Vampires are mythological or folkloric creatures believed to be the re-animated corpses of human beings who subsist on human or animal blood. In folklore, the term usually refers to the blood-drinking humans of Eastern European legends, but it is often extended to cover similar legendary creatures from other regions and cultures. The characteristics of vampires vary widely between these different traditions. Some cultures also have stories of non-human vampires, including real animals such as bats, dogs, and spiders, and mythical creatures such as the chupacabra. It known from Latin america, where attacked goats and its name in translation mean “goat sucker”.
Main ability of vampires is vampirism, what is the practice of drinking blood from a person or animal. In folklore and popular culture, the term refers to a belief that one can gain supernatural powers by drinking human blood. The historical practice of vampirism can generally be considered a more specific and less commonly occurring form of cannibalism. The consumption of another's blood (or flesh) has been used as a tactic of psychological warfare intended to terrorize the enemy, and can be used to reflect various spiritual beliefs. In zoology and botany, the term vampirism is used in reference to leeches, mosquitos, vampire bats, and other organisms that subsist on the bodily fluids of others.
The English word vampire was borrowed from German Vampir, in turn borrowed in early 18th century from Serbian вампир(vampir), or Slavic upír. The first recorded use of the word 'Vampire' was from Austrian-controlled Serbia in reports prepared by Austrian police officials between 1725 and 1732 investigating reports of a citizen arising from the dead to attack villagers. The original term Upir is found for the first time in written form in 1047 in a letter written by a Novgorodian Eastern Orthodox Christian priest to then-Prince Vladimir (later knowns as Vladimir II) referring to himself as поп Упир Лихый (pop Upir Lichyj).
Tales of the dead craving blood are found in nearly every culture around the world, including some of the most ancient ones. Vampire-like spirits called the Lilu are mentioned in early Babylonian demonology, and the bloodsucking Akhkharu even earlier in the Sumerian mythology. These female demons were said to roam during the hours of darkness, hunting and killing newborn babies and pregnant women. One of these demons, named Lilitu, was later adapted into Jewish demonology as Lilith. In India, tales of the Vetalas, ghoul-like beings that inhabit corpses, are found in old Sanskrit folklore. A prominent story tells of King Vikramāditya and his nightly quests to capture an elusive Vetala. The stories of the Vetala have been compiled in the book Baital Pachisi. The vetala is an undead, who like the bat associated with modern day vampire, is associated with hanging upside down on trees found in cremation grounds and cemeteries. The Ancient Egyptian goddess Sekhmet in one myth became full of bloodlust after slaughtering humans and was only sated after drinking alcohol colored as blood.
The vampire myth as we know it is most strongly rooted in East European and above all Slavic folklore, where vampires were revenants accused of killing people, often by drinking blood, but also by throttling, or sitting on them and preventing breathing and could be destroyed by cutting off its head, by driving a wooden stake into its heart, or by burning the corpse.
It seems that until the 19th century, vampires in Europe were thought to be hideous monsters from the grave. They were usually believed to rise from the bodies of suicide victims, criminals, or evil sorcerers, though in some cases an initial vampire thus "born of sin" could pass his vampirism onto his innocent victims. In other cases, however, a victim of a cruel, untimely, or violent death was susceptible to becoming a vampire. Most of Romanian vampire folk beliefs and European vampire stories have Slavic origins.
In Slavic beliefs, causes of vampirism included being born with a caul, teeth, or tail, being conceived on certain days, "irregular" death, excommunication, and improper burial rituals. Preventive measures included placing a crucifix in the coffin, placing blocks under the chin to prevent the body from eating the shroud, nailing clothes to coffin walls for the same reason, putting sawdust in the coffin (the vampire awakens in the evening and must count each grain of sawdust, which takes up the entire evening, so he will die when at dawn) or piercing the body with thorns or stakes. In the case of stakes, the general idea was to pierce through the vampire and into the ground below, pinning the body down. Certain people would bury those believed to be potential vampires with scythes above their necks, so the dead would decapitate themselves as they rose.
Evidence that a vampire was at work in the neighbourhood included death of cattle, sheep, relatives, or neighbours, an exhumed body being in a lifelike state with new growth of the fingernails or hair, a body swelled up like a drum, or blood on the mouth coupled with a ruddy complexion.
Vampires, like other Slavic legendary monsters, were afraid of garlic and liked counting grain, sawdust, etc. Vampires could be destroyed by staking, decapitation (the Kashubs placed the head between the feet), burning, repeating the funeral service, sprinkling holy water on the body, or exorcism.
Tales of vampiric entities were also found among the ancient Romans and the Romanized inhabitants of eastern Europe, Romanians. Romania is surrounded by Slavic countries, so it is not surprising that Romanian and Slavic vampires are similar. Romanian vampires are called Strigoi.
According to Romanian tradition, a myriad of ways are presented as to bringing about a vampire. A person born with a caul, an extra nipple, extra hair, who was born too early, whose mother had a black cat cross her path, who was born with a tail or who was born out of wedlock was doomed to become a vampire; as was one who died an unnatural death, or died before baptism, as was the seventh child in a family (presuming all of his or her previous siblings were of the same sex), as well as the child of a pregnant woman who did not eat salt or who was looked at by a vampire or a witch. Moreover, being bitten by a vampire meant certain condemnation to a vampiric existence after death.
The vampire was usually first noticed when it attacked family and livestock, or threw things around in the house. Vampires, along with witches, were believed to be most active on the Eve of St George's Day (April 22 Julian, May 4 Gregorian calendar), the night when all forms of evil were supposed to be abroad. St George's Day is still celebrated in Europe.
A vampire in the grave could be discerned by holes in the earth, an undecomposed corpse with a red face, or having one foot in the corner of the coffin. Living vampires were identified by distributing garlic in church and seeing who did not eat it. Graves were often opened three years after the death of a child, five years after the death of a young person, or seven years after the death of an adult to check for vampirism. Measures to prevent a person from becoming a vampire included removing the caul from a newborn and destroying it before the baby could eat any of it, careful preparation of dead bodies, including preventing animals from passing over the corpse, placing a thorny branch of wild rose in the grave, and placing garlic on windows and rubbing it on cattle, especially on St George's and St Andrew's day. To destroy a vampire, a stake was driven through the body, followed by decapitation and placing garlic in the mouth. By the 19th century, one would also shoot a bullet through the coffin. For resistant cases, the body was dismembered and the pieces burned, mixed with water, and given to family members as a cure.
Belief in vampires persists to this day. While some cultures preserve their original traditions about the immortal, most modern-day believers are more influenced by the fictional image of the vampire as it occurs in films and literature.
In the 1970s, there were rumours (spread by the local press) that a vampire haunted Highgate Cemetery in London. Amateur vampire hunters flocked in large numbers in the cemetery. Several books have been written about the case, notably by Sean Manchester, a local man who was among the first to suggest the existence of the "Highgate Vampire" and who later claimed to have exorcised and destroyed a whole nest of vampires in the area.
In the modern folklore of Puerto Rico and Mexico, the chupacabra (goat-sucker) is said to be a creature that feeds upon the flesh or drinks the blood of domesticated animals, leading some to consider it a kind of vampire. The "chupacabra hysteria" was frequently associated with deep economic and political crises, particularly during the mid-1990s.
During late 2002 and early 2003, hysteria about alleged attacks of vampires swept through the African country of Malawi. Mobs stoned one individual to death and attacked at least four others, including Governor Eric Chiwaya, based on the belief that the government was colluding with vampires.
In January 2005, rumors began to circulate that an attacker had bitten a number of people in Birmingham, England, fueling concerns about a vampire roaming the streets. However, local police stated that no such crime had been reported. This case appears to be an urban legend.
The most modern people but know the vampires only form books or movies. One of the first movies about vampires is from 1922 Count Orlock’s Nosferatu, but the definitive description of the vampire in popular fiction for the last century has been Bram Stoker's novel Dracula. Its portrayal of vampirism as a disease (contagious demonic possession), with its undertones of sex, blood, and death, struck a chord in a Victorian Europe where tuberculosis and syphilis were common. Stoker's writings are also adapted in many later works. Vampires have proved to be a rich subject for the film industry. Movies as Blade about vampire whitch hates the vampire nature and fighting againt them, Underworld about two kinds of vampires borned from bat and wolf, Interview with the vampire and Queen of the damned adapted by Anne Rice's book series The Vampire chronicles or the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.