Children of the night... What sweet music they make !
Vampire History »
The origins of the vampire myth
We’ve all heard of vampires but how did the legends start. No one really knows for sure but there are plenty of interesting facts and theories that encouraged the belief. Some of the earliest folklore blamed vampires for attacking and drinking the blood of pregnant women and babies. This was easily accepted in this time as there was little medical knowledge and gave an explanation for miscarriage and still births. The vampire played a very important role in society as it explained a lot of things they had no knowledge of and the fear of the vampire helped people cope with the sudden loss of loved ones who committed suicide. Many cultures across the world including Russia, Romania and even some parts of china and Africa, believed that anyone who committed suicide may return as a vampire. This made the vampire a functional part of society as people in the past usually coped very well with death as most people would die after suffering from illness and this would give the family time to accept death and prepare for it both practically and emotionally. With suicide there was no time to accept the death or prepare, and would leave the family confused with many questions and unresolved issues. In the belief the loved one would rise from the dead to become a vampire gave the family a productive role in making sure the body and soul where put to rest and would take measures to insure that the family member would not fall prey to the curse either by staking, cremating or dismembering the corpse. This would allow the family to move on ending the psychological presence of the dead.
Vampire belief also played an important part when it came to reinforcing the ritual of burial. Around three hundred years ago there were no undertakers to take care of the dead so instead this was dealt with by the family. They believed if the body was not prepared right, wrapped and buried correctly that your loved one would come back from the dead to haunt you as a vampire. So as time went on and the use of undertakers became more common so the myth of the vampire began to fade as was no longer needed.
The myth still exists in some parts of Eastern Europe where families still deal with the dead themselves. The belief seems to stem for the part of the process where the family will go back to the grave four to six months after the burial, to dig up the body, clean the bones and rebury them. This is meant to signify the end of the grieving process. On some occasions they would return to the grave to find the body had not decomposed and the flesh was all still there sometimes looking the same as when it was buried.
There are many reasonable explanations for this for instance there may not have been enough moisture for decay to take place, or if the body was buried at winter and the ground was frozen the body would stay fresh. Even under normal circumstances a corpse can look a lot healthier than expected. Decomposition is slower after burial, the top layer of the skin can flake off exposing a new fresh layer of skin and as rigor mortis is only temporary the body will be limp and flexible giving an appearance of someone sleeping rather than dead.
Another not so uncommon occurrence is that gases in the ground can cause the body to bloat giving the appearance of the body being well fed , as if it had been feeding on something then returning to the grave. The gas pressure can also force blood that has pooled in the lungs up into the mouth staining the teeth and gums and can even cause dribbling of blood on to the lips as not all blood coagulates, this causes the blood to look fresh. So when people returned to the graves of their loved ones to find the bodies in this state they would assume vampire and they would drive a stake through the heart of the bloated body and the sudden release of gas could sound like an unholy wail.
Porphyria is a metabolic disease; chemicals in the body called porphyins produce haem a molecule that is vital in red blood cells for carrying oxygen. Two substances called porphyrin precursorse convert into haem through a series of steps controlled by a particular protein enzyme. In porphyria there is a deficiency in these enzymes so the process is blocked and as the blood is less oxygenated porthyrins then accumulate to toxic levels in the body. There are seven different types of porthyria each caused by a different enzyme ,most are inherited and some are caused by prolonged drug treatments but it is a very rare disease.
The thing that relates porphyria to vampires is the symptoms which can cause severe light sensitivity. People with these types of porphyria often developed sever blistering of the skin in sunlight so do their best to avoid it. Those who do not or cannot can suffer from sever scarring and in some cases if scarring is sever around the mouth and gums it can cause the gums to pull back making the teeth more prominent giving a somewhat grotesque appearance. And may encourage people’s belief if ignorant of the disease.
Porphyria used to be treated by injecting blood components into the body not ingesting as a lot of people seem to think. Not only would drinking the blood not do anything to help the disease but blood naturally induces vomiting. This treatment was stopped in 1985 as was found to be ineffective and is now treated through avoiding a lot of medicines as certain drugs can cause an attack and cause severe skin problems.
In the eighties the media latched on to stories that early sufferers of the disease attempted to relive their suffering by drinking blood. The medical profession demolished this claim as there was no evidence of this and this would have absolutely no effect on the disease. Unfortunatly the media had already caused a lot of damage and a lot of porphyria sufferers where ostracise by ignorant people believing them to be vampires and drinking human blood.
A famous case of this was in 1987 involving two nine year old girls Jamie and sherry Harrison. A movie was made about the Harrison family in 1994 called children of the dark with the help of parents Kim and Jim Harrison who hoped this would educate people about the disease and the effects it had on their life’s.
The Harrison girls suffered from a hereditary form of the disease called xeroderma pigmentosum (or xp for short) only one in 250,000 people carry the gene and because it is a recessive gene both parents have to carry the gene for it to be passed on even then the chances are around one in four of the child having it. Unfortunately in this case both girls have xp.Throughout their lives They have been harassed their truck vandalised called vampires and even had one of their dogs killed and suffered this kind of treatment for seven years in Illinois and other northern Californian towns until they found a small town called meridian where they now live in relative peace. The family have had to learn to live at night due to the severity of the disease which is sometimes fatal and can make them venerable to skin cancers, blindness and neurological damage. The film highlights the cruelty of people and how this can escalate to the extreme and all down to non education of the disease which there is no cure for.
VALD TEPES III
Vlad Tepes III (pronounced tes-pesh) better known as Dracula meaning son of the dragon drac meaning dragon and ula meaning son of although drac can also mean devil. He got this name as his father vlad II who was admitted to the order of the dragon in 1431 for his bravery in fighting the ottoman Turks who were trying to overthrow Romania. The order of the dragon was a secret fraternal order of knights started by King Sigismund of Hungary who became the holy roman emperor in 1410. The emblem of the order was a dragon with its wings, extended across a cross. Vald tepes III was initiated in to the order of the dragon himself at the young age of five. He first became crowned prince of Wallachian Romania at the age of seventeen in 14 48 after being release from captivity from the ottoman Turks, which ended that same year. His main reign started in 1456 and ended in 1462. In that time he became commonly known as vlad the impaler as impalement was his preferred method of torture of his enemies. The exact number of people he impaled is not known but the rumours of the amount were given by his enemies and can vary quite a bit. Anywhere between 40,000 – 100,000. Many of his victims where the merchants of boyars who were wealthy German Saxons who were considered parasites who preyed upon the poor Romanian natives, unfaithful boyars at some point murdered his father and older brother although a lot of his victims were from willachia. It is said he impaled around 30,000 boyars on the banks of the river Danube the height of the stake depended on the rank of the victim. The rotting corpses where left there for days as a warning and it’s said that he also had 20,000 Turks staked outside the city of tirgoviste in 1461. When Mohammed II conqueror of Constantinople a man not known to be squeamish, seeing this sight returned sickened by the gruesome sight to Constantinople. This sight became known as the forest of the impaled.
He also enforced his own strict moral code upon his country, particularly the chastity of women. Woman who lost their virginity before marriage or woman who cheated on their husband and also unchaste widows where tortured and executed by impalement. He also insisted that people where honest and hard working and any merchants who cheated their customers would be mounted on a stake beside common thieves.
In Romania vlad tepes is seen as a saviour and his methods necessary for restoring order and common at the time. Rumours of him drinking his victim’s blood were greatly exaggerated and gave him a psychological advantage over his enemies. The novel Dracula by Bram Stoker which was based on vlad tepes was banned in Romania until 1993 and the suggestion of vampirism came as a bit of a surprise.
Bram stoker was born 8th November in Dublin Ireland and was a short story writer and novelist and is most famous for writing the novel Dracula in 1897 which he finished writing at his favourite holiday place Kilmarnock arms hotel cruden bay Scotland. He is said to have based Draculas castle on the nearby slains castle. Before writing Dracula he sent several years studying the European legends of vampires and there history and took particular interest in the history of vlad tepesh. And even bases the begining of his novel in the same region that vlad came from. He sadly dies of syphilis in 1912. His novel became famous around the world and still sells today. It later became a stage play; it also inspired many movies including the famous nosfuratu and brought a new attention to the vampire myth. The vampire instead of being a functional part in society now became an intriguing and romantic myth. The biting through skin to drink blood became seen by some as something sensual, And some modern myths include that the victim must also drink some of the vampires blood to be turned into a vampire and given everlasting life and power. Some people are so besotted with the myth that they wish to become vampires so much so that they resort to getting night jobs wear fangs there are even vampire clubs. There are such communities in New York and other parts of America Canada London and Paris,And even here in scotland. In glasgow there is a vampier society with a lot of members and they even have their own magazine called bite me. A lot of these people meet in clubs and will even cut each other slightly and drink small amounts of blood from each other this is completely consensual and they do not kill their victims. The biggest risk to doing this of course is contracting blood diseases such as HIV and hepatitis. Blood is also very fattening one litre provides approximately one thousand calories of high fat protein. There are a very small few who take vampirism to the extreme and do harm or kill their victims such as the case of a John Brennan Crutchley when in 1985 he was investigated by FBI after a young teenage girl was found handcuffed and crawling by the side of the road near Malabar USA. She pointed out Crutchley as her capture. He kidnapped her while she was hitch hiking and took her to his home. He told her he was a vampire and extracted her blood using hypodermic needles. Although during his case he claimed he did not drink it as it coagulated and he couldn’t stomach it. The police suspected him for a number of murders in the area although they did not find hard evidence. He was sentenced for twenty five years life imprisonment.
RICHARD TRENTON CHASE
Richard Trenton Chase also known as the vampire of Sacramento is one of the most famous serial killers linked to vampirism and his case is still used by the FBI as an example of an unorganised killer. The FBI investigation was headed by Robert Resstler who started the FBI’s behavioral science unit.
Born may 23rd 1950 as a child he liked to set fires and torture small animals and later took to killing small animals to drink their blood he spent a lot of time in and out of psychiatric wards and was continually released thought not to be a danger to anyone. In one case staff protested against his release as they said he was dangerous but there protests were ignored, Between Dec 1977-23rd Jan 1978 he killed six people and took their blood in a bucket. It wasn’t long before he was caught and interviewed by Robert Ressler. He told Robert Ressler he had killed to preserve his own life and was building an appeal based on it. He did not kill because of a belief in vampires .He said he had soap dish poisoning , he explained how everyone has a soap dish and if you lift the soap and find its dry underneath your alright but if its gooey you have the poisoning that turns your blood to powder the powder depletes your energy and eats away at your body and you have to replenish your blood from other creatures.
When Robert Ressler asked him how he chose his victims he said he went down the street trying doors to find one which was unlocked ‘’if the door was locked that means you’re not welcome’’.
He also told Ressler that he was Jewish (which he wasn’t) that he had been persecuted by the Nazis because he had a star of David on his forehead which again he didn’t, He explained that the Nazis where connected to UFO’s which had telepathically commanded him to kill to replenish his blood supply and that they followed him around, and the FBI should be able to pin point them by putting a radar on him. He then gave Ressler a cup with some of his macaroni cheese dinner in it and said he wanted it analysed for poison. Ressler got him transferred to a psychiatric hospital where he spent a short time before returning to prison where on 26th Dec 1980 he died ,he had collected his medication and overdosed leaving a suicide note behind. Maybe if this man had gotten proper psychiatric help it could have saved six lives. Lucky now we have a much better understanding of psychology and how to treat mental illness.
I hope you found this study into vampires as interesting as i found it to write . And hope it gives a better understanding of why the belief still exists today and also raises awearness of Porphyria a terrible and sometimes fatal disease. and of the damage prejudice can cause.
Mythology » Categories
(writen by morrigan - 01/05/09)
(writen by morrigan - 21/06/09)
(writen by morrigan - 13/07/09)
(writen by morrigan - 21/08/09)
(writen by morrigan - 03/10/09)