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Vampires feed on human blood.

Origins of the Vampire

Vampires live on today as one of the most popular legends of entertainment. They have spawned dozens of books and movies. Many popular video games either are about vampires or feature them as one of the characters.

There is even music based on the legend of vampires. A full subculture has developed around vampires as many of the emo teens who would otherwise have gone on to follow the Goth counterculture are now following a faux vampire trend. They dress in typical vampire attire, often including face paint and false pointed teeth. They will take this idea to the point of reading trendy vampire lore and drinking red colored drinks pretending these are blood. The Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers has catapulted vampire lore into the mainstream.


However, much of the history of vampires comes from the real concerns of otherwise normal people who are trying to explain happenings in the world around them. Strange occurrences or other unexplained phenomenon have often landed themselves to vampires. In the middle ages, people were without science for the most part. It was a fledgling discipline and was not widely accepted. Due to this, if a child was missing or livestock killed people often looked to the supernatural to explain why. There are many well documented vampire hunts to have occurred throughout history, where an alleged vampire hunter, often a priest, will explain this otherwise unexplainable goings on as the work of vampires. The corpse of the suspected vampire would then be dug up from its grave, have its head cut off and a stake driven though its heart. The vampire hunter would then point out things such as blood left in the heart or long fingernails as the proof that they had actually found the undead that was causing the problems.


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A classic Hollywood style vampire. Dracula stalks his prey.

Dracula

While Bram Stoker certainly didn’t invent the legend of Vampires, much of the vampire lore we now know today was due to his work. He popularized the legend that had once been mostly the tales of gypsies and small villages, making vampire lore on of the most popular types of legend in history. He published the novel Dracula in 1897. As we all know the story or at least its main character, Count Dracula, today, it is hard to believe that the book was not at first a big seller.


Bram Stoker The Man

Stoker had spent 7 years studying the vampire folklore and stories of Eastern Europe. For most of the time he was writing the book, Stoker simply called the book the undead. He then came across a book about royalty of the Moldavia. There he read of Vlad III of Wallachia. He had taken the name of Dracul after being taken into the order of the dragon. In Romanian, Dracul can be assigned the translation of either the dragon, or the devil. By some accounts, Vlad III was also known as Vlad the Impaler. He was a member of the crusades to fight off the expansion of the Ottoman Empire. His was known to his enemies as the Impaler prince due to the fact that he was known to impale the bodies of his enemies, often still alive on long poles partially buried in the ground. In some cases, these were said to look like a macabre forest of bare trees with bodies at the top. He was a very successful soldier and leader with a famous nighttime raid that killed over 4000 of his enemy. Eventually he was betrayed by his former allies in Hungary.


The Book

The story of Dracula borrows almost nothing from the real man, short of his name. Stoker was in London at the same time that stories of various invasions were being written by the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle and H.G. Wells. Stoker put an unusual twist on the invasion story, which was all the rage in London as the time, by making the invader a single, yet supernaturally powerful foe. Count Dracula, the Arch Vampire from Transylvania in the Carpathian Mountains has been buying up properties in London. With his intent to be among the people of the city, feeding on them as he pleases, Dracula travels to London and begins terrorizing some of its denizens. Eventually, the famed vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing is called in to help defeat Dracula. With Van Helsing’s help, Dracula is eventually forced to flee London and return to his castle where he is then confronted and then destroyed by the heroes of the story.


Image Description
Emo teens who would otherwise have gone on
to follow the Goth counterculture are now
following a faux vampire trend.

Tales of Modern Vampires

While Dracula started much of the modern interest in Vampires, there have been very many takes on the legend of vampire by others. Some of the more modern vampire legends are outlined in the excellent 1976 novel by Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire, and part of her Vampire Chronicles. In this story a 200 year old vampire chooses to tell his tale to a modern journalist. He never truly came to peace with being a vampire and tells the trials of being a vampire in the shadows of the modern world. It is a more approachable story much more relevant to the modern age than the work of Stoker. In her stories there is not once all powerful vampire, but a nation of them, living in the shadows and keeping their existence a secret from the public at large. The idea being that while they are powerful individuals, if the whole of the public knew of them, they could be killed while they slept.