Sunday, October 21, 2007

Apple #274: Vampires

Not very long ago, I did an entry on zombies. That plus the fact that Halloween is coming up, it only stands to reason that I follow up on that entry with all the, um, facts about vampires.

Poster for the 1958 movie Dracula
(Image from British Pictures)

The legends about vampires seem to have started with Vlad the Impaler.
  • Born in 1431 in Romania, in a principality called Transylvania.
  • When he grew up, though, he was prince of a Romanian region called Wallachia.
  • Vlad was called "Son of the Dragon" not because of his bloody ways but because his father was inducted into the Royal Order of the Dragon. The Romanian word for"dragon" is dracul. Add an a on the end to make "Son of the Dragon," and you get Dracula.
  • When he was still pretty young, he was captured by the Turks and flogged daily, deprived of food, and otherwise tortured for being belligerent.
  • He also witnessed the executions -- by hanging, beheading, and impaling -- of fellow prisoners. Most of the members of his family were killed by the Turks.
  • Finally he was let out of the Turkish prison and given a post in the Turkish cavalry. But he soon escaped and went back to Romania and swore to avenge the deaths of his family members.
  • Vlad engaged in much political intrigue, gaining and losing his power several times over and fighting the Turks, until he became more or less paranoid.
  • He killed thousands of people, many of whom he suspected of treachery but sometimes because he was bored, by hanging, stretching them on the rack, burning them at the stake, or boiling them alive.
  • But most of the people he killed were impaled on "a forest of spikes" around his castle.

Vlad the Impaler = truly nasty psychotic killer
(Image from Monstrous Vampires)

  • During one impaling festival on St. Bartholomew's day, Vlad had 20,000 people rounded up and impaled. He had his servants set up a table laden with food and wine so that he might eat a sumptuous dinner while he watched these people die. He even had a servant carry a piece of bread over to the dying folks and dip the bread in their blood and bring it back to him to eat.
  • Estimates of the number of people he killed: anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000.
  • Died fighting against the Turks in 1476.

Vlad was the person on whom Bram Stoker based his fantastic tale, Dracula. Even though Stoker never set foot in Romania, he read lots of books in the library about old Vlad.

Copy of Dracula by Bram Stoker from 1902
(Image from Dracula: Between Hero and Vampire)

Here's what happens in the book -- which is entirely fictional, as I'm sure you know. As you can see, the novel bears only the faintest resemblance to Vlad's biography. But it sure is similar to a lot of movies and other novels that have been made since.
  • English lawyer goes to Transylvania to help a count with a real estate deal. The count is freaky and lunges at him.
  • Lawyer next finds himself locked up with three female vampires, but he manages to fend them off.
  • Dracula knows he's outed and so takes off with fifty boxes of his homeland's dirt.
  • Meanwhile, back in England, the lawyer's fiancee's friend, Lucy, sleepwalks and gets attacked by a vampire, but remembers nothing. Two pin pricks are found on her neck.
  • Mina, the lawyer's fiancee, gets a letter from her man in Transylvania, so she leaves England to nurse him back to health.
  • Lucy is wasting away but nobody can figure out what's wrong, so a wily doctor named Van Helsing is called in.
  • He diagnoses vampires and hangs garlic all over the place, but all the same a giant wolf breaks in, and the vampire is still sucking her blood away.
  • The lawyer and his fiancee, Mina, are now married and they come back to England. When they discover what's up with Lucy, the lawyer and Mina compare notes and decide vampires are at work.
  • After Lucy tries to bite her own fiancee with her now-gigantic canine teeth, everybody gets together for a confab and they decide to stop the vampiring. They gang up on Lucy, drive a wooden stake through her heart, cut off her head, and stuff it with garlic.
  • Then, in a shocking turn of events, Mina is found sucking at a giant gash across Dracula's chest. Upon discovery, Dracula vanishes.
  • The gang decide it's time to get serious and eradicate Dracula himself. So they go on a hunt for the fifty boxes of earth.
  • In an adventure that involves hypnotizing Mina, enlisting a band of gypsies, and much travel into the mountains, they find all the boxes. In the last one, they discover Dracula. They cut off his head and drive a knife into his heart, and he crumbles into dust. The end.

Bram Stoker's Dracula (Coppola, 1992) was surprisingly faithful to the book.
(Photo from DVD Town)

Various movies about vampires have established differing rules about vampires. Really, the rules keep changing so much, it's hard to keep straight what turns a person into a vampire, what works to repel a vampire, and what will out-and-out kill one.

Turning into a Vampire
  • Some sources say that you turn into a vampire by sinning against the Church or religion; others say that people who have committed suicide and are thus excommunicated from the Church will rise from their graves to stalk the living.
  • Some say you could just be born with especially sharp teeth and a penchant for blood, but I find this less compelling.
  • Then, of course, there is the famous vampire's kiss. A vampire bites you, usually at your neck, sucks your blood until you are dead, and then you turn into a vampire.
  • In real life, though, if somebody bit you in your carotid artery hard enough to puncture it, you'd bleed so forcefully and so much, the biter would be overwhelmed and pretty well drenched by all the blood. There'd be none of that erotic, dainty sipping going on.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer the movie (1992) was way better than the TV series, in my opinion. Kristy Swanson, Rutger Hauer, Donald Sutherland, Luke Perry, David Arquette, Hilary Swank, and Pee-Wee Herman -- I mean, you can't beat it.
(Photo from Stomp Tokyo)

Preventing Creation of a Vampire
  • Bury suspected to-be-vampires upside down so they can't find their way out of the grave.
  • Bury the to-be-vampire with thorny roses so the shroud gets all tangled in the thorns and the vampire can't get out.
  • Drive hawthorn-wood pegs into the grave so that when the vampire sits up in the grave, he is impaled by the pegs, and gack, he's done before he can even start.
  • Stuff the orifices of the corpse with garlic.

Fending Off Vampires

How a crucifix can weaken a vampire
(Photo from Dracula [1958], sourced from The Hammer Vampire)

  • Sprinkle the area around the grave with various seeds or grains. This won't stop him, but it will slow him down because he'll stop to count them.
      • If you use poppy seeds, you'll get the added bonus that the narcotic effect of the poppy will make the vampire sleepy
  • Certain objects held up to a vampire's face or thrown at him will weaken him
      • Crucifix
      • Holy water
      • Eucharistic wafer
      • Bible passages (read, not thrown)
  • More recently, non-religious objects may also ward off a vampire
      • Objects from whatever religion the vampire used to practice
      • Non-denominational objects that symbolize Light and Good
  • Garlic
      • Wear it
      • Hang it around the house
      • Smear the oil on people and stuff and animals
  • Drink the vampire's blood before he can drink yours and thus immunize yourself against his attack.

Bela Lugosi as Dracula in the 1931 movie, with Frances Dade, in the classic vampire-attack pose. She sure wears a lot of make-up to bed.
(Photo from Universal Pictures, sourced from

Killing Vampires

Interestingly, many methods of killing vampires involve impaling them
  • Drive a wooden stake through his heart
  • Drive a silver stake through his heart
  • Shoot silver bullets (sometimes consecrated; more recently not) through his heart
  • Expose him to direct sunlight
  • Cut off his head and stuff it with garlic
  • Cut off his head and burn it
  • Boil his head in vinegar
  • Cut out his heart and burn it
  • Burn the body and scatter the ashes so that the vampire cannot re-form

The Fearless Vampire Killers, or, Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck looks like it would be a stellar picture -- and it stars the ill-fated Sharon Tate, no less.
(Image from Super Duty Tough Work)

I should note that some actual people claim to be vampires. They say they're not undead or immortal, they just happen to crave the taste of blood. They have formed online communities with "support groups" and everything.

You know, I wonder, if vampires had a reputation like zombies for being slow and stupid, would people still say they just happened to crave the taste of blood and were really vampires?

Joseph Geringer, Vlad the Impaler, CourtTV Crime Library: Serial Killers
Monstrous Vampires -- an excellent resource
Cliff's Notes, Bram Stoker's
Dracula, A Brief Synopsis


  1. actually "dracul" means "devil" and he didn't kill because he was bored but because he wanted to scare people from stealing that's why most of his victims were lords that stole from theyre people by inducing then to pay high taxes.

  2. Well, "dracul" is one of those words that has two possible definitions. It is most closely related to the Latin draco, which means dragon. A secondary and later definition is devil. Some people thought dragons were of the devil, therefore the word for dragon became synonymous with "devil." In this case, I think the argument could be made for either definition.

    As for the part about killing people to discourage them from ducking their tax payments, according to several sources, that was the reason (if one can use the word "reason" in this context) behind one particularly gruesome incident.

    But it was not the only incident in his bloody and cruel life. The "reasons" behind his other acts of violence had more to do with vengeance, bigotry, pride, the will to assert his power, and just plain viciousness.


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