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Vampires, Myth & History

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Author Topic: Vampires, Myth & History  (Read 3829 times)
Carolyn Silver
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« on: May 28, 2007, 10:48:43 pm »

by Beverley Richardson

Vampire myths go back thousands of years and occur in almost every culture around the world. Their variety is almost endless; from red eyed monsters with green or pink hair in China to the Greek Lamia which has the upper body of a woman and the lower body of a winged serpent; from vampire foxes in Japan to a head with trailing entrails known as the Penanggalang in Malaysia.
However, the vampires we are familiar with today, although mutated by fiction and film, are largely based on Eastern European myths. The vampire myths of Europe originated in the far East, and were transported from places like China, Tibet and India with the trade caravans along the silk route to the Mediterranean. Here they spread out along the Black Sea coast to Greece, the Balkans and of course the Carpathian mountains, including Hungary and Transylvania.

Our modern concept of the vampire still retains threads, such as blood drinking, return from death, preying on humans at night, etc in common with the Eastern European myths. However many things we are familiar with; the wearing of evening clothes, capes with tall collars, turning into bats, etc are much more recent inventions.

On the other hand, many features of the old myths such as the placing of millet or poppy seeds at the gravesite in order to keep the vampire occupied all night counting seeds rather than preying on relatives, have all but disappeared from modern fiction and film.

Even among the Eastern European countries there is a large variety of vampires.


The Slavic people including most east Europeans from Russia to Bulgaria, Serbia to Poland, have the richest vampire folklore and legends in the world. The Slavs came from north of the Black Sea and were closely associated with the Iranians. Prior to 8th century AD they migrated north and west to where they are now.
Christianization began almost as soon as they arrived in their new homelands. But through the 9th and 10th centuries the Eastern Orthodox Church and the western Roman Church were struggling with each other for supremacy. They formally broke in 1054 AD, with the Bulgarians, Russians, and Serbians staying Orthodox, while the Poles, Czechs, and Croatians went Roman. This split caused a big difference in the development of vampire lore - the Roman church believed incorrupt bodies were saints, while the Orthodox church believed they were vampires.

The origin of Slavic vampire myths developed during 9th C as a result of conflict between pre-Christian paganism and Christianity. Christianity won out with the vampires and other pagan beliefs surviving in folklore.

Causes of vampirism included: being born with a caul, teeth, or tail, being conceived on certain days, irregular death, excommunication, improper burial rituals etc. Preventative measures included: placing a crucifix in the coffin, or blocks under the chin to prevent the body from eating the shroud, nailing clothes to coffin walls for the same reason, placing millet or poppy seeds in the grave because vampires had a fascination with counting, or piercing the body with thorns or stakes.

Evidence that a vampire was at work in the neighbourhood included: death of cattle, sheep, relatives, neighbours, exhumed bodies being in a lifelike state with new growth of the fingernails or hair, or if the body was swelled up like a drum, or there was blood on the mouth and if the corpse had a ruddy complexion.

Vampires could be destroyed by staking, decapitation (the Kashubs placed the head between the feet), burning, repeating the funeral service, holy water on the grave, exorcism.


Romania is surrounded by Slavic countries, so it isn't surprising that their vampires are variants of the Slavic vampire. They are called Strigoi based on the Roman term strix for screech owl which also came to mean demon or witch.
There are different types of strigoi: strigoi vii are live witches who will become vampires after death. They can send out their soul at night to meet with other witches or with Strigoi mort who are dead vampires. The strigoi mort are the reanimated bodies which return to suck the blood of family, livestock, and neighbours.

A person born with a caul, tail, born out of wedlock, or one who died an unnatural death, or died before baptism, was doomed to become a vampire. As was the seventh child of the same sex in a family, the child of a pregnant woman who didn't eat salt or was looked at by a vampire, or a witch. And naturally, being bitten by vampire, meant certain condemnation to a vampiric existence after death.

The Vircolac which is sometimes mentioned in folklore was more closely related to a mythological wolf that could devour the sun and moon and later became connected with werewolves rather than vampires. The person afflicted with lycanthropy could turn into a dog, pig, or wolf.

The vampire was usually first noticed when it attacked family and livestock, or threw things around in the house. Vampires, along with witches, were believed to be most active on the Eve of St George's Day (April 22 Julian, May 4 Gregorian calendar), the night when all forms of evil were supposed to be abroad. St Georges Day is still celebrated in Europe.

A vampire in the grave could be told by holes in the earth, an undecomposed corpse with a red face, or having one foot in the corner of the coffin. Living vampires were found by distributing garlic in church and seeing who didn't eat it.

Graves were often opened three years after death of a child, five years after the death of a young person, or seven years after the death of an adult to check for vampirism.

Measures to prevent a person becoming a vampire included, removing the caul from a newborn and destroying it before the baby could eat any of it, careful preparation of dead bodies, including preventing animals from passing over the corpse, placing a thorny branch of wild rose in the grave, and placing garlic on windows and rubbing it on cattle, especially on St George's & St Andrew's days.

To destroy a vampire, a stake was driven through the body followed by decapitation and placing garlic in the mouth. By the 19th century people were shooting a bullet through the coffin. For resistant cases, the body was dismembered and the pieces burned, mixed with water, and given to family members as a cure.


Even today, Gypsies frequently feature in vampire fiction and film, no doubt influenced by Bram Stoker's book "Dracula" in which the Szgany gypsies served Dracula, carrying his boxes of earth and guarding him.
In reality, Gypsies originated as nomadic tribes in northern India, but got their name from the early belief that they came from Egypt. By 1000 AD they started spreading westward and settled in Turkey for a time, incorporating many Turkish words into their Romany language.

By the 14th century they were all through the Balkans and within two more centuries had spread all across Europe. Gypsies arrived in Romania a short time before Vlad Dracula was born in 1431.

Their religion is complex and varies between tribes, but they have a god called O Del, as well as the concept of Good and Evil forces and a strong relationship and loyalty to dead relatives. They believed the dead soul entered a world similar to ours except that there is no death. The soul stayed around the body and sometimes wanted to come back. The Gypsy myths of the living dead added to and enriched the vampire myths of Hungary, Romania, and Slavic lands.

The ancient home of the Gypsies, India has many mythical vampire figures. The Bhuta is the soul of a man who died an untimely death. It wandered around animating dead bodies at night and attacked the living like a ghoul. In northern India could be found the brahmaparusha, a vampire-like creature with a head encircled by intestines and a skull from which it drank blood.

The most famous Indian vampire is Kali who had fangs, wore a garland of corpses or skulls and had four arms. Her temples were near the cremation grounds. She and the goddess Durga battled the demon Raktabija who could reproduce himself from each drop of blood spilled. Kali drank all his blood so none was spilled, thereby winning the battle and killing Raktabija.

Sara or the Black Goddess is the form in which Kali survived among Gypsies. Gypsies have a belief that the three Marys from the New Testament went to France and baptised a Gypsy called Sara. They still hold a ceremony each May 24th in the French village where this is supposed to have occurred.

One Gypsy vampire was called a mullo (one who is dead). This vampire was believed to return and do malicious things and/or suck the blood of a person (usually a relative who had caused their death, or not properly observed the burial ceremonies, or who kept the deceased's possessions instead of destroying them as was proper.)

Female vampires could return, lead a normal life and even marry but would exhaust the husband. Anyone who had a hideous appearance, was missing a finger, or had animal appendages, etc. was believed to be a vampire.

Even plants or dogs, cats, or farm animals could become vampires. Pumpkins or melons kept in the house too long would start to move, make noises or show blood.

To get rid of a vampire people would hire a dhampire (the son of a vampire and his widow) to detect the vampire. To ward off vampires, gypsies drove steel or iron needles into a corpse's heart and placed bits of steel in the mouth, over the eyes, ears and between the fingers at the time of burial. They also placed hawthorn in the corpse's sock or drove a hawthorn stake through the legs. Further measures included driving stakes into the grave, pouring boiling water over it, decapitating the corpse, or burning it.

In spite of the disruption of Gypsy lives by the various eastern European communist regimes, they still retain much of their culture. In 1992 a new king of the Gypsies was chosen in Bistritz, Romania.


No discussion of vampires is even thinkable without talking about bats. They are integral to the modern day concept of the vampire, but this was not always the case.
Many cultures have various myths about bats. In South America, Camazotz was a bat god of the caves living in the Bathouse of the Underworld. In Europe, bats and owls were long associated with the supernatural, mainly because they were night creatures. On the other hand, the Gypsies thought them lucky - they wore charms made of bat bones. And in England the Wakefield crest and those of some others have bats on them.

So how did bats end up becoming associated with vampires? There are only three species of vampires bats in the entire world, all of which occur in Central and South America. During the 16th century the Spanish conquistadors first came into contact with them and recognized the similarity between the feeding habits of the bats and those of their mythical vampires. It wasn't long before they began to associate bats with their vampire legends. Over the following centuries the association became stronger and was used by various people, including James Malcom Rhymer who wrote "Varney the Vampyre" in the 1840's. Stoker cemented the linkage of bats and vampires in the minds of the general public.


Today everyone is familiar with vampires, but in Britain very little was known of vampires prior to the 18th century. What brought the vampire to the attention of the general public? During the 18th century there was a major vampire scare in Eastern Europe. Even government officials frequently got dragged into the hunting and staking of vampires.
This controversy was directly responsible for England's current vampire myths. In fact, the word Vampire only came into English language in 1732 via an English translation of a German report of the much publicized Arnold Paole vampire staking in Serbia.

Western scholars seriously considered the existence of vampires for the first time rather than just brushing them off as superstition. It all started with an outbreak of vampire attacks in East Prussia in 1721 and in the Austro-Hungarian empire from 1725-1734.

Two famous cases involved Peter Plogojowitz and Arnold Paole. Plogojowitz died at the age of 62, but came back a couple of times after his death asking his son for food. When the son refused, he was found dead the next day. Soon Plogojowitz returned and attacked some neighbours who died from loss of blood.

In the other famous case Arnold Paole, an ex-soldier turned farmer who had been attacked by a vampire years before, died while haying. After death people began to die and it was believed by everyone that Paole had returned to prey on the neighbours.

These two incidents were extremely well documented. Government officials examined the cases and the bodies, wrote them up in reports, and books were published afterwards of the Paole case and distributed around Europe. The controversy raged for a generation. The problem was exacerbated by rural people having an epidemic of vampire attacks and digging up bodies all over the place. Many scholars said vampires didn't exist - they attributed reports to premature burial, or rabies which causes thirst.

However, Dom Augustine Calmet, a well respected French theologian and scholar, put together a carefully thought out treatise in 1746 which said vampires did exist. This had considerable influence on other scholars at the time.

Eventually, Austrian Empress Marie Theresa sent her personal physician to investigate. He said vampires didn't exist and the Empress passed laws prohibiting the opening of graves and desecration of bodies. This was the end of the vampire epidemics. But by then everyone knew about vampires and it was only a matter of time before authors would preserve and mould the vampire into something new and much more accessible to the general public.
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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2007, 10:51:12 pm »

When did vampires begin? As with many legends, the exact date of origin is unknown; but evidence of the vampire tale can be found with the ancient Chaldeans in Mesopotamia, near the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, and with Assyrian writings on clay or stone tablets. The land of the Chaldeans is also called the "Ur of the Chaldeans," which was the original home of Abraham from the Bible.

"Lilith" was a possible vampire from the ancient Hebrew Bible and its interpretations. Although she is described in the book of Isaiah, her roots are more likely in Babylonian demonology. Lilith was a monster who roamed at night taking on the appearance of an owl. She would hunt, seeking to kill newborn children and pregnant women. Lilith was the wife of Adam before there was Adam and Eve, according to tradition; but she was demonized because she refused to obey Adam. (Or to see it from a more liberated viewpoint, she demanded equal rights with Adam). Naturally, she was considered evil for such "radical" desires and became a vampire who eventually attacked the children of Adam and Eve -- namely, all human descendants.

References to vampires can be found in many lands, and some scholars believe this indicates that the vampire story developed independently in these various lands and was not passed from one to the other. Such an independently occurring folktale is curious indeed.

References to vampires can be found among the ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean such as Egypt, Greece and Rome. The ancient Greeks believed in the strigoe or lamiae, who were monsters who ate children and drank their blood. Lamia, as the mythology goes, was the lover of Zeus; but Zeus' wife, Hera, fought against her. Lamia was driven insane, and she killed her own offspring. At night, it was said, she hunted other human children to kill as well.

One tale known by both the Greeks and Romans, for example, concerns the wedding of a young man named Menippus. At the wedding a guest, who was a noted philosopher called Apollonius of Tyana, carefully observed the bride, who was said to be beautiful. Apollonius finally accused the wife of being a vampire, and according to the story (as it was later told by a scholar named Philostratus in the first century A.D.) the wife confessed to vampirism. Allegedly she was planning to marry Menippus merely to have him handy as a source of fresh blood to drink.

Vampire tales occurred in ancient China, where the monsters were called kiang shi. In ancient India and Nepal, as well, vampires may have existed -- at least in legend. Ancient paintings on the walls of caves depict blood drinking creatures; the Nepalese "Lord of Death" is depicted holding a blood-filled goblet in the form of a human skull standing in a pool of blood. Some of these wall paintings are as old as 3000 B.C., it is believed. Rakshasas are described in the ancient Indian holy writings called the Vedas. These writings (circa 1500 B.C.) depict the Rakshasas (or destroyers) as vampires. There is also a monster in ancient India's lore which hangs from a tree upside-down, not unlike a bat, and is devoid of its own blood. This creature, called Baital, is in legend a vampire.

Other ancient Asians, such as the Malayans, believed in a type of vampire called the "Penanggalen." This creature consisted of a human head with entrails that left its body and searched for the blood of others, especially of infants. The creature lived by drinking the victims' blood.

It is also said that the vampire may have lived in Mexico prior to the arrival of Spanish Conquistadors, according to the renown vampire author Montague Summers whose 1928 book The Vampire -- His Kith and Kin is a classic. He further wrote that Arabia knew of the vampire as well. Vampire-like beings appeared in the "Tales of the Arabian Nights" called algul; this was a ghoul which consumed human flesh.

Africa, with its spirit-based religions, may be seen as having legends of vampire-like beings as well. One tribe, the Caffre, held the belief that the dead could return and survive on the blood of the living.

In ancient Peru there were also vampire legends; the canchus were believed to be devil worshipers who sucked the blood of the young.

Thus from ancient times and from a bounty of exotic lands came forth the vampires. It is from these ancient fears about death and the magical, life-sustaining powers of blood that the vampires as we know them today have evolved.
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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2007, 10:52:52 pm »


Marie Laveau, the famous 19th century voodoo queen from Old New Orleans, was once said to be a vampire. She was not. But a noted New Orleans writer in the late 1800s, Lafcadio Hearn, said she was -- at least it was so speculated. He was probably speaking of her daughter, also named Marie, with whom he purportedly once lived. Then again, Mr. Hearn was a romantic. Born in Greece (the land of the vrykolakas), renowned as a journalist and writer in New Orleans where he became a familiar with the voodoo community, and a sojourner to a then exotic Japan where he was married eventually and settled down, Lafcadio Hearn walked on the wild side, to be sure. But his alleged statement about Marie Laveau was not altogether unbelievable.

In New Orleans voodoo in the 19th century, the blood of the rooster was drawn and, it was said, consumed. Wild, unsubstantiated tales were spread that the voodoo worshipers cooked children in cauldrons and ate them. This didn't happen, but some people believed it, just as many people believed that vampires spread the Black Death and other plagues in Europe.

But there may have been another reason for calling beguiling Marie Laveau a vampire; dare we say, a vamp? She was sensual as well as supernatural. And not unlike Laveau (who lived in the exotic city where the fictional vampire Lestat would dwell), the vampires of old Europe carried the subliminal message of sex with them as they rose from the dead at night in search of blood.

The Victorian mind would be confronted with the subliminal sensuality of vampires through the fiction of Dracula, but in ancient lore there were two demons who were not so subtle about the purposes of their nocturnal visits and they may have supported the beliefs about vampires. These "romantic" demons were the incubus and the succubus.

Nightmares, under classic and probably outdated Freudian analysis, may relate to anxiety or sexual repression, so we are told. But in the Middle Ages, visions of demons in the night who visited one's bed chamber were unquestionably the work of the incubus (male) and succubus (female). The incubus/succubus was a demon who attacked a human during sleep. (Could this be an early manifestation of the modern-day belief in "alien abduction" as well?) The night creature paralyzed the victim (read this as sleep paralysis) and engaged in sexual relations with the victim, against the human's will, of course. This belief in romantic night demons is explained away today as a rationalization of sexual repression from the oppression and guilt instilled by organized religion -- at least, that's one view. The vampire legend is not much different from the tale of the incubus/succubus, except the vampire will drink the blood of a victim instead of engaging in relations with the victim. Still, a true Freudian could have a field day with an analysis of this action as well, no doubt.

Some say the female succubus was essentially a gorgeous but demonic shape-shifter who assumed the female form and whose goal it was to mate with a male human to reproduce new little demons. Hence, a vamp... Others say the succubus would turn into an incubus after having relations with a male human, then as a new incubus it would pursue a female human, and so on...

The incubus/succubus was usually associated with witchcraft as well. A book from 1584 called Discoverie of Witchcraft by Reginald Scot discussed the incubus/succubus phenomenon, and stated that in one case witnesses saw an incubus on the bed of a woman. However, in other cases he attributes the demon to the imagination. But basically someone would be very reluctant indeed to claim to have had relations with an incubus/succubus, for in witch trials, assumed sexual relations with the devil or a demon was evidence of being a witch. And they killed witches.

It is also interesting to note that people believed there were different classes of demons, some more exalted than others. The incubus/succubus was at the bottom; it was the low-life in the pecking-order of demons.
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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2007, 10:54:50 pm »


Support for the vampire myth could be found historically, extrapolated from a few extraordinary facts. Such was the case of the "Blood Countess."

The deeds of a 16th century Hungarian countess named Elizebeth Bathory would rival the tales of horror told in almost any land. Her crimes were evil beyond description, though some say she was more insane than evil. When he was doing research for his novel about vampires, Bram Stoker came across a book called The Book of Werewolves by Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould. (Authors Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu suggest that the real-life Dracula -- and yes, there was one -- may have been related to Bathory on his Hungarian side of the family.) In this work was a description of the sinister deeds of the so-called Blood Countess. It is likely that this story, among other things, provided inspiration to Stoker for his vision of Count Dracula. In fact Elizebeth's cousin, Stephan Bathory, would one day become a prince in Transylvania.

Elizebeth was a well-educated and clever woman, but she possessed a tremendous cruel streak. Apparently fearing her own mortality after the death of her husband, she became sadistic towards her servants and eventually sought to acquire if not eternal life or longevity, then at least the appearance of youthful skin by washing in blood. Elizebeth actually got tips on how to torture from her husband who, as a soldier, used to brutalize Turkish prisoners-of-war. Bathory reportedly murdered scores of women, sometimes aided in her brutal deeds by her underlings (not unlike the fictional Dracula commanding his own servants to do his evil bidding.)

Bathory beat her victims routinely and mutilated them as well. Reportedly she froze some in the snows of winter near her home called Castle Csejthe, dumping ice water on them in freezing weather. There were possible acts of cannibalism as well; allegedly Bathory once took several bites out of the flesh of a living servant girl. And there were legendary tales of the Blood Countess literally bathing in the blood of virgin girls in the hopes of remaining young (although at least one source claims the blood baths are more legend than reality). Nevertheless, it is quite clear that the Hungarian countess Elizebeth Bathory did exist and that she committed evil acts. Another source says she drank the blood of 650 girls who were also murdered.

As the body count grew, Bathory's servants dumped the corpses outside the castle. When local peasants found the dead bodies, drained of blood, naturally they assumed vampires killed them. Rumors spread.

In 1610 she was arrested after her attempts to kill girls of nobler birth; apparently the grounds for arrest pertained to alleged witchcraft, not vampirism per se. Reportedly victims were found in the castle drained of blood. The countess' henchmen were put to death by the authorities and Elizebeth was imprisoned in her bedroom in her Castle in the Carpathian Mountains until her death years later. The only real evidence of Bathory's atrocities were recalled in her two trials in 1611 -- though she was never allowed to appear personally in court, only her henchmen appeared. Still, many myths have continued to flourish about her. It is said that some people even today claim to see her ghostly vision in her homeland in the Carpathians, prowling at night... in search of blood.

Elizebeth Bathory's story demonstrates how the myth of vampirism can be supported by the misinterpretation of the true life actions of a deranged criminal and feed the ignorance of believers.
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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2007, 10:57:00 pm »


Throughout history the legend of the vampire has been used to "explain" other natural phenomena that primitive people who lacked scientific knowledge could not otherwise explain. Possibly the most astonishing belief which people associated vampires with was the Black Death during the Middle Ages in Europe.

The Black Death, as we now know, was actually Bubonic plague spread by fleas and rats. The plague (which came from the East, not unlike the vampire) may have killed as much as a third of the population of Europe in the 1300s. Some people of the day, however, associated the multitude of deaths with vampires. Somehow they believed that the deaths were the workings of these monsters; perhaps the vampires spread plague, they may have thought. In some cases people believed a deceased relative returned as a vampire and killed a victim (who actually died of the plague). Alternately, it was believed a dead enemy could return and kill someone turning the victim into a vampire as well. Many graves were dug up and the bodies of suspected vampires mutilated to "kill" the vampire.

Idiotic methods were used to "locate" the graves of vampires. For example, a virgin was placed naked on a horse, and the horse was paraded through a graveyard. If the horse (which was apparently more intelligent than the people) decided not to walk over a certain burial site, this was assumed to be the grave of a vampire. The body was immediately exhumed and mutilated to "kill" the vampire and, yes, thereby stop the plague which was devastating the region.

Some of the most foolish vampire beliefs involved the methods used for killing vampires or stopping the spread of vampirism. It is important to remember, however, that while these beliefs seem absurd today, in an age when ignorance ruled unchecked, desperate people became susceptible to the power of superstitions.

Corpses were sometimes buried face-down. If the corpse became a vampire it would actually dig deeper into the ground in an attempt to escape the grave, if it was facing the wrong direction -- or so it was thought. Wooden stakes were sometimes planted in the ground above the grave, so if the body rose it would stab itself on the stake -- hopefully through the heart.

Corpses were sometimes wrapped in a carpet or cloth to make it more difficult for them to rise from the dead. Alternately, the legs or arms were tied up with rope.

Large rocks were often placed over the grave to prevent the corpse's return. (Could this possibly be the origin of the modern tombstone?) And it is significant to note that some people consider the vampire to be a type of ghost which lives after death, transcending the grave. What better way to keep the ghost in the grave than seal it in stone?

The natural process of bodily decomposition after death sometimes convinced people that corpses were actually transforming into vampires: the hair and nails continued to grow, indicating continued life; the corpse bloated from naturally occurring gasses in the body, meaning it fed on the living; blood sometimes appeared near the mouth as a natural result of bodily decay, indicating the drinking of blood; the generally grotesque appearance of the corpse complete with pale skin, indicating a vampiric need for blood.

Ignorant people followed superstitions to thwart assault from vampires, too. Two of the most commonly known substances used to scare away vampires were the herbs "wolfsbane" and, of course, garlic. It is theorized that people during the Middle Ages believed that the horrible smell of the dead was related to the cause of death, especially during the Black Death, and that the deaths were somehow related to vampires. It is not unlikely that herbs would be used to counteract the smell of death, considering the potent aroma of garlic. Also, throughout the ages garlic had been used as a medicinal herb even by the ancient Romans. Ironically enough, modern science also believes garlic can help people become healthier, in some cases.

People developed curious beliefs relating to vampires. Some believed if a black cat or dog jumped over a corpse, the deceased could turn into a vampire. In Bukovinian lore a stake of ash wood should be driven through the chest of those who died by suicide; suicide being a presumed cause for vampirism. In several cultures, including old England, people who committed suicide were buried at a crossroads (a sign of the cross made by roads) to prevent the corpse from becoming a vampire.

Various people had their various methods for destroying vampires as well. In some Slavic nations a spike made of ash wood, if driven through the chest, was believed to kill a vampire -- this is everyone's favorite method, a stake through the heart. In different lands, however, the wood used sometimes needed to be from a certain tree. For example, oak wood did the job in Silesia, while hawthorn wood was required in Serbia.

Additionally, the heads of corpses suspected of being vampires were sometimes chopped off. Sometimes corpses were thrown into pools of water or burned.

These beliefs were based on the general ignorance of the population, but the greater tragedy of the vampire legend was that the actual ascendance of the belief of the vampire myth may have been helped through the deeds (and misdeeds) of organized religion.

The Church in Europe during the Middle Ages came to recognize the existence of vampires and changed it from a pagan folk myth into a creature of the Devil. The vampire, though clearly a thing of evil and a pagan myth, had its believability reinforced by preexisting Christian doctrines such as life after death, the resurrection of the body, and "transubstantiation." This was a concept based on the Last Supper and the dogma of Pope Innocent the III in 1215 A.D., that the "bread and wine" and its equivalent during Christian Communion literally transubstantiated into the actual body and blood of Christ. People who adhered to this belief, and who consumed the blood of Christ, would have little difficulty in believing the corrupted corollary to this -- the drinking of blood by evil demons, namely, vampires.

The Church during the Middle Ages gave credence to the belief in vampires, concluded that it alone had the power to stop vampirism, and then reinforced this position two centuries later in 1489 with its landmark book, Malleus Maleficarum. This work was actually designed to deal with the persecution of witches, but it could be applied to evil vampires as well. Unfortunately many innocent people fell victim to this document, and were tortured and executed for no good reason whatsoever. This book, known as The Hammer Against Witches in English, was used to help identify and persecute people who were supposedly in league with the Devil.

Two centuries after this, evidence that the Church still clung to a belief in vampires was found in the writing of the noted theologian Leo Allatius. As a Church scholar he studied the vrykolakas, the Greeks' concept of the vampire. In his 1645 work called On the Current Opinions of Certain Greeks, he concluded that vampires were often the result of excommunication. Proof of their vampirism is that the body does not decay, indicating that it cannot leave this earthly plane. A swollen body was also evidence of possible vampirism. As some bodies might not decay rapidly due to the type of chemicals in the soil or the cold air temperature, and since bodily swelling was the result of naturally produced gasses in a corpse, many a dead man was wrongly presumed to be a vampire. Oddly enough, incorruptibility --the failure of the dead body to decay -- was also a sign of holiness, even evidence of saintliness. The difference was that a vampire did not totally decay but did become grotesque in form with discoloration and bloating, while a holy body remained almost perfectly intact as if still alive. Also, vampires smelled bad during the lack of decay, whereas sanctified bodies did not. (Remember, you needed garlic to overcome the smell of the vampire's corrupting but non-decomposed, undead body.)

Furthermore, it was a common belief of early Greek Christians that a priest or bishop upon excommunicating an evil-doer could also prevent the sinner's body from decomposing, hence the soul would not be free to go to heaven and was left to dwell on earth until it received a pardon for its sins. In the western Church this belief was apparently also held. There was the case of the Archbishop of Bremen in the 10th century, St. Libentius. He was said to have excommunicated some pirates; the body of one of them was allegedly discovered many years later still undecomposed. It apparently required a pardon of its sins by a bishop before its body would dissolve to ashes -- so it was believed. The clergy thus had the power to make or break possible vampires through excommunication and absolution.

Leo Allatius may have been one of the first scholars to declare officially that vampires were under the power of the Devil and that they prowled at night.

Proof of the Church's power over vampires (and hence the power of the crucifix or holy cross to scare off vampires -- although more modern vampires appear to be less susceptible to this) dates all the way back, at least, to Medieval England. A writer named William of Newburgh discussed the case of a man who died in the 12th century A.D. Supposedly he rose from the dead to torment his wife. After causing much consternation with the local villagers and clergy, the bishop of the region pardoned the corpse in writing for all his past sins. The grave was opened and the actual written pardon was placed over the body of the "vampire." The people were surprised -- or maybe not -- to see the body was still in good condition without signs of decay, sure proof of vampirism. But fortunately for everyone, once the pardon was placed in the grave, the vampire visited no more. Note that this method of dispelling the vampire with an official Church document was remarkably more civil and legalistic than the ordinary way peasants would dispense with a vampire found in the grave -- by burning the corpse, ripping out its heart, chopping off its head, or giving it the old wooden stake through the heart.

In the early 1700s the Sorbonne university in Paris formally opposed the all too common practice in popular culture of mutilating corpses to prevent the dead from becoming vampires. The Sorbonne (which the renowned writer Voltaire had once been shocked to discover actually debated the legitimacy of the mythological vampire) finally took the apparently radical position at that time that the mutilation of corpses suspected of vampirism was a practice based on irrational superstitions.

The belief in vampires, however, did not go without intelligent criticism. Dom Augustine Calmet, a French Benedictine monk, actually wrote a book in 1746 which dared to question the existence of vampires, called A Treatise on Apparitions, Spirits and Vampires a.k.a. The Phantom World. Calmet challenged the rampant vampire superstitions of the day and required proof before acceptance of a belief. He especially doubted that vampires could perform superhuman tasks, such as rising from the dead. He also analyzed and critiqued the supposed vampire epidemics throughout Europe, questioning their basis in reality.

Eventually the centuries of ignorance and superstition gave way to the Age of Reason and Enlightenment and the rise of the scientific method. Eventually medical science was able to prove that plagues, such as the Black Death, were not spread by evil, metaphysical vampires but had a very physical, although microscopic, biological basis.
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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #5 on: May 28, 2007, 11:11:22 pm »

There were other stories written in the 19th century about vampires besides Bram Stoker's monumental work. There was Dr. John Polidori's The Vampyre in 1819, with its hero/villain vampire character, Lord Ruthven, who was actually modeled after the famous poet Lord Byron. As a product of the same writing competition out of which Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, Polidori developed his own frightening tale of a vampire based on suggestions from Lord Byron. Some people thought that Byron actually wrote the story himself, but this apparently was not the case. Polidori wrote it.

Then there was Carmilla, written in 1872 by an Irish countryman of Stoker's, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu; no doubt this work influenced Stoker's work. However, in Le Fanu's work, the vampire was a female.

Furthermore, there was an 1847 English fiction called, incredibly enough, Varney the Vampyre. This was a popular horror tale of the day, but of questionable quality.

Bram Stoker's Dracula, however, is the ultimate vampire story. Today, more than a century after his creation in 1897, Dracula is still the archetypical vampire image. However, there were actually two Draculas. One was fiction, Stoker's creation. The other was real. He was known as Vlad Tepes, Vlad the Impaler, or -- since his father was called Dracul (which meant devil or dragon) -- he was also called Dracula, which means "son of Dracul."

Vlad Dracula was a real Romanian prince who lived in the 15th century who was noted for his military campaigns against the Turks. In Romania he is considered a hero, even today. (For instance, the Romanian military has honored him by naming a modern assault helicopter the AH1 RO-Dracula.) Vlad was also a mass murderer and a fiend whose favorite form of killing was impalement. This was a type of crucifixion except instead of hanging the victim on a cross, the victim was impaled, from bottom up, with a long, sharp, wooden pole -- in other words, a stake was driven into the body vertically. The body was then displayed for Vlad Dracula, who once enjoyed dining amidst a forest of impaled bodies. Allegedly Vlad once killed 20,000 Turks in this way and lined them up as scarecrows to terrify any further enemies. (Vlad did not limit his murderous means to impalement, however; he also enjoyed cooking his victims and chopping them up.)

As to whether Vlad Dracula was an actual vampire, this was not likely. However, according to perhaps the most authoritative modern account on Dracula (McNally and Florescu's In Search of Dracula), Vlad Dracula actually used the blood of his victims as a sauce with his meals, using human blood as a dip for his bread. This was according to a document called "The Story of a Bloodthirsty Madman called Dracula of Wallachia" written in 1463, a document which was only fairly recently discovered. So, it is possible after all that Vlad did enjoy consuming human blood.

Influenced by Vlad Dracula, the vampire which Bram Stoker created was more base, and quite frankly, uglier than the villain in the typical film versions -- although it has been said that the German 1922 film Nosferatu depicted Dracula as Stoker probably would have wanted it. Remember that vampires, according to legend, were essentially ugly, smelly, non-decomposed corpses; Stoker and the 1922 film Nosferatu followed this tradition of a grotesque vampire, which differs vastly from the suave and debonair modern version.
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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #6 on: May 28, 2007, 11:14:24 pm »

A poem by my pal, Unknown:


Whilst syllables steal on shadowy air
Whispers haunting linger there,
memories too painful snare
But still to answer madmen dare

Shifting lights do tease mine eyes
Mystery unclear despise,
flirting shadows condensed deny
To presuming senses do not reply

Throbbing heart turned vodoo drum
Beleaguered conscience struck so numb
By love lost still resounding,
Oh wilting faith for what will come

Beware! illusions unreal stream
Deaths sleep denied?
A bloodless corpse red horrors dream
Yet... still beyond compare thou seems

Eyes enchant too luminous bright
Teary reunion joys invite,
I cannot resist beloveds' right
Vision hungry bathed in night

Spotless white her body invites divine
Lust undaunted virtue's undermine,
lips crush relentless too sublime
Upon my naked neck beloved dine
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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2007, 11:18:13 pm »

From the paranormal world, there may be a possible explanation for vampires who roam the earth by night but reside in their graves by day; this would be the phenomenon of astral projection. In this procedure it is assumed there is a counterpart to the physical body which dwells on the astral plane, the plane of existence just above our three-dimensional, material world. The astral body may leave the physical body in an out-of-body (OBE) experience -- so the belief goes -- and travel back and forth from the body underground to the surface (in the case of the vampire, in a search for blood).

In addition to the occasional psychotic murderer who thinks he is a vampire and modern-day cultists who pretend to be vampires, there may be some scientific basis for what appears to be vampirism. Daniel C. Scavone has outlined several of these possibilities in his 1990 book Vampires.

Some writers in recent years have theorized that perhaps some persons who were falsely accused of vampirism in ancient times may have actually suffered from a medical disorder known today as porphyria. The bodies of people with this condition cannot produce the correct amount of red blood called "heme." Supposedly this disorder could produce symptoms which ignorant people during the Dark Ages might have concluded to be a case of vampirism. Needless to say, people with this disease do not become vampires; the porphyria theory (elaborated in McNally and Florescu's In Search of Dracula) appears to be merely an attempt to explain the irrational beliefs of the ignorant.

Another disorder which could cause people in olden days to suspect a case of vampirism was extreme anemia. In this event, the patient is low on red blood cells and hemoglobin (an element containing iron in the blood which carries oxygen). Such a severe condition could make the patient's skin appear pale -- clearly a sign of vampirism to the uninformed mind.

Catalepsy is another medical condition which could have been mistaken for evidence of vampirism. In this disorder the patient suffers a form of temporary paralysis and appears dead. It is quite possible that some people historically were actually buried alive while suffering from catalepsy. A person in this state has the ability to hear and has vision, but it is impossible to move a muscle, and the individual certainly cannot call for help. If this person came out of the paralytic state after a premature burial, the resulting confusion with vampirism would be obvious. Imagine witnessing a "corpse" struggling to free itself from a fresh grave or a coffin... Anyone unfamiliar with catalepsy (and this was probably most people) would immediately fear for his life and claim he had seen a vampire rising from the dead.

There very well may have been any number of other blood disorders or physical or mental ailments which produced some symptoms which the fearful in the past might have seen as signs of vampiric or demonic possession. One can imagine that any number of skin diseases or other disfigurements could cause primitive people to believe they had seen a vampire.

Then there is the psychological factor. If the population already believes in the vampire myth, because they are taught this myth as fact, and if the population knows almost nothing of science, then how would we expect these people to explain mysterious yet natural phenomena? The vampire belief would only be reinforced in the face of the otherwise inexplicable. Ignorance and fear would reinforce a belief based on superstition.

Whatever the case may be, whether vampires were actual supernatural beings (most unlikely) or legends based on some non-related facts (possible) or pure fabrications of fantasy, ignorance and anxiety mixed with superstition (most likely), the popular image of the vampire will probably reflect the sign of the times. How we view the vampire at any given point in our human history may be a Rorschach test for our society, revealing more about us than about the vampire.
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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #8 on: May 28, 2007, 11:22:00 pm »

Sources and Further Reading:
The Book of Vampires by Dudley Wright. Dorset Press, New York. 1987.

Vampires (Great Mysteries: Opposing Viewpoints Series) by Daniel C. Scavone, Greenhaven Press, San Diego, 1990.

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice.

Dracula by Bram Stoker.

V is for Vampire by David J. Skal, Plume/Penguin Books, New York, 1996.

Vampire: The Complete Guide to the World of the Undead by Manuela Dunn-Mascetti, Viking Studio Books, New York, 1992.

In Search of Dracula by Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu, Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, 1994.

Haunted City: An Unauthorized Guide to the Magical, Magnificent New Orleans of Anne Rice by Joy Dickinson, Carol Publishing, Secauscus, N.J., 1997.

Voodoo in New Orleans by Robert Tallant, 1946.

Sex and Spirit by Time-Life Books (From the series "Living Wisdom.")

The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Horror edited by Phil Hardy, The Overlook Press, Woodstock, N.Y., 1986.

Films referred to include Interview with the Vampire (1994), Dracula (the 1931 version with Bela Lugosi) and the first silent movie ever made about Dracula, the 1922 German film Nosferatu.

Web Sites of Interest:

Pathway to Darkness:

Theatre des Vampires:

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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #9 on: May 28, 2007, 11:25:21 pm »

The Vampire

by H. S. Olcott

[Reprinted from The Theosophist, Vol XII, 1891]

Theosophical Publishing House Adyar, Chennai (Madras) India

Of all the forms of the real or supposed intercourse between the living and dead, that of the vampire is the most loathsome. The horrid physical effects which follow after the burial of a corpse, have no doubt, had much to do in creating the sentiment of disgust and terror which associates with the thought of this return of the dead to prey upon the living. And it is another argument in favour of cremation—if any were needed by thoughtful persons—that there are no vampires save in countries where the dead are buried. We do not hear of Hindu vampires, but where such cases occur in India, it turns out that the revenant is a deceased Mussalman, Christian, or Jew, whose body has been interred. Some years ago the grandmother of our Mr Gopalacharlu had a neighbour, a Hindu woman, who was supposed to have been obsessed by a devil (pis’acha).

For about a year she would find herself every morning on awakening deprived of all strength, pale and anæmic. Twice becoming pregnant, she had miscarriages. Finally, resort was had to a Mussalman mantriki, or exorcist, who, by arts known to himself, discovered that the “control” was a deceased man of his own Faith. He went secretly to the country, opened the grave of the suspect, found the corpse fresh and life-like, made a cut on its hand near the thumb and found fresh blood flowed spurting out from the wound. He then performed the usual placatory rites, recited his mantrams, and drove the phantom away from his victim and back to its grave. The woman recovered, and no fresh victim was visited.

I do not know the derivation of the word vampire. In French it is spelt as in English; in Spanish and Italian vampiro; in German and Danish vampire; in Serb Wampire, wampira, wukodlak; in Wallachian murony; in Turkish massacet; in Modern Greek bronkolakas, and in several other ways; its Polish name is upior, Slavonic upir, and Russian googooka. The “Am. Cyclopædia” calls it “a fabulous creature,” but the pious Benedictine writer, Dom Calmet, describes it as persons “who have been dead a considerable time, sometimes more, sometimes less; who leave their tombs, and come and disturb the living, sucking their blood, appearing to them, making a noise at their doors and in their houses, and often causing their death”. They usually, he informs us, visit their relatives and those in the prime of life and full health and vigour.

In reading upon this gruesome subject, I have been struck with the apparent substantiation of certain facts, viz:

1. The vampire elementary always attacks the robust;

2. The signs of the obsession are invariably nervous prostration and anæmia, and usually a slight puncture over the jugular vein;

3. The corpse of the suspected vampire, when examined, appears well-nourished with healthy blood, and presents the appearance of one in cataleptic sleep, rather than of death.

4. If a pointed stake or weapon be thrust through the heart, the corpse cries out and often writhes in agony;

5. If the corpse be cremated, the vampire ceases to trouble. I have found no exception stated in this respect.

All these are indications that our problem has to deal not with a dead, but with a half-dead, person: in short, that the defunct is in catalepsy or some other form of suspended animation. The phantom which sucks the blood of the living appears to the eye, creates noisy and other phenomena in and about houses, and disappears when the corpse is burnt, is an astral, not a physical shape, a body of sublimated, not one of concrete, matter: in short, D’Assier’s posthumous phantom, the survivor of the living phantom, or “double,” “doppelgänger” or “perisprit,” as you like to call it. The vampire, then, is divisible into two factors, the inert corpse and the projectible double, or astral body: it is, therefore, a proper subject of scientific enquiry.

The first stage of verification is the existence of an astral human double which is capable of being projected from the body of the living man. This is the line of proof followed out by D’Assier in his Posthumous Humanity, which most interesting work should be studied by all who wish to know the evidence and the deductions therefrom of a Positivist man of science. His theory—but before passing on to theories, we may as well confine ourselves to a few out of the mass of facts that are available.

The literature of Vampirism is large and copious, covering the records of many countries and epochs. As to the witnesses, “their name is legion”; as to their trustworthiness , all that can be said is that, in nearly all cases where the ecclesiastical or political authorities intervened, there was an inquest conducted at least under the forms of law. The deaths of the victims were attested, their graves and those of the alleged vampires were opened, the fresh and ruddy condition of the corpses of the latter recognized, the spurting of fresh blood from them, and the cries or other signs of momentarily revived physical vitality, when the pointed stake or the executioner’s sword was driven through the heart, placed upon the record of the inquest. If we are to open a scientific enquiry by first violating the canon of science that corroborative evidence of probability cannot be put aside, but should be kept as unproved theory awaiting the final verdict, then it is but waste of energy to take up the research at all.

There are those who straightaway scout all testimony with respect to witchcraft and sorcery as of necessity false and puerile, and such has been the fate of modern Spiritualism, mesmerism, psychometry and various other branches of Occult Science. But times are changing, and men—especially hypnotists—changing with them. Spiritualism survives its thousand “final collapses,” psychometry has won its foothold, Reichenbach’s vindication has commenced, mesmerism is stronger because on a more scientific basis than ever, magic and sorcery are discussed as thinkable phases of practical psychology, and Theosophy, that universal solvent of mysteries and nursing-mother of every branch of psychical science, has gained every year fifty times the influence it has ever lost by the most bitter attacks of its cleverest antagonists. We may safely venture, then, to quietly discuss vampirism as one of group of psychical phenomena.

I note at the start two points, viz., that the most incredulous writers concede that the exhumed bodies have, or may have, been found in a preserved state, which they ascribe to either the preservative property of the soil, or the burial alive. As for the noctambulation of the phantom, its vampirising the living, and its making noisy “spiritual” phenomena, they dismiss all with the sneer of denial and the charge of falsification by the witnesses. It is true that a living man—a yogi or fakir–can be resuscitated after inhumation for several weeks. Ranjit Singh’s startling case at Lahore is historical and perfectly attested by Sir Claude Wade, Dr Macgregor and other unimpeachable eye-witnesses. It is, therefore, possible that an apparently dead man may be buried for an indefinite time without extinction of life, if the person be all the time in that state of human hibernation known as Samadhi—a state when the lungs need no air, because respiration is suspended, and the heart propels no blood through the arteries, because the human clock is stopped. The vampire’s body may, therefore lie fresh and rosy in the grave, so long as it can draw to itself nutriment to counteract the waste by chemical and subtler actions which operate upon the tissues, even in Samadhi. The Lahore yogi was wasted to a skeleton when exhumed, though he had had no chance to breathe during the whole six weeks of his inhumation.

In the Indian case of vampirism, given on Mr Gopalacharlu’s authority, this freshness and plethoric fullness of the blood vessels existed after nearly a year’s stay of the corpse in the grave. This was unnatural, and the theory of common catalepsy does not apply. Whence was blood-food derived, if not from the poor Hindu woman whose blood had been drawn and nervous force thoroughly drained away during the same period, and who was restored to health after the powerful will of the mantriki, and his ceremonial ritual, had driven the horrid phantom back into his grave to rot away with its corpse. In my translation of D’Assier’s book, I quote (p 274) from Eliphas Levi’s Dogme et Rituel, etc., his diagnosis

of the Vampire.

After death, then the divine spirit which animated man returns alone to heaven, and leaves upon earth and in the atmosphere two corpses, one terrestrial and elementary, the other aerial and related to the stars; the one already inert, the other still animated by the universal movement of the soul of the world, but foredoomed to die slowly, as absorbed by the astral powers which produced it. When a man has lived a good life, the astral corpse evaporates like a pure incense mounting towards the higher regions; but if the man has lived in crime, his astral corpse, which holds him prisoner, seeks still the objects of its passions and yearns to resume the earthly life.

During life it is the body which develops and nourishes the astral body; in the case of vampires the process is reversed, for the corpse, being confined in its coffin and by the superincumbent soil, cannot walk about, so the double, being an entity of the “Fourth Dimension,” hence not impeded by either coffin, tomb or grave-soil, is free to move about in search of its blood-food, and to transmit it by sympathetic psychical infusion to the cadaver, now become its mere dwelling-convenience.

Dr Scoffern, author of Stray Leaves of Science and Folk-Lore, quotes (p 353) from Newbridge—a twelfth century English authority—the case of a man of Bucks who appeared bodily to his wife and others after death, and worked mischief, but whose phantom was appeased when the Bishop of Lincoln laid upon the disinterred corpse a written form of absolution.

Another case was that of a vampire at Berwick, whose nocturnal maraudings only ceased when his side had been pierced with a sharp stake, the heart extracted, the body cut up and cremated. The ancient Romans affirmed that “dead bodies of certain persons were subject to be allured from their graves by sorcerers, unless incremation had been performed or decomposition had actually taken place”. Lucan puts into the mouth of an enchantress an order to an evoked spirit, which supports this idea.

Dr. Scoffern makes the point that “no authentic information is available relative to the manner in which they (the vampires) leave their graves, or the way in which they go back to the same” (p 356). This is a paltry argument and only shows that he knows nothing of our modern “form manifestations,” or apparitions so solid that I could handle and weigh them, yet so evanescent that they sometimes melt away before one’s eyes. The vampire leaves the grave as an impalpable form, and “materializes” whenever it likes, the favoring atmosphere and psychical conditions existing.

Dr Scoffern concludes his chapter on Vampires with the statement that two expedients are said to be efficacious for stopping a vampire’s ravages, viz., to have the grave beaten with a hazel twig, the operator being a virgin of not less than twenty-five years old. The other is to have the body dug up and burnt. “For some inexplicable reason,” he sneeringly observes, “the remedy of incremation is always practiced in lands where vampires do most abound.” Being a physician who evidently is ignorant of the existence of the astral counterpart to the physical body which may be separated from it for a time both before and after death, he fails to understand why cremation is found the one efficacious remedy for vampirism, the world over.

James Grant, in his Mysteries of all Nations, etc. (p 289), says that the popular belief was that vampirism was transmissible, like a sort of moral microbe, the victim turning vampire after his death under the impulse of a transmitted predisposition. This form of “superstition” created much anxiety in the public mind, “none knowing when he might be bitten by one of these hated demons, and be thereby transformed into a vampire”. And he confesses that: “Men of science bore testimony in favour of vampirism with seeming truthfulness and ability.” Why, then, object to our scientific contemporaries resuming a study which has been temporarily pushed into a corner by the rough hands of our materialistic sciolists?

Dr Ennemoser gives (History of Magic, ii 479) two authenticated accounts of vampirism in Hungary. In the first, the report is made by the bailiff of Kisilova, to the tribunal of Belgrade, which dispatched to the village two officers and the executioner to examine into the affair. An Imperial officer also went, expressly to be witness of the circumstance. A number of graves of those who had been dead six weeks were opened, and one corpse, that of an old man of sixty-two years of age, was found “with the eyes open, having a fine colour, with natural respiration, nevertheless motionless as the dead. The executioner drove a stake into his heart; they then raised a pile and reduced the corpse to ashes.”

The deceased had appeared in the night to his son three days after his funeral, had demanded food, eaten it, and then disappeared; the second night after he had again appeared, and the son was found dead in his bed. On the same day five or six other persons had fallen suddenly ill in the village, and died one after the other in a few days. Dr Ennemoser’s other narrative relates to a bad case of vampirism in another Hungarian canton. A dead man named Arnald Paul, who formerly had been tormented by a Turkish vampire, turned vampire himself; on the thirtieth day after his death he vampirized and killed four persons, and on the fortieth day his body was exhumed.

‘His body was red, his hair, nails and beard had all grown again, and his veins were replete with fluid blood, which flowed (oozed?) from all parts of his body upon the winding-sheet which encompassed him. The Hadnagi,or baillie of the village, in whose presence the exhumation took place and who was skilled in vampirism, had, according to custom, a very sharp stake driven into the heart of the defunct Arnald Paul, and which pierced his body through and through, and made him, as they say, utter a frightful shriek, as if he had been alive (which of course, he was): that done, they cut off his head and burnt the whole body.’

They also cremated four bodies of other persons who had died of the vampire.

These precautions availed not, however, for three years later within the space of three months, seventeen persons of the same village, of both sexes and all ages, fell victims to vampirism. A close inquiry into this unprecedented survival of the scourge after resort to cremation, made by the doctors and surgeons, elicited the significant fact that the vampire Arnald Paul had not only sucked to death human beings, but also “several oxen, which the new vampires had eaten”.

So it seems that the vampiric mania, like rabies, may be communicated through bacilli nourished in the bodies of animals, to other persons not touched by the first vampire, when they partake of the flesh of a vampirized beast. Recent experiments in the Paris hospitals in curing paralysis by transmission in a modified form through the body of a third person, appear to throw some light upon the psychical part of this subject.

Eliphas Levi gives to the vampire the very expressive title of “le somnambule de la tombe”. Certainly, the case of Arnald Paul has all the appearance of somnambulism. Levi furthermore affirms (Histoire de la Magie p 513) that

a person of sound mind and body need not fall a victim to a vampire if he or she has not during life abandoned himself or herself to it body and soul by some complicity in crime or some lawless passion.

The rule always holds that the pure in mind, heart and body, are beyond the reach of every species of evil magnetic influence, whether of magician, or sorcerer, “control,” vampire or mantriki: there must always be a joint in the physical or spiritual harness by which the maleficent current can enter and obsess. This is taught in the Bhagavad-Gîtâ, is affirmed by the ancient classics, and is sound common sense.

The one sweeping theory adopted by the Christian Church to account for every phase of abnormal psychical phenomena, vampirism included, is the action of the Bogey Man—the Devil. Nothing is easier than the use of this universal solvent. Unfortunately, however, nobody nowadays believes in that absurdity—nobody, at all events, who is in the least loyal to science. One never tires of reading such absurdly stubborn demonologists as Des Mouseaux, who detects the Devil behind the clairvoyant’s head, within the medium’s circle, even behind the mesmerizer’s chair. He devotes many pages of one of his books (La Magie au XIX me Siècle) to proving that poor Margarita Hauffe, the Seeress of Prevorst, was a pucca vampire; and, certainly, in the sense of her living upon the auric emanations of those about her, there is some reasonableness in the use of his term Magnetic Vampirism.

We have the good Dr Kerner’s testimony to that effect. But as to her being obsessed by the Devil, there was never a greater libel, her angelically pure and spiritual life and teachings indicating that the source of her inspiration was divine, not devilish. This magnetic vampirism is practiced every day and hour in social, most especially in conjugal, intercourse: the weak absorb strength from the strong, the sickly from the robust, the aged from the young. One vampirizes by hand-shaking, by sitting close together, by sleeping in the same bed; the full brains of the clever are “sucked” by the spongy brains of the stupid. Throughout all these phases the law of natural equilibration asserts itself, as it does in the whole realm of physics. Great minds love isolation, from an instinctive feeling that if they live the life of the crowd, they will be sucked down to the crowd’s low level.

It was this sense which dictated to the yogi and the hierophant, that he must seclude himself within the sanctum, or retire to the gupta (yogi’s cave), the jungle, or the mountain summit. The magnetic aura (tejas) of a sage or an adept is to his soul-starving disciples like mother’s milk to the babe, or a fountain of cool waters to the parched traveler of the desert.

The unqualified affirmation of the theory that the vampire corpse is the hibernating cadaver of a somnabule, was made by Mme Blavatsky in Isis Unveiled (i 449, et seq), and supported by a sufficient body of testimony. She makes it very clear that the corpse of the future vampire is in a magnetic stupor, and one of two possibilities may occur: the soul may either be attracted back into the body, in which case,

either the unhappy victim will writhe in the agonizing torture of suffocation, or, if he has been grossly material (i.e. having an overpowering affinity for physical existence), he becomes a vampire. The bicorporal life begins; and these unfortunate buried cataleptics sustain their miserable lives by having their astral bodies rob the life-blood from the living persons. The æthereal form can go wherever it pleases; and so long as it does not break the link which attaches it to the body, it is at liberty to wander about, either visible or invisible, and feed on human victims.

Pierant notices this invisible cord of connection between the buried but not decomposed body and the somnambulating double, and says: “This, perhaps, some day may be explained.” We may know how the results of the suction of the vitality of living persons are transmitted to the material body lying inert in the tomb, aiding it, in a manner, “to perpetuate the state of catalepsy”. As Dom Calmet sententiously remarks,

there are two different ways to destroy the belief in these pretended ghosts . . . .The first would be to explain the prodigies of vampirism by the physical causes. The second way is to deny totally the truth of all such stories.

Being a Catholic priest, he naturally adds: “The latter plan would be undoubtedly the most certain, as the most wise. [Dissertations sur les Apparitions des Anges, des Demons etc., Paris 1746]

We may now address ourselves to the enquiry whether M D’Assier has put forth a theory which explains on scientific lines the mystery of the link, or cord of communication between the body and the projected double. That there is such a tie or astral current, along which nutriment in the etherealized condition may be transmitted from the one to the other, seems probable, if not certain, from well known data. For example, many frequenters of mediumistic séances have seen liquids drunk by a “materialized form”—glasses of wine or beer, glasses of water or grog, etc—which disappeared from the glass in full view and were passed into the stomach of the medium, sitting at a distance in his cabinet. Ink or aniline liquids have been thrown upon the projected form, and found later staining the medium’s person. (I speak, of course, only of cases where the non-identity of the form and the medium was clearly proven.) Solid food has also been eaten by the form in full sight of the witnesses, and similarly disappeared.
A mesmeric subject, in full rapport with the mesmerizer , tastes what is put into his mouth, smells what he smells, sees what he sees, and feels whatever painful or pleasant thing is done to the mesmerizer’s body. To all appearance the two bodies are united like one, by an invisible yet thoroughly effectual agent of communication. Though the sleeping subject be blindfolded and the mesmerizer stand behind her, or him, the community of physical and mental sensation is perfect. So also between twins is there in many, perhaps the majority of cases, a similar sympathetic relationship.

This tie is a something possessing properties peculiar to itself, else it would not serve as a bridge of communication; for naught is naught, and cannot, even by miracle, be turned into aught. Another, and this time infrangible, proof of the close connection between the physical and astral bodies, is the fact that a bruise or wound inflicted upon the latter form reacts upon the former.

This is termed repercussion. The judicial annals of witchcraft and sorcery teem with proven facts of this kind. D’Assier quotes a number, and says the astral body—or living phantom, as he prefers to designate it—is the continuation of the other, with its form, habits, prejudices, etc. He might have added, its vices and virtues: for the moral tone of the body dominates completely the double, except when the double has been enslaved by the malignant magnetic power of a sorcerer, in which case it may be turned into a mere passive, stupefied agent. D’Assier says that its tissue usually disintegrates readily under the action of the physical, chemical and atmospheric forces which continually assail it, and re-enters, molecule by molecule, the universal planetary medium. This corroborates E Levi’s position. Says D’Assier:

Occasionally, it resists these destructive causes, continuing its struggle for existence beyond the tomb. We touch here upon the most curious phase of its history, for this brings us to the posthumous vampire.

After citing incidents which had been officially verified by special inquests of ecclesiastical, civil and military authorities, he says;

These facts bring into a new and clear light the physiognomy of the posthumous being. It is one of those cases where the fluidic being, instead of abandoning the body from which death has just separated it, persists in stopping with it and in living with it a new life, in which the parts are reversed. Thenceforth the struggle for existence continues beyond the tomb, with the same tenacity, the same brutal and selfish ferocity, one might say the same cynicism, as in living nature . . . Let us now examine what becomes of the blood aspired by the specter. We find here a repetition of what we have observed several times in the preceding chapters in connection with the living phantom. Its structure is bound so intimately with that of the body of which it is the image, that all absorption of liquid by the former passes at once into the organs of the latter.

It must be the same in the phenomena of posthumous vampirism, since the post-sepulchral phantom is the continuation of the living phantom. All the blood swallowed by the specter passes instantly into the organs of the corpse which it has just left, and to which it returns as soon as its poaching work is finished. The constant arrival of this vivifying fluid, which at once disseminates itself through the circulation, prevents putrefaction, preserves in the limbs their natural suppleness, and in the flesh its fresh and reddish tint. Under this action is seen to continue a sort of vegetative life which causes the hair and nails to grow, forms a new skin as the old one dries up, and, in certain cases, favours the formation of adipose tissue, as has been proved by the exhumation of certain vampires. . . . Powerless to attack the phantoms, the people disinterred and burned the body. The remedy was infallible; for from that moment the vampire ceased his dreadful depredations.

To conclude our analysis of this painful subject, it is most evident that too much care cannot be taken to ascertain beyond doubt the actual and complete death of a person before committing the body to the grave—if that senseless, unscientific and revolting custom must be preserved. One shudders to think of the untold agony that must have been felt by thousands of victims to ignorant hurry to put the body out of sight, who, awakening too late from a state of trance, found themselves screwed up in a coffin and buried under six feet of earth, without the least possibility of succor. The case of poor W Irving. Bishop, the thought-reader, who is said to have been dissected alive while in trance and which happened only the other day, is a sad example of the terrible possibilities of popular ignorance.

Everything that one reads in connection with occult science and psychical phenomena goes to vindicate the wisdom of the ancient promoters of cremation. Let us hope that before long the movement in its favour, which I am happy to say I was one of the first to begin in the United States, may extend until a proper horror is universally felt for the custom of burial of the dead, and it is recognized in its true character of a survival of brutish ignorance, fostered by superstitious clinging to religious prejudice and bigotry. Of course, I need hardly explain that, while cremation is a sure preventative of the return of the vampire somnambules to plague the living, the chances of premature disposal of the body of a half-dead person are equally serious as in the case of burial. If the trance be deep, it is quite possible that the unfortunate subject might not recover the use of his bodily members in time to save himself from being burnt alive.
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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #10 on: May 28, 2007, 11:27:14 pm »

Another poem by Unknown!!!


Tomorrow - today
the living dead are here and there here to slay

Pay no heed to what they say,
you'll be glad you did come the judgment day

The living dead are here, they are here again
light the bonfires and lets begin.

Emotions rising like a flood
Their names are written in volumes of blood.

Life, life is your desire
temptation leads you towards hell's fire.

You won't go home you must get higher.
The kiss of death is your desire.

Feel the pain burning down in your soul.
Feel the hunger your losing control.

The worlds turning, its turning again.
Another urge another passionate sin.

Your eyes they glitter an your teeth are bright.
You wade in shadows under pale moonlight.

Their is time for you my friend.
This living nightmare will never end.

You see the signs, the signs up ahead.
Your in the land of the living dead.
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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #11 on: May 28, 2007, 11:33:29 pm »

This one was found by Veronica!

by Micha F. Lindemans

The ancient Greeks believed that the Lamia was a vampire who stole little children to drink their blood. She was portrayed as a snake-like creature with a female head and breasts. Usually female, but sometimes referred to as a male or a hermaphrodite.

According to legend, she was once a Libyan queen (or princess) who fell in love with Zeus. Zeus' jealous wife Hera deformed her into a monster and murdered their offspring. She also made Lamia unable to close her eyes, so that she couldn't find any rest from the obsessing image of her dead children. When Zeus saw what had be done to Lamia, he felt pity for her and gave his former lover a gift: she could remove her eyes, and then put them on again. This way, though sleepless, she could rest from her misfortune. Lamia envied the other mothers and took her vengeance by stealing their children and devouring them.

In Lamia and other Poems (1820), the English poet John Keats writes about Lamia too. In this version, based on the information he found in Anatomy of Melancholy of the 1600s, Lamia has the ability to change herself into a beautiful young woman. Here she assumes a human form to win a man's love.

Another version of this myth states that Hera killed Lamia's children and that it was her grief that turned her into a monster.

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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #12 on: May 28, 2007, 11:37:49 pm »


THE 1970's
The female vampire made her major impact in a series of films in the early 1970's based upon the fictional "Carmilla" and the very real Elizabeth Bathory. Hammer led the way with its revival of "Carmilla" in The Vampire Lovers starring a new face, Ingrid Pitt, and an old standby, Peter Cushing. Director Roy Ward Baker emphasized Carmilla's lesbian attacks upon young women, which continued until vampire hunter Cushing, whose daughter was also under attack, caught up with her. The further adventures of Carmilla in a nineteenth-century girls' school were captured in Lust for a Vampire, directed for Hammer by Jimmy Sangster. Pitt and Cushing were replaced by Yutte Stengard and Ralph Bates. The third film of Hammer's Carmilla trilogy, Twins of Evil (1971), starred Katya Wyeth. She vampirized her relative, Count Karnstein and together they had to face the equally vile witch hunter Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing).

Looking for more stories to continue the success of its earlier horror movies, Hammer Films also sought inspiration from the legends of Elizabeth Bathory, whose story was brought to the screen in Countess Dracula, with Ingrid Pitt playing the title role. The film, made as a follow-up to Pitt's earlier success in The Vampire Lovers, was notable more for Pitt's **** scenes than for the acting. About the same time Countess Dracula appeared, Harry Kumel released his Belgian-made film, Daughters of Darkness featuring Delphine Seygig as a contemporary Countess Bathory, encountering a young, newly married couple. After the husband revealed himself as a sadist, the wife and Bathory joined forces and killed him. Later, the countess was killed and the wife, now a vampire, took her place. Bathory was also portrayed by Lucia Bose, Patty Shepard and Paloma Picasso (Pablo's daughter), respectively, in a series of less noteworthy films: Legend of Blood Castle (1972), Curse of The Devil (1973), and Immoral Tales (1974). A delightful comedy based upon the Bathory character was Mama Dracula (1980), starring Louise Fletcher.

Women had never enjoyed so much exposure in vampire roles as they did in the rash of Carmilla and Bathory films produced at the beginning of the 1970's. In spite of the dominance of Dracula and his male cohorts, a variety of other female vampires found their way onto the screen. Among them were Vampyros Lesbos die erbin des Dracula (1970), The Legendary Curse of Lemora (1973), Lenor (1975), Mary, Mary, Blood Mary (1975), Lady Dracula (1977), and Nocturna, Granddaughter of Dracula (1979).

Much of the problem with introducing female vampires to the screen, has been due to the dominance of the directing profession by men. Among the few female directors, Stephanie Rothman began her directing career with a vampire movie, The Velvet Vampire (1971), produced by Roger Corman's New World Pictures. The story concerns a modern-day vampire, Diana Le Fanu (played by Celeste Yarnell), who lived in the desert and invited victims to her secluded home. While the number of female directors has grown steadily, the field remains largely a male domain.

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THE 1980's and '90's

The 1980's saw the appearance of several of the most notable female vampires, possibly the most prominent being Mariam Blaylock (played by Catherine Deneuve) as the alien vampire in the movie The Hunger. The story centered upon the immortal Blaylock's problem: her male human partners began to age rapidly and to decay after a century or so of vampiric life. In her attempts to save her current lover (David Bowie), she seduced a blood researcher (Susan Sarandon), but in the end was unable to find a cure for their predicament. In contrast , Once Bitten (1985) was a delightful comedy that had Lauren Hutten as a vampire in search of virgin blood in modern-day Hollywood. Finally locating Jim Carrey, she was opposed by his girlfriend Karen Kopins, who was forced to make the ultimate sacrifice of her virginity to save him.

In Vamp (1986), a vampiric Grace Jones managed a nightclub, After Dark, into which a group of college kids arrived, in search of a stipper for a fraternity party. While the movie suffered from an identity problem (is it a comedy or a horror movie?), Jones was memorable as her vampiric nature became visible and she vampirized one of the boys who joined her in the underground, After Dark, world.

Other female vampires of lesser note in the 1980's included Gabrielle Lazure (La Belle Captive, 1983), Matilda May (Lifeforce, 1985), Britt Eklund (Beverly Hills Vamp, 1988), Sylvia Kristel (Dracula's Widow, 1988), and Julie Carmen (Fright Night Part 2, 1988). Several women also emerged as directors. Of these, Katt Shea Ruben (working for Roger Corman's Concorde Pictures, was most prominent for her direction of Dance of The Damned, 1988). The film didn't star a female vampire, but featured a strong woman as a potential victim who was forced to spend an evening describing the daylight to a moody vampire. The movie climaxed as the dawn approached, and the vampire finally attacked. In the end, the woman was able to fend him off.

Kathyrn Bigelow directed Near Dark, another of the new breed of vampire movies with contemporary, nongothic settings and vampires. The story involved a band of vampires who traveled the countryside in a van. They were joined by a farmboy, who was attracted to one of the group, played by Jenny Wright. Once the young man became a vampire, he was unable to bring himself to kill and suck the blood of an innocent victim. He had to rely upon Wright to feed him. Obviously a drag upon the vampires, who had to keep moving, the story climaxed in a confrontation between them, Wright, the boy, and the boy's family.

In the early 1990's, one of the finest vampire movies featuring a female lead appeared. Anne Parilland starred in Innocent Blood (1992) as a very careful modern vampire who had learned to survive by living according to a very precise set of rules. She did not "play" with her food, and she always cleaned up after dining. One evening, she was unable to complete her meal of a Mafia boss. He arose from her bite as a new vampire. She was forced to team up with a human cop to try and stop him. A second prominent entry in the vampire genre did not include a female vampire, but did unite Fran Rubel Kuzui with Kristy Swanson in the title role as Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1992). A high school cheerleader, the reluctant, but athletic Buffy was designated as the Chosen One, the person who must kill the King of The Undead, played by Rutger Hauer.

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As in the movies, Dracula and his male vampire constituency dominated the twentieth-century vampire fiction area. However, some female vampires gained a foothold in the realm of the undead. Many of these have been the imaginary product of a new crop of female writers, though some of the most popular female authors - Elaine Bergstrom, P. N. Elrod, and Anne Rice - have featured male vampires.

The century began with an assortment of short stories featuring female vampires, including F. G. Loring's "The Tomb of Sarah", Hume Nisbit's "The Vampire Maid", and E. F. Benson's classic tale "Mrs. Amworth". Female vampires regularly appeared in short stories through the 1950's but were largely absent from the few vampire novels. Among the first novels to feature a female vampire was Peter Saxon's 1966 The Vampires of Finistere. Three years later Bernhardt J. Hurwood (under the pseudonym Mallory T. Knight) wrote Dracutwig, the lighthearted adventures of the daughter of Dracula coming of age in the modern world.

In 1969, possibly the most important female vampire character appeared, not in a novel, but in comic books. Vampirella, an impish, voluptuous vampire from the planet Drakulon, originated in a comic magazine from Warren Publishing Company, at a time when vampires had disappeared from the more mainstream comic books. Vampirella was an immediate success and ran for 112 issues before it was discontinued in 1983. The stories were novelized in 6 volumes by Ron Goulart in the mid-1970's. Most recently, the character has been revived by Harris Comics and is enjoying a new popularity.

Female vampires have continued to emerge as the subjects of novels. From the 1970's one thinks of The Vampire Tapes by Arabella Randolphe (1977) and The Virgin and The Vampire by Robert J. Myers (1977). These were followed by the reluctant vampirism of Sabella by Tanith Lee (1980) and the celebrative vampirism of Whitley Strieber's The Hunger (1981). Through 1981 and 1982, J. N. Williamson wrote a series of novels about a small town in Indiana that was home of the youthful appearing, but old vampire Lamia Zacharias and her various plots to take over the world. In spite of some real accomplishments in spreading her vampiric condition, she never reached her loftier goals. Other significant appearances by female vampires occurred in Live Girls by Ray Garton (1987), Black Ambrosia by Elizabeth Engstrom (1988) and the first of Nancy Collins's novels, Sunglasses After Dark (1989), which won the Bram Stoker award for a first novel from the Horror Writers of America.

Also memorable during the 1980's was Vamps (1987), and anthology of short stories of female vampires compiled by Martin H. Greenberg and Charles D. Waugh. It included some, often ignored nineteenth-century tales, such as Theophile Gautier's "Clarimonde" and Julian Hawthorne's "Ken Mystery", as well as more recent stories by Stephen King and Tanith Lee.

Novels featuring female vampires continued into the early 1990's. Traci Briery, for example, wrote two substantial novels, The Vampire Memoirs (1991) and The Vampire Journals (1992), chronicling the lives of two female vampire heroines, Mara McCuniff and Theresa Allogiamento. Kathyrn Meyer Griffith's The Last Vampire looked into the future to explore the problems of a reluctant vampire after a wave of natural disasters had wiped out most of the human race. And not to be forgotten is The Gilda Stories, a lesbian vampire novel by Jewelle Gomez, an African American author.

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Viewing the male vampire as a representation of the male desires for power and sex, women tended to become stereotyped as victims, and the vampire myth emerged as a misogynistic story to be constantly retold. In its worst form, so it remains. However, in modern vampire fiction, even the male bloodsucker has become a much more complicated character and the females he confronts have had much more varied roles. In contrast with the powerful male vampire, the female vampire of the 1980's emerged with the many new roles assumed by women in the larger culture and as important models (however fanciful) of female power.

A further, if much more speculative, explanation of the emerging female vampire myth has been offered by Penelope Shuttle and Peter Redgrove in their book The Wise Wound (1978). They took a new look at old folk tales of a snake that lived in the moon and bit women, thus bringing on their menstrual flow. Shuttle and Redgrove saw the intertwined motifs of the womb, snake, and moon as integral to the vampire myth. Of some interest, they noted that when the vampire bit the young woman, the two marks usually were musch closer together than were the vampire's fangs. They appeared to be the bite marks not of an attacking vampire, but of a viper. The passive victim often responded to the vampire's bite by first bleeding and then becoming active and sexual. That is, the vampire functioned like the snake of the old myth, bringing the flow of blood that initiated a new phase of sexual existence. Such an explanation of the vampire has found a popular response among feminists attempting to deal with exclusively male appropriations of the popular myth.
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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #13 on: May 28, 2007, 11:42:49 pm »

The Female Vampire of Nineteenth-Century Literature

Tina Simcox

Vampires have evoked a sense of curiosity throughout the centuries, mainly because they are one of the few mythical creatures that closely resemble humans. The nineteenth century saw a rise in vampire literature, from Coleridge’s Christabel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with each author helping to solidify the vampire model (Whitehead 243). The female vampire remains an intriguing character, as she was perceived to be the “metaphor of female liberation” in a period of complete patriarchy (Gladwell 14). Her sexuality and cunning nature were seen as the antithesis of Victorian women; thus, her behavior caused a sense of fear in men due to the power she exuded. This female could seduce men and women alike, making her a formidable foe in every way possible. The male vampire is a frightening figure to men since he can show women their own masculinity, including their innate sexuality as a member of the human species (Gladwell 9). The female vampire, on the other hand, is already aware of this sexuality, and she is capable of destroying and emasculating the male character. This masculinity of the female goes against the framework of Victorian standards; as such, she cannot be allowed to remain in the society and must, herself, be destroyed before she destroys her victim, man or woman.

The story of vampires began in Eastern Europe, where tales of the bloodthirsty Vlad the Impaler, also known as Dracula, were told in the fifteenth century. Most of the people residing in Romania and Hungary were of the Eastern Orthodox faith, and the Church believed that “the body of anyone bound by a curse will not be received by the earth – will not decay” (McNally 144). These bodies walked among the earth like their living counterparts, feasting on the blood of their victims: the ultimate source of renewal and vitality. While Dracula was the first “vampire” to surface in Eastern Europe, another character arose in the sixteenth century. Deemed as the first “living vampiress” (McNally 156), Elizabeth Bathory became a legend in Hungary. She tortured and killed hundreds of girls in order to bathe in their blood, believing it to be the source of eternal youth. Centuries later, Marie Antoinette would be depicted as “the blood sucker of France” (Craciun 78), calling into light a history of these female vampires, living and literary. Both Elizabeth Bathory and Marie Antoinette were women of authority, playing masculine roles in a patriarchal society; therefore, they posed a considerable threat, and both were condemned to death.

Moving forward to the nineteenth century, remnants of Bathory’s legend can be found in Victorian literature. Letitia Landon wrote a verse drama in 1829, entitled The Ancestress, a work in which the woman desires eternal beauty and youth, and she commits evil deeds in order to achieve them (Craciun 284). Even male authors, such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Sheridan Le Fanu, wrote about female vampires luring their female victims in a seductive manner to use their energy and vitality. Bram Stoker chose to use male victims in his Dracula, where the brides of Dracula seduced the main male character. Why did these male authors choose to write about powerful women, especially if writing about the female vampire is thought to drain the strength and sanity of the author (Gladwell 9)? James B. Twitchell argues, in his The Living Dead: A Study of the Vampire in Romantic Literature, “the femme fatale is wonderfully attractive…but she is too powerful, too threatening to the male ego. Hence, she can only be an ‘object’ of male fantasy, not reality” (66). Twitchell goes on to argue that Victorian men would fantasize about these powerful women, hoping to suppress their sexuality as the male’s patriarchal duty; however, they would never think about bringing one of these women home since chastity was an integral part of the society.

Jane Eyre takes on the subjects of patriarchy and sexuality with the use of vampires, as well as other fantastical creatures. Charlott­­e Brontë’s famous novel was published fifty years before Bram Stoker introduced his Dracula, but her predecessors helped to shape the vampire model in a way that she could integrate them into her stories. Bertha Rochester was the first female vampire to be written about by a female author (Gladwell 15), and Bront­ë used the traditions of Coleridge and Le Fanu to further shape her own female character. Bertha is a caged animal, a blood lusting creature, who longs to escape the world in which her patriarchs, her brother and husband, have created for her in Thornfield. She remains locked away for her madness, whether self-induced or environmentally forced, only escaping when another female, Grace Poole, succumbs to her own vice called alcohol. Bertha crawls out at night and attacks those who keep her at bay, those who long to forget her existence. She had once seduced her husband with her charms (Brontë 301; ch. 27) long ago in Spanish Town, using her sexuality to lure her prey. After her imprisonment, Bertha had to turn to strength and brute force in order to win the battle against her male suppressors. When Jane came into the house, a power struggle came to pass between the old wife and the new lover; thus, an obstacle was created for both women in this patriarchal house.

As a whole, however, Charlotte Brontë used the character of Bertha Rochester in a less sexual context, instead making her into more of an obstacle to her “heroine,” Jane Eyre. Although Bertha is referred to as “unchaste” (Brontë 302; ch. 27), this characteristic does not take precedence. Brontë, instead, uses Bertha as an antagonist to Jane, while showing the two have common characteristics. Although Bertha is seen as the true vampire in the novel, being called a “foul German spectre – the Vampire” (Brontë 281; ch. 25), Jane is not far from being a vampire as well. Their stubborn natures, their bestial anger, and their suppressed sexuality are just a few common factors these women share. Bertha and Jane are very different from the ideal Victorian woman, but which one is furthest from that concept? Mr. Rochester locks the once beautiful Bertha away for her vices and her power, while Aunt Reed sends the plain Jane away for being too stubborn and forthright. Bertha has been deemed “clinically insane” because of her behaviors, yet Jane could easily end up in the same situation, for Victorian society claimed that the body and minds of women are susceptible to hysteria and unchaste activities (Gladwell 14). In the end, Bertha is destroyed to allow Jane’s happiness, but whether this is because Jane is more human and less vampiric needs to be determined.

Works Cited

Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Ed. Beth Newman. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1996.

Craciun, Adriana. Fatal Women of Romanticism. New York: Cambridge UP, 2003.

Gladwell, Adèle Olivia, and James Havoc. “The Erogenous Disease.” Blood and Roses: The Vampire In 19th Century Literature. Ed. Adèle Olivia Gladwell. New York: Creation Books, 1992. 5-26.

McNally, Raymond T. In Search of Dracula: The History of Dracula and Vampires. Boston: Houghton, 1964.

Twitchell, James B. The Living Dead: A Study of the Vampire in Romantic Literature. Durham: Duke UP, 1981.

Whitehead, Gwendolyn. “The Vampire in Nineteenth-Century Literature.” The University of Mississippi Studies in English 8 (1990): 243-48.

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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #14 on: May 28, 2007, 11:48:25 pm »

Vamps around the world:


A pontianak or kuntilanak (as known in Indonesia, sometimes shortened to just kunti) is a type of vampire in Malay folklore. The pontianak is usually a woman who died during childbirth and becomes undead, seeking revenge and terrorizing villages. She often appears as a beautiful woman and there will be a strong scent of frangipani. She is also seen by the head and neck and the intestines dangiling to the ground when wanting to feed. Men who are not wary will be killed when she morphs into an ugly vampire, she will also eat babies and harm pregnant women. People believe that having a sharp object like a nail helps them fend of potential attacks by pontianaks, the nail being used to plug a hole in the back of the pontianak's neck.

It is believed that when a nail is plunged into the back of a pontianak's neck, she will turn into a beautiful woman, until the nail is pulled off again. The Indonesian twist on this is plunging the nail into the apex of the head of the kuntilanak.;f=15;t=000365;p=2
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