Were vampires real in history?

Ah, therein lies the rub. Vampire myths and legends pervade every culture on Earth, throughout recorded history. This is an indication that the stories have existed long before history was recorded. The only other all pervasive myth is the lyncathrope (werewolves), and the two mythologies tend to interweave.

It is generally accepted that vampires are not real creatures and never have been. There are several theories regarding the origin of the stories. Some theorize that those suspected of vampirism were victims of syphilis. In later stages of this disease, the gums swell and the canines become more prominent. Syphilis sufferers can have yellowish (sallow) or pale skin, and in the final stages lose connection with their sanity, some even becoming psychotic and quite violent. It is not uncommon for a sensitivity to light to develop or for the sufferer to become photo-phobic. All of these symptoms seem to fit with the specific characteristics of vampirism.

Much of the lore we have in modern times comes from Bram Stoker's Dracula. While Stoker loosely based his Dracula character on Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler) and his particularly bloody history with the Ottoman invaders. He was also inspired largely by Emily Gerard and Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu, and also by historical events that occured in the English town of Whitby.

There are many similarities in the vampire myths that are found in different cultures.

Ancient Mesopotamians have the legend of Lilith or Lilitu (alleged to have been the first wife of Adam in Hebrew tradition). Many authors have borrowed from the legends of Lilith to establish her as the source of all vampires. Still others have pointed at Cain, Adam's son and the murderer of Abel. Seth, the cursed son of Noah has been identified as the vampire progenitor, as well as Judas Iscariot, they betrayer of Christ.

The ancient Greeks have two sources of vampiric legend: Empusa and Lamia.

The daughter of Hecate and Mormo, Empusa transformed herself into a woman so she could seduce men and drink their blood while they were sleeping. This is a contemporary legend of the Succubus (the Incubus being a male version), and Lilith is alleged to have been one of the four succubi (Lilith, Agrat Bat Mahlat, Naamah, and Eisheth Zenunim) who mated with the angel Samael (the angel of death in Jewish Talmudic tradition).

Lamia is alleged to have bore children from an affair with Zeus. Upon learning of Zeus' betrayal, Hera killed all of Lamia's children, and Lamia swore vengeance through the consumption (eating) of infants.

Indian folklore also has two sources of vampiric legend: vetalas who sleep hanging upside down in cemetaries and crematoriums, and Pishacha who are the ghosts of the deceased insane who inhabit corpses and have the power of invisibility, prefer darkness, and can take any form they choose.

Many regions of Africa have vampiric legends:

The Betsileo of Madagascar have the living ramanga who drinks blood. The Sasabonsam comes from the Ashanti of Ghana and tribes in Côte d'Ivoire and Togo; it has iron hooks for feet by which it hangs in and attacks from trees, and iron teeth. The Adze of the Ewe tribe hunts as a firefly draining the boold of its victims, but tranforms into a human form when caught. The Adze also seems to breed jealousy. The impundlu of southern Africa appears a human-sized black and white bird that is the familiar of witches and witch doctors, but takes the form of a human male to attack and feed on the blood of women.

The following is a partial list of other vampire legends and the region of origin:

  • Abchanchu - Bolivia
  • Abere - Melanesia
  • Acheri - Africa
  • Agogwe - Tanzania
  • Agta - Philippines
  • Akhkaru - Assyria
  • Algul - Iran
  • Alqul - Saudi Arabia
  • Aluka - Syria and Israel
  • Andilaveris - Kithos Island, Greece
  • Angiak - Alaska
  • Animalite - Spain
  • Aniukha - Siberia, Russia
  • Asanbosam - Africa
  • Asema - South America
  • Asiman - West Africa
  • Aswang - Philippines
  • Ataru - West Africa
  • Atraiomen - Caribbean Islands
  • Aufhocker - Germany
  • Azeman - Surinam
  • Bajang - Malaysia
  • Baka - HooDoo Tradition
  • Bantu (Bantu Dugong, Bantu Parl, Bantu Saburo) - India
  • Baobhan Sith - Scotland's Highlands
  • Bas - Malaysia
  • Bebarlang - Philippines
  • Bela Kiss - Czinkota, Budapest, Hungary
  • Bhauangkara - Tibet
  • Bhūta - India
  • Bibi - the Balkans
  • Blautsauger - Germany
  • Brahmaparush - India
  • Bruja - Spain and Central America
  • Bruxa/Bruxo - Portugal
  • Callicantzaro - Greece
  • Camazotz - Maya Mythology
  • Canchus - Peru
  • Catacano - Crete
  • Cihuateteo - Aztec Mythology
  • Chedipe - India
  • Chordewa - Bengal
  • Chupacabra - Puerto Rico, Chile, Mexico, The United States of America
  • Churel - India
  • Cihuacoatl - Aztec
  • Cihuateteo - Mexico
  • Dachnavar - Armenia
  • Dala-Kumara Yaka - Sri Lanka
  • Danag - Philippines
  • Dearg-due - Ireland
  • Dhampire - Slovakia
  • Dila - Philippines
  • Doppelsauger - Germany
  • Draugr - Norse
  • Edimmu - Sumer
  • Empusia - Ancient Greece
  • Eretik - Russia
  • Eretica - Russia
  • Estrie - Jewish Tradition
  • Fealaar - Scottland
  • Fifollet - United States
  • Gayal - India
  • Ghul - Arabia الغول , Japan, the Philippines
  • Glastig - Scotland
  • Hannya - Japan
  • Haubui - Norwegian
  • Hisi-Hsua-Kuei - China
  • Hupia - Taíno
  • Inovercy - Russia
  • Jaracaca - Brazil
  • Jenglot - Indonesian and Malaysian
  • Jiang Shi 僵屍 or 殭屍 - China
  • Jigarkhwar - India
  • K'uei - China
  • Kalu-Kumara Yaka - Sri Lanka
  • Kappa 河童 - Japan
  • Kasha - Japan
  • Kataknana - Crete
  • Kephn - Burma
  • Kozlak - Dalamatia
  • Krvopijac - Bulgarian
  • Kudlak - Czechoslovakia
  • Kuzlak - Dalmatia
  • Kukudhi - Albania
  • Kyuuketsuki 吸血鬼 - Japan
  • La Llorona - Central America and the United States
  • Lamia - Libya
  • Lampire - Bosnia
  • Langsuir - Malaysia
  • Lapps - Lapland
  • Leanashe - Ireland
  • Lemures - Ancient Rome
  • Leanhaum-shee - Ireland
  • Liebava - Moravia
  • Lidérc - Hungary
  • Lobishomen - Brazil and Portugal
  • Loogaroo - Caribbean Islands
  • Lugat - Albania
  • Manananggal - Philippines
  • Mandurugo - Philippines
  • Mara - Slavonic
  • Masan - India
  • Mati-Anak - Malaysia
  • Melusine - France
  • Mercure Galant - France 1693
  • Mmbyu - India
  • Muroni - Romania
  • Nachtzehrer - Germany
  • Nelapsi - Slovakia
  • Nora - Hungary
  • Nosferatu - Romania
  • Obayifo - West Africa
  • Obur - Bulgarian
  • Ohyn - Poland
  • Ol' Higue - Jamaica
  • Opyrb - Slavic
  • Pacu Pati - India
  • Pelesit - Malaysia
  • Penanggalan - Malaysia
  • Peuchen - Chile
  • Pichal Peri - India
  • Pishtaco - South America, Peru
  • Rakasahas - India
  • Riri Yaka - Sri Lanka
  • Sava Savanović - Serbia
  • Shtriga - Albania
  • Soucouyant - Trinidad
  • Strega - Italy
  • Strigoi - Romania
  • Strix/Striga - Ancient Rome
  • Strzyga - Slavic
  • Suangi - New Guinea
  • Sukuyan - Caribbean
  • Sybaris - Greece
  • Talamaur - Australia
  • Thayé - Burma
  • Tlahuelpuchi - Mexico
  • Ubour - Bulgaria
  • Upier - Polish
  • Upir - Ukraine
  • Upyr - Russian
  • Uruku - Mesopotamia
  • Ustrel - Bulgaria
  • Utukku - Sumer
  • Vapir - Bulgarian
  • Vârcolac - Romania
  • Varkolak - Bulgaria
  • Vendalla - Ethiopia
  • Vhlk'h dlaka - Greece
  • Vjesci - Germany
  • Vampir - Slovenia
  • Vourdalak - Russia
  • Vrykolakas βρυκόλακας - Greece
  • Vrykolatios - Santorini
  • Wak Wak - Philippines
  • Wurdulac - Russian
  • Yama - Tebet, Nepal and Mongolia
  • Yara-ma-yha-who - Australia
  • Yaka - Sri Lanka
  • Yaksha - Sri Lanka, India
  • Zorfabio - New Zealand
  • Zaolas - Brazil