.
Serbo-Croatian is a Slavic Indo-European language spoken both by Serbs and by Croats in Yugoslavia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, more than 20,000,000 people altogether. But since the people are not all together, and since the two cultures have recently become enemies, or at least gone their separate ways, they prefer to consider themselves speakers of two separate languages, Serbian and Croatian. The chief difference between the two is that Serbian is usually written in a Cyrillic (or Russian) alphabet, Croatian in a Roman one. From this language, or these languages, English has also imbibed slivovitz (1885) or plum brandy and has learned to wear a cravat (1656) or necktie, a word that traces back from French to German to the Serbo-Croatian word meaning a Croat. Neckties were worn by Croatian mercenaries in France.
In East European folklore, a vampire is a bloated, blood-filled corpse which leaves its tomb, bringing disease and death. It is often assumed that the concept was unknown in England until imported (in glamorized form) by 19th-century novelists. However, William of Newburgh in the late 12th century recorded several contemporary accounts of active corpses, one of which corresponds perfectly to the folkloric vampire's appearance and behaviour (Historia Rerum Anglicarum, book V, chapter 24).
It appeared at Alnwick (Northumberland) in 1196, emerging nightly from its grave to roam the streets, corrupting the air with ‘pestiferous breath’, so that plague broke out and many died. When two bold men decided to ‘dig up this baneful pest and burn it with fire’, they found the corpse much closer to the surface than they had expected; it had swollen to a horrifying size, its face was ‘turgid and suffused with blood’, and its shroud in tatters. They gave it a sharp blow with a spade; from the wound gushed ‘such a stream of blood that it might have been taken for a leech (sanguisuga) filled with the blood of many people’ (trans. Stevenson, 1856/1996: 660-1). So they tore the heart out, dragged the body away, and burned it; this put an end to the plague.
William gives three further accounts of aggressive undead (chapters 22-4), all recent and vouched for by eyewitnesses. In Buckinghamshire, a dead man returned to his widow's bed, almost crushing her with his weight, and then terrorized kinsmen and neighbours; the body was found uncorrupted, and a written pardon was laid on its breast, though some had advised burning it. At Berwick-on-Tweed, a ‘pestiferous corpse’ roamed the city, ‘pursued by a pack of dogs with loud barkings’; it was cut to pieces by ten brave young men, and burnt. At Melrose (Scotland) a monk who was attacked by a corpse struck it with an axe and chased it back to its grave; next day it was dug up to be burnt, and observers noted its ‘huge wound, and a great quantity of gore which had flowed from it in the sepulchre’.
Though blood is only mentioned in two of these tales, all have features regularly associated with vampires in Europe—the link with plague, and the need to destroy the uncorrupted bodies. In later folklore, a tradition persisted that suicides, criminals, or witches should be staked ‘to stop them walking’.
Full translations of the texts are in Joseph Stevenson, The History of William of Newburgh (1856; reprint 1996), 656-61; and Montague Summers, The Vampire in Europe (1929; reprint 1996), 80-8. The latter renders sanguisuga (literally ‘blood-sucker’) as ‘vampire’, not ‘leech’; though tempting, this is too bold. For European vampire lore, see Paul Barber, Vampires, Burial and Death: Folklore and Reality (1988).
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From our Archives: Today's Highlights, March 10, 2010
See A. Masters, The Natural History of the Vampire (1972); N. Auerbach, Our Vampires, Ourselves (1995).
Russian vampir, South Russian upuir, probably from the root pi, to drain, with the prefix va, or av. A dead person who returns in spirit form from the grave for the purpose of sucking the blood of living persons, or a living sorcerer who takes a special form for destructive purpose. Webster's International Dictionarydefines a vampire as "a blood-sucking ghost or reanimated body of a dead person; a soul or re-animated body of a dead person believed to come from the grave and wander about by night sucking the blood of persons asleep, causing their death."
The belief in vampires is an ancient one. It was found in ancient India, Babylonia, Greece, and for a time accepted by early Christians. The conception of the vampire was common among Slavonic peoples, especially in the Balkan countries and in Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia.
In these territories from 1730 to 1735, there was a claimed epidemic of vampirism, but it was by no means confined there. In Russia and the Ukraine it was believed that vampires were generally wizards or sorcerers, but in Bulgaria and Serbia it was thought that any corpse over which a cat or a dog jumped or over which a bird flew was liable to become a vampire. In Greece, a vampire was known as a broncolaia or bourkabakos, which was identified with the Slavonic name for "werewolf,"vlkodlak, or vukodlak. The vampire, too, was often supposed to steal the heart of his victim and to roast it over a slow fire, thus causing interminable amorous longings.
Marks of Vampirism
Vampirism is said to be epidemic in character: where one instance is discovered it is almost invariably followed by several others. It is believed that the victim of a vampire pines away and dies and becomes in turn a vampire after death, and so duly infects others.
After the disinterment of a suspected vampire, various well-known signs are looked for by experienced persons. Thus, if several holes about the breadth of a man's finger are observed in the soil above the grave, the vampire character of its occupant may be suspected. The corpse is usually found with wide-open eyes, ruddy, life-like complexion and lips, a general appearance of freshness, and shows no signs of corruption.
It may also be found that the hair and nails have grown as in life. On the throat, two small livid marks may be observed. The coffin is also very often full of blood, the body has a swollen and gorged appearance, and the shroud is frequently half-devoured. The blood contained in the veins of the corpse is found, on examination, to be in a fluid condition as in life, and the limbs are pliant and have none of the rigidity of death.
Examples of Vampirism
Many tales of vampirism have been recorded. Charles Ferdinand de Schertz, in his work Magia Posthuma, printed at Olmutz in 1706, related several stories of apparitions of this sort.
At last, the inhabitants of Blow dug up the herdsman's body and fixed it in the ground with a stake driven through it. The man, even in this condition, laughed at the action of the people about him and told them they were very obliging to furnish him with a stick with which to defend himself.
The same night, he extricated himself from the stake, frightened several persons by appearing to them, and caused the deaths of many more individuals. He was then delivered into the hands of the hangman, who put him into a cart in order to burn him outside the town. As they went along, the carcass shrieked in the most hideous manner and moved as if it were alive, and upon being again run through with a stake, it gave a loud cry, and a great quantity of fresh blood issued from the wound. At last, the body was burned to ashes.
Augustine Calmet, in his Dissertation on Vampires appended to his Dissertation upon the Apparitions of Angels, Demons, and Ghosts (English translation, 1759), gave several instances of vampirism: "It is now about fifteen years since a soldier, who was quartered in the house of a Haidamack peasant, upon the frontiers of Hungary, saw, as he was at the table with his landlord, a stranger come in and sit down by them. The master of the house and the rest of the company were strangely terrified, but the soldier knew not what to make of it. The next day the peasant died, and, upon the soldier's enquiring into the meaning of it, he was told that it was his landlord's father who had been dead and buried above ten years that came and sat down at table, and gave his son notice of his death.
"The soldier soon propagated the story through his regiment, and by this means it reached the general officers, who commissioned the count de Cabreras … to make an exact enquiry into the fact. The count, attended by several officers, a surgeon, and a notary, came to the house, and took the deposition of all the family, who unanimously swore that the spectre was the landlord's father, and that all the soldier had said was strictly true. The same was also attested by all the inhabitants of the village.
"In consequence of this the body of the spectre was dug up, and found to be in the same state as if it has been but just dead…. The count de Cabreras ordered its head to be cut off, and the corpse to be buried again. He then proceeded to take depositions against other spectres of the same sort, and particularly against a man who had been dead above thirty years, and had made his appearance there several times in his own house at meal-time. At his first visit he had fastened upon the neck of his own brother, and sucked his blood; at his second, he had treated one of his children in the same manner; and the third time, he fastened upon a servant of the family, and all three died upon the spot.
"Upon this evidence, the count gave orders that he should be dug up, and being found, like the first, with his blood in a fluid state, as if he had been alive, a great nail was drove through his temples, and he was buried again. The count ordered a third to be burnt, who had been dead above sixteen years, and was found guilty of murdering two of his own children by sucking their blood.
"The gentleman who acquainted me with all these particulars, had them from the count de Cabreras himself, at Fribourg in Brisgau, in the year 1730."
Other cases alluded to by Calmet are as follows: "In the part of Hungary … on the other side of the Tibiscus,… the people named Heydukes have a notion that there are dead persons, called by them vampires, which suck the blood of the living, so as to make them fall away visibly to skin and bones, while the carcasses themselves, like leeches, are filled with blood to such a degree that it comes out at all the apertures of their body. This notion has lately been confirmed by several facts.
"About five years ago, an Heyduke, named Arnold Paul, an inhabitant of Medreiga, was killed by a cart full of hay that fell upon him. About thirty days after his death, four persons died suddenly, with all the symptoms usually attending those who are killed by vampires. It was then remembered that this Arnold Paul had frequently told a story of his having been tormented by a Turkish vampire, in the neighbourhood of Cassova, upon the borders of Turkish Servia (for the notion is that those who have been passive vampires in their life-time become active ones after death; or, in other words, that those who have had their blood sucked become suckers in their turn) but that he had been cured by eating some of the earth upon the vampire's grave, and by rubbing himself with his blood. This precaution, however, did not hinder him from being guilty himself after his death; for, upon digging up his corpse forty days after his burial, he was found to have all the marks of an arch-vampire. His body was fresh and ruddy, his hair, beard, and nails were grown, and his veins were full of fluid blood, which ran from all parts of his body upon the shroud that he was buried in. The hadnagy, or bailiff of the village, who was present at the digging up of the corpse, and was very expert in the whole business of vampirism, ordered a sharp stake to be drove quite through the body of the deceased, and to let it pass through his heart, which is attended with a hideous cry from the carcass, as if it had been alive. This ceremony being performed, they cut off the head, and burnt the body to ashes. After this, they proceeded in the same manner with the four other persons that died of vampirism, lest they also should be troublesome. But all these executions could not hinder this dreadful prodigy from appearing again last year, at the distance of five years from its first breaking out. In the space of three months, seventeen persons of different ages and sexes died of vampirism, some without any previous illness, and others after languishing two or three days. Among others, it was said, that a girl, named Stanoska, … went to bed in perfect health, but awoke in the middle of the night, trembling, and crying out that the son of the Heyduke Millo, who died about nine weeks before, had almost strangled her while she was asleep. From that time she fell into a languishing state, and died at three days' end. Her evidence against Millo's son was looked upon as a proof of his being a vampire, and, upon digging up his body, he was found to be such.
"At the consultation of the principal inhabitants of the place, … it was considered how it was possible that the plague of vampirism should break out afresh, after the precautions that had been taken some years before: and, at last, it was found out that the original offender, Arnold Paul, had not only destroyed the four persons mentioned above, but had killed several beasts, which the late vampires, and particularly the son of Millo, had fed upon. Upon this foundation a resolution was taken to dig up all the persons that had died within a certain time. Out of forty were found seventeen, with all the evident tokens of vampirism; and they had all stakes drove through their hearts, their heads cut off, their bodies burnt, and their ashes thrown into the river."
Methods of Extirpation
The commonest methods of extirpation of vampires are beheading the suspected corpse, taking out the heart, impaling the corpse with a white-thorn stake (in Russia an aspen), and burning it. Sometimes more than one or all of these precautions is taken.
Instances are on record where the graves of as many as thirty or forty persons have been disturbed during the course of an epidemic of suspected vampirism and their occupants impaled or beheaded.
When impaled, the vampire is usually said to emit a dreadful cry, but it has been pointed out that intestinal gas may be forced through the throat by the entry of the stake into the body, and that this may account for the sound.
The method of discovering a vampire's grave in Serbia was to place a virgin boy upon a coal-black stallion which had never served a mare and to mark the spot that the horse refused to pass. An officer quartered in Wallachia wrote to Calmet, giving him an instance of this method.
A Bulgarian belief was that a wizard or sorcerer may entrap a vampire by placing some food for which the vampire has a partiality in a bottle. When the vampire enters in the shape of fluff, the sorcerer can seal up the flask and throw it into the fire.
Scientific Views of Vampirism
The British custom of piercing a suicide's body with a stake would appear to be a remnant of the belief in vampirism. Such beliefs were also to be seen in the Polynesian tii, the Malayan hantu penyardin (a dog-headed water demon), and the kephn of the Karens, which devoured human souls.
The English anthropologist E. B. Tylor considered vampires to be "causes conceived in spiritual form to account for specific facts of wasting disease." The Russian folklorist Alexander N. Afansyev regarded them as thunder gods and spirits of the storm, who sleep during winter in cloud coffins and rise again in spring.
Calmet's difficulty in accepting vampires was that he could not understand how a spirit could leave its grave and return there with matter in the form of blood, leaving no evidence that the surface of the earth above the grave had been stirred. But this view might be combated by the theory of the precipitation of matter.
In modern times, it is easy to understand how individuals in an unrecognized condition of cataleptic trance might have been prematurely buried alive and upon regaining consciousness have struggled to escape their horrible plight. Their bodies would have exhibited many of the signs associated with vampires.
It is now also generally known that some individuals suffer from a morbid fascination with human blood, and it would have been easy in the past to associate such unnatural appetite with vampirism. The infamous Countess Elizabeth Bathory of Transylvania (d. 1614) was reputed to have murdered nearly 700 young women in the belief that their blood would keep her young.
No doubt the observed activities of the various types of vampire bats (Desmodus Rufus, Didemus Yungi, Diphylla Caudata, Des-modus Rotunda) in sucking blood from cattle and horses have helped to spread legends of vampires. The vampire bat drinks 20 ccs of blood per day and has been known to attack human beings. It also spreads rabies, thus enhancing stories of a vampire plague.
Psychic Theories of Vampires
Some individuals seem to have the ability to draw some kind of psychic energy from others. Every stage performer or public speaker is aware of the rapport which exists between performer and audience, and many have become expert at gaining confidence and power through some instinctive techniques of centralizing and transforming psychic or nervous energy.
The common experience of out-of-the-body travel or astral projection has sometimes been associated with visits to other individuals, as well as contacts with frightening elementals on the astral plane. Some occultists appear to have mastered techniques by which they can astrally project, and visit their victims while asleep and drain their vitality from them.
During the nineteenth century, the French Spiritualist Z. J. Piérart attempted to reconcile the theory of premature burial with astral projection by those who died after being buried alive. He wrote: "Poor dead cataleptics, buried as if really dead in cold and dry spots where morbid causes are incapable of effecting the destruction of their bodies, the astral spirit enveloping itself with a fluidic ethereal body, is prompted to quit the precincts of its tomb and to exercise on living bodies acts peculiar to physical life, especially that of nutrition, the result of which, by a mysterious link between soul and body which spiritualistic science will some day explain, is forwarded to the material body lying still within the tomb, and the latter is thus helped to perpetuate its vital existence."
Adolphe d'Assier, in his book Posthumous Humanity (1887), admitted that the body of the vampire may be dead but the spirit earthbound and obsessed with the idea that the physical body must be saved from dissolution. Consequently the dense astral body feeds on human victims and, by some mysterious process, conveys the blood into the tomb.
Following the occult boom of the 1950s, Bram Stoker 's powerful but much neglected masterpiece Dracula was taken up again, examined by critics and found to be as full of vitality as during Stoker's own lifetime. Almost by contagion, it has generated a plethora of horror movies, plays, and other vampire thrillers.
In Britain, the Dracula Society, with its general interest in Gothic themes, pioneered tourist expeditions to Transylvania, and in Stoker's Ireland, a Bram Stoker Society was founded to honor a much neglected Irishman. Through the 1980s and 1990s, the most active organization was the Count Dracula Fan Club, headquartered in New York City. However, in 1999, the club announced its closing.
Much of the interest in vampires has also been carried by fan clubs that have grown out of television series. "Dark Shadows" fandom, from the 1960s, had retained its vitality for over 30 years and still attracts 400-600 members to its annual meeting. Another set of fan clubs sprung up from "Forever Knight," the series featuring a vampire policeman from Toronto. As the century ended, vampire fandom received an unexpected boost from the successful series, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
In the 1990s, interest in vampires shifted largely to the Internet where thousands of sites cover all aspects of the vampire world. Over 2000 sites alone were devoted just to the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" show in 1999. Vampire Junction, formerly a fan magazine, was one of the first to make the transition to the Internet and emerged as one of the most complete guides to vampires.
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Originally part of central European folklore, they now appear in horror stories as living corpses who need to feed on human blood. A vampire will leave his coffin at night, disguised as a great bat, to seek his innocent victims, bite their necks with his long, sharp teeth, and suck their blood.
As important figures in folklore, vampires can simple be representations of our generic fears and anxieties. As creatures of darkness, vampires can particularly represent fears and anxieties arising out of our unconscious. Symbolically, a vampire is someone or something that sucks the life blood out of us. Alternatively, vampires can embody anxieties about our sexuality.
Vampires are mythological or folkloric beings who subsist by feeding on the life essence (generally in the form of blood) of living creatures, regardless of whether they are undead or a living person/being. Although vampiric entities have been recorded in many cultures, and may go back to "prehistoric times", the term vampire was not popularized until the early 18th century, after an influx of vampire superstition into Western Europe from areas where vampire legends were frequent, such as the Balkans and Eastern Europe, although local variants were also known by different names, such as vrykolakas in Greece and strigoi in Romania. This increased level of vampire superstition in Europe led to mass hysteria and in some cases resulted in corpses actually being staked and people being accused of vampirism.
While even folkloric vampires of the Balkans and Eastern Europe had a wide range of appearance ranging from nearly human to bloated rotting corpses, it was interpretation of the vampire by the Christian Church and the success of vampire literature, namely John Polidori's 1819 novella The Vampyre that established the archetype of charismatic and sophisticated vampire; it is arguably the most influential vampire work of the early 19th century, inspiring such works as Varney the Vampire and eventually Dracula. The Vampyre was itself based on Lord Byron's unfinished story "Fragment of a Novel", also known as "The Burial: A Fragment", published in 1819.
However, it is Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula that is remembered as the quintessential vampire novel and which provided the basis of modern vampire fiction. Dracula drew on earlier mythologies of werewolves and similar legendary demons and "was to voice the anxieties of an age", and the "fears of late Victorian patriarchy". The success of this book spawned a distinctive vampire genre, still popular in the 21st century, with books, films, video games, and television shows. The vampire is such a dominant figure in the horror genre that literary historian Susan Sellers places the current vampire myth in the "comparative safety of nightmare fantasy".
The Oxford English Dictionary dates the first appearance of the word vampire in English from 1734, in a travelogue titled Travels of Three English Gentlemen published in the Harleian Miscellany in 1745. However, earlier references to the word vampire can be found in the form of vampyre. An example is found in re-telling the famous case of Arnold Paole, where the London Journal of March 11, 1732, describes vampyres in Hungary (actually northern Serbia) as sucking the blood of the living. Vampires had already been discussed in French and German literature. After Austria gained control of northern Serbia and Oltenia with the Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718, officials noted the local practice of exhuming bodies and "killing vampires". These reports, prepared between 1725 and 1732, received widespread publicity.
The English term was derived (possibly via French vampyre) from the German Vampir, in turn derived in the early 18th century from the Serbian вампир/vampir, when Arnold Paole, a purported vampire in Serbia was described during the time Serbia was incorporated into the Austrian Empire.
The Serbian form has parallels in virtually all Slavic languages: Bulgarian and Macedonian вампир (vampir), Croatian vampir, Czech and Slovak upír, Polish wąpierz, and (perhaps East Slavic-influenced) upiór, Ukrainian упир (upyr), Russian упырь (upyr'), Belarusian упыр (upyr), from Old East Slavic упирь (upir'). (Note that many of these languages have also borrowed forms such as "vampir/wampir" subsequently from the West; these are distinct from the original local words for the creature.) The exact etymology is unclear. Among the proposed proto-Slavic forms are *ǫpyrь and *ǫpirь. Another, less widespread theory, is that the Slavic languages have borrowed the word from a Turkic term for "witch" (e.g., Tatar ubyr).
Czech linguist Václav Machek proposes Slovak verb "vrepiť sa" (stick to, thrust into), or its hypothetical anagram "vperiť sa" (in Czech, archaic verb "vpeřit" means "to thrust violently") as an etymological background, and thus translates "upír" as "someone who thrusts, bites". 
The notion of vampirism has existed for millennia; cultures such as the Mesopotamians, Hebrews, Ancient Greeks, and Romans had tales of demons and spirits which are considered precursors to modern vampires. However, despite the occurrence of vampire-like creatures in these ancient civilizations, the folklore for the entity we know today as the vampire originates almost exclusively from early-18th-century southeastern Europe, when verbal traditions of many ethnic groups of the region were recorded and published. In most cases, vampires are revenants of evil beings, suicide victims, or witches, but they can also be created by a malevolent spirit possessing a corpse or by being bitten by a vampire. Belief in such legends became so pervasive that in some areas it caused mass hysteria and even public executions of people believed to be vampires.
It is difficult to make a single, definitive description of the folkloric vampire, though there are several elements common to many European legends. Vampires were usually reported as bloated in appearance, and ruddy, purplish, or dark in colour; these characteristics were often attributed to the recent drinking of blood. Indeed, blood was often seen seeping from the mouth and nose when one was seen in its shroud or coffin and its left eye was often open. It would be clad in the linen shroud it was buried in, and its teeth, hair, and nails may have grown somewhat, though in general fangs were not a feature.
The causes of vampiric generation were many and varied in original folklore. In Slavic and Chinese traditions, any corpse that was jumped over by an animal, particularly a dog or a cat, was feared to become one of the undead. A body with a wound that had not been treated with boiling water was also at risk. In Russian folklore, vampires were said to have once been witches or people who had rebelled against the Russian Orthodox Church while they were alive.
Cultural practices often arose that were intended to prevent a recently deceased loved one from turning into an undead revenant. Burying a corpse upside-down was widespread, as was placing earthly objects, such as scythes or sickles, near the grave to satisfy any demons entering the body or to appease the dead so that it would not wish to arise from its coffin. This method resembles the Ancient Greek practice of placing an obolus in the corpse's mouth to pay the toll to cross the River Styx in the underworld; it has been argued that instead, the coin was intended to ward off any evil spirits from entering the body, and this may have influenced later vampire folklore. This tradition persisted in modern Greek folklore about the vrykolakas, in which a wax cross and piece of pottery with the inscription "Jesus Christ conquers" were placed on the corpse to prevent the body from becoming a vampire. Other methods commonly practised in Europe included severing the tendons at the knees or placing poppy seeds, millet, or sand on the ground at the grave site of a presumed vampire; this was intended to keep the vampire occupied all night by counting the fallen grains, indicating an association of vampires with arithmomania. Similar Chinese narratives state that if a vampire-like being came across a sack of rice, it would have to count every grain; this is a theme encountered in myths from the Indian subcontinent, as well as in South American tales of witches and other sorts of evil or mischievous spirits or beings. In Albanian folklore, the dhampir is the son of the karkanxholl or the lugat. If the karkanxholl sleeps with his wife, and she is impregnated with a child, the offspring is called dhampir and has the unique ability to discern the karkanxholl; from this derives the expression the dhampir knows the lugat. The lugat cannot be seen, he can only be killed by the dhampir, who himself is usually the son of a lugat. In different regions, animals can be revenants as lugats; also, living people during their sleep. Dhampiraj is also an Albanian surname.
Many elaborate rituals were used to identify a vampire. One method of finding a vampire's grave involved leading a virgin boy through a graveyard or church grounds on a virgin stallion—the horse would supposedly balk at the grave in question. Generally a black horse was required, though in Albania it should be white. Holes appearing in the earth over a grave were taken as a sign of vampirism.
Corpses thought to be vampires were generally described as having a healthier appearance than expected, plump and showing little or no signs of decomposition. In some cases, when suspected graves were opened, villagers even described the corpse as having fresh blood from a victim all over its face. Evidence that a vampire was active in a given locality included death of cattle, sheep, relatives or neighbours. Folkloric vampires could also make their presence felt by engaging in minor poltergeist-like activity, such as hurling stones on roofs or moving household objects, and pressing on people in their sleep.
Apotropaics, items able to ward off revenants, are common in vampire folklore. Garlic is a common example, a branch of wild rose and hawthorn plant are said to harm vampires, and in Europe, sprinkling mustard seeds on the roof of a house was said to keep them away. Other apotropaics include sacred items, for example a crucifix, rosary, or holy water. Vampires are said to be unable to walk on consecrated ground, such as that of churches or temples, or cross running water. Although not traditionally regarded as an apotropaic, mirrors have been used to ward off vampires when placed, facing outwards, on a door (in some cultures, vampires do not have a reflection and sometimes do not cast a shadow, perhaps as a manifestation of the vampire's lack of a soul). This attribute, although not universal (the Greek vrykolakas/tympanios was capable of both reflection and shadow), was used by Bram Stoker in Dracula and has remained popular with subsequent authors and filmmakers. Some traditions also hold that a vampire cannot enter a house unless invited by the owner, although after the first invitation they can come and go as they please. Though folkloric vampires were believed to be more active at night, they were not generally considered vulnerable to sunlight.
Methods of destroying suspected vampires varied, with staking the most commonly cited method, particularly in southern Slavic cultures. Ash was the preferred wood in Russia and the Baltic states, or hawthorn in Serbia, with a record of oak in Silesia. Potential vampires were most often staked through the heart, though the mouth was targeted in Russia and northern Germany and the stomach in north-eastern Serbia. Piercing the skin of the chest was a way of "deflating" the bloated vampire; this is similar to the act of burying sharp objects, such as sickles, in with the corpse, so that they may penetrate the skin if the body bloats sufficiently while transforming into a revenant. Decapitation was the preferred method in German and western Slavic areas, with the head buried between the feet, behind the buttocks or away from the body. This act was seen as a way of hastening the departure of the soul, which in some cultures, was said to linger in the corpse. The vampire's head, body, or clothes could also be spiked and pinned to the earth to prevent rising. Gypsies drove steel or iron needles into a corpse's heart and placed bits of steel in the mouth, over the eyes, ears and between the fingers at the time of burial. They also placed hawthorn in the corpse's sock or drove a hawthorn stake through the legs. In a 16th-century burial near Venice, a brick forced into the mouth of a female corpse has been interpreted as a vampire-slaying ritual by the archaeologists who discovered it in 2006. Further measures included pouring boiling water over the grave or complete incineration of the body. In the Balkans, a vampire could also be killed by being shot or drowned, by repeating the funeral service, by sprinkling holy water on the body, or by exorcism. In Romania, garlic could be placed in the mouth, and as recently as the 19th century, the precaution of shooting a bullet through the coffin was taken. For resistant cases, the body was dismembered and the pieces burned, mixed with water, and administered to family members as a cure. In Saxon regions of Germany, a lemon was placed in the mouth of suspected vampires.
Tales of supernatural beings consuming the blood or flesh of the living have been found in nearly every culture around the world for many centuries. Today, we would associate these entities with vampires, but in ancient times, the term vampire did not exist; blood drinking and similar activities were attributed to demons or spirits who would eat flesh and drink blood; even the Devil was considered synonymous with the vampire. Almost every nation has associated blood drinking with some kind of revenant or demon, or in some cases a deity. In India, for example, tales of vetālas, ghoul-like beings that inhabit corpses, have been compiled in the Baitāl Pacīsī; a prominent story in the Kathāsaritsāgara tells of King Vikramāditya and his nightly quests to capture an elusive one. Piśāca, the returned spirits of evil-doers or those who died insane, also bear vampiric attributes. The Persians were one of the first civilizations to have tales of blood-drinking demons: creatures attempting to drink blood from men were depicted on excavated pottery shards. Ancient Babylonia and Assyria had tales of the mythical Lilitu, synonymous with and giving rise to Lilith (Hebrew לילית) and her daughters the Lilu from Hebrew demonology. Lilitu was considered a demon and was often depicted as subsisting on the blood of babies. And Estries, female shape changing, blood drinking demons, were said to roam the night among the population, seeking victims. According to Sefer Hasidim, Estries were creatures created in the twilight hours before God rested. And injured Estrie could be healed by eating bread and salt given her by her attacker.
Ancient Greek and Roman mythology described the Empusae, the Lamia, and the striges. Over time the first two terms became general words to describe witches and demons respectively. Empusa was the daughter of the goddess Hecate and was described as a demonic, bronze-footed creature. She feasted on blood by transforming into a young woman and seduced men as they slept before drinking their blood. The Lamia preyed on young children in their beds at night, sucking their blood, as did the gelloudes or Gello. Like the Lamia, the striges feasted on children, but also preyed on young men. They were described as having the bodies of crows or birds in general, and were later incorporated into Roman mythology as strix, a kind of nocturnal bird that fed on human flesh and blood.
With the arrival of Christianity in Greece, and other parts of Europe, the vampire "began to take on decidedly Christian characteristics." As various regions of the continent converted to Christianity, the vampire was viewed as "a dead person who retained a semblance of life and could leave its grave-much in the same way that Jesus had risen after his death and burial and appeared before his followers." In the Middle Ages, the Christian Church reinterpreted vampires from their previous folk existence into minions of Satan, and used an allegory to communicate a doctrine to Christians: "Just as a vampire takes a sinner's very spirit into itself by drinking his blood, so also can a righteous Christian by drinking Christ's blood take the divine spirit into himself." The interpretation of vampires under the Christian Church established connotations that are still associated in the vampire genre today. For example, the "ability of the cross to hurt and ward off vampires is distinctly due to its Christian association."
Many of the myths surrounding vampires originated during the medieval period. The 12th-century English historians and chroniclers Walter Map and William of Newburgh recorded accounts of revenants, though records in English legends of vampiric beings after this date are scant. The Old Norse draugr is another medieval example of an undead creature with similarities to vampires.
Vampires proper originate in folklore widely reported from Eastern Europe in the late 17th and 18th centuries. These tales formed the basis of the vampire legend that later entered Germany and England, where they were subsequently embellished and popularized. One of the earliest recordings of vampire activity came from the region of Istria in modern Croatia, in 1672. Local reports cited the local vampire Giure Grando of the village Khring near Tinjan as the cause of panic among the villagers. A former peasant, Guire died in 1656; however, local villagers claimed he returned from the dead and began drinking blood from the people and sexually harassing his widow. The village leader ordered a stake to be driven through his heart, but when the method failed to kill him, he was subsequently beheaded with better results.
During the 18th century, there was a frenzy of vampire sightings in Eastern Europe, with frequent stakings and grave diggings to identify and kill the potential revenants; even government officials engaged in the hunting and staking of vampires. Despite being called the Age of Enlightenment, during which most folkloric legends were quelled, the belief in vampires increased dramatically, resulting in a mass hysteria throughout most of Europe. The panic began with an outbreak of alleged vampire attacks in East Prussia in 1721 and in the Habsburg Monarchy from 1725 to 1734, which spread to other localities. Two famous vampire cases, the first to be officially recorded, involved the corpses of Peter Plogojowitz and Arnold Paole from Serbia. Plogojowitz was reported to have died at the age of 62, but allegedly returned after his death asking his son for food. When the son refused, he was found dead the following day. Plogojowitz supposedly returned and attacked some neighbours who died from loss of blood. In the second case, Paole, an ex-soldier turned farmer who allegedly was attacked by a vampire years before, died while haying. After his death, people began to die in the surrounding area and it was widely believed that Paole had returned to prey on the neighbours. Another famous Serbian legend involving vampires concentrates around a certain Sava Savanović living in a watermill and killing and drinking blood from millers. The character was later used in a story written by Serbian writer Milovan Glišić and in the Serbian 1973 horror film Leptirica inspired by the story.
The two incidents were well-documented: government officials examined the bodies, wrote case reports, and published books throughout Europe. The hysteria, commonly referred to as the "18th-Century Vampire Controversy", raged for a generation. The problem was exacerbated by rural epidemics of so-claimed vampire attacks, undoubtedly caused by the higher amount of superstition that was present in village communities, with locals digging up bodies and in some cases, staking them. Although many scholars reported during this period that vampires did not exist, and attributed reports to premature burial or rabies, superstitious belief increased. Dom Augustine Calmet, a well-respected French theologian and scholar, put together a comprehensive treatise in 1746, which was ambiguous concerning the existence of vampires. Calmet amassed reports of vampire incidents; numerous readers, including both a critical Voltaire and supportive demonologists, interpreted the treatise as claiming that vampires existed. In his Philosophical Dictionary, Voltaire wrote:
These vampires were corpses, who went out of their graves at night to suck the blood of the living, either at their throats or stomachs, after which they returned to their cemeteries. The persons so sucked waned, grew pale, and fell into consumption; while the sucking corpses grew fat, got rosy, and enjoyed an excellent appetite. It was in Poland, Hungary, Silesia, Moravia, Austria, and Lorraine, that the dead made this good cheer.
The controversy only ceased when Empress Maria Theresa of Austria sent her personal physician, Gerard van Swieten, to investigate the claims of vampiric entities. He concluded that vampires did not exist and the Empress passed laws prohibiting the opening of graves and desecration of bodies, sounding the end of the vampire epidemics. Despite this condemnation, the vampire lived on in artistic works and in local superstition.
Various regions of Africa have folkloric tales of beings with vampiric abilities: in West Africa the Ashanti people tell of the iron-toothed and tree-dwelling asanbosam, and the Ewe people of the adze, which can take the form of a firefly and hunts children. The eastern Cape region has the impundulu, which can take the form of a large taloned bird and can summon thunder and lightning, and the Betsileo people of Madagascar tell of the ramanga, an outlaw or living vampire who drinks the blood and eats the nail clippings of nobles.
The Loogaroo is an example of how a vampire belief can result from a combination of beliefs, here a mixture of French and African Vodu or voodoo. The term Loogaroo possibly comes from the French loup-garou (meaning "werewolf") and is common in the culture of Mauritius. However, the stories of the Loogaroo are widespread through the Caribbean Islands and Louisiana in the United States. Similar female monsters are the Soucouyant of Trinidad, and the Tunda and Patasola of Colombian folklore, while the Mapuche of southern Chile have the bloodsucking snake known as the Peuchen. Aloe vera hung backwards behind or near a door was thought to ward off vampiric beings in South American superstition. Aztec mythology described tales of the Cihuateteo, skeletal-faced spirits of those who died in childbirth who stole children and entered into sexual liaisons with the living, driving them mad.
During the late 18th and 19th centuries the belief in vampires was widespread in parts of New England, particularly in Rhode Island and Eastern Connecticut. There are many documented cases of families disinterring loved ones and removing their hearts in the belief that the deceased was a vampire who was responsible for sickness and death in the family, although the term "vampire" was never actually used to describe the deceased. The deadly disease tuberculosis, or "consumption" as it was known at the time, was believed to be caused by nightly visitations on the part of a dead family member who had died of consumption themselves. The most famous, and most recently recorded, case of suspected vampirism is that of nineteen-year-old Mercy Brown, who died in Exeter, Rhode Island in 1892. Her father, assisted by the family physician, removed her from her tomb two months after her death, cut out her heart and burned it to ashes.
Rooted in older folklore, the modern belief in vampires spread throughout Asia with tales of ghoulish entities from the mainland, to vampiric beings from the islands of Southeast Asia.
South Asia also developed other vampiric legends. The Bhūta or Prét is the soul of a man who died an untimely death. It wanders around animating dead bodies at night, attacking the living much like a ghoul. In northern India, there is the BrahmarākŞhasa, a vampire-like creature with a head encircled by intestines and a skull from which it drank blood. The figure of the Vetala who appears in South Asian legend and story may sometimes be rendered as "Vampire" (see the section on "Ancient Beliefs" above).
Although vampires have appeared in Japanese cinema since the late 1950s, the folklore behind it is western in origin. However, the Nukekubi is a being whose head and neck detach from its body to fly about seeking human prey at night. There's also the Kitsune who are spiritual vampires that need life force to survive and use magic. As such, they acquire it from making love with humans.
Legends of female vampire-like beings who can detach parts of their upper body also occur in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. There are two main vampire-like creatures in the Philippines: the Tagalog mandurugo ("blood-sucker") and the Visayan manananggal ("self-segmenter"). The mandurugo is a variety of the aswang that takes the form of an attractive girl by day, and develops wings and a long, hollow, thread-like tongue by night. The tongue is used to suck up blood from a sleeping victim. The manananggal is described as being an older, beautiful woman capable of severing its upper torso in order to fly into the night with huge bat-like wings and prey on unsuspecting, sleeping pregnant women in their homes. They use an elongated proboscis-like tongue to suck fetuses from these pregnant women. They also prefer to eat entrails (specifically the heart and the liver) and the phlegm of sick people.
The Malaysian Penanggalan may be either a beautiful old or young woman who obtained her beauty through the active use of black magic or other unnatural means, and is most commonly described in local folklore to be dark or demonic in nature. She is able to detach her fanged head which flies around in the night looking for blood, typically from pregnant women. Malaysians would hang jeruju (thistles) around the doors and windows of houses, hoping the Penanggalan would not enter for fear of catching its intestines on the thorns. The Leyak is a similar being from Balinese folklore. A Kuntilanak or Matianak in Indonesia, or Pontianak or Langsuir in Malaysia, is a woman who died during childbirth and became undead, seeking revenge and terrorizing villages. She appeared as an attractive woman with long black hair that covered a hole in the back of her neck, with which she sucked the blood of children. Filling the hole with her hair would drive her off. Corpses had their mouths filled with glass beads, eggs under each armpit, and needles in their palms to prevent them from becoming langsuir. This description would also fit the Sundel Bolongs.
Jiang Shi (simplified Chinese: 僵尸; traditional Chinese: 僵屍 or 殭屍; pinyin: jiāngshī; literally "stiff corpse"), sometimes called "Chinese vampires" by Westerners, are reanimated corpses that hop around, killing living creatures to absorb life essence (qì) from their victims. They are said to be created when a person's soul (魄 pò) fails to leave the deceased's body. However, some have disputed the comparison of jiang shi with vampires, as jiang shi are usually mindless creatures with no independent thought. One unusual feature of this monster is its greenish-white furry skin, perhaps derived from fungus or mould growing on corpses.
In modern fiction, the vampire tends to be depicted as a suave, charismatic villain. Despite the general disbelief in vampiric entities, occasional sightings of vampires are reported. Indeed, vampire hunting societies still exist, although they are largely formed for social reasons. Allegations of vampire attacks swept through the African country of Malawi during late 2002 and early 2003, with mobs stoning one individual to death and attacking at least four others, including Governor Eric Chiwaya, based on the belief that the government was colluding with vampires.
In early 1970 local press spread rumours that a vampire haunted Highgate Cemetery in London. Amateur vampire hunters flocked in large numbers to the cemetery. Several books have been written about the case, notably by Sean Manchester, a local man who was among the first to suggest the existence of the "Highgate Vampire" and who later claimed to have exorcised and destroyed a whole nest of vampires in the area. In January 2005, rumours circulated that an attacker had bitten a number of people in Birmingham, England, fuelling concerns about a vampire roaming the streets. However, local police stated that no such crime had been reported and that the case appears to be an urban legend.
In 2006, a physics professor at the University of Central Florida wrote a paper arguing that it is mathematically impossible for vampires to exist, based on geometric progression. According to the paper, if the first vampire had appeared on 1 January 1600, and it fed once a month (which is less often than what is depicted in films and folklore), and every victim turned into a vampire, then within two and a half years the entire human population of the time would have become vampires. The paper made no attempt to address the credibility of the assumption that every vampire victim would turn into a vampire.
In one of the more notable cases of vampiric entities in the modern age, the chupacabra ("goat-sucker") of Puerto Rico and Mexico is said to be a creature that feeds upon the flesh or drinks the blood of domesticated animals, leading some to consider it a kind of vampire. The "chupacabra hysteria" was frequently associated with deep economic and political crises, particularly during the mid-1990s.
In Europe, where much of the vampire folklore originates, the vampire is usually considered a fictitious being, although many communities may have embraced the revenant for economic purposes. In some cases, especially in small localities, vampire superstition is still rampant and sightings or claims of vampire attacks occur frequently. In Romania during February 2004, several relatives of Toma Petre feared that he had become a vampire. They dug up his corpse, tore out his heart, burned it, and mixed the ashes with water in order to drink it.
Vampirism and the Vampire lifestyle also represent a relevant part of modern day's occultist movements. The mythos of the vampire, his magickal qualities, allure, and predatory archetype express a strong symbolism that can be used in ritual, energy work, and magick, and can even be adopted as a spiritual system. The vampire has been part of the occult society in Europe for centuries and has spread into the American sub-culture as well for more than a decade, being strongly influenced by and mixed with the neo gothic aesthetics.
'Coven' has been used as a collective noun for vampires, possibly based on the Wiccan usage. An alternative collective noun is a 'house' of vampires. David Malki, author of Wondermark, suggests in Wondermark No. 566 the use of the collective noun 'basement', as in "A basement of vampires."
Commentators have offered many theories for the origins of vampire beliefs, trying to explain the superstition – and sometimes mass hysteria – caused by vampires. Everything ranging from premature burial to the early ignorance of the body's decomposition cycle after death has been cited as the cause for the belief in vampires.
Although many cultures possess revenant superstitions comparable to the Eastern European vampire, the Slavic vampire is the revenant superstition that pervades popular culture's concept of vampires. The roots of vampire belief in Slavic culture largely originate in the spiritual beliefs and practices of pre-Christianized Slavic peoples and in their understanding of life after death. Despite a lack of pre-Christian Slavic writings describing the details of the "Old Religion", Slavic peoples sustained many pagan spiritual beliefs and rituals even after the official Christianization of their societies. Examples of such beliefs and practices include ancestor worship, household spirits, and beliefs about the soul after death. The origins of vampire beliefs in Slavic regions can be traced to the complex structure of Slavic spiritualism.
Demons and spirits served important functions in pre-industrial Slavic societies and were considered to be very interactive in the lives and domains of humans. Some spirits were benevolent and could be helpful in human tasks, others were harmful and often destructive. Examples of such spirits are Domovoi, Rusalka, Vila, Kikimora, Poludnitsa, and Vodyanoy. These spirits were also considered to be derived from ancestors or certain deceased humans. Such spirits could appear at will in various forms including that of different animals or human form. Some of these spirits could also participate in malevolent activity to harm humans, such as drowning humans, obstructing the harvest, or sucking the blood of livestock and sometimes humans. Hence, the Slavs were obliged to appease these spirits to prevent the spirits from their potential for erratic and destructive behaviour.
Common Slavic belief indicates a stark distinction between soul and body. The soul is not considered to be perishable. The Slavs believed that upon death the soul would go out of the body and wander about its neighbourhood and workplace for 40 days before moving on to an eternal afterlife. Thus pagan Slavs considered it necessary to leave a window or door open in the house for the soul to pass through at its leisure. During this time the soul was believed to have the capability of re-entering the corpse of the deceased. Much like the spirits mentioned earlier, the passing soul could either bless or wreak havoc on its family and neighbours during its 40 days of passing. Upon an individual's death, much stress was placed on proper burial rites to ensure the soul's purity and peace as it separated from the body. The death of an unbaptized child, a violent or an untimely death, or the death of a grievous sinner (such as a sorcerer or murderer) were all grounds for a soul to become unclean after death. A soul could also be made unclean if its body were not given a proper burial. Alternatively, a body not given a proper burial could be susceptible to possession by other unclean souls and spirits. Slavs feared unclean souls because of their potential for taking vengeance.
From these deep beliefs pertaining to death and the soul derives the invention of the Slavic concept of vampir. A vampire is the manifestation of an unclean spirit possessing a decomposing body. This undead creature needs the blood of the living to sustain its body's existence and is considered to be vengeful and jealous towards the living. Although this concept of vampire exists in slightly different forms throughout Slavic countries and some of their non-Slavic neighbours, it is possible to trace the development of vampire belief to Slavic spiritualism preceding Christianity in Slavic regions.
Paul Barber in his book Vampires, Burial and Death has described that belief in vampires resulted from people of pre-industrial societies attempting to explain the natural, but to them inexplicable, process of death and decomposition.
People sometimes suspected vampirism when a cadaver did not look as they thought a normal corpse should when disinterred. However, rates of decomposition vary depending on temperature and soil composition, and many of the signs are little known. This has led vampire hunters to mistakenly conclude that a dead body had not decomposed at all, or, ironically, to interpret signs of decomposition as signs of continued life. Corpses swell as gases from decomposition accumulate in the torso and the increased pressure forces blood to ooze from the nose and mouth. This causes the body to look "plump," "well-fed," and "ruddy"—changes that are all the more striking if the person was pale or thin in life. In the Arnold Paole case, an old woman's exhumed corpse was judged by her neighbours to look more plump and healthy than she had ever looked in life. The exuding blood gave the impression that the corpse had recently been engaging in vampiric activity. Darkening of the skin is also caused by decomposition. The staking of a swollen, decomposing body could cause the body to bleed and force the accumulated gases to escape the body. This could produce a groan-like sound when the gases moved past the vocal cords, or a sound reminiscent of flatulence when they passed through the anus. The official reporting on the Peter Plogojowitz case speaks of "other wild signs which I pass by out of high respect".
After death, the skin and gums lose fluids and contract, exposing the roots of the hair, nails, and teeth, even teeth that were concealed in the jaw. This can produce the illusion that the hair, nails, and teeth have grown. At a certain stage, the nails fall off and the skin peels away, as reported in the Plogojowitz case—the dermis and nail beds emerging underneath were interpreted as "new skin" and "new nails".
It has also been hypothesized that vampire legends were influenced by individuals being buried alive because of shortcomings in the medical knowledge of the time. In some cases in which people reported sounds emanating from a specific coffin, it was later dug up and fingernail marks were discovered on the inside from the victim trying to escape. In other cases the person would hit their heads, noses or faces and it would appear that they had been "feeding." A problem with this theory is the question of how people presumably buried alive managed to stay alive for any extended period without food, water or fresh air. An alternate explanation for noise is the bubbling of escaping gases from natural decomposition of bodies. Another likely cause of disordered tombs is grave robbing.
Folkloric vampirism has been associated with clusters of deaths from unidentifiable or mysterious illnesses, usually within the same family or the same small community. The epidemic allusion is obvious in the classical cases of Peter Plogojowitz and Arnold Paole, and even more so in the case of Mercy Brown and in the vampire beliefs of New England generally, where a specific disease, tuberculosis, was associated with outbreaks of vampirism. As with the pneumonic form of bubonic plague, it was associated with breakdown of lung tissue which would cause blood to appear at the lips.
In 1985 biochemist David Dolphin proposed a link between the rare blood disorder porphyria and vampire folklore. Noting that the condition is treated by intravenous haem, he suggested that the consumption of large amounts of blood may result in haem being transported somehow across the stomach wall and into the bloodstream. Thus vampires were merely sufferers of porphyria seeking to replace haem and alleviate their symptoms. The theory has been rebuffed medically as suggestions that porphyria sufferers crave the haem in human blood, or that the consumption of blood might ease the symptoms of porphyria, are based on a misunderstanding of the disease. Furthermore, Dolphin was noted to have confused fictional (bloodsucking) vampires with those of folklore, many of whom were not noted to drink blood. Similarly, a parallel is made between sensitivity to sunlight by sufferers, yet this was associated with fictional and not folkloric vampires. In any case, Dolphin did not go on to publish his work more widely. Despite being dismissed by experts, the link gained media attention and entered popular modern folklore.
Rabies has been linked with vampire folklore. Dr Juan Gómez-Alonso, a neurologist at Xeral Hospital in Vigo, Spain, examined this possibility in a report in Neurology. The susceptibility to garlic and light could be due to hypersensitivity, which is a symptom of rabies. The disease can also affect portions of the brain that could lead to disturbance of normal sleep patterns (thus becoming nocturnal) and hypersexuality. Legend once said a man was not rabid if he could look at his own reflection (an allusion to the legend that vampires have no reflection). Wolves and bats, which are often associated with vampires, can be carriers of rabies. The disease can also lead to a drive to bite others and to a bloody frothing at the mouth.
In his 1931 treatise On the Nightmare, Welsh psychoanalyst Ernest Jones noted that vampires are symbolic of several unconscious drives and defence mechanisms. Emotions such as love, guilt, and hate fuel the idea of the return of the dead to the grave. Desiring a reunion with loved ones, mourners may project the idea that the recently dead must in return yearn the same. From this arises the belief that folkloric vampires and revenants visit relatives, particularly their spouses, first. In cases where there was unconscious guilt associated with the relationship, however, the wish for reunion may be subverted by anxiety. This may lead to repression, which Sigmund Freud had linked with the development of morbid dread. Jones surmised in this case the original wish of a (sexual) reunion may be drastically changed: desire is replaced by fear; love is replaced by sadism, and the object or loved one is replaced by an unknown entity. The sexual aspect may or may not be present. Some modern critics have proposed a simpler theory: People identify with immortal vampires because, by so doing, they overcome, or at least temporarily escape from, their fear of dying.
The innate sexuality of bloodsucking can be seen in its intrinsic connection with cannibalism and folkloric one with incubus-like behaviour. Many legends report various beings draining other fluids from victims, an unconscious association with semen being obvious. Finally Jones notes that when more normal aspects of sexuality are repressed, regressed forms may be expressed, in particular sadism; he felt that oral sadism is integral in vampiric behaviour.
The reinvention of the vampire myth in the modern era is not without political overtones. The aristocratic Count Dracula, alone in his castle apart from a few demented retainers, appearing only at night to feed on his peasantry, is symbolic of the parasitic Ancien regime. In his entry for "Vampires" in the Dictionnaire philosophique (1764), Voltaire notices how the end of the 18th century coincided with the decline of the folkloric belief in the existence of vampires but that now "there were stock-jobbers, brokers, and men of business, who sucked the blood of the people in broad daylight; but they were not dead, though corrupted. These true suckers lived not in cemeteries, but in very agreeable palaces". Marx similarly famously defined capital as "dead labour which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks". In Das Kapital Marx repeatedly refers to capital as a vampire, because of its monstrous metabolism: according to the German philosopher and revolutionary, in fact, capital is capable at once to suck living labour out of the workers and to transform them in an integral part of itself (variable capital). Werner Herzog, in his Nosferatu the Vampyre, gives this political interpretation an extra ironic twist when protagonist Jonathon Harker, a middle-class solicitor, becomes the next vampire; in this way the capitalist bourgeois becomes the next parasitic class.
A number of murderers have performed seemingly vampiric rituals upon their victims. Serial killers Peter Kürten and Richard Trenton Chase were both called "vampires" in the tabloids after they were discovered drinking the blood of the people they murdered. Similarly, in 1932, an unsolved murder case in Stockholm, Sweden was nicknamed the "Vampire murder", because of the circumstances of the victim's death. The late-16th-century Hungarian countess and mass murderer Elizabeth Báthory became particularly infamous in later centuries' works, which depicted her bathing in her victims' blood in order to retain beauty or youth.
Vampire lifestyle is a term for a contemporary subculture of people, largely within the Goth subculture, who consume the blood of others as a pastime; drawing from the rich recent history of popular culture related to cult symbolism, horror films, the fiction of Anne Rice, and the styles of Victorian England. Active vampirism within the vampire subculture includes both blood-related vampirism, commonly referred to as sanguine vampirism, and psychic vampirism, or supposed feeding from pranic energy.
Although many cultures have stories about them, vampire bats have only recently become an integral part of the traditional vampire lore. Indeed, vampire bats were only integrated into vampire folklore when they were discovered on the South American mainland in the 16th century. Although there are no vampire bats in Europe, bats and owls have long been associated with the supernatural and omens, although mainly because of their nocturnal habits, and in modern English heraldic tradition, a bat means "Awareness of the powers of darkness and chaos".
The three species of actual vampire bats are all endemic to Latin America, and there is no evidence to suggest that they had any Old World relatives within human memory. It is therefore impossible that the folkloric vampire represents a distorted presentation or memory of the vampire bat. The bats were named after the folkloric vampire rather than vice versa; the Oxford English Dictionary records their folkloric use in English from 1734 and the zoological not until 1774. Although the vampire bat's bite is usually not harmful to a person, the bat has been known to actively feed on humans and large prey such as cattle and often leave the trademark, two-prong bite mark on its victim's skin.
The literary Dracula transforms into a bat several times in the novel, and vampire bats themselves are mentioned twice in it. The 1927 stage production of Dracula followed the novel in having Dracula turn into a bat, as did the film, where Béla Lugosi would transform into a bat. The bat transformation scene would again be used by Lon Chaney Jr. in 1943's Son of Dracula.
The vampire is now a fixture in popular fiction. Such fiction began with 18th-century poetry and continued with 19th-century short stories, the first and most influential of which was John Polidori's The Vampyre (1819), featuring the vampire Lord Ruthven. Lord Ruthven's exploits were further explored in a series of vampire plays in which he was the anti-hero. The vampire theme continued in penny dreadful serial publications such as Varney the Vampire (1847) and culminated in the pre-eminent vampire novel of all time: Dracula by Bram Stoker, published in 1897. Over time, some attributes now regarded as integral became incorporated into the vampire's profile: fangs and vulnerability to sunlight appeared over the course of the 19th century, with Varney the Vampire and Count Dracula both bearing protruding teeth, and Murnau's Nosferatu (1922) fearing daylight. The cloak appeared in stage productions of the 1920s, with a high collar introduced by playwright Hamilton Deane to help Dracula 'vanish' on stage. Lord Ruthven and Varney were able to be healed by moonlight, although no account of this is known in traditional folklore. Implied though not often explicitly documented in folklore, immortality is one attribute which features heavily in vampire film and literature. Much is made of the price of eternal life, namely the incessant need for blood of former equals.
The vampire or revenant first appeared in poems such as The Vampire (1748) by Heinrich August Ossenfelder, Lenore (1773) by Gottfried August Bürger, Die Braut von Corinth (The Bride of Corinth (1797) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Robert Southey's Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), John Stagg's "The Vampyre" (1810), Percy Bysshe Shelley's "The Spectral Horseman" (1810) ("Nor a yelling vampire reeking with gore") and "Ballad" in St. Irvyne (1811) about a reanimated corpse, Sister Rosa, Samuel Taylor Coleridge's unfinished Christabel and Lord Byron's The Giaour. Byron was also credited with the first prose fiction piece concerned with vampires: The Vampyre (1819). However this was in reality authored by Byron's personal physician, John Polidori, who adapted an enigmatic fragmentary tale of his illustrious patient, "Fragment of a Novel" (1819), also known as "The Burial: A Fragment". Byron's own dominating personality, mediated by his lover Lady Caroline Lamb in her unflattering roman-a-clef, Glenarvon (a Gothic fantasia based on Byron's wild life), was used as a model for Polidori's undead protagonist Lord Ruthven. The Vampyre was highly successful and the most influential vampire work of the early 19th century.
Varney the Vampire was a landmark popular mid-Victorian era gothic horror story by James Malcolm Rymer (alternatively attributed to Thomas Preskett Prest), which first appeared from 1845 to 1847 in a series of pamphlets generally referred to as penny dreadfuls because of their inexpensive price and typically gruesome contents. The story was published in book form in 1847 and runs to 868 double-columned pages. It has a distinctly suspenseful style, using vivid imagery to describe the horrifying exploits of Varney. Another important addition to the genre was Sheridan Le Fanu's lesbian vampire story Carmilla (1871). Like Varney before her, the vampire Carmilla is portrayed in a somewhat sympathetic light as the compulsion of her condition is highlighted.
No effort to depict vampires in popular fiction was as influential or as definitive as Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). Its portrayal of vampirism as a disease of contagious demonic possession, with its undertones of sex, blood and death, struck a chord in Victorian Europe where tuberculosis and syphilis were common. The vampiric traits described in Stoker's work merged with and dominated folkloric tradition, eventually evolving into the modern fictional vampire. Drawing on past works such as The Vampyre and "Carmilla", Stoker began to research his new book in the late 19th century, reading works such as The Land Beyond the Forest (1888) by Emily Gerard and other books about Transylvania and vampires. In London, a colleague mentioned to him the story of Vlad Ţepeş, the "real-life Dracula," and Stoker immediately incorporated this story into his book. The first chapter of the book was omitted when it was published in 1897, but it was released in 1914 as Dracula's Guest.
The 21st century has brought more examples of vampire fiction, such as J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series, and other highly popular vampire books which appeal to teenagers and young adults. Such vampiric paranormal romance novels and allied vampiric chick-lit and vampiric occult detective stories are a remarkably popular and ever-expanding contemporary publishing phenomenon. L.A. Banks' The Vampire Huntress Legend Series, Laurell K. Hamilton's erotic Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series, and Kim Harrison's The Hollows series, portray the vampire in a variety of new perspectives, some of them unrelated to the original legends.
The latter part of the 20th century saw the rise of multi-volume vampire epics. The first of these was Gothic romance writer Marilyn Ross' Barnabas Collins series (1966–71), loosely based on the contemporary American TV series Dark Shadows. It also set the trend for seeing vampires as poetic tragic heroes rather than as the more traditional embodiment of evil. This formula was followed in novelist Anne Rice's highly popular and influential Vampire Chronicles (1976–2003). Vampires in the Twilight series (2005–2008) by Stephenie Meyer ignore the effects of garlic and crosses, and are not harmed by sunlight (although it does reveal their supernatural nature). Richelle Mead further deviates from traditional vampires in her Vampire Academy series (2007–present), basing the novels on Romanian lore with two races of vampires, one good and one evil, as well as half-vampires.
Considered one of the preeminent figures of the classic horror film, the vampire has proven to be a rich subject for the film and gaming industries. Dracula is a major character in more films than any other but Sherlock Holmes, and many early films were either based on the novel of Dracula or closely derived from it. These included the landmark 1922 German silent film Nosferatu, directed by F. W. Murnau and featuring the first film portrayal of Dracula—although names and characters were intended to mimic Dracula's, Murnau could not obtain permission to do so from Stoker's widow, and had to alter many aspects of the film. In addition to this film was Universal's Dracula (1931), starring Béla Lugosi as the Count in what was the first talking film to portray Dracula. The decade saw several more vampire films, most notably Dracula's Daughter in 1936.
The legend of the vampire was cemented in the film industry when Dracula was reincarnated for a new generation with the celebrated Hammer Horror series of films, starring Christopher Lee as the Count. The successful 1958 Dracula starring Lee was followed by seven sequels. Lee returned as Dracula in all but two of these and became well known in the role. By the 1970s, vampires in films had diversified with works such as Count Yorga, Vampire (1970), an African Count in 1972's Blacula, the BBC's Count Dracula featuring French actor Louis Jourdan as Dracula and Frank Finlay as Abraham Van Helsing, and a Nosferatu-like vampire in 1979's Salem's Lot, and a remake of Nosferatu itself, titled Nosferatu the Vampyre with Klaus Kinski the same year. Several films featured female, often lesbian, vampire antagonists such as Hammer Horror's The Vampire Lovers (1970) based on Carmilla, though the plotlines still revolved around a central evil vampire character.
The pilot for the Dan Curtis 1972 television series Kolchak: The Night Stalker revolved around reporter Carl Kolchak hunting a vampire on the Las Vegas strip. Later films showed more diversity in plotline, with some focusing on the vampire-hunter, such as Blade in the Marvel Comics' Blade films and the film Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy, released in 1992, foreshadowed a vampiric presence on television, with adaptation to a long-running hit TV series of the same name and its spin-off Angel. Still others showed the vampire as protagonist, such as 1983's The Hunger, 1994's Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles and its indirect sequel of sorts Queen of the Damned, and the 2007 series Moonlight. Bram Stoker's Dracula was a noteworthy 1992 film which became the then-highest grossing vampire film ever. This increase of interest in vampiric plotlines led to the vampire being depicted in films such as Underworld and Van Helsing, and the Russian Night Watch and a TV miniseries remake of 'Salem's Lot, both from 2004. The series Blood Ties premiered on Lifetime Television in 2007, featuring a character portrayed as Henry Fitzroy, illegitimate son of Henry VIII of England turned vampire, in modern-day Toronto, with a female former Toronto detective in the starring role. A 2008 series from HBO, entitled True Blood, gives a Southern take to the vampire theme. Another popular vampire-related show is CW's The Vampire Diaries. The continuing popularity of the vampire theme has been ascribed to a combination of two factors: the representation of sexuality and the perennial dread of mortality. Another "vampiric" series that has recently come out is the Twilight Saga, a series of films based on the book series of the same name.
The role-playing game Vampire: the Masquerade has been influential upon modern vampire fiction and elements of its terminology, such as embrace and sire, have become widely used. Popular video games about vampires include Castlevania, which is an extension of the original Bram Stoker Dracula novel, and Legacy of Kain. Vampires are also sporadically portrayed in other games, including The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, when a character can become afflicted with porphyric haemophilia. A different take on vampires is presented in Bethesda's other game Fallout 3 with "The Family". Members of the Family are afflicted with a manic desire to consume human flesh, but restrict themselves to drinking blood to avoid becoming complete monsters.
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