Vampires: The Truth Behind the Myth | KT Horror

Vampires are one of the most popular and enduring creatures in fiction and folklore. They have fascinated and terrified people for centuries, and have inspired countless stories, movies, and games. But what is the truth behind the vampire myth? Where did the idea of vampires come from, and how did they evolve over time? Wanna explore the history, characteristics, powers, and folklore of vampires, and reveal some facts and myths that surround them with me?

First obvious Question: What are vampires?

A vampire is a mythical creature that subsists by feeding on the vital essence (generally in the form of blood) of the living. In Europe, they believed they were undead creatures who visited loved ones, caused mischief, and deaths in the place they lived when they were alive. With pale skin, sharp fangs, and red eyes, transforming into bats, wolves, or mist. They have superhuman strength, speed, and senses, and some can hypnotize, shapeshift, or control the weather. However, vampires also have weaknesses, such as sunlight, garlic, holy water, crosses, stakes, fire, and bizarrely often, women.

I’m the world’s most dangerous predator. Everything about me invites you in: my voice, my face, even my smell. As if a need any of that. As if you could outrun me! As if you could fight me off! I’m designed to kill.

-Edward, Twilight-

Where did the idea of vampires come from?

The idea of vampires dates back to ancient times, when people believed in spirits and demons that could possess or harm the living. One of the earliest accounts of vampires is found in an ancient Sumerian and Babylonian myth dating to 4,000 B.C. which describes ekimmu (a type of demon who wasn’t buried properly) or edimmu (one who is snatched away). They return to suck the life out of the living (often showing up as a boss, manager, or Karen). In Egypt, if one of the five parts of the soul named the Ka doesn’t receive offerings, it leaves its tomb to nourish itself on the blood of the living.

The Chinese have the jiangshi (hopping corpse), in India it’s the vetala (possessing corpse), and the Greek have lamia (child-eating monster). The Slavic have the upir (blood-drinking revenant), and in Africa it’s the adze (firefly that turns into a human and drinks blood). Some of these creatures are living beings that have a thirst for blood, such as the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet, the Indian goddess Kali, and the Mesopotamian demoness Lilitu (later known as Lilith in Jewish folklore).

How did vampires become popular in Europe?

The concept of vampires became more widespread in Europe during the Middle Ages, when plagues, famines, and wars caused many deaths and hardships. People often blamed these calamities on supernatural forces, such as witches, werewolves, and vampires. The belief in vampires was especially strong in Eastern Europe, where many legends and stories emerged. One of the most famous examples is the case of Vlad of Walachia, also known as Vlad the Impaler (c. 1431-1476), who was a ruthless ruler who had a habit of nailing hats to people’s heads, skinning them alive, and impaling them on upright stakes. He also liked to dip bread into the blood of his enemies and eat it. His name, Vlad, means son of the dragon or Dracula. Though Vlad the Impaler was murdered in 1476, his tomb is reported empty.

And then there’s the Countess Elizabeth Bathory (1560-1614), accused of biting the flesh of girls while torturing them and bathing in their blood to retain her youthful beauty. She was, by all accounts, a very attractive woman, known as the Blood Countess or the Bloody Lady of Cachtice. Eventually arrested and confined to a castle, she died four years later.

How did vampires become part of literature and media?

The first literary work that featured a vampire was the German poem The Vampire (1748) by Heinrich August Ossenfelder, which was a satire on the theme of seduction and corruption. And the first English work that mentioned a vampire was the short story, The Vampyre (1819) by John Polidori, which was based on a fragment written by Lord Byron. Introducing the archetype of the aristocratic and charismatic vampire, which influenced later works such as Varney the Vampire (1847) by James Malcolm Rymer, Carmilla (1872) by Sheridan Le Fanu, and Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker. Dracula is considered the most influential vampire novel of all time, and has inspired countless adaptations and variations in movies, television, comics, and games.

I have crossed oceans of time to find you. I love you too much to condemn you.

-Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)-

Some of the most notable adaptations and variations of Dracula are:

  • Nosferatu (1922), a silent film by F. W. Murnau, which was an unauthorized adaptation that changed the names and locations of the characters
  • Dracula (1931), a film by Tod Browning, which starred Bela Lugosi as the iconic Count Dracula
  • Dracula (1958), a film by Terence Fisher, which starred Christopher Lee as a more violent and sensual Dracula
  • Dracula (1979), a film by John Badham, which starred Frank Langella as a romantic and tragic Dracula
  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), a film by Francis Ford Coppola, which was a faithful and lavish adaptation of the novel
  • Dracula Untold (2014), a film by Gary Shore, which was a reimagining of the origin story of Dracula.

Some of the most popular and original works that feature vampires are:

  • Interview with the Vampire (1976) by Anne Rice, which was a novel that explored the psychology and emotions of vampires
  • The Lost Boys (1987), a film by Joel Schumacher, which was a comedy-horror that depicted a group of teenage vampires
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), a television series by Joss Whedon, which was a cult classic that followed the adventures of a young girl destined to fight vampires and other supernatural beings
  • Twilight (2005-2008), a series of novels by Stephenie Meyer, which was a phenomenon that sparked a new wave of vampire romance and fandom
  • The Vampire Diaries (2009-2017), a television series by Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec, which was a drama that centered on a love triangle between a human girl and two vampire brothers.

What are some facts and myths about vampires?

There are many facts and myths about vampires that have been circulated and debated over the years:

  • Fact: Vampires are not real. There is no scientific or historical evidence that proves the existence of vampires. However, there are some medical conditions that can cause vampire-like symptoms, such as porphyria, which is a rare disease that causes extreme sensitivity to sunlight and sometimes hairiness and reddish teeth; or haematodipsia, which is a sexual thirst for blood.
  • Myth: Vampires can turn into bats. This is a common misconception that stems from the association of bats with blood and darkness. However, not all bats drink blood, and only three species of bats are hematophagous (blood-eating): the common vampire bat, the hairy-legged vampire bat, and the white-winged vampire bat.
  • Fact: Vampires have different names and characteristics in different cultures. As mentioned earlier, there are many variations of vampires in different myths and folklore, and each one has its own name and traits.
  • Myth: Vampires are immortal. This is another common misconception that stems from the idea of vampires being undead and having supernatural powers. However, vampires are not truly immortal, as various methods, such as sunlight, garlic, holy water, crosses, stakes, and fire, can kill them.

Vampires are fascinating creatures that have captivated and scared people for centuries. They have a rich and diverse history and folklore, and have influenced many works of literature and media. Surrounded by many facts and myths, there is no denying they are an integral part of our culture and imagination.

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