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What is a Vampire?

Picture of a Demonic Transylvanian Vampire from the movie Salem's Lot A picture representing a terrifying vampire from the movie Salem's Lot (1979), based on Stephen King's novel.

A vampire is mythological being that appears as an animated corpse (undead entity) that survives by drinking the blood and/or by draining the life force, essence, energy of living humans or animals. Stories of vampire-like creatures have been told worldwide from nearly the beginning of ancient history (Persian, Roman, Mesopotamian and Greek mythology account for slightly similar beings). The physical appearance, habits, motives, and other characteristics of vampires, appear to differ based on the region in which the vampire folklore originated. But, it was the increased level of vampire superstition spreading throughout Europe by the 1700s that mostly influenced how we perceive vampires today. These superstitions were largely drawn from stories told by travelers returning from parts of eastern Europe such as Transylvania, the Carpathian Mountains, Wallachia and certain areas within the Balkans.

Many credit Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula (1897), for creating the momentum necessary to propel the vampire myth into the new millennium. It should be noted that Stoker's novel was not the first to describe a vampire. Many works preceded his. Also an interesting website, and contrary to popular belief, Dr. Elizabeth Miller writes, "It is my contention that Stoker was not, as many think, inspired by accounts of Vlad the Impaler to create the character of Count Dracula." I recommend you to visit her website when you have time to learn more.


Vampires from traditional European folklore are probably the most terrifying


The traditional European vampire is an undead corpse. Often it is the decomposed body of a relative that is inexplicably animated by some dark force. They are described as shrouded figures determined to cause havoc and terror within their village or town of origin. The earliest European accounts tend to be the most terrifying.

Some generalized physical characteristics of the classic vampire


» Superhuman strength and abilities (nearly immortal)

» Body in an overall state of suspended decay

» Pale skin color, "veiny", slight decay, discoloration

» Tendency toward bony, thin and/or sickly overall stature

» Pointed canine teeth

» Alluring, hypnotic gaze

» Full, red lips

» Long sharp fingernails

» Malevolent

» No reflection or shadow

» Can shape shift

» Hairy palms

» Bad breath

» Eastern European accent

» Evil, able to lure victims with hypnotic or sometimes seductive ways