Vampires - Their True History Originated Long Before Dracula
The vampire has been crawling out of the grave and feasting on the fears of mankind for many centuries now, all over the world. As with any legendary monster their exact date of origin is unknown, what we do know is that their history is deeply rooted into nearly every culture.
Though the creature may be called by many different names, in many different countries, their desires are always the same, to quench their never ending thirst on the life essence (usually blood but feeding on the soul isn't completely unheard of) of the living.
Although the vampires origins are thought to go back thousands of years, the word vampire wasn't acquainted to the creature until the 18th century, when the superstition was introduced to Western Europe from areas where the monster was already feared, such as Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Macedonia.
The vampire has also been referred to by the terms vrykolakas and strigoi. Due to the growth rate of the superstition in Europe, many people were accused of vampirism and corpses were even being staked before burial services were performed.
Well before the Western Europeans started writing about the vampire and staking corpses out of fear, other cultures such as the Mesopotamians, Hebrews, Ancient Greeks and Romans were already spinning their tales of demon-like creatures remarkably similar to the vampire. Though, even with their similarities, it is still the 18th century Western Europeans who are given credit for the main folklore of the modern vampire.
The appearance of the vampire has been varied throughout most of it's existence, thought at times to look anywhere from very human-like to a bloated rotting corpse. It wasn't until John Polidori's novella "Vampyre" was published in 1819 that the vampire took on the sophisticated and charismatic look. Subsequently this is the interpretation of the beast that the Christian Religion of the time took an embrace into believing.
Polidori's work is said to of not only influenced fear onto Christianity, but also inspired the writing of "Varney the Vampire" and "Dracula", though the book "Vampyre" itself was actually based on an unfinished story by Lord Byron known as "The Burial: A Fragment". Most vampire enthusiasts like to credit Bram Stoker's Dracula with this enhanced version of the creature but it was in fact nearly 80 years to late, though it did provide a basis for much of the modern vampire fiction.
Stoker built his background story on earlier mythological creatures such as werewolves and was meant to "voice the anxieties of an age". Regardless of which writer modernized the vampires appearance and demeanor, it was certainly Stoker's successful version of the creature that gave birth to the distinct vampire genre that is still popular today.
Which form of the vampire is the most terrifying?
The causes of vampirism were varied and often off the wall, depending on where the story was being told and what era the story was from. With the Chinese and Slavic cultures all it would take is for an animal to jump over a corpse, or a wound to not be treated with boiling water, to change them into a vampire.
In Russia anyone not in accordance with the Russian Orthodox Church or thought to have been a witch is destined to come back as a vampire upon their death. In almost all cases vampirism is caused by either the host being overtly evil in life, receiving a bite from another vampire, committing suicide, or from being a witch, but they are also said to be given life from a corpse being possessed by a malevolent spirit.
To give an actual description of a vampire would be nearly impossible especially in this day and age. In the beginning they were thought to appear as being bloated and ruddy, purplish or dark in color much like a rotted swollen corpse, often attributed to their recent indulgence of human blood. At other times they seem more animal in appearance, sometimes with bat-like features and other times taking on the form of a demon.
They had not always been known to have the fangs they are seemingly famous for either, in some cases their teeth only be enlarged and in other instances all of their teeth may be sharp and pointed for tearing into the flesh. Then of course there are those romantic suckers, with their good looks and depth-less eyes they lure their victims back to their lair to devour them or possibly turn them into one of their own.
In the later 20th century and in this new millennium Vampires are found in all of these forms and many, many more. Even the ways of killing a vampire are different in all areas and eras but up until recently it was nearly universal that either beheading them, exposing them to sunlight or staking them through the heart were your best means of destroying them, but even that has changed somewhat.
Many times fire is used for their destruction now, in some instances the stake no longer works and in one specific storyline, exposure to sunlight merely makes the vamp sparkle. I suppose these upgrades or downgrades are only natural as the world is always going through huge changes it's only natural that our monsters will to.