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Furthermore, whereas heme injections help alleviate symptoms today, Dr. Dolphin speculated that the afflicted individuals in times past might have been driven by instinct to drink blood. If they ingested enough of it, the heme might be absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the stomach wall. And porphyria as an epidemiological rationale for vampirism offers this bonus: Too much garlic is known to destroy the functioning of heme in the liver. So a porphyria victim, believing himself prey to a vampire and therefore moved to surround himself with garlic, might by that very action inadvertently trigger the latent porphyria in his own loved ones the disease runs in families.
Once he died, and his relatives sickened in turn, it might look to all the world like the handiwork of vampires—the latter being widely supposed to prey on their next of kin. Porphyria had its day in the sun before giving way to pellagra. First recognized in , pellagra results from a deficiency of niacin and tryptophan, usually caused by a diet overly dependent on maize, or corn. Corn was planted widely across southern and eastern Europe, where the climate was warm enough for it to flourish.
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The breath turns foul, while the tongue thickens and blackens from bleeding sores. Brain neurons degenerate, leading to unpredictable 'margin-bottom:0cm;margin-bottom:. Because most peasant families would likely suffer from similar nutritional deficiencies, at the moment one member died from pellagra, others would doubtless be sickening too.
When corpses were disinterred and examined for signs of vampirism, one telltale sign was said to be a ring of cornmeal around the mouth. Insightful as they are, such white-jacketed explanations are ultimately unconvincing.
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Some element seems to have been left out—some aspect that, if not exactly supernatural, still partakes of the terrible. Despite the speculations of our scientifically inclined era, few nonfiction works on vampires have had the impact of those written in the s by a medievally minded English reverend—Augustus Montague Summers. In his passages, one can almost hear the thundering cadences of the Inquisition itself:.
Throughout the whole vast shadowy world of ghosts and demons there is no figure so terrible, no figure so dreaded and abhorred, yet dight [adorned] with such fearful fascination, as the vampire, who is himself neither ghost nor demon, but yet who partakes the dark natures and possesses the mysterious and terrible qualities of both…. Foul are his ravages; gruesome and seemingly barbaric are the ancient and approved methods by which folk must rid themselves of this hideous pest….
Summers — looked nowhere near as fierce as he sounded. Plump and pink, he sported gray curls resembling tresses and was not above applying a touch of makeup to accentuate his hazel eyes. The cherubic side, increased by a long slightly uptilted nose, was a little too good to be true. Perhaps so, for Summers was nothing if not a man of contradictions. Growing up in comfortable surroundings near Bristol, he was baptized in the Church of England but was already drifting toward Roman Catholicism by the time he graduated from Trinity College, Oxford.
Yet, his earliest poetry was openly and very erotically gay. Although Summers wore the attire of a Catholic priest, it is unlikely he was ever ordained one. While he was serving a curacy near Bristol, questions had arisen about inappropriate behavior with choirboys. Montague Summers made his first big literary contributions in the study of English Restoration drama—an irreverent corpus if ever there was one, given that late 17th-century plays abounded with naughty situations and double entendres.
Summers was an outstanding editor, issuing multivolume editions replete with scholarly appurtenances. Besides the stage, Summers cherished another love: the Gothic novel, that hoary 18th-century genre featuring brave young ladies, evil European noblemen, ghosts, and spooky old castles. He had even written about Jane Austen by the day in the mids when London publishing company Kegan Paul asked him to produce two volumes on witchcraft to round out its History of Civilization series.
His juvenile dabblings in the occult may have rattled Summers, but here he found his voice.
When all these outpourings proved remarkably successful, his publisher approached him with another idea: Might he perform encores with tomes on vampires and werewolves? Summers accepted. That might be Summers in a mischievous mood; quite likely, however, they betray his haste. Like many authors making a living from their pens, he was a tad overbooked in the s.
At times, his vampire chronicles have the feel of anthologies in the making, with his portentous pen bridging the gaps between great chunks of text plucked straight from his sources. That vampires remain an incarnate evil, as real as the buckle on his shoe? That might have been how he projected—or exorcised—his own forbidden impulses. We will never know, for he kept the veil tightly closed. Once a favorite Victorian burial ground, Highgate Cemetery, which sprawls across a low rise overlooking north London, is a city of the dead that displays the marvelous funerary architecture of the 19th century: elaborate tombs, aspiring statues, pitying angels, pedimented mausoleums, and fantastic Egyptian avenues.
By the s, however, Highgate was ceding its dominion to forces both natural and preternatural. Ivy vines were creeping up the headstones, while foxes and badgers were found denning in the graves. Vandals had pushed over monuments, exposing coffins; coffins had lost their lids, exposing skeletons; weeds and wildflowers disguised dangerous sinkholes. This particular story, however, began two years earlier, in , when two teenage girls were walking home one evening from their nearby convent school.
Passing the entrance to Highgate, they saw what they afterward described as graves opening and the dead arising therefrom. One of the girls, Elizabeth Wojdyla, soon reported nightmares in which something evil, something with the snarling visage of a beast but the body of a man, was trying to get in through her bedroom window. Soon other people were spying ghostly figures in and around the cemetery: spectral cyclists, a classic woman in white, and a man in a hat. The most common sighting was a tall, floating figure with burning eyes. Once the local paper got wind of this, all manner of ghost hunters and thrill seekers descended on Highgate.
This self-styled psychic, an admirer of Montague Summers, eventually became the presiding bishop of something called the British Old Catholic Church. Manchester was convinced that a vampire lay behind the plethora of spectral sightings. Granted permission to examine Elizabeth Wojdyla, he detected symptoms of pernicious anemia—and what looked like two small puncture wounds in her neck.
He sprinkled her room with holy water, salt, and garlic, after which her condition improved. Eventually—understandably—Wojdyla left the area. Meanwhile, Manchester had begun talking to the press. The activities of modern Satanists, Manchester reportedly claimed, had unintentionally wakened the noble. He must therefore be hunted, staked, beheaded, and burned.
On Friday the 13th of March , Manchester told a television news team that he intended to perform an exorcism later that night in Highgate. Shortly thereafter, hundreds of revelers looking to make a night of it poured over the cemetery walls and swarmed among the darkened gravestones. Police officers were recalled from leave to stem the influx.
There he found only empty coffins, which he seeded with garlic. No exorcism that night. What we are told next comes entirely from Manchester. This saga, believe it or not, continued until , when Manchester claimed to have driven the final stake through the heart of the last remaining Highgate vampire. Visiting her grave site one autumn evening, Manchester was not at all surprised to confront what he described as a large, spiderlike creature about the size of a cat.
What you make of this astonishing story may depend on how high your eyebrow is cocked. It has been recounted in numerous newspaper and magazine articles, providing grist for a shelf load of books. It has appeared regularly in television documentaries and soon will be dramatized in a feature film. And in a sign that even vampires are now online, the harrowing happenings of Highgate are frequently—and vigorously—debated on the Web. Whatever else it might be, this is life imitating art on an epic scale.
In , however, when year-old Roderick Ferrell and four accomplices killed the parents of his girlfriend, it was a vampire fantasy run amok. The film version of that book was later implicated in a murder in Scotland, where Allan Menzies, 22, so lost himself in its fictional world that he convinced himself he was a vampire.
Menzies killed his best friend, ate part of his skull, and drank some of his blood. In , Joshua Rudiger, 22, certain that he was a 2,year-old vampire, slashed the throats of homeless people in San Francisco because, he said, he needed a drink of blood. Role-playing is one thing, compulsion something else. In , German psychiatrist Dr. From that time on, he sought, in every possible way to see and, where practicable, to taste the fresh blood of females. That of young girls was preferred by him. He spared no pain or expense to obtain this pleasure. Case number 48 described a young man with scars covering his arms who had sought out Dr.
Certainly it describes a syndrome of pathological behaviors easily correlated to that legend. These would have to be irresistibly compulsive behaviors, almost ritualized, the discharge of which would afford only temporary relief. That spelled trouble if such compulsions manifested themselves in psychopathic personalities—especially in people who appeared to be functioning perfectly normally. Not surprisingly, after a sensational two-week trial, Haarmann was beheaded in April A neat man not devoid of feeling, he seemed unable to resist the compulsion toward sexual gratification that he found in the spurting blood of his victims.
Haigh killed at least six people he claimed nine in or around London and dumped each body into an acid bath.
After a day or two, the ghastly concoction had reduced each victim to a sludge that could easily be poured down a manhole. Eventually the police caught him, and found the remains of three human gall bladders and a partial set of dentures in one of the drums. An even more stomach-churning case was that of Richard Trenton Chase. He not only believed that his pulmonary artery had been stolen, but also was convinced that either UFOs or Nazis were poisoning his soap dish. Chase also showed a compulsion for drinking blood, which precipitated a killing spree.
He murdered two infants and two adults—accompanied by disembowelments, the eating of brains, and the quaffing of blood from used yogurt cups—before the police finally caught up with him. Rather than face the electric chair, Chase poisoned himself. This litany of latter-day vampirism seems inexhaustible indeed. For several decades the vast majority of vampire fiction, whether on page or stage or screen, showed the influence of Dracula.
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In the 20th century vampires began to turn from being depicted as predominantly animalistic creatures and instead displayed a broader range of human characteristics. The popular American television soap opera Dark Shadows —71 featured a lovelorn vampire, Barnabas Collins.
Vampire fiction entered a new era, however, with the sympathetic portrayal by Anne Rice in her novel Interview with the Vampire Interview with the Vampire was highly popular and sparked a revival of vampire fiction that lasted into the 21st century, and subsequent vampire stories continued to use characteristics established by Rice. Rice herself wrote several more books in what subsequently became known as the Vampire Chronicles, some of which were later adapted for film.
The vampire as a misunderstood romantic hero picked up steam in the later part of the 20th century, particularly in the United States. In Chelsea Quinn Yarbro began publishing her series of Count Saint-Germain books, the main character of which is a vampire of moral character whose bite is an erotic experience.
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In many tales vampires are characterized as promiscuous, their appetite for human blood paralleling their sexual appetite. In Lori Herter published Obsession , one of the first vampire novels to be categorized as romance rather than science fiction , fantasy , or horror. Buffy the Vampire Slayer , a television show in which the title character has a star-crossed romance with a vampire, aired from to Vampire romance for teens gained popularity at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st, with books such as the Vampire Diaries series by L.
Smith and the Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer. The Twilight Saga, with its high-school romance and vampires that sparkle in the sun rather than bursting into flames, became a cultural sensation, ensuring a vampire trend for years to come. Vampires also enjoyed popularity as unlikely action heroes. Blade, a half-vampire superhero who first appeared in comic books, was the focus of three films , , Another popular film series, Underworld , , , , explored an ongoing war between vampires and werewolves.
Although vampires had by the 20th century largely become creatures of fantasy, urban myths about vampires continued to persist. As late as the early 20th century, some villages in Bulgaria still practiced corpse impaling. Article Media. Info Print Print. Table Of Contents. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Introduction Characteristics History. Written By: Alison Eldridge.
The Vampire Encyclopedia
See Article History. Characteristics Because there is a long history of walking corpses and bloodsucking ghouls in folklore, it is difficult to pin down a distinct set of characteristics consistently attributed only to vampires. Facts Matter. Start Your Free Trial Today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles: Slavic religion: Communal banquets and related practices.