In the shadows of night, these humanoid monsters stalk, seeking hapless victims to claim as their own. Vampires have been seamlessly integrated into modern culture through movies, TV, and video games, but there was a time when they were creatures that fueled nightmares. In this blood-soaked installment, we’re going to look at mythologies bloodsuckers and the ten most interesting facts about them.
Of course, all of this could be a very moot point and there could be a generally scientific explanation for vampirism. There is a rare disease called porphyria that produces symptoms very similar to what we believe vampires to be susceptible to. Those that suffer from the hereditary disease are extremely sensitive to sunlight, with any skin exposed to it developing redness, blisters, and scarring. Along with sunlight sensitivity, people with porphyria are also known to suffer from severe mental disturbances. It is believed that Vlad the Impaler suffered from the disease, likely starting or solidifying the belief that vampires are allergic to sunlight.
Prince Charles’ Blood Ties to Dracula
What sounds like a weird conspiracy theory over in the UK actually has some truth to it as the nobleman Prince Charles is said to have blood ties to the Romanian terror, Vlad the Impaler. In a propaganda video used to promote tourism in the United Kingdom, the Prince of Wales himself notes his kinship to the great Wallachian ruler, Dracula. Prince Charles is not shy about his lineage, which can be traced through his great grandmother, Queen Mary, all the way down to the half brother of the Impaler, Vlad IV.
In northwest Europe, anthropologists uncovered prehistoric stone monuments placed over the graves of the deceased. These dolmens were thought to have a rather curious purpose, one connected to vampires rising from the grave. It is thought that these stone structures, heavy and near impossible to move with just one person, were placed over the graves as a preventative measure to keep vampires at bay. The structures ranged from simple formations to more elaborate structures that look like small stone abodes.
To Become a Vampire
Think you’re safe from becoming a vampire if you simply avoid being bitten? While that is a traditional means of joining the ranks of the undead, popular folklore across the world lists many other ways that one can become a vampire. Individuals that were once werewolves, practiced sorcery, or were excommunicated were believed to be susceptible to transformation. Additionally, illegitimate children of parents that were also illegitimate, still born babies or those that died prior to baptism, and people that committed suicide could sprout fangs and be forced to walk the earth at night. It doesn’t stop there, either, and it gets even more ludicrous should you ever eat the flesh of a sheep killed by a wolf, were unfortunate enough to be the 7th son, or were a nun and stepped over an unburied body.
To Repel a Vampire
Hollywood has all but bashed into our skulls the many ways that a vampire can be repelled, from sunlight to decapitation to cloves of garlic; but the list does not stop there. We’ve already learned about their incessant need to count, but vampires also have a weakness to silver, wolfsbane, salt, and fire. Vampires are also believed to not be able to cross running water, unless it’s at the ebb, as flowing water is thought to be a symbol of life and holiness. The undead are also thought to be repelled by peppermint, iron, bells, hawthorn branches, and a rooster’s crow. To stop a vampire from emerging completely, some corpses were buried face down, ensuring that the creature would burrow the wrong way into the depths of the earth.
Boneless Bags of Blood
According to South Slavic vampire folklore, the emergence of the vampire is completely different, and slightly more unusual, than traditional belief. During the early stages of transformation, the vampire was an invisible shadow that would gain strength by sucking the blood of its victims. With each drained body, it would begin to form a jelly-like, boneless mass – a bag of blood – that would eventually become a physical form not unlike the person’s original figure. The development would start the moment the shadowy figure rose from its grave. Slavic vampires were typically male and would breed with his widow to create vampire children.
Vlad the Impaler may be the world’s most famed vampire, known for horrifically impaling his enemies and dipping bread in blood. Today, Vlad is best known for his more popular nickname, Dracula, and is a focal vampire in bloodsucker lore. How did Vlad earn the name Dracula, though? Ironically, it was in his blood since birth. His father, Vlad II, was best known as Dracul, meaning dragon or devil. Dracula translates to Son of Dracul or, even more fitting, Son of the Devil. Was Vlad cursed from birth to be viewed as the legendary monster he is believed to be today? In 1931, his remains were brought to the History Museum in Bucharest where they supposedly vanished without atrace.
We know that vampires are not some modern concept, but some may be a bit blind as to how old the myth of bloodsuckers really is. Some vampirologists – yes, that’s a real thing – believe Ancient Egypt, or Kemet, was the birthplace of the vampire. In one translation, it is believed that Set, jealous of his brother Osiris’ fortune and place as king, fed on humans and created an army of vampires that would overtake and murder Osiris. In response to his father’s death, Horus turned to Ra to place a curse on Set and his people so that they couldn’t step into the sunlight without being destroyed.
If you’ve ever wondered where Jim Henson’s The Count picked up his case of Arithmomania, or the obsessive need to count things in one’s surrounding, it’s actually a long standing vampire myth and not just a clever play on the “Count” moniker. One alleged means of keeping one safe from vampires at night was to drop small seeds or grains of rice around the grave of an assumed vampire. Some cultural beliefs state that the vampire would obsessively count each grain, keeping them preoccupied until sunrise. Don’t believe it? Just ask Fox Mulder about his run-in with The Sandlot-actor turned vampire, Patrick Renna.
The Coffin Theory
Much of vampire lore has the bloodsucking undead returning to their wooden grave just before sundown, but where did the popular myth that vampire’s slept in coffins come from? According to American author, historian, geomancer, independent scholar, and cultural critic, John Michael Greer, the belief that vampires rose from coffins could have come from reports from morticians and gravediggers of bodies suddenly sitting up in their graves and leaving their crypts. It is believed that the supposed deceased were buried while in a vampiric coma and would, therefor, rise from their grave once the transformation was complete.