Vampires are mythical creatures from folklores often depicted with fangs, preying on humans or animals to consume their blood. Vampire myths were very popular in eastern European but are also found in folklores all over the world, each one giving them different features and characteristics. Some can’t see themselves in the mirror, they can’t come out in the sun, some are (for the lack of a better word) “allergic” to garlic and some can be killed with a stake through the heart. But these modern beliefs are a combination of various traditional tales that have evolved over the years.
So, how were these stories born?
These legends were mostly born due to lack of knowledge of how bodies decomposed. When a body decomposes the skin shrinks and the nails and teeth look like they have grown, and as the internal organs decompose a dark colour fluid can be seen near the nose and the mouth. People in the past who were not aware of this process would think of this dark fluid as blood and believe that the corpse has been drinking human blood. This is not the only reason as to why people thought vampires existed. Before people understood how diseases were born and spread, they sometimes related these things with vampires. Research shows that certain diseases like porphyria (makes a person sensitive to sunlight), tuberculosis, pellagra (thins the skin) and rabies have been associated to vampires.
The mention of these mythical beings can be traced back as far as ancient Greece, where stories of certain creature attacking people in their sleep and drinking their blood can be seen. In many cultures practices arose which were aimed at preventing a deceased loved one from turning into a vampire, burying the body upside down, severing the tendons at the knees or placing poppy seeds, millet or sand on the burial ground were some of the practices.
The fear of vampires as real monsters stated to die out in the 20th century and became more of a folk belief, that is when people started to write fictional tales about them. The modern interpretation of vampires is taken from Gothic European literature of 18th and 19th century. One of the most famous fictional work of vampires is the one of Count Dracula. Stories of vampires remain popular even to this day, over the years, the image of vampires has changed from that of scary animalistic creatures to that of a misunderstood being with them becoming the protagonist of many stories such as Buffy the Vampire slayer, twilight and Vampire diaries.