Before I go further, let me explain that when I was a teenager, I got into vampires, and the interest has stayed with me. I wrote my first vampire novel (unpublished), in 1980-'83. Now I write a series with vampires and whatnot, and I have a blast doing it!
Being that my interests were cut and clear (and they just don't teach this stuff in school, y'know?), I had to investigate it all on my own. I researched the hell out of it, looking up anything in the library that had to do with vampires, and anything in the newspapers got clipped out, and I still have those browned clippings in a file.
My first experience with the vampire came from watching the old films such as "Dracula" with Bela Lugosi. His performance as Dracula is unforgettable--on stage as well as on screen. He was the film personification of dark evil. I must say, I enjoyed staying up late just to watch these films (all of the monster movies), and earned the reputation as being "weird". Now, vampires are cool. Go figure. I think vampires, and people who get into them has finally come full circle.
|Bela Lugosi as Dracula|
So how was it that the term came to apply to humans? During the middle ages European nobles interbred and this led to various genetic disorders--as one can imagine. But one was hemophilia. In this case the term "Royal Blood" held more than water in this case. Among the many disorders there was one which didn't gain enough medical attention. In fact, its mysterious problems probably caused too much attention, as far as the sufferer was concerned. This decease is called erythropoietic protoporphyria (say that three times fast--just typing it was hard, and I'm not even sure it's spelled correctly). This disorder causes the body to produce too much porphyrin, which is a substance all red blood cells must have to be normal. The absence of such results in redness of the skin, eyes and teeth. Even the upper lip tends to recede. But the most bizarre thing that really made the poor soul's life hell is that they were allergic to sunlight. The skin would crack and bleed. Yeah, nice, huh? So, you can just figure that doctors who didn't know how to treat the disease came up with having the patient locked up in a dark cellar or attic during the daylight hours (to prevent bleeding), and for any loss of blood, they were given blood to drink--gak! I'm sure it was probably animal. Transfusions were not yet invented.
Just think of the rumors which must have run rampant in a small village back then! Keeping a child, or adult in a dark cellar during the day and let out at night to drink blood!
Now, back to Dracula. As we all know Bram Stoker did NOT invent the vampire. He DID invent his character "Dracula". So, where did Stoker get the idea of vampires? He was influenced heavily by a 900-page "penny dreadful" novel called, "Varny the Vampyre", which was written by James Malcolm Rymer. The story was written in 109 weekly installments in the mid-1800's. It was the first vampire novel in English, and the first vampire fiction since the original short story by John Polidori "The Vampyre".
But where these two authors bring nothing new to the whole vampire literature scene, Bram had a fantastic idea and used an historical figure who was, himself, pretty much the bloodiest psychotic of them all, bar none.
Enter Drakulya, aka The Impaler.
|Dracula, Vlad Tepes (the Impaler)|
Bram's Stoker's novel Dracula is one of the most horrifying books in English literature. Published in May of 1897, and was an immediate success, and has never been out of print, and is still a best seller.
Possibly the setting for Dracula in Transylvania was because it was, and still is, a far-away land, where anything can happen. It even sounds exotic!
Now, also there is the blatant sexual fantasies derived from the story, and those that follow it (including the films). Much of the novel's appeal comes from its hostility toward female sexuality. You've got the Oedipus complex--a kind of incestuous, necrophilous, oral-anal-sadistic thing going on throughout. What are we talking about? The blood-sucking? Pleeeeeze! It's core fantasy is all sexual.
Well, I see the hour is getting late, and I must leave you. If you have never picked up Bram Stoker's Dracula, you should, if you enjoy vampires. Speaking of which, I haven't opened my copy in a while. I may just have to pick it up again.
Let me leave you with a little bit from Dracula. Set up, Harker is snooping around the castle, trying to find a way out. He is being held captive. Finally he stumbles across boxes--coffins?
"There, in one of the great boxes, of which there were fifty in all, on a pile of newly dug earth, lay the Count! He was either dead or asleep, I could not say which--for the eyes were open and stony, but without the glassiness of death--and the cheeks had the warmth of life through all their pallor, and the lips were as red as ever. But there was not sign of movement, no pulse, no breath, no beating of the heart. I bent over him, and tried to find any sign of life, but in vain. He could not have lain there long, for the earthy smell would have passed away in a few hours. By the side of the box was its cover, pierced with holes here and there. I thought he might have the keys on him, but when I went to search I saw the dead eyes, and in them, dead though they were, such a look of hate, though unconscious of me or my presence, that I fled again up the castle wall. Regaining my own chamber, I threw myself panting upon the bed and tried to think..."