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History of Vampires

Deepa Kartha
Vampires have ruled over the fears of human beings for thousands of years. Read on to know more about their history...
Myths of vampires have existed since long, in almost all parts of world. They were said to be ghosts, spirits, witches, demons, living on human blood.
It was also believed that humans who die unnaturally rise from their tombs at night to drink human blood for life and power. These dark, ugly creatures, with fangs to take blood out of people, can be said to have emerged from the underlying fear in the mind of people.
Though vampires are present in legends of almost all cultures, no one knows exactly how the myth of these bloodthirsty beasts came into being. They can be found in the fables of Persia, China, the Yucatan, India, Malaysia, Polynesia, etc. Hebrew scriptures of the Old Testament mentions a demon named 'Lilith', who used to drink the blood of little babies.
However, it is believed that the myth originated in Europe. Greek and Roman mythologies have stories of goddesses who disguised themselves as humans to drink the blood of living beings. This must have triggered the myth, which eventually spread to other countries and cultures of the world.
Another theory that strengthened people's belief in vampires began in 11th century. It was believed that people committing suicide, or those who were excommunicated by the church, became vampires. The myths never ceased to exist, and evolved and embellished over time.
Superstitious stories of human beings also contributed to the belief of people. One of them was Vlad Tepes Dracula, the Prince of Wallachia, who killed people for pleasure. He was later characterized as a bloodthirsty vampire by Bram Stoker in his novel 'Dracula'.
Another related story is that of Countess Erzsebet Bathory, who killed young girls to drink their blood, which she believed would make her look young and beautiful forever.
With the advent of industrialization, the superstitions started fading out. The main factor that brought back the myth was literature. It was the romantics who reintroduced vampires in their writings. This age gave rise to the 'Gothic' novel, which turned blood-sucking creatures into charming erotic beings, who seduced people in order to suck their blood.
Stoker's Dracula became the most successful vampire novel, and 'Dracula' got synonymous with the concept.
Anne Rice, a 20th century novelist, changed the image of 'the undead' completely. Vampires in her novels were ordinary people with a vicious side to them.
Stoker, in Dracula, created a belief that vampires were first found in Transylvania, and they can be repelled with smell of garlic and killed with stake.
Today, there are many movies and television shows based on vampires. Though people are scared of them, there are some who are really fascinated by these dangerous beasts. This has given rise to many cults, where ordinary people believe themselves to be eternally un-dead, and drink human blood, believing it will give them a long life.
Vampires are definitely fictitious, and were created by the belief of human beings in superstition and supernatural ideologies. But, these mysterious characters continue to captivate us, even in this era of modern beliefs and rational thinking.