Vampires: Myth, Legend and Lore

Myth & Lore:
A vampire feeds on the life essence of their victims. This usually occurs by drinking the blood of their victim. The reasons that the vampire needs blood to survive varies from culture to culture. Some feel that the vampire needs blood to flow through their veins to keep their bodies animated and limit the damage of decay. Others feel that the beasts feed as a sadistic habit in order to wreak havoc and fear.
This theory of course also makes on think that it may not be the blood that animates the vampire, but the fear & pain. Vampires aren't particular they will drink the blood of animals as well as humans.

The most obvious characteristic that you think of when referring to the vampire is of course that the creature is dead a yet walks among the living. Most tales of vampirism tell us that these beings have fangs, are afraid of sunlight, they can shape-shift, (i.e. bats and wolves), they cry tears of blood, sleep in a coffin during the day and have extreme levels of strength and speed. Of course it goes without saying that this creature is immortal, unless of course killed using the proper methods.

As stated before different cultures have different myths about the vampires. For instancing European beliefs the vampire is dead, zombie like, hideously deformed from death and inherently evil. Whereas the American legend has been handed to us by Hollywood. The creature is a sensual, desirable one. Most of our movies and fiction combine the myth and legend of Europe, but also adds the dash of Americana, making this being a seductive beauty, with brawn as well as brains, and sometimes even a dash of compassion.

Who is a vampire? Are you predestined from birth to become one of the undead? In older lore vampires were people who died unnaturally and couldn't face the fact that they were truly dead. In my research I found some really fun and interesting ways of becoming one with the undead. The most common way of becoming is of course being bitten by a vampire. From here on the becoming is very bizarre. Lets start with some of the predisposition's; being conceived on a holy day, being weaned too early, being born the seventh son of the seventh son or receiving a curse. The last two are my personal favorites a mother who did not eat enough salt during pregnancy and a mother being stared at by a vampire while pregnant. Enough of predisposition's, lets move onto ways that you can cause yourself to become a vampire. Common beliefs in older lore include being a witch or were-wolf, being cruel or evil person, committing suicide, being murdered or being the murderer. All these things can make you a vampire upon death. But wait, there are more ways to be a do-it-yourselfer. These are my personal favorites in this category; eating sheep killed by a wolf, leading an immoral life, (i.e. prostitutes & treacherous barmaids), or (for a priest) saying mass while in the state of mortal sin. For the Europeans after death becomings include; wind from the Russian Steppe blowing on the corpse and being buried face up in the grave, the latter of the two believed in certain parts of Romania. Other after death causes of the becoming are; having a cat or other animal jump or fly over a corpse, having a shadow fall on a corpse, no burial or improper burial rites, murder that is unrevenged, having ones brother sleep walk (?), death by drowning and finally stealing the ropes used to bury the corpse. So my research turned up many way to become a vampire.

How do you detect that someone is a vampire? Ever wonder if your friends, family or teachers are just Vampires leeching you dry? The following suggestions are taken basically from old myths and lore. If you find a corpse that is bloated, showed blood in the mouth, grew long nails and hair chances are that you are dealing with a vampire. (Of course in modern times we have realized that the previous conditions are all part of decomposition.) To detect a vampire at graveside or in the cemetery, if you are not looking for anyone in particular, first look for fingersized holes around the grave, look for disturbed dirt, constant mists, disturbed coffins, moved or fallen tombstones footprints leading to and from the grave, (just make sure that they aren't your own), no birds singing, dogs barking and refusing to enter the cemetery, geese screaming when near the suspected grave and last, but not least, groaning sounds from under the earth.

If you think that someone you know has been a victim of vampirism or might possibly be a vampire here are some ways of detection. If the supposed victim suffers from one or more of the following list chances are that you are dealing with the undead. Things to look for are sleeplessness, nightmares, anemia, bite marks on the neck, (dead give away), exhaustion, nervousness, irritability, sleepwalking, difficulty in breathing, no appetite, weight loss, aversion to garlic, strange dental growths and photosensitivity. All taken together means that you are either dealing with a vampire or a parent of young children.

The appearance of the suggested vampire is also important. You should look for the following; fangs, red eyes, long fingernails, paleness, reluctance to enter a house without an invitation, hairy palms and aversion to bright lights. Also look to see if your family and/or friends have a reflection or cast a shadow.

Once you have determined that you are dealing with the undead, the following information is to help you prevent, protect and destroy your evil demon. Prevention for pre-burial is fun, here is just a sampling of what I found; destroyed vampire that caused death, close all windows, prevent moonlight from falling on the corpse, cover all mirrors, (keep in mind that these are old rituals used when people still buried their own), place corn or garlic in mouth and cover all standing water. Now for some of my personal favorites; pour incense into eyes, nose and ears of victim. Bind the body of the victim by tying the mouth shut, tying legs or feet together, weld the toes together (?), and then wrap in carpet or net. Decapitate the corpse and place the head under the arm or between legs or bury it in a separate grave. The number one favorite to prevent a loved one from becoming one of the undead, stretch a dead cat or dog across the threshold to the house.

If your prevention does not work, then you should try to protect yourself and your loved ones from the same fate. Garlic of course is one well-known method. It can be used on windows, doors, around the neck and under armpits (?); if you mix it with water it can be sprinkled or sprayed throughout an area. Also try fishnets on windows, doors and graves, for some unknown reason vampires are obsessed with untangling objects. Seeds are another way to protect yourself, just sprinkle into yard or walkways; vampires are compelled to count seeds (i.e. the count on Sesame Street). Holy water is yet another popular way of protection. Bells ringing will keep the undead away if ringing constantly. My last suggestion would be placing mirrors on the doors, because, as one author put it, it really annoys the vampire that they cannot see their own reflection.

If your prevention does not work, then you should try to protect yourself and your loved ones from the same fate. Garlic of course is one well-known method. It can be used on windows, doors, around the neck and under armpits (?); if you mix it with water it can be sprinkled or sprayed throughout an area. Also try fishnets on windows, doors and graves, for some unknown reason vampires are obsessed with untangling objects. Seeds are another way to protect yourself, just sprinkle into yard or walkways; vampires are compelled to count seeds (i.e. the count on Sesame Street). Holy water is yet another popular way of protection. Bells ringing will keep the undead away if ringing constantly. My last suggestion would be placing mirrors on the doors, because, as one author put it, it really annoys the vampire that they cannot see their own reflection.

Now that I have given you the information to detect, prevent and protect yourself from the evil critters, lets move onto Myths of the creation of the vampire. Many authors have written about vampires and their creation, but the story or myth that is my favorite is the "Myth of Merrydeath" by an unknown author.

The tale tells of a beautiful queen ruling for her children in ancient times. Keep in mind that this is a time when men were still new to the earth. Queen Meredith had taken a lover after years of being alone due to the king's death. Her lover was Mambayan, a warrior chieftain and close friend of the king. Well as all good love stories go, her lover was wounded in battle. Also around the same time a vampfara was imprisoned in the castle keep. Meredith tried everything in her power to save Manbayan, but to no avail. Death was imminent. An old crone suggested that since the vampfara appeared to be able to heal itself, maybe they should try the blood of the vampfara to heal Manbayan. Meredith formed an idea in her mind to visit the vampfara and request his help. That very same night she did visit the vampfara. When she requested his blood to save her lover. The vampfara thought about her request and he requested his freedom in return. He told her that she must carry his blood inside of her, as it had to be kept warm. He bit her and drank her blood greedily and just as she was about to die he sliced his wrist and held it to her mouth, making her drink his blood. Then he told her that in order to save her lover she must repeat the same procedure. Of course they have now died and been made into vampires. The kingdom rebelled against the lovers who now walked with the undead and cast them out. As the story goes they are still roaming the night together and the vampfarant was freed as per agreement. That is the myth of Queen Merrydeath.

When you think about vampires usually the first name that you think of is Dracula. Bram Stoker is the man who penned the famous novel "Dracula". It is thought this story that most of us are introduced to vampires.

"Dracula" was actually based on a true Romanian Prince named Vlad Tepes, (pronounced Tzepesh). He was seen as a hero by his countrymen. According to most legend he was considered a fair, but very cruel man. Most of the information about this prince has been handed down to us by verbal tradition in his homeland, and by Russian and German pamphlets printed shortly after his death. The verbal form tells us of his conquests for his country, whereas the pamphlets portrayed him as an evil demon.

The name Dracula (draculaea) simply means son of the Dracul. The name Dracul seems a little harder to decipher. Some say that it means demon or devil, while other historians assert that Vlad the II belonged as a knight of the order of the dragon, hence the surname dracul- dragon, the insignia of the order was a dragon being knocked down by a cross. The knights were a group of Slavic rulers and warlords sworn to uphold the Christian faith against the Turks. The name Tepes is also report to mean "the impaler".

So that was the history of the name, but who was this man so closely connected to the vampire. His life started off well as the son of the prince of Wallachia. At a young age he was captured by the Turks and imprisoned by the Sultan. It has been suggested that Vlad developed his sadistic tendencies during his captivity, as he would not convert his allegiance to the Sultan. Vlad was eventually released as the Turks thought him subdued.

Vlad the III actually ruled Wallachia three separate times as the prince or voevod (warlord). He first ruled in 1448, he left the throne the same year because he realized that at that moment in time he was not strong enough to defeat the Turks. His second term as ruler began in 1456. He ruled well with the help of his allies, he ensured peace in his country. He was always depicted as a sever ruler. He was ousted by his brother with the help of the Turks, in 1462. His third and final rule only lasted a month in 1476. At this time he was beaten in battle by the Turks and killed afterward. His head was presented to the Sultan as proof of his death and his body buried in a monastery. An interesting footnote to this story is that when Dracula- Vlad Tepes the III's grave was later opened all that was found was a pile of horse bones.

Of course there were reasons why the Turks were afraid of Dracula and his countrymen considered him so severe in his punishments. Vlad the III was known as the impaler because that is how he killed many of his opponents. There are numerous stories that tell of the atrocities committed by the man.

One story tells of how he impaled his victims in geometric patterns, the height of the stake indicated the rank of the victim. The corpses were often left rotting for months as a deterrent to the Turkish armies. Vlad was not just an impaler, he also had a few other tortures that he seemed to favor such as, nails in the head, cutting off limbs, blinding, strangulation, burning, mutilation of sexual organs, scalping and skinning. The list seems to go on and on, too morbid to continue.

He did not like the noblemen of his country, because they were untrustworthy, and he often employed his methods of torture against them as well as his enemies. At one point he even had his noblemen building Dracula Castle. It has also been reported that he was not fond of the ailing or poor. To rid his country of these people he held a feast for them. At the end of the feast ordered his soldiers to bar up the exits and burn the great hall to the ground. His reason for this was so that the poor and invalid would no longer be a burden to his countrymen.

There is never any mention of Vlad the III being a Vampire, just a sadistic ruler. Vlad was a hero to his people, even though his methods of his punishment were unequivocally severe and cruel. He helped defeat the Turks and kept them out of Romania for many years. I have used many different sources for this history and all tell the tale a little differently, but the same basic premise is the same throughout all sources. (See acknowledgements at the end of the article.)

There are other famous people in history that were considered vampires. In the next few paragraphs I will tell of Elizabeth Bathory, the Vampire of Croglin Range, Arnold Paole, John George Haige, Fritz Haarmann, Martin Dummolard and Peter Kurten.

Elizabeth Bathory was a Transylvanian noblewoman born in 1560. She was married to Count Ferencz Nadasdy. By the age of 25 years old she became obsessed with her beauty and terrified of growing old. When her husband died in 1604 Elizabeth moved back to her family lands in Vienna. She began to practice certain forms of sorcery, which included attending rituals that sacrificed animals.

Elizabeth became obsessed with blood by accident. She was correcting a servant girl for not performing her duties to the satisfaction of the countess. Elizabeth went after the young girl with a pair of scissors. Her blood was splayed over Elizabeth, whom upon cleaning discovered that it made her skin more youthful. This started her descent into hell; it is thought that she participated in the murders of over 600 young girls. She preferred the blood of younger girls and considered them to be her fountain of youth. She would torture her victims for weeks and sometimes month before actually killing them. By December of 1610, only six years after the death of her husband, she was brought to trial for her atrocities and found guilty. Due to the fact that she was a noblewoman she would not be put to death for her crimes. She was sentenced to life imprisonment in her own home. She was placed in a small room with no windows or doors, only an opening for food to passed through and slits for air. The documents of her trial were sealed, when later found they were not completely intact. The rumors still circulated that not only did she bath in the blood of her victims, but she also drank it as well.

The vampire of Croglin Range is another interesting story. There is no exact name given to this creature, but when chased by one of the victim's families, it disappeared into an old family crypt that had been in the town for hundreds of years. When the vault was opened by the town's people it was discovered that all the coffins but one had been destroyed. Inside the remaining coffin was a mummified corpse with a fresh bullet wound. The villagers disturbed by this sight of the corpse removed the vile being and burnt it on a funeral pyre. That vampire visits the town of Croglin Range no more.

Arnold Paole is another unique character in history. This story is actually documented and can be found in a few history books from the area. Arnold Paole was from Medvenga, near Belgrade. The story goes that he returned home from Greece in 1727, where he had served in the army. Upon his return he married a local girl. He often told her that he feared an early demise. Sure enough, while working on his farm he fell from a great height and was returned home, he from internal injuries within a few days. After a month townspeople had begun reporting that they had seen Arnold in their homes. These people soon turned up dead from reasons unknown. Arnold's body was exhumed. When the coffin was opened they found the body had experienced no decomposition, old skin and nails had been replaced by new. There was even fresh blood on his lips. A member of the group that had exhumed the body staked Arnold. The corpse sat up and screamed, fresh blood flowed from the wound. The group then began to do the same to all of Arnold's victims, careful to surround the bodies with garlic. All was quiet until 1732 when there was another group of unexplained deaths. The town took no chances this time and exhumed all of the corpses to investigate. Again they found no decomposition among the bodies, so they performed the ritual again. One theory explaining the second outbreak was that Arnold had also attacked cattle as well as people and when the cattle was slaughtered for meat and consumed the vampire qualities were passed on to the innocent victims.

John George Haige was another character in history whose claim to fame was vampirism. In 1944 the "Acid Bath Vampire" was born. John had a troubled youth in Wakefield, England. He claimed to have a reoccurring dream about a forest of crucifixes, the crucifixes would turn into trees dripping blood. There was a man there to collect the blood and offer it to John, but that was when he would wake up, never tasting the offering. He would later rent a basement workshop and shortly thereafter commit his first murder. He only drained enough fresh blood from his first victim to fill a cup, which he would drink. Then he would dispose of the body by dumping it into a bathtub and pouring acid on it, letting it melt until only sludge would remain. Then he would gather the sludge and dump it down a manhole located in the workshop. He killed many victims this way and was caught because of his increasing acid orders. This led to his arrest, where he confessed everything. It only took a Jury 15 minutes to deliberate and return with a guilty verdict. He was hung on August 10, 1949.

Another fun character was Fritz Haarmann. He and two accomplices committed many grisly murders. Fritz was into cannibalism and like biting his victims on the throat. His other good qualities consisted of being a child molester and selling the flesh of his victims to unsuspecting customers in his cook-shop. Fritz was beheaded in April of 1925. His brain was donated to science for research.

Martin Dummolard was a man possessed by a woman. He was called the "Monster of Montluel". Martin met his mistress Justine Lafayette when he moved into her boarding house. Martin would drink the blood of his victims and take the fleshier parts home for Justine to eat. They murdered close to eighty girls before being caught in 1888. Justine was beheaded by the guillotine, and Martin spent the remainder of his life in an asylum for the criminally insane.

Our final story takes place in Germany and is about a man named Peter Kurten. The "Vampire of Dusseldorf" as he was known, was the son of an alcoholic father and a mother who just didn't care about anything. He was a truck driver, a bespectacled little man, very unassuming, however, this man was able to assault or murder twenty-nine people during his reign of terror. His victims were strangled, raped and then he would slit their throats so that he could drink their blood. He married, hoping that it help him to control his urges. This did not work. He was a devoted husband by day and an evil creature by night. Eventually, he confessed his crimes to his wife, who then turned him in to the police. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 1931. He wrote letters to the families of his victims, stating with no remorse that some people crave alcohol, where as, he craved blood and apparently needed some kind of sexual fulfillment.

Of course these are just a small sampling of those in history that were considered vampires. These people needed or craved blood to survive just as our Vampires of lore needed blood to survive.

Are there really vampires? That is for you the reader to decide. Those who lust for blood must have some reason for this need, but again that is for you to decide.If you have any questions please contact me at I will do my best to answer them.

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