Stories of vampires are usually perennial favorites during the Halloween, in movies, on television, in books and various media sources. The public’s thirst for such stories seems as endless as vampires’ thirst for blood. But how true are these stories?
Vampires: What are they?
A vampire is a creature from folklore that subsists by feeding on the vital essence (generally in the form of blood) of the living.
According to mythology, they are evil beings who roam the world at night searching for people whose blood they feed upon. They typically drain their victim’s blood using their sharp fangs, killing them and turning them into vampires.
They are also said to exhibit supernatural powers which could only be limited by the daylight effect and are more active during the night.
Origin of Vampirism
Most people usually associate the origin of vampires with Count Dracula, the legendary, blood-sucking subject of Bram Stoker’s epic novel, Dracula, which was published in 1897. However, the history of vampires began long before Stoker was born.
The superstition was said to have began in the Middle Ages when people were still unfamiliar with physical or emotional illnesses that could lead to certain disorders.
Many researchers have pointed to porphyria, a blood disorder that can cause severe blisters on skin that’s exposed to sunlight, as a disease that may have been linked to the vampire legend.
Often, these legends arose from a misunderstanding of how bodies decompose.
Do vampires really exist?
The beliefs in vampires usually center around the fear that the dead, once buried, could still harm the living. However, there is no scientific evidence to prove that vampires exist.
Instead, there are a number of real medical conditions that might result in vampiric behavior or appearance. A typical example is Porphyria, a rare disease characterized by irregularities in production of heme, an iron-rich pigment in blood. People with the more severe forms of porphyria are highly sensitive to sunlight, experience severe abdominal pain and may suffer from acute delirium.
Another example is catalepsy, a peculiar physical condition associated with epilepsy, schizophrenia and other disorders that affect the central nervous system. Someone suffering from acute catalepsy could very well be mistaken for a corpse. The behavior of actual corpses might have suggested vampirism as well.
While these conditions might have fueled a fear of the undead, the root causes of vampire lore are most likely psychological rather than physical.
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