Vampires are famous, undead creatures that look just like humans except for their long canine teeth and pale skin. They are usually portrayed as attractive, which is how they lure humans into becoming their prey. A vampire bite is fatal, and is believed to turn a human into a zombie or another vampire.
Quick Facts about Vampires
- They are often portrayed in modern literature and film as attractive humans, distinguishable only by their large fangs.
- In many stories, they can be killed by driving a wooden stake through their heart, or exposing them to sunlight.
- It is believed that they can live for hundreds of years.
- Vampires can often transform into bats, and sometimes other creatures as well.
- "Dracula", written in 1897 by Bram Stoker, transformed the way vampires are written about and viewed in folklore.
As there are many types of vampire in mythology, so too are there many sources for the myth. Historians tend to point at the strega, or witch-spirit, of Italian folklore as a likely inspiration for the creature. There are likewise many other near-vampires and proto-vampires in Eastern European folklore, usually used as warnings against improper burial. Modern vampires tend to have little to do with their folkloric roots, though, outside of their tendency to be the recently returned deceased.
More than perhaps any other monster, the vampire tends to vary in appearance. The classic creatures from which the vampire legends came with often cadaverous, resembling more than zombie of modern fiction than anything else. That changed, though, with the introduction of Bram Stoker's Dracula.
From his introduction onward, the vampire would become more human, more urbane, and more sophisticated. In fact, today's vampire tends to be portrayed as an attractive if somewhat otherworldly human that tends to hide its true nature from others in the world. The vampire, it seems, could be virtually indistinguishable until the moment it descends upon its prey.
The primary physical characteristic that separates the average vampire from a human are its fangs. These large, sharp teeth are used to feed on the blood of the creature's victims. The fangs may be present in the form of slightly elongated canine teeth, huge retractable teeth that only appear when feeding, or even as rows of sharpened, almost shark-like teeth. No matter what the portrayal, the teeth of the vampire will almost always end up being one of its defining characteristics.
It's hard to pin down the powers of a vampire, because these powers tend to vary depending on the story. There are, however, a few things that tend to be fairly common from iteration to iteration.
First and foremost, a they are very hard to kill. In almost every tale, they have to be destroyed in a specific way by a specific object. This is largely due to the fact that vampires are almost always humans who have been brought back to life through some kind of nefarious means. As they are no longer living, they tend not to share the same weaknesses as mortals.
Vampires also tend to be ageless. They may be able to live hundreds or even thousands of years, so long as they have a supply of blood and can stay away from the few things that kill them. Their weaknesses vary - sunlight is usually problematic for modern vampires, while many are also weak against things like fire and holy symbols.
Beyond those two factors, vampires may have many other powers. Many have the ability to hypnotize victims or control their minds. Shape-shifting into the form of a bat, wolf, or even smoke is also a common power. In some stories, vampires may also be able to fly in their current form or even have powers like telekinesis.
Vampires in Film and Literature
Vampires have appeared in a huge number of books and movies since Bram Stoker wrote his infamous book. Those appearances have ranged from extremely gruesome to downright silly. Some famous examples are listed below.
- Bela Lugosi starred as Dracula in a 1931 film by the same name. It was distributed by Universal Pictures and is possibly the most famous and historic vampire movie.
- In 1995 Leslie Nielsen portrayed Dracula in a slapstick comedy titled "Dracula, Dead and Loving It". Who doesn't love a corny Leslie Nielsen movie?
- The same year, Eddie Murphy starred in another comedic spin on the creature called "Vampire in Brooklyn".
- Stephen King wrote a short story with his own spin on the creature, titled "The Night Flier". It was about a vampire who flew an airplane and killed people at regional airports. The story was made into a movie in 1997, and was particularly graphic and nightmare-inducing.
- Marvel Comics has a number of popular stories related to vampires. They first appeared in Marvel Comics as early as 1942. In the 1970's, Marvel produced several horror-genre comics, including Tomb of Dracula. A well-known Marvel character is named Blade, who is half human and half vampire. He chased vampires including Peter Parker's college friend Michael Morbius. Blade eventually became a movie trilogy in the late 90's that starring Wesley Snipes.
- "Interview with the Vampire" was a 'monster box office hit' in 1994, starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.
- These creatures continued to be a major draw into the 2000's. In 2008 a romance-oriented movie called Twilight was released starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. It involved a love triangle between a human, vampire and werewolf. It was an international mega-hit, and five Twilight movies eventually earned over $3.3 Billion in box office sales.