Vampires are found in myths and folklore. They generally feed on the life essence, usually blood, of living creatures. The term vampire became popular in the early 18th century when superstitions from Western Europe caused mass hysteria. During this time, some corpses were staked and individuals accused.
The appearance of the vampire varied. In 1819, John Polidori wrote the novella “The Vampyre” which told of a sophisticated vampire. This later inspired Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” in 1897. It is from this work that modern vampires are based.
In order to identify vampires many years ago, there were different methods. In one, a corpse with a healthy appearance and little to no decomposition brought about suspicion. Another used a virgin boy on a virgin stallion led through a graveyard where the horse would balk at the questionable grave. Holes in the earth over a grave would also be considered.
Different items that were used to ward off vampires were garlic, wild rose, hawthorn, sprinkling mustard seeds on a roof, the use of a crucifix, holy water, and a rosary. In order to destroy a vampire, many techniques were employed. Staking with ash wood in Russia and the Baltic states, hawthorn in Serbia, and oak in Silesia. The heart was the target for most, however, the mouth was the area to stake in Russia and Northern Germany, while the stomach was popular in Serbia. Decapitation, spiking the head, body, or clothes, and steel or iron needles placed in the heart, mouth, over the eyes and ears, and between the fingers were all seen. In 2006 a 16th century burial was discovered where a brick was forced into a female’s mouth near Venice in a vampire ritual.
In Hebrew demonology, Lilith was considered a demon that lived on the blood of babies. The Perians told of blood-drinking demons, while Greek and Roman mythology spoke of Empusa, the daughter of Hecate, who would drink the blood of men she had seduced.
During the Age of Enlightenment, belief in vampirism reached a mass hysteria. Most scholars believed that vampires did not exist, but some wrote in support of the phenomena. Empress Maria Theresa of Austria sent her physician to quell the rumors. His conclusions were that vampires did not exist, which allowed for the Empress to pass laws that prohibited desecrating bodies and the opening of graves, ending the debate.
Some scientific reasons could be held accountable for a local reason behind the vampire myth. A corpse will swell during decomposition, giving a ruddy or plump appearance, causing some individuals to look healthier in death than they were in life. Contracting skin and tissues cause the nails and teeth to appear as if they have grown. Premature burial and grave robbing could explain fingernail marks on the inside of the coffin, and a disordered grave. A cluster of deaths, often blamed upon a vampire, could have been caused from an illness such as tuberculosis or the bubonic plague.
Superstition and art carried the idea of vampires through the ages. A vampire lifestyle can be seen in certain occultist practitioners today. Vampires in literature abound. A resurgence has been seen since the popular Twilight series written by Stephenie Meyer.
Vampires in the film industry have been giving appearances since the iconic German silent movie, “Nosferatu”, made in 1922. Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi are also commonly known for their portrayals of Count Dracula.
The above information and photos were found at Wikipedia.