Vampires have played an important role in literature, films, and even for Halloween through the countless reinterpretations and readaptations of their true form.
It is quite unclear where the original idea for the vampire came from, however there are some theories that suggest that, in Ancient Egypt, the vampire was born out of sorcery, or that, in Asia, vampires were evil spirits that attacked people and drained their life energy. Beliefs in these beings came about during the Middle Ages in Europe.
The Western perception of vampires only dates back a few hundred years and is of Slavic origin. These vampires were thought to be human corpses returning from the dead to harm the living. The older perception of the vampire was actually that these beasts were not human, but that they were actually supernatural. In order to notice the presence of a vampire, some legends suggest that it could be noticed as early as in the form of a birth defect, but this could be prevented through baptism.
One of the most widely known vampires throughout the world is Dracula. Dracula was based on the Romanian prince, Vlad Tepes, also known as Vlad the Impaler, who was born in 1431, and died in 1476. Bram Stoker based his novel on this man, however the Romanians did not perceive him as a blood-drinking sadist. They considered him a national hero who defended the Romanians from the Ottoman Turks.
Amongst all the characteristics that are associated with vampires, such as that they turn into bats or wolves, that they don’t have a shadow, or that they can be killed by sunlight, the one common characteristic that they share is that they all drain living beings of their blood. One idea about vampires that is shocking is how it was said that they could fall in love and have children.
The popularity in the belief of vampires came about from families that suffered an unforeseen misfortune. Villagers believed that the recently deceased were responsible and came back from the dead with bad intent. Graves were sometimes unburied, and signs of natural decay were mistaken for signs of vampire presence.
In order to prevent the appearance of a vampire, Europeans would stake bodies to the ground or put bricks in the mouths of the dead. To keep them away, there are ideas that salt, garlic, and the sign of the cross could repel these creatures.
There are so many vampire legends out there that it is hard to even tell if they ever really existed! Perhaps with a little trip to Transylvania, you could see for yourself!