Creatures of the Night: Vampires
The third and final segment of my Creatures of the Night series covers my favorite horror beastie: The Vampire.
Possibly the most well-known monster in pop culture, vampire tales are as old as civilization. As frightening as the thought of death itself is the fear of the undead, and an undead creature capable of emotional manipulation wearing the face of your deceased loved one is doubly so.
All vampires in some way feed off the living, though the exact method varies from region to region, as does the reason for their turning. Causes of vampirism range from suicide to sinful living to improper burial. People protect themselves from vampire attacks by religious iconography, salt, silver, poisonous plants, blessed items, or even simply by resisting their charms.
Literature and films have done a great deal to romanticize vampires over the past 140 years, but they were not always merely long-lived tortured intellectuals. Here are some vampire myths from around the world:
The origins of Dracula and other vampires familiar in modern movies and novels stems mostly from the Eastern European traditions, which go by a host of names. In the Slavic languages, you have the vampir, upyr, and wampir. In these regions, vampires are the result of demonic intervention, witchcraft, possession, or the evil punishment, rising from the grave days after natural death to torment and feed from relatives before turning their attentions on the rest of the village. Often, blood would seep from their mouths, a foul odor would follow them and it would be very obvious they were indeed members of the undead. Fangs were not usually a feature, but they would gnaw, claw, and tear at a victim much like a wild animal. Villagers usually had a pretty good idea which of their neighbors would likely rise again and warded against attack by prayers, crosses, and holy relics.
Women as Blood-Sucking Baby-Snatchers
In Babylonian, Assyrian, Greek, and Persian lore, vampires were a type of female demon which lived off blood and particularly enjoyed feeding from fresh, innocent babies. Lilitu (later becoming the mythos of Lilith), Estries, Gello, Empusae, Lamia, and Stirges are all examples of this vampire-like creature which roams for all eternity feasting on anything it can get its claws into.
There is a wealth of paranormal lore from Asian cultures, and vampires are no different. The Japanese have the Nukekubi, a woman which can detach her head and intestines from the rest of her body and fly around at night searching for victims. The Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia have similar autonomous-flying-body-parts vampire tales.
The Filipino culture has the Aswang, a young, beautiful woman by night and a hideous, blood-drinker with a proboscis-like tongue by night. The Jiangshi of China move around by hopping and have skin the color of moss. Many more varieties tell of the undead arising from women who die in childbirth or from failed romances which would cause them to seek revenge.
Hundreds of other blood-sucking vampires who lack a humanoid appearance are also found in lore and mythos across the globe, such as the Chupacabra, and the Impundulu and Asabosam of Africa.
Personally, vampires are my favorite because they provide the most possibilities. Blood-drinking monster myths have existed for thousands of years and almost every culture has their own. I enjoy reading the unique origin tales and specific powers authors develop when making these iconic creatures their own. What’s your favorite vampire movie, book, or myth?
Until next time,