Vampires like werewolves and zombies (Haitian/African, not the Hollywood kind) are folkloric or mythological beings.

The term vampire entered into Western popular culture, during the early eighteenth century, following a flood of vampire superstition from such places as Eastern Europe, Transylvania and the Balkans. Tales of vampires, who purportedly fed on the blood of persons both living and undead, often led to group hysteria sometimes resulting in the exhumation of bodies, the corpses being staked/desecrated and people being accused of vampirism. [1]

Originally the vampires of folklore were perceived as bloated, decaying and cadaverous, a view which changed with the success of vampire literature [2] the vampire evolving through the works of writers such as John W. Polidori, whose 1819 novella The Vampyre changed our perception of the undead into the enigmatic sophisticated beings of today and Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, the archetypical vampire story, which set forth the beginnings of modern vampire fiction. (Stoker modeled his Dracula on a barbarous Romanian prince known by his patronymic name Dracula and posthumously dubbed Vlad the Impaler.) [3]

The twentieth century saw vampires make the leap from novels to movies with films such as Nosferatu, an unlicensed (1922) adaptation of Stoker’s work, which though initially ordered destroyed today enjoys a huge cult following, the first great horror talkie Dracula (1931) staring Bela Lugosi, [4] The Horror of Dracula, a true horror classic starring Christopher Lee and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in which the comedic duo, allied with the Wolf Man, successfully take on both Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster (the film selected by the library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry and by Readers Digest as one of the hundred funniest of all time). Television, not to be outdone, has followed with such series as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, The Munsters and The Vampire Diaries the undead portrayed by actors such as David Boreanaz, Al Lewis, Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder.

Today’s vampire, now firmly entrenched in modern fiction and enjoying its own subculture, has many faces, from fiend, to anti-hero, to humorous, such is the diversity of change from cadaverous blood sucking monster to a cute and friendly Count (Chocula), with a Transylvanian accent, touting his own chocolate flavored, vitamin enriched, breakfast cereal.

[1] According to Eastern European superstition, along with being staked, the following are also alleged to kill or ward off vampires: silver in the form of a weapon, sunlight, a crucifix, holy water, a mirror, fire, garlic and garlic flowers.

[2] Literary works concerned principally with the subject of vampires.

[3] Impalement was supposedly Vlad’s favorite method of execution. (A 1499 German woodcut shows Vlad dining among the impaled corpses of his victims, while other reports tell of an invading Ottoman army turning back in fright after encountering thousands of impaled corpses rotting on the banks of the Danube.)

[4] In an interesting if somewhat macabre footnote Lugosi was buried wearing a Dracula cape costume as per the wishes of his son and fourth wife Lillian.

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