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How to recognize a vampire

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The vampire is a legendary creature. Following various folklore and the most common superstition, this undead feed on the blood of the living in order to draw its lifeblood. The legend of the vampire has its origins in ancient and diverse mythological traditions, it is found in all kinds of cultures around the world.

The vampire became popular in Europe in the early eighteenth century. In 1725, the word “vampire” appears in the legends of Arnold Paole and Petar Blagojevich, two Austrian soldiers during a war between the Austrian Empire and the Ottoman Empire, that would have returned after their death under form of vampires to haunt the villages of Medvegia and Kisiljevo. According to these legends, vampires are portrayed as revenant ghosts in shroud which, visiting their loved ones or their families, causing death and destruction. Michael Ranft written a book, De masticatione mortuorum in tumulis (1728) in which he examines the belief in vampires. The revenant is, for the first time, likened to a vampire, since Ranft uses the Slavic vampyri term. Thereafter, the Lorraine Benedictine Augustin Calmet described in his Treatise on Apparitions (1751) the vampire as a “revenant body,” thus distinguishing the intangible ghosts such as strigoi, ghosts and other spirits.

Various explanations are advanced over time to explain the universality of the vampire myth, among other phenomena of decomposition of corpses, live burials, diseases such as tuberculosis, rabies and porphyria, or the clinical vampirism affecting serial killers who consume human blood. Scientific , psychoanalytic or sociological explanations attempt to identify the reason why the vampire myth endures through centuries and civilizations.

The charismatic and sophisticated vampire character of modern fiction appears with the publication in 1819 of the book The Vampyre by John Polidori, the undead hero inspired by Lord Byron, Polidori being his personal physician. The book was a great success but it is mainly the work of Bram Stoker’s 1897 Dracula which remains the epitome of the genre, establishing an ever popular vampire picture today in fiction, even if it is a distance from its ancestors folk with whom he keeps only little in common.

With film, the modern vampire has become a key figure in both the field of literature than that of video games, role plays, animation or comics. The belief in these creatures endures and continues both in popular folklore as subcultures, including Gothic, who identify with it.


Varney the Vampire(The vampire is active at night and bites most often the victims in their sleep (Varney the Vampire, engraving, 1847))

According to Claude Lecouteux, the current vampire myth is the result of “more or less homogeneous stratification” of many supernatural beings and creatures from the various European folklores, in particular slave. This author has identified several types precursors of vampires, in turn spirits, demons or ghosts, possessed or not: the “dialer”, the “batter”, the “visitor”, the “hungry,” the “nonicide”, the “appesart”, the “nightmare”, the “choke” the chewer and finally returning to the animal form.

The descriptions of vampires are moving from one country to another and from one era to another, but the general features can be identified. This undead creature is universally known to feed on the blood of the living at nightfall, in order to draw the life force that allows it to remain immortal, or rather not subject to old age. Other integral parts are the coffin in which he takes refuge at daybreak to find rest and protection, and the cemetery as his favorite place and its territory. He practiced the “chewing” cloths buried with him. In many legends, the vampire also feeds on human excrement and flesh, including his own; he practices indeed automastication of his flesh and his clothes, as evidenced by several treaties elders telling stories about shrouds found chewed. The vampire has finally fangs (or fangs), these teeth are used to bite his victims (traditionally at neck during sleep) to drain their blood. The appearance of the creature is built over his appearances in the media, for example, wearing the cloak becoming inseparable of vampire clothing is the result of the desired appearance to the theater and cinema, to strengthen the elegance and worrisome side.

Modern figure of the “vamp” comes from the vampire myth. This is an attractive woman who leads man to ruin, often driving him his vital energy.

Vampire transformation

The causes of appearance of vampires vary greatly from folklore to another. In Slavic and Chinese traditions, a body crossed by an animal, especially a cat or dog, can become a living dead. Similarly, a wounded body and not treated with boiling water can become a vampire. In Russian folklore, vampires are said to be former sorcerers or people having rebelled against the Orthodox Church. The popular belief is that each person bitten by a vampire eventually become a vampire in turn.

Regarding literature and popular culture, vampirism is often presented as the result of a curse, and the vampire may choose to pass it when it bites a victim. Follows the transformation (more or less long and painful) of the victim, one of the first signs are lengthening of canines. Another method, still in popular culture, would involve an “exchange of blood”: vampire bites his victim and repait his blood to anemia before notching a part of the body (usually the wrist / the forearm) to be bled and slide his blood in the mouth of the victim while undergoing a slow and painful transformation into a state of lethargy close to death before finally becoming vampire.


The vampire is universally recognized by his supernatural appearance. According to popular folklore, it is most often portrayed as swollen and red-faced, sometimes purplish, or dark in color. These characteristics are attributed to regular consumption of blood. Indeed, blood oozing from their mouths and noses when they rest in their coffins while their left eye remains open. Conversely, the vampire as it was propagated by cinema, is wan and pale. Count Dracula of Bram Stoker’s novel, for example, first appears as an elegant old man, then found his youth throughout his human blood absorption. The vampire is also covered in the linen with which he was buried, while his teeth, hair and nails may have grown somewhat, though his fangs are generally not affected.

The identification of a vampire has four stages, corresponding to the phases of its manifestations. This is to recognize strange phenomena at first generally suspicious death cascade. When more people are dying in strange ways, like an epidemic, the vampire is invoked. In The Family Vourdalak of Tolstoy, it is said that the “vampirism is contagious” and that multiple deaths are a sign. The explanation often is also that of the disease passing to the Middle Ages for a sign of vampiric activity or curse. In 1730, Jean Christophe Harenberg argues that vampires are born from the imagination of patients showing the signs of cholera but rabies or plague are similar to those attributed to vampires, like the ruddy face.

The arrival of a stranger to the strange face or profile (claudication, iron teeth, unable to count beyond three, former profession exercised suspect – especially those of butcher and shoemaker) used to identify a vampire. Among the Slavs, the terms “red as a vampire” ( “cervoni jak vesci“) and “big as a vampire” attest to this stigmatization of foreigners in suspiciously.

The forms of death are the most widespread means of identification. If the deceased’s body is soft, his face red and his eyes open (or half closed), it is considered a potential vampire. Identification of the vampire is allowed by marking his grave. There are so many rituals to identify: in Wallachia, a method to uncover a tomb of a vampire is to lead a young virgin child riding a stallion also virgin, often black, except in Albania where there is white. The horse is supposed to mark a change in attitude to approach the grave. Furthermore, holes appearing in the earth over a grave were taken as signs of vampirism. The bodies suspected to be those of vampires have a healthier appearance than expected, but they also have more flesh and fewer signs of decay. A body not broken after some land in time enough to acknowledge the death of being a vampire, especially the Orthodox religion where the non-putrefaction is considered a sign of demonic activity, as opposed to the Catholic religion that sees it divine intervention or a beatification. Similarly, a naked body means that the body has eaten her laundry. The gravedigger is therefore the preferred expert in identifying vampires. In some traditions, when suspected graves were opened, villagers often described the corpse as having fresh blood from a victim all over his face. One evidence of vampiric activity also lies in the unexplained death of cattle or in the appearance of lights above the grave. Finally, we can recognize the vampire by the events it causes similar to those of a fighting spirit such as poltergeist: heavy objects falling from the ceiling, moving objects or nightmares.


Vampire portrait by Abraham Van Helsing:

You should know that the nosferatu do not die like the bee when he was a victim. Rather, it only becomes stronger; and stronger, it is all the more dangerous (…) He uses necromancy art which, as indicated by the etymology of the word, is to invoke the dead to divine the future, and all the dead he can approach his orders are (…) it may, with certain reservations, however, appear where and when he wants, and in one form or another of his choice; it even has the power, to some extent, to make himself master of the elements: the storm, fog, thunder, and to compel obedience of inferior creatures, such as the rat, owl, bat, the moth, fox and wolf; it can be great and will shrink and, at times, it disappears just as if it no longer existed.

According to the myths, legends or authors, the vampire has different strengths or weaknesses. Thus, in the novel by Bram Stoker, Dracula’s powers are listed accurately by one of the characters, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing. The films in which has played Bela Lugosi developed the idea that vampires have a hypnotic power and a gift for seduction allowing them in particular to effectively seduce women and to approach more easily of the prey. These creatures could also read minds. The cinema has taken significant liberties with the literary and folk styles, particularly regarding the nature and the vampire lifestyle. For example, they are being decked out in excessively large canines and adopt a sensual behavior.

The vampire fiction becomes more powerful with age, which gives it greater resistance to holy places or holy water for example. He is very strong and fast, with excellent night vision. It often has the ability to change into animal, it could be any animal, only the wolf or the bat according to the authors, but also fog.

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