Vampires – A Closer Look

The vampires most people are familiar with are decaying corpses that are said to return from the grave to harm the living; these vampires have Slavic origins only a few hundred years old. Other, older, versions of the vampire were not thought to be human at all but instead supernatural, possibly demonic, entities that did not take human form.

Vampires are an extreme favorite around Halloween, but they can be found year-round in movies and on television, in books and on blogs. The public’s thirst for vampires seems as endless as vampires’ thirst for blood. Modern writers of vampire fiction, including Stephenie Meyer, Anne Rice, Stephen King and countless others, have a rich vein of vampire lore to draw from. But where did the vampires come from?

Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of Dracula has influenced how many people picture vampires.

The most famous vampire is, of course, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, though those looking for a historical “real” Dracula often cite Romanian prince Vlad Tepes (1431-1476), after whom Stoker is said to have modeled some aspects of his Dracula character. The characterization of Tepes as a vampire, however, is a distinctly Western one; in Romania, he is viewed not as a blood-drinking sadist but as a national hero who defended his empire from the Ottoman Turks.

Matthew Beresford, author of “From Demons to Dracula: The Creation of the Modern Vampire Myth” states within his text that, “There are clear foundations for the vampire in the ancient world, and it is impossible to prove when the myth first arose. There are suggestions that the vampire was born out of sorcery in ancient Egypt, a demon summoned into this world from some other.” There are many variations of vampires from around the world. There are Asian vampires, such as the Chinese jiangshi (pronounced chong-shee), evil spirits that attack people and drain their life energy; the blood-drinking Wrathful Deities that appear in the “Tibetan Book of the Dead,” and many others. 

Finding a vampire is not always easy: according to one Romanian legend you’ll need a 7-year-old boy and a white horse. The boy should be dressed in white, placed upon the horse, and the pair set loose in a graveyard at midday. Watch the horse wander around, and whichever grave is nearest the horse when it finally stops is a vampire’s grave, unless, of course, somebody decides to plant some food somewhere near the stopping point of the horse.

Vampires are fun to laugh at, or even good for a spook every now and again.  From the romantic, to the blood thirsty, and even characters on children’s television shows, vampires have haunted human culture for some time now.

Vampires have also influenced the world of Psychopaths and serial killers:

Known as the Butcher or Vampire of Hanover, a part-time thief and burglar was responsible for the deaths of two dozen boys and young men. From 1918 to 1924, Fritz Haarmann would lure his victims to his apartment with the promise of a good meal. After eating and drinking their fill, he killed each one by biting into their trachea before dismembering them and tossing the remains into the Leine River.

In 1980, James P. Riva stabbed his grandmother in the heart and shot her multiple times with gold bullets before drinking her blood. When he realized what he’d done, James set their home ablaze. When asked about his motives, he claimed he was a 700-year-old vampire who needed his elders’ blood to survive

Roderick Ferrell was the leader of a group of supposed vampires called “Vampire Clan”–based on their obsession with the role-playing game Vampire: the Masquerade. Ferrel claimed that he was a several hundred year old vampire called Vesago and led the group in performing rituals and drinking blood together. Then, in November 1996, he and three members drove to long-time friend Heather Wendorf’s home in Florida and beat her parents, Richard Wendorf and Naomi Queen, to death with a crowbar. Ferrel burned a V for vampire into the father’s chest before the four traveled to New Orleans to their favorite video arcade. Ferrel claimed police could not contain him when captured but was found guilty of murder. The sentence was death, but it would later be changed to life without parole.

Jeffrey Dahmer stated that he had tried drinking his victim’s blood, but it really didn’t do anything for him.  

Vampires have been a part of history for a very long time.  It is very important to know where to draw the line between fiction and reality.  But be-ware, the next time you see a bat, rabies may be the least of your worries.  


Author: Nicholas Thomas

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