Sunday, 12 June 2011

Vampyres throughout history

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Introduction to Vampyres

Do Vampyres really exist? Bram Stokers created his Vampyre vilan from the history of Vlad Dracul (Dracula meaning, The son of the Dragon), and over the years the character evolved into what is known today as the “Hollywood Vampyre”. This monster is eternally beautiful, charming, rich and flies in the night as a bat. It also drinks the blood of the living and is repelled by garlic and holy symbols.

The legend of the Vampyre originated in Transylvania which is now a province in Romania. These Vampyres, which were acatually bloated corpses of the dead, were thought to roam around villages to drink the blood of men. Why blood? When the town people would dig up the suspected Vampyres they’d find large amonts of blood in the mouth, eyes and nose. The corpse would moan and the gases pushed their way out from every hole of the corpse, thus the culprit was found and killed again. It was most likely beheaded, staked and burned.

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Vampyres Throughout History

Throughout history, many people were suspected as Vampyres. Some were actually convicted and sentenced for committing acts related to vampirism. These people are held as vampyres still by strong believers today. However, to a non-beleiver, vampyrism seems like sociopathic characteristics of mental illness. Some of the well known convicted vampyres of the last 600 years are responsible for various myths.

Vlad Tepes

Born in 141 in Transylvania. Vlad was Prince of Wallachia, an ancient kingdom now part of Romania. He carried the double surname Tepes (the impaler), and Dracula (a derivation of Dracul, his fathers name, meaning devul/dragon). Vlad was both a national hero who fought courageously to free his land from Ottoman invaders and a blood thirsty tyrant whose favorite form was to impale his victims on stakes. These exploits made him a legendary character, and his name has become synonymous with the modern vampyre myth. Bram Stokers book “Dracula” and countless “Dracula” films, are based on Vlad Tepes.

Gilles de Rais

Gilles de Rais was in the amazing position of being both a national hero and an archetype villan. Gilles spent five years committing the most incredible crimes of child murder and sodomy. Gilles also indulged in alchemy and sorcery, pursuits that were inextricably linked with the murder of hundreds of children. He kidnapped, raped and dismembered both young boys and girls. The emphasis was on the boys, for Gilles was a rampant homosexual, using his religion as a kind of asthetic sensuality. Having lured the children into the castle he and his courtiers would set upon them, abusing them sexually and finally murdering them in the most horrible way. After orgies involving massive blood letting Gilles would retire to bed, seemingly in a state of coma and would return to the carnage with renewed ferocity. What caused this young Marshall of france to change from a national hero to a monster is difficult to define. There is no doubt that he had led a violent life during which, in the cause of nationalism, he slaughtered hundreds. Perhaps Gilles found it impossible to give up shedding blood. His love for blood led people to believe he was a Vampyre.

Countess Misty

Countess Misty is possibly one of the most famous of todays “Vampyres”, she has appeared on TV, chat shows and even in books on Vampyres. She is no person from history but a living breathing person of the 0th Century. She is not locked up in any Mental Institute, but is living in free America. She is also the leader and creator of the “Lost Shadows Gang” which is a group of blood drinkers.

Elizabeth Bathory

Elizabth Bathory was born in 1560 to one of the wealthiest and most powerful Protestant, Hungarian families. As customary for wealthy families of the time, relatives often married; Elizabeth’s parents maintained this tradition. Constant intermarriage in the Bathory family often led to epilepsy, madness and other psychological disturbances among family members. As a child Elizabeth suffered from violent seizures of rage and uncontrollable behavior. The illness plagued her into adulthood and remained the probable cause for some other hideous actions. She was intelligent and educated to a level equal to that of her male peers. She learned Hungarian, German and Latin when most people, especially women, remained illiterate. Elizabeth loved independence and enjoyed dressing in men’s clothes.

Elizabeth had children daughters and a son. Her son took over her husbands place as a special kind of governor. She showed love for her children which completely contradicted the hatred she demonstrated through torture on the lower classes. In the 1600s the townspeople had become suspicious of Elizabeths actions. They knew she imported peasant girls to kill and torture, and when she ran out she began using aristocratic girls. Elizabeth beat servants and stuck pins in their lips. She drove needles into their flesh and under their fingernails. Elizabeth forced servants to stand naked in the snow while someone poured water over them until they froze to death. On one occasion, she stripped a servant naked and covered her with honey. The servent then stood outside for twenty four hours to endure bug bites.

Often, Elizabeth set pubic hair of fire with a candle. One of her favorite methods of torture remained the Iron Maiden. Elizabeth reveled in placing servants in a cage surrounded by spikes. The girl would then be poked and prodded so her body ripped and tore upon impact with the spikes.

If a servant stole money, Elizabeth heated a coin and impressed into the servant’s hand as a reminder and warning. Elizabeth loved biting human flesh. As a special form of torture she bit faces, shoulders, and breasts, and she tore huge chunks of flesh from girls bodies.

On December , 1610, the castle was raided by authorities and they took Elizabeth prisoner. The trials accusing Elizabeth of torture and murder were held on January and 7, 1611. Judges did not allow Elizabeth to defend herself. Three servants accused of being accomplices were put to death. Authorities locked Elizabeth in a small room for the rest of her life. She received food through a slat in the door, air and light entered only through ventilation slats in the walls. Elizabeth wrote her will on July 1, 1614; she died on August 1, 1614.

Medical Explination for Vampirism

As the 0th Century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been a victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.


Derived from the Greek word “bloodlessness”, anemia is a blood disease in which the red-cell count is unusually low. Red cells are the carriers of oxygen throughout the body. When a person suffers from anemia, their symptoms are caused by inadequate oxygen. These symptoms may include

· A pale complexion

· Fatigue

· Fainting spells

· Shortness of breath

· Digestive disorders

There are three main causes of anemia disease, heredity, and severe blood loss. Over ages, a person suffering from these symptoms may have been under suspicion of a vampire attack. Once again, myth warps to suit the needs of the believer. Although the victim may have contracted a disease or simply have inherited the blood disorder, society would have found it easy to believe that the symptoms resulted from a vampire attack. Indeed, these symptoms may even have suggested to our ancestors that the victim was beginning his own transition to a vampire, marked with a pale complexion and trouble eating food.


Catalepsy is a disorder of the nervous system that causes a form of suspended animation. It causes a loss of voluntary motion, a rigidity to the muscles, as well as decreased sensitivity to pain and heat. A person suffering from catalepsy can see and hear but cannot move. Their breathing, pulse, and other regulatory functions are slowed to the extent that to an untrained eye, it would seem as though they were deceased. This condition can last from minutes to days. Before the 0th century medicine came along, there were few diagnostic tests that could be done on a body to ensure it was dead, and so it is possible and even likely that persons suffering from catalepsy could have been declared dead prematurely. Embalming a corpse before burial is also another 0th century idea, so it is very possible that these bodies were declared dead and buried while the person was still alive. Upon recovering from their catalyptic state, the person would try to dig their way to the surface. Many myths may have arisen from this single condition alone.


Of all the disorders and diseases even loosely linked to vampirism, the most bizarre must be porphyria. It is a rare hereditary blood disease; its symptoms so closely match the myths associated with our modern conception of vampirism it is eerie. A victim of porphyria cannot produce heme, a major and vital component of the red blood. Today, this disease is treatable with regular injections of heme into the body. However, as little as fifty years ago, this treatment was unavailable and the disease unknown. In the past, a porphyria sufferer would show symptoms that include

· Extreme sensitivity to sunlight

· Sores and scars that break open and will not heal properly

· Excessive hair growth

· Tightening of skin around lips, and gums (which would make the incisors more prominent)

This disease would likely cause the victim to only go out at night to avoid the painful sun rays. In addition, while garlic stimulates the production of heme in a healthy person, it would only cause the symptoms of prophyria to become more painfully severe. Porphyria was eventually discarded by scientists as a reasonable explanation for the vampire myths that has pervaded our history. Although vampire accounts of the past bear little resemblance of the dashing figure we romantisize today, these qualities may have contributed to our look at the vampire in film and fiction pale skin, extended incisors, even the fear of the sun.

Vampyres in the Media

Progression of Vampyres in English Literature

The beliefs in the vampire of folklore in Germany and the Slavic countries resulted in a great series of debates in the German universities of the 1700s. Although the debated ended with the banishment of the vampire from the rational world, the debate served to evoke a response from the romantic poets of the generation following. One of the earliest known of this poetry on the theme of the vampire is Heinrich August Ossenfelder’s 1748 poem “Der Vampir.” It was, however, the publication of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s “Die Braut von Korinth” (The Bride of Corinth) in 177 that gave the weight of this incomparable author to the theme, legitimizing it. Goethe’s work was well known in England, where it inspired such poets as Byron and Shelley, and inspired Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1801 poem “Christabel,” which is credited as the first poem about a vampire in the English language.

The next step for the literary vampire occurred in Geneva in 1816, confined by inclement weather, Claire Clairmont, Percy Shelley, Mary Godwin, Lord Byron and Dr. John Polidori spent an evening composing ‘ghost stories’ for one another’s amusement. While this evening is most famous because Mary Godwin developed her story into the novel Frankenstein, that was not the only notable story of the evening. Polidori found Byron’s tale so intriguing that, several years later, he wrote the first English short story about a vampire, “The Vampyre.” Published under Byron’s name, the story received instant attention, and was well known long before Byron could even deny his authorship of it. Polidori’s vampire, Lord Ruthven, was the first to show many traits that we have come to expect of vampires in literature. The most important of these is that Ruthven is not merely a mindless monster. He moves quite easily in mortal society, and was capable of being quite charming. Although Dr. Polidori committed suicide at 6, his vampire lived on after him, appearing in a series of plays in Paris. Ruthven’s final appearance was in the last work of Alexandre Dumas, best known for his The Three Musketeers.

Polidori’s vampire short story, reprinted in 1840, directly inspired the first vampire novel, James Malcolm Rymer’s Varney the Vampire; or A Feast of Blood A Romance. It originally appeared in 10 weekly installments chronicling the unlife of Sir Francis Varney. Heavily influenced by Polidori’s story, Varney shares many traits with Ruthven, adding very little more than his long, fang-like teeth to the vampire mythology. Varney was also the first vampire to be destroyed at the end of his story, killing himself by leaping into a volcano.

“Carmilla” by Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu, was originally published in 187 as part of the collection In A Glass Darkly. The title character, Carmilla, properly known as Mircalla the Countess Karnstein, is far closer to the cumulative concept of the vampire than her predecessors. Although not damaged by the sun, Carmilla appeared almost exclusively at night. She transformed herself into the shape of an animal, and attacked her victims with two long teeth, described as looking like the teeth of a fish. Fully in the modern tradition, the loved ones of her wasting victim hunted her to her crypt, where she was found in her coffin. They drove a stake through her heart, then decapitated and burned her, all elements that would become staples of vampire fiction.

One of the many people who read “Carmilla” was Abraham “Bram” Stoker, a man who had already possessed an interest in folklore and the supernatural. Awaking one night from a nightmare of a vampire, he began work on a novel of his own. Stoker used “Carmilla” as one of his sources for his 187 novel, Dracula, as well as superstitions he learned from Emily Gerard’s book The Land Beyond the Forest, (which, of course, is a literal translation of the name ‘Transylvania’.) Easily the most well known vampire novel, Dracula is an overwhelming step towards the modern idea of the vampire. Dracula has great strength and extended canine teeth. He has long fingernails, as well, which he uses to draw his own blood for Mina Murray to drink, attempting to turn her into a vampire. He controls animals, and can turn himself into them as well, including now the bat. Dracula shows no reflection in a mirror - a touch that had never before appeared in any vampire literature or folklore. Dracula sleeps not in coffins, but in wooden crates, and their purpose is not to keep him out of the sunlight - in which he walks freely - but rather to contain his native soil, which he is required to sleep in. Dracula is repelled by garlic and the crucifix, and the wooden stake is mentioned several times as a manner of dispatching a vampire. Lucy Westenra and several other vampires are indeed destroyed by the stake, although Dracula himself is killed by being stabbed with a bowie knife, and decapitated.

Although the vampire made few notable returns to the printed page during the early days of film, the late 170s were a renaissance of vampire literature. Nineteen Seventy-five saw publication of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, 176 the first of Anne Rice’s immensely popular Vampire Chronicles series, Interview with the Vampire, and 178 the first of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s St. Germain books, Hotel Transylvania.

While the authors of vampire fiction before film built heavily off each other, these modern works often put themselves in opposition to what has gone before. Rice claims that she never was able to actually finish Stoker’s Dracula, but that from what she read, she learned she wanted to take a very different viewpoint. Instead of seeing the vampire as an animal, hers would be “angels going in the other direction.” Rice stripped away most of the religious aspects of the vampire myth, permitting her vampires to be unaffected by such items as crucifixes, although she retained most of their supernatural abilities, with the exception of transformation. Yarbro even further demythologized the vampire legend with her St. Germain, who, aside from being ,000 years old, was largely devoid of supernatural powers. Even more than

Rice’s Lestat de Lioncourt, Yarbro’s Count de St. Germain was a sensual figure, and much is written about his love affairs with mortal women over the centuries. Subsequent works have further emphasized the erotic qualities of the vampire, to the point where most of his supernatural abilities become merely sidenotes. Poppy Z. Brite describes her 1 novel, Lost Souls, as a “homoerotic, Southern Gothic rock ‘n’ roll vampire tale” defining what may be the appeal of the vampire in his most recent resurrection “he laughs in the face of safe sex, and he lives forever.”

A Brief Timeline on Vampyres in Literature

1800 ~ “Wake not Dead” by Johann Ludwig Tiek (first known English Vampyre Story)

1816 ~ “Fragment of a Novel” by Lord Byron

181 ~ “The Vampyre” by Dr. Polidori

1845 ~ “Varney the Vampyre” by James Malcolm Ryner

187 ~ “ Carmilla” by Sheridon Le Fanu

187 ~ “Dracula” by Abraham Stoker

187 ~ “Dracula’s Guest” by Abraham Stoker

111 ~ “For the Blood is the Life” by F. Marion Crawford

1 ~ “ Relations in Black” by Carl Jacobi

151 ~ “Drink my Blood” by Robert Matheson

175 ~ “Salem’s Lot” by Stephen King

176 ~ “Interview with the Vampire” by Ann Rice

184 ~ “The Vampire Lestat” by Ann Rice

Portrayal of Vampyres in Film

When people are asked to imagine the quintessential vampire, they often respond using descriptions involving fangs, coffins, and fear of sunlight. But how and why do they think of these things? In today’s society, an overwhelming majority of the cumulative concept of the vampire has been formed using stereotypes derived from Hollywood films, as well as foreign pictures.

The formation of this cumulative concept of the vampire has taken place over the span of nearly eight decades, as well as almost 10 films. Although there may be conflicting opinions, most people agree that this cumulative concept was started with the silent-film Eine Symphonie des Grauens, better known as Nosferatu, in 1. Nosferatu was a black and white silent film that came out of Germany in 1 that starred actor, Max Schreck. The premise of the movie was that an evil being that feasted on the blood of the living, descended upon a city to spread the plague of the undead. In this movie, we see for the first time the vampire’s fear of sunlight, as well as the necessity of coffins. Before this film, vampires were supposedly able to roam during daylight hours, but only with limited strength. Another aspect of the film that helped to define the quintessential vampire was the use of shadows in unnatural ways around the vampire (an attribute that is used even in modern vampire movies).

With this establishment of vampires in film, the 11 movie Dracula furthered the cumulative concept of vampires in film with Bela Lugosi’s Hollywood portrayal of Bram Stoker’s antagonist. The movie Dracula came out in 11 from Universal Pictures, and was directed by Tod Browning. In the actual novel by Stoker, the Count Dracula was described as being an older man having pointed ears and fingernails, as well as a moustache. In the Hollywood version, Bela Lugosi portrayed the Count as a very suave European type. The Count Dracula spoke with a distinctive Romanian accent, and had slick black hair that was always combed back. Dracula would also always dress in a white tie and tails with an upturned collar along with an opera cape. This film also helped establish that vampires can shift shapes, by turning into mist, or bats.

The movie Dracula was probably the most influential film on the cumulative concept of the vampire in movies, because many films that depicted vampires in the same manner followed it. Such films as The Horror of Dracula (158) Mark of the Vampire (15), and even comedies like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (146) all depicted vampires in a sleek European fashion. As far as the repellents of vampires; garlic, sunlight, crucifixes, and stakes were also accepted thanks to the films Dracula and Nosferatu.

Virtually every film since the 10s has used the same cumulative concept of the vampire, some using their own interpretations and variances. In 158 a new version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula was released by Hammer Films. Like the earlier 11 version from Universal Pictures, this film was very significant to the evolution of the vampire on the big screen. Hammer’s Dracula was somewhat of an extension of Lugosi’s mysterious, debonair portrayal of the Count. Now, due to the casting of actor Christopher Lee as the leading role, the characteristics of a vampire would also include tall and virile. This introduction of the suave and sophisticated Dracula was also accompanied by new victims who were now voluptuous, insatiable females awaiting his nightly visit in bed, breathless and fervent. One example would be the 17 film Salem’s Lot where only the head vampire sleeps in a coffin, and the vampires always needed a human agent, who would set them up in different towns and attend to them during the day. Another exception would be the 14 film Interview with the Vampire, where vampires are not able to shift shapes, and Christian symbols such as crucifixes don’t harm them.

As you can see, the majority of the cumulative concept of the vampire has been established by Hollywood and other foreign films, and has been enjoyed almost since the invention of moving pictures.

Timeline for Vampyre Films

11 ~ The first vampire movie “The Screen House No.5”, is produced in Great Britian

10 ~ “Dracula” the first film made on a novel, is made in Russia.

1 ~ The German silent film “Nosferatu” is produced.

11 ~ American film version of “Dracula” premiers in New York.

16 ~ Universal Pictures releases “Dracula’s Daughter”.

14 ~ Universal Pictures releases “Son of Dracula”

158 ~ A new wave of interest in vampire films arises with the release of the first Dracula films, “Horror of Dracula.”

166 ~ “Dark Shadows” debuts on Television.

16 ~ The first issue of the longest running comic book “Vampirella” is released. The BBC television production of “Dracula, Does Dracula Really Suck?” is released as the first homosexual vampire novel. The Film “Fearless Vampire Killers” is directed by Roman Polanski.

17 ~ “The Night Stalker” becomes the most watched television movie. “In search of Dracula” by Raymond McNally and Radu Florescu introduces Vlad the Impaler, the historical Dracula, the world of contemporary vampire fans. “A Dream of Dracula” complements their effort in calling attention to vampire lore.

17 ~ “Dracula” becomes a made for television movie and Nancy Garden’s “Vampires” starts the wave of juvenile literature for children and youth.

17 ~ Universal Pictures remakes “Dracula (17).

14 ~ The film version of Ann Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire” opens with Tom Cruise as Lestat and Brad Pitt as Louis.

15 ~ Four vampire movies are released “The Vampire in Brooklyn,” “Dracula Dead and Loving it,” “Nadja,” “The Addiction.” Universal Pictures also remakes once again Stokers “Dracula” now starring Wynona Ryder as “Mina”

16 ~ “From Dusk Till Dawn,” is released nationwide

18 ~ “Blade” and “Vampires” debuts.

001 ~ “Dracula 000” debuts

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