Halloween Monsters: Vampires


For several years, I’ve been on a fact-finding mission focused on the history of traditional Halloween “monsters” including their origins and evolution in folklore, literature, and pop culture.

Today, let’s take a look at VAMPIRES.

While the mythologies differ, almost every culture around the world has some type of ancient supernatural creature who drinks blood or consumes flesh. In early history, these creatures were thought to be demons or spirits. (IMO this could also go into the zombie myth.) Particularly interesting to me was the fact that many early creatures who exhibited this blood/flesh consumption behavior feature were female–Lillith/Lilitu, the Estries, the Empusae, the Lamia.

Despite a few other similar-sounding stories popping up in the Middle Ages, the myths surrounding current-day vampires didn’t really start until the 17th & 18th centuries, particularly in Eastern Europe. Not all of the mythological creatures were called vampires. Other names for them included strigoi, shtriga, and vrykolakas. But they all drank blood.

One of the earliest recordings of vampiric activity came from modern Croatia, in 1672, when a villager was said to have returned from the dead to drink blood. During the 1700s, despite the quelling of many other folklore creatures primarily by the church, vampiric tales rose dramatically. The result was similar to what happened with witches: hunting parties, social driven hysteria, and real stakings or burning at the stake.

Still, the modern-day vampire mythology truly started to evolve with two books in the 19th century: Vampyre by Polidori in 1819, and, most well-known thanks to movies, Dracula by Bram Stoker in 1897.

Over time, certain abilities or features or characteristics now regarded as cannon were introduced including:

  • fangs
  • vulnerability to sunlight
  • the cloak with a high collar (still the most common Halloween depiction)
  • immortality

The vampires remained a figure of evil. A monster to be feared, until the later 1900s when they started to shift to a more tragic and heroic figure. Still to be feared, but also to be desired. Anne Rice’s series of novels, and eventual movies based on those books, particularly perpetuated this shift. Now, in the 21st century, the vampire can still be a monster, but more often than not is depicted as powerful and sexy. Just look at series including Twilight, the Vampire Academy, Vampire Diaries, Underworld, the Black Dagger Brotherhood, and True Blood, to name a few.

With the waning of paranormal romance over the last 5-10 years, writers have been told by the industry that the vampire story-line is old. However, readers and viewers continue to crave a good vampire story with a twist. In fact, every time I ask the question, What’s your favorite supernatural creature? the split is almost 50/50 vampires and shifters. So the vampire is certainly not dead. Then again, they are immortal. 😉

Looking for some new vampire books to consume? Check these out…

Interested in the history and evolution of other traditional Halloween “monsters” in folklore, literature, and pop culture? Check out my other posts…



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