A Brief History of the Vampire

Though I never read the Twilight series, I have always had a fascination with vampires, stemming from many fictional crushes. Perhaps it was their mysterious personalities or perhaps I just liked the bad-boy trope. Regardless, I know I’m not the only one enamored by these mythological beings. The history of the vampire has spanned centuries, but the original tales depict a much different perspective as compared to modern day stories. Here, I’ll describe the brief history of the vampire and its various shifts. 

To begin, there’s no definitive ‘first’ story. There are possible legends from all over the world, such as in Egypt or the Philippines, but the vampire story truly begins in Europe. In the Middle Ages, various plague symptoms were often viewed as a form of vampirism. In addition, porphyria, a rare blood disease, caused people to experience physical signs that were comparable to a stereotypical vampire (sensitivity to light, hallucinations, etc). In response to these physical changes, people residing in Romania and Bulgaria performed anti-vampire exorcisms regularly. This ideology soon spread to America in the late 20th century when Mercy Brown was accused of being a vampire.

This curiosity surrounding the vampire transformed the culture around it. Carmilla, The Vampyre, and Dracula all began to shift the perspective on vampires. Before, they were seen as the ‘undead’ and taboo. With the rise of these new works of literature, the vampire became more charming, intimate, and gothic. Even in the 21st century, vampire literature is still just as apparent but portrayed differently; vampires are increasingly more contemporary (think Twilight). 

Vampire stories aren’t going anywhere. These beings are so ingrained in our culture and they shape many of the stories and traditions in our society. It is not a question of whether the vampire tales will change within the coming decades, but rather how they will change. Next time you read about a vampire or see a vampire costume on Halloween, I hope you remember the complex and ever-changing perspective on them.

Happy Halloween!