vampire

vampire

[vam-pahyuhr]
vampire, in folklore, animated corpse that sucks the blood of humans. Belief in vampires has existed from the earliest times and has given rise to an amalgam of legends and superstitions. They were most commonly thought of as spirits or demons that left their graves at night to seek and enslave their victims; it was thought that the victims themselves became vampires. The vampire could be warded off with a variety of charms, amulets, and herbs and could finally be killed by driving a stake through its heart or by cremation. Sometimes the vampire assumed a nonhuman shape, such as that of a bat or wolf (see lycanthropy). Probably the most famous vampire in literature is Count Dracula in the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker.

See A. Masters, The Natural History of the Vampire (1972); N. Auerbach, Our Vampires, Ourselves (1995).

Any of three species (family Desmodontidae) of tailless, brown, blood-eating bats native to the New World tropics. They grow to 2–3.5 in. (6–9 cm) long and weigh 0.5–2 oz (15–50 g). They run swiftly and leap with agility. They live in colonies in caves, hollow trees, and culverts, leaving after dark to forage low on the ground. They feed on quietly resting birds and mammals, including the occasional human, making a small cut with their sharp incisor teeth, often without disturbing the prey, and lapping the blood. The wounds are not serious but may transmit rabies or other diseases.

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Bela Lugosi with Frances Dade in Dracula (1931).

In popular legend, a bloodsucking creature that rises from its burial place at night, sometimes in the form of a bat, to drink the blood of humans. By daybreak it must return to its grave or to a coffin filled with its native earth. Tales of vampires are part of the world's folklore, most notably in Hungary and the Balkan Peninsula. The disinterment in Serbia in 1725 and 1732 of several fluid-filled corpses that villagers claimed were behind a plague of vampirism led to widespread interest and imaginative treatment of vampirism throughout western Europe. Vampires are supposedly dead humans (originally suicides, heretics, or criminals) who maintain a kind of life by biting the necks of living humans and sucking their blood; their victims also become vampires after death. These “undead” creatures cast no shadow and are not reflected in mirrors. They can be warded off by crucifixes or wreaths of garlic and can be killed by exposure to the sun or by an oak stake driven through the heart. The most famous vampire is Count Dracula from Bram Stoker's novel Dracula (1897).

Learn more about vampire with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Vampires are mythological or folkloric revenants who subsist by feeding on the blood of the living. In folkloric tales, the undead vampires often visited loved ones and caused mischief or deaths in the neighbourhoods they inhabited when they were alive. They wore shrouds and were often described as bloated and of ruddy or dark countenance, markedly different from today's gaunt, pale vampire which dates from the early Nineteenth Century. Although vampiric entities have been recorded in most cultures, the term vampire was not popularised 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 what can only be called mass hysteria and in some cases resulted in corpses actually being staked and people being accused of vampirism.

In modern times, however, the vampire is generally held to be a fictitious entity, although belief in similar vampiric creatures such as the chupacabra still persists in some cultures. Early folkloric belief in vampires has been ascribed to the ignorance of the body's process of decomposition after death and how people in pre-industrial societies tried to rationalise this, creating the figure of the vampire to explain the mysteries of death. Porphyria was also linked with legends of vampirism in 1985 and received much media exposure, but has since been largely discredited.

The charismatic and sophisticated vampire of modern fiction was born in 1819 with the publication of The Vampyre by John Polidori; the story was highly successful and arguably the most influential vampire work of the early 19th century. However, it is Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula which is remembered as the quintessential vampire novel and provided the basis of the modern vampire legend. The success of this book spawned a distinctive vampire genre, still popular in the 21st century, with books, films, and television shows. The vampire has since become a dominant figure in the horror genre.

Etymology

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. Vampires had already been discussed in German literature. After Austria gained control of northern Serbia and Oltenia 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 thought to be derived in the early 18th century from the Serbian вампир/vampir. The Serbian form has parallels in virtually all Slavic languages: Bulgarian вампир (vampir), Czech and Slovak upír, Polish wąpierz, and (perhaps East Slavic-influenced) upiór, Russian упырь (upyr'), Belarusian упыр (upyr), Ukrainian упирь (upir'), from Old Russian 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. Like its possible cognate that means "bat" (Czech netopýr, Slovak netopier, Polish nietoperz, Russian нетопырь / netopyr' - a species of bat), the Slavic word might contain a Proto-Indo-European root for "to fly". An older theory is that the Slavic languages have borrowed the word from a Turkic term for "witch" (e.g., Tatar ubyr).

The first recorded use of the Old Russian form Упирь (Upir') is commonly believed to be in a document dated 6555 (1047 AD). It is a colophon in a manuscript of the Book of Psalms written by a priest who transcribed the book from Glagolitic into Cyrillic for the Novgorodian Prince Vladimir Yaroslavovich. The priest writes that his name is "Upir' Likhyi " (Упирь Лихый), which means something like "Wicked Vampire" or "Foul Vampire". This apparently strange name has been cited as an example both of surviving paganism and of the use of nicknames as personal names.

Another early use of the Old Russian word is in the anti-pagan treatise "Word of Saint Grigoriy", dated variously to the 11th–13th centuries, where pagan worship of upyri is reported.

Folk beliefs

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.

Description and common attributes

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.

Other attributes varied greatly from culture to culture; some vampires, such as those found in Transylvanian tales, were gaunt, pale, and had long fingernails, while those from Bulgaria only had one nostril, and Bavarian vampires slept with thumbs crossed and one eye open. Moravian vampires only attacked while naked, and those of Albanian folklore wore high-heeled shoes. As stories of vampires spread throughout the globe to the Americas and elsewhere, so did the varied and sometimes bizarre descriptions of them: Mexican vampires had a bare skull instead of a head, Brazilian vampires had furry feet and vampires from the Rocky Mountains only sucked blood with their noses and from the victim's ears. Common attributes were sometimes described, such as red hair. Some were reported to be able to transform into bats, rats, dogs, wolves, spiders and even moths. From these various legends, works of literature such as Bram Stoker's Dracula, and the influences of historical bloodthirsty figures such as Gilles de Rais, Elizabeth Bathory, and Vlad Ţepeş, the vampire developed into the modern stereotype.

Creating vampires

The causes of vampiric generation were many and varied in original folklore. In Slavic and Chinese traditions, any corpse which 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 which 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 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. 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.

Identifying vampires

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.

Protection

Apotropaics—mundane or sacred items able to ward off revenants—such as garlic or holy water are common in vampire folklore. The items vary from region to region; a branch of wild rose and hawthorn plant are said to harm vampires; 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 those 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 (vampires do not have a reflection and in some cultures, do not cast shadows, 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 utilized 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 though the heart, though the mouth was targeted in Russia and northern Germany and the stomach in northeastern 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. 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.

Ancient beliefs

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 vetalas, ghoul-like beings that inhabit corpses, have been compiled in the Baital Pachisi; a prominent story in the Kathasaritsagara tells of King Vikramāditya and his nightly quests to capture an elusive one. Pishacha, the returned spirits of evil-doers or those who died insane, also bear vampiric attributes. The Ancient Indian goddess Kali, with fangs and a garland of corpses or skulls, was also intimately linked with the drinking of blood. In Egypt, the goddess Sekhmet drank blood.

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 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. However, the Jewish counterparts were said to feast on both men and women, as well as newborns.

Ancient Greek and Roman mythology described the Empusae, 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. Lamia preyed on young children in their beds at night, sucking their blood. Like 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.

Medieval and later European folklore

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. These tales are similar to the later folklore widely reported from Eastern Europe in the 18th century and were the basis of the vampire legend that later entered Germany and England, where they were subsequently embellished and popularised.

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.

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:

The controversy only ceased when Empress Maria Theresa of Austria sent her personal physician, Gerhard 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.

Non-European beliefs

Africa

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 Americas

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 and her heart was cut out and burnt to ashes.

Asia

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. India 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. Although vampires have appeared in Japanese Cinema since the late 1950s, the folklore behind it was 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.

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 off 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 folklores 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, which she sucked the blood of children with. 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.

Jiang Shi (literally "stiff corpse"), sometimes called "Chinese vampires" by Westerners, are reanimated corpses that hop around, killing living creatures to absorb life essence () from their victims. They are said to be created when a person's soul (魄 ) fails to leave the deceased's body. One unusual feature of this vampire is its greenish-white furry skin, perhaps derived from fungus or mould growing on corpses.

Modern beliefs

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 rumors 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 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 considered a fictitious being, although many communities 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 also represents 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.

Origins of vampire beliefs

Pathology

Belief in vampires has been described as the result of people of pre-industrial societies attempting to explain the 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. 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.

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".

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.

Disease

Folkloric vampirism has been associated with a series of deaths due to unidentifiable or mysterious illnesses, usually within the same family or the same small community. Tuberculosis and the pneumonic form of bubonic plague were associated with breakdown of lung tissue which would cause blood to appear at the lips. Dr Juan Gómez-Alonso, a neurologist at Xeral Hospital in Vigo, Spain, examined the possibility of a link with rabies in the journal Neurology. The susceptibility to garlic and light could be due to rabies-induced hypersensitivity. 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.

Porphyria

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 sufferers crave the haem in human blood or that the consumption of blood might ease the symptoms 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. Dolphin did not publish his work more widely. Despite being dismissed by experts, the theory gained media attention and entered popular modern folklore.

Psychopathology

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", due to 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. A more recent case involved a UK student who stabbed his elderly neighbour 22 times, before tearing out her heart and drinking her blood from a saucepan in the hope of 'becoming immortal'.

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 'feeding' from pranic energy. Practitioners may take on a variety of 'roles', including both "vampires" and their sources of blood or pranic energy.

Vampire bats

Vampire bats have only recently become an integral part of the traditional vampire lore. Although there are no vampire bats in Europe, bats and owls have long been associated with the supernatural, mainly due to their nocturnal habits.

The only three species of vampire bats are all from Latin America, and so were not an influence on the creation of the European vampire legends. During the 16th century the Spanish conquistadors first came into contact with vampire bats and recognized the similarity between the feeding habits of the bats and those of the legendary vampires. The bats were named after the 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.

Though the literary Dracula's flying form was originally described as merely bird- or lizard-like, it was not long before bats were adapted into vampire fiction; they were used in the 1927 stage production of Dracula and the resulting film, in which Bela Lugosi's Dracula would transform into a bat. The bat transformation scene would again be used by Lon Chaney Jr. in 1943's Son of Dracula. Vampire bats are small creatures and have never been used in the film industry; instead, the much larger flying fox bat (which does not drink blood) is used in bat transformation scenes.

Connections with werewolves

In Medieval Europe, the corpses of some people executed as werewolves were cremated rather than buried in order to prevent them from being resurrected as vampires. Before the end of the 19th century, the Greeks believed that the corpses of werewolves, if not destroyed, would return to life as vampires in the form of wolves or hyenas which prowled battlefields, drinking the blood of dying soldiers. In the same vein, in some rural areas of Germany, Poland and Northern France, it was once believed that people who died in mortal sin came back to life as blood-drinking wolves. This differs from conventional werewolves, which are are thought of as living beings rather than undead. These vampiric werewolves would return to their human corpse form at daylight. They were dealt with by decapitation with a spade and exorcism by the parish priest. The head would then be thrown into a stream, where the weight of its sins were thought to weigh it down. Sometimes, the same methods used to dispose of ordinary vampires would be used. The werewolf was also linked to the vampire in East European countries, particularly Bulgaria, Serbia and Slovakia. In Serbia, the werewolf and vampire are known collectively as one creature; Vulkodlak. In Hungarian and Balkan mythology, many werewolves were said to be vampiric witches who became wolves in order to suck the blood of men born under the full moon in order to preserve their health. In their human form, these werewolves were said to have pale, sunken faces, hollow eyes, swollen lips and flabby arms. The Haitian jé-rouges (red eyes) differ from traditional European werewolves by their habit of actively trying to spread their lycanthropic condition to others, much like vampires.

In modern fiction

The vampire is now a fixture in popular fiction. Such fiction began with eighteenth century poetry, continued with nineteenth century short stories, serial publications and plays, and culminated in the pre-eminent vampire novel of all time: Dracula by Bram Stoker, published in 1897.

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 and Lord Byron's The Giaour (1813). 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 framentary tale of his illustrious patient.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. 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 Dracula both bearing protruding teeth, and Murnau's Nosferatu (1922) fearing daylight. The cloak appeared in stage productions of the 1820s, 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.

Literature

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. Other examples of early vampire fictions exist, such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge's unfinished poem Christabel and 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 1800s, reading works such as The Land Beyond the Forest (1888) by Emily Gerard and other books about Transylvania and vampires. A member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, he was keen to travel around Eastern Europe to learn about the folkloric vampires and the occult. 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 latter part of the twentieth 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).

The twenty first century has brought more examples of vampire fiction, such as Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, 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. Others, such as L.A. Banks' The Vampire Huntress Legend Series, Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series, and Kim Harrison's The Hollows series, portray the vampire in a new light, while not focusing exclusively on it.

Film and television

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 movies 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, 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. Bram Stoker's Dracula was a noteworthy 1992 remake which became the then-highest grossing vampire film ever. This increase of interest in vampiric plotlines led to the vampire being depicted in movies such as Underworld and Van Helsing, the Russian Night Watch and a TV miniseries remake of 'Salem's Lot, both from 2004. The continuing popularity of the vampire theme has been ascribed to a combination of two factors: the representation of sexuality — something which has become more overt in the Internet age — and the perennial dread of mortality. HBO newest series now has southern take to the vampire, by the name of True Blood.

Footnotes

References

  • Barber, Paul (1988). Vampires, Burial and Death: Folklore and Reality. New York: Yale University Press.
  • Bunson, Matthew (1993). The Vampire Encyclopedia. London: Thames & Hudson.
  • Burkhardt, Dagmar (1966). Beiträge zur Südosteuropa-Forschung: Anlässlich des I. Internationalen Balkanologenkongresses in Sofia 26. VIII.-1. IX. 1966. Munich: Rudolf Trofenik.
  • Cohen, Daniel (1989). Encyclopedia of Monsters: Bigfoot, Chinese Wildman, Nessie, Sea Ape, Werewolf and many more.... London: Michael O'Mara Books Ltd.
  • Créméné, Adrien (1981). La mythologie du vampire en Roumanie. Monaco: Rocher.
  • Faivre, Antoine (1962). Les Vampires. Essai historique, critique et littéraire. Paris: Eric Losfeld.
  • Frayling, Christopher (1991). Vampyres, Lord Byron to Count Dracula. London: Faber.
  • Introvigne, Massimo (1997). La stirpe di Dracula: Indagine sul vampirismo dall'antichità ai nostri giorni. Milan: Mondadori.
  • Hurwitz, Siegmund (1992). Lilith, the First Eve: Historical and Psychological Aspects of the Dark Feminine. Einsiedeln, Switzerland:
  • Jennings, Lee Byron (2004). In dem milden und glücklichen Schwaben und in der Neuen Welt: Beiträge zur Goethezeit. Stuttgart: Akademischer Verlag Stuttgart.
  • Jones, Ernest (1931). On the Nightmare. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis.
  • Marigny, Jean (1993). Vampires: The World of the Undead. London: Thames & Hudson.
  • McNally, Raymond T. (1983). Dracula Was a Woman. McGraw Hill.
  • Schwartz, Howard (1988). Lilith's Cave: Jewish tales of the supernatural. San Francisco: Harper & Row.
  • Skal, David J. (1996). V is for Vampire. New York: Plume.
  • Skal, David J. (1993). The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror. New York: Penguin.
  • Silver, Alain; James Ursini (1993). The Vampire Film: From Nosferatu to Bram Stoker's Dracula. New York: Limelight.
  • Summers, Montague (2005). Vampires and Vampirism. Mineola, NY: Dover. (Originally published as The Vampire: His Kith and Kin)
  • Summers, Montague (1996). The Vampire in Europe. Gramercy Books: New York. (also published as The Vampire in Lore and Legend, ISBN 0-486-41942-8)
  • Vuković, Milan T. (2004). Народни обичаји, веровања и пословице код Срба. Belgrade: Сазвежђа.
  • Wright, Dudley (1973). The Book of Vampires. New York: Causeway Books. (Originally published as Vampire and Vampirism; also published as The History of Vampires)

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