By Glenn D. Braunstein, M.D. via huffingtonpost.com
If you buy into the current pop-culture craze about vampires, they’re simply the most intriguing, seductive creatures around, trapped in torrid love triangles with young, beautiful people. With super-speed, super-strength, killer wardrobes and a thirst for blood that can’t be slaked, the “undead” now dominate the box office, rack up ratings and top the bestseller lists. Whether it’s vampire Bill guzzling True Blood in the swamps of Louisiana, Edward Cullen brooding in the twilight of the Pacific Northwest, or revenants hunted by Abraham Lincoln (?!), the public never has seemed more obsessed with saying fangs you very much to these mythical demimonde.
But let’s dig deeper into their past, racing beyond creepy Count Orlok of black-and-white cinematic fame and dashing across historical Europe to ask whether whispers of health, medicine and science can stake out a different view of vampires: A considerable body of scholarly work seeks to explain what might have created the folklore of the vampire or Nosferatu — a name that comes from the Greek nosophoros, or plague-carrier.
Records of vampire-like creatures can be found in ancient religions of Tibet, India and Mexico. Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian and other ancient cultures also appear to have held beliefs involving a dead figure who returns to life in its own body and feeds off the living. Similar myths exist in European, Chinese, Polynesian and African cultures.
Our modern ideas about these monsters probably originated in Scandinavia and the British Isles but really took hold in Central and Eastern Europe in medieval times. In a region of what is now Romania, the unspeakable deeds and a reputation for barbarism gave rise to the posthumous name for Vlad III Dracul, a prince of the region, as “Vlad the Impaler.” In turn, this inspired author Bram Stoker‘s legendary tale, making Dracula a synonym for vampire. Of course, even in modern times, we occasionally read about a psychotic killer who cannibalizes his prey (remember Jeffrey Dahmer).
Even more fundamental to vampire lore may be a misunderstanding of the death and disease people once encountered in their everyday lives.
MORE . . .
- Vampire-themed attractions (telegraph.co.uk)
- Prince Charles, heir to Dracula’s blood line (telegraph.co.uk)
- Vampire Films Through The Years … Other Than Twilight (radioalice.cbslocal.com)
- Prince Charles the vampire? Romanian tourist board claim royal is Dracula’s heir (express.co.uk)
- How Vampires Learned to Love Virgins So Much (nymag.com)
- Vampires: there will always be blood (telegraph.co.uk)
- Science Behind Vampire Myths (science.kqed.org)