The legend of vampires

Amanda Kelley, Photographer

During October, there are hundreds of movies about different scary monsters. The most famous, perhaps, are vampires. With tons of movies ranging from Twilight to Dracula, it is impossible to not see something involving vampires this time of year. But what are vampires and where did the legend originate?

The characteristics of vampires change in every movie and book. However, one thing remains the same; they have sharp fangs that they use to feed on human blood. Also, most of them tend to hunt at night because the sunlight affects them in different ways. In the movie Twilight, it makes Edward’s skin sparkle like diamonds. But in the show Vampire Diaries, the sun causes extreme burning and can eventually kill the vampires. 

The exact origin is unknown, however creatures with vampire-like features have been seen at least as far back as Ancient Greece according to Britannica. The ideas of vampires that most people have come to known originate in medieval Europe. The word vampire is thought to have originated in eastern Europe. During this time many people would dig up the dead bodies of those who were thought to be vampires. These people believed that the corpses truly were vampires because they had receding gums and it appeared that their hair and fingernails were still growing in death. Another reason this legend was more believable was because doctors would see someone who was in a coma or simply passed out and would pronounce them dead. Then, when that person miraculously recovered in a day, people thought the dead were being brought back to life.

In the early 19th century the vampire myth began to spread as more poets included vampires as characters. The first known poem specifically about a vampire was Heinrich August Ossenfelder’s “Der Vampyr” written in 1748. The early 1800’s consisted of mainly poems, however in the 40s – 60s more vampire stories were published, such as Varney, The Vampire (1845-47) and The Mysterious Stranger (1853). According to Britannica, these stories are thought to be the major influences for Bram Stoker’s famous story, Dracula (1897).

Doctors and scientists have repeatedly worked to prove that vampires are not real. They believe that the vampire characteristics that everyone describes are just a variety of diseases such as porphyria, tuberculosis, pellagra, and rabies. All of these diseases have symptoms that are characteristics of vampires. Such as rabies which can cause biting, sensitivity to light and to garlic. So, be sure to keep an eye out for any very pale, fanged, garlic bread haters this halloween season.