The History of the Vampire Myth

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A screenshot from the trailer for Dracula (1958), an Hammer Horror production

For hundreds of years people have been fascinated by tales of blood sucking vampires. But where does the story of vampires come from?

The story of Vampires is widespread between many different cultures, over a vast period of time. The fact that the stories all have commonalities makes tales of vampires compelling to millions of people all over the world.

What is a Vampire?

A vampire can be many things. This is determined by what story one reads. If it an old foreign myth a vampire may be a demon. Today’s vampire is a human who has died and come back to life due to drinking another vampires blood. The vampire then preys on humans in order to sustain itself and keep it’s body strong.

Why do People Believe in Vampires?

One of the most believable reasons that explains the existence of the vampire myth is the disease Porphyria. Sufferers of this illness had pale skin, rapid tissue damage and enlarged death due to gum damage. This condition is worsened by sunlight so people afflicted with this illness avoided the sunlight. Anemia is associated with Porphyria and this may explain the practice of drinking blood as people with Porphyria have been known to drink animal blood due to their anemia.

Another disease that may be able to explain the existence of the vampire myth is Rabies. Rabies often causes increased sexuality and the compulsion to bite others.

The Beginning of Vampire Myth

Vampire like creatures have been recorded in history books as far back as they go. The Chinese wrote of creatures that would go around consuming the life essence of others. The ancient Egyptians told a tale where the goddess Sakhmet was consumed with Bloodlust and stories of blood thirsty demons are common place in literature. These stories are widespread and range from ancient Greece and Rome to India and Malaysia.

The Romanian and Slavic tales of vampires have contain vampire traits that are the most common in popular culture.

The Changing Face of the Vampire

Because the mythology surrounding the vampire dates back hundreds of years to many different countries and cultures, all with their own versions of a vampire writers have plenty of information to work with.

The book which most vampire traits are taken from today is Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Though no no vampire is the same due to the creativity of writers most have similar characteristics as Dracula.

When it comes to film and television the vampire has transformed from a soulless villain with very little characterization to tortured souls dealing with the burdens of immortality.