Origins and History of Vampires

Picture Of The Vampire By Philip Burne Jones 1897

Trough majority of the modern history of humanity, various myths and legends depicted various supernatural creatures that rose from the grave and feasted on the blood and flesh of living people.

Almost every civilization had, at least, one creature that fit that description, but the term "vampire" was not created until the 19th century. Before that, vampiric traits that define modern day vampire were attributed to the variety of creatures, such as ghosts, evil spirits, ghouls, demons, the devil and even deities. For example, civilizations of ancient Babyloon and Assyria tell the tale of mystical beings Lilitu, who lived by eating the blood of babies, and Estries who roamed through cities killing unsuspecting men. They later become the basis for Hebrew myth of Lillith and her daughters. India had stories about vetālas ghouls, who lived in corpses of dead people and animated them. Persians culture left behind many written accounts and pottery pictures which described demonic creatures that feasted on human blood. In Europe, myths of blood sucking demons and were found in the tales of Greek and Roman beings of Empusae (Greek demigoddess) and Lamia (beautiful queen of Libya who became a child-eating demon), whose traits eventually melded into their Medieval supernatural counterparts of witches and demons.

During the troubling times of European Middle Ages, diseases, plagues, wars, famines and other disasters (such as the eruption of Icelandic volcano Laki in 1783, which brought plumes that engulfed Europe and greatly prolonged winter) gave birth to a wide variety of folklore tales and dangerous mystical creatures that feasted on humans. The fear of creatures such as demons who corrupted people souls and witches who tormented innocents became so intense, that the tradition of burning and killing people who were suspected of being "controlled by Satan" or worshiping which magic was regular. Among those beings, tales of "revenants" started appearing in 12th century England, most likely influenced by the tales of Nordic creature "draugr" (meaning "one who walks after death", undead creature with superhuman strength that lived in the graves of people) which was brought to British isles during numerous invasions of Vikings.

However, European environment filled with beliefs of various mystical creatures became overshadowed in the late 17h century when the myth of Eastern European Slavic people reached western civilization - vampires. Created in the pre-Christian era, Vampires were thought to be spirits of deceased individuals who had the ability to return to their original decaying bodies during the initial 40 day period after their death. Sometimes they would bless the remaining family members, or sometimes wreak havoc and misfortune, especially if the body was not properly buried. In such cases, wandering "unclean souls and spirits" could possess the body and gain the ability to enact their vengeance on the mortal world. From all those beliefs came the concept of Vampir, the immortal unclean spirit possessing the dead and decomposing body, longing for revenge and blood that sustains its existence. Because Slavs believed that souls are immortal, some of the famous individuals from their history were often thought to have survived death trough possessing the dead bodies, most notably one of the most feared rulers of Hungary and Transilvania -VladTepes. Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, lived between 1431 and 1476 as a son of Vlad II Dracul ( the name given to him for his membership in Order of the Dragon, formed to protect the Christianity in Europe), gaining the reputation of fierce warrior and gruesome torturer who liked to impale his Ottoman enemies on stakes. Stories about his unending hatred towards Ottomans and horrible deaths of tens of thousands prisoners fueled the myths of Slavic people, eventually forming a belief that he was one of the most powerful "vampire" spirits that haunted that lands.

Picture Of Vampire Skeleton Stabbed With Iron Rod

The arrival of vampires into Europe can be traced to the story "The Vampyre" made by John Polidori in 1819. It sparked the imagination and fears of the almost entire European population, which culminated in 1897 when Bram Stoker released his famous novel Dracula. Managing to fuse the historical facts about VladTepes, superstition of Slavic people, common misconceptions related to death and decompositions of the body, Stoker managed to form essential traits of vampire that became the basis for all future superstitions works of art regarding vampires. Vampiric craze that swept over Europe was unmatched by any other mythical belief before, and some scientists believe that several factors played important role in the rise of Vampire mass hysteria - Slavic spiritualism, small knowledge regarding body decomposition, legends of people that were buried alive (most often unintentionally), effects of unknown contagions (which were very present in Europe), incomplete knowledge about rare blood disease porphyria, belief that love or vengeance of dying person can drive the spirit back into the dead body, psychopathological effect promoted by several serial killers who showcased themselves as vampires, and more.

As the time went on, popular culture started building up vampires as one of the most famous and dangerous supernatural evil forces that roam in the dark and populated areas of developing word, hiding in plain sight and being seemingly almost unstoppable. One of the most popular driving forces of Vampire craze came in February of 1931 with the Hollywood movie adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi as the title character. This movie created unprecedented feeling of dread and horror to the American audience who initially saw it, managing to became first successful supernatural horror "chiller" and international success that fueled the rise of the horror movie industry with the titles such as Frankenstein (November 1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), and The Wolf Man (1941). To this day, dominant performance of Bela Lugosi is regarded as a definite version of a vampire.

In the modern times, vampire subgenre of horror managed to evolve into a worldwide art form that can be found in Goth and Vampiric lifestyles that are practiced by many people, countless movies, books, music and other forms of media. The most notable examples of vampire genre in modern media can be found in 1992 movie Dracula (remake of original Bram Stoker's story, starring Gary Oldman and directed by Francis Ford Coppola), Interview with a Vampire (1976 Anne Rice novel and 1994 film starring Tom Cruise), Twilight Saga (romantic themed Vampire books and films by Stephenie Meyer), World of Darkness (traditional pen and paper role-playing setting set in the modern times where vampires secretly rule the world) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (cult TV series made by Joss Whedon).