The idea of vampires, these undead creatures subsisting off of the life force of others, has been around for centuries. Though the image of the bloodsucking creature of the night has changed considerably over the years and continues to change, for horror’s sake, that change may be for the better.
The Legend of Vampires
Dating from the probable first historical example of a vampire to the advent of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the truth may be scarier than fiction.
History’s First Vampire
The person believed to be the first historical reference of a vampire is Jure Grando Alilović in the late 1500’s/early 1600s in Croatia.
For the 16 years following his death, he is rumored to have terrorized the village where he used to live. At night, his ghoulish form would wander the town streets, knocking on doors as he walked. Apparently, those who had their door knocked upon meant that death was soon to come for them.
The story goes that the wife also suffered horribly, as she claimed her husband’s decaying, ghoulish figure would force himself into her room at night to torment her. Referred to by villagers as Strigon (fans of FX’s The Strain will recognize this as an ancient term for vampire), after sixteen years of terror, the mayor reportedly ordered a group of young men to the grave of Jure Grando. He was exhumed and allegedly beheaded.
Though the story is horrifying, there is little evidence to back it up. Moreover, the Middle Ages were notorious for jumping to conclusions.
The Madness of the Medieval Times
Just as the Salem Witch Trials notoriously saw people being unfairly accused as witches, the Middle Ages and beyond saw that same ignorance-fueled paranoia led to people being called vampires.
In this period where diseases ran rampant, those afflicted were often believed to be vampires, thus explaining the cause of disease being spread. Moreover, the blood disorder porphyria (skin that blisters when in contact with sunlight) is believed to be the origin of vampires’ aversion to sunlight.
Since medical advances were nowhere near what they are now, people didn’t understand that illness spread through germs, so when close contact would spread disease, they assumed it must have been because of ill intent. Though this was the reality of the Middle Ages, the most recent infamous example occurred in Rhode Island in the 1800s.
The Tale of Mercy Brown
When tuberculosis was raging through the population, there was a rumor swirling. The story indicated that if all of the members of the same family began to die of consumption, it was because one of the previously deceased family members was siphoning the family’s life force from beyond the grave. A family with the surname Brown is a legendary example of this.
The mother was the first to die of tuberculosis. Then came the death of the oldest daughter. Another daughter, Mercy Brown, and son followed behind not long later. Then the father became ill as well.
The town, fueled by the rumor, exhumed the bodies of the dead family to find the life-sucking culprit. Three bodies were exhumed, the mother, Mercy, and her sister. While her family members were dug from their graves as skeletons, Mercy was perfectly preserved. While she had not been dead as long as her familial counterparts, that did not matter to the town: they found their vampire. They burned Mercy’s heart and liver and fed the ashes to the father to cure him. Spoiler alert: it did not cure him, and he joined the rest of his family in death not long later.
While a lack of knowledge fueled rumors that would become vampire legends back then, this still happens today, but differently than before.
The Myths Circulating Dracula
As an article in Time magazine extensively covered, Bram Stoker allegedly sought inspiration from true stories when writing Dracula. Of course, those familiar with Vlad Dracul, also known as Vlad the Impaler, tend to correlate his existence with the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. After all, Vlad Dracul was renowned for the violent, impaling way he killed and is even rumored to have dipped bread in the blood of his enemies, devouring it. That, coupled with the Dracul surname, surely must refer to Dracula. However, some Stoker experts urge that this was not the case whatsoever.
While the history behind the Vlad the Impaler inspiration remains muddled, according to research conducted by Dacre Stoker (the great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker) and his writing partner J.D. Barker original copies of the Dracula manuscript allegedly urged that everything within the pages was true.
According to Time Magazine, caskets filled with earth were brought aground, with a mysterious black dog who immediately ran to a nearby cemetery. Over one hundred pages were cut from Dracula, heavily believed to be the text portion where Bram Stoker insisted that what followed were actual events.
While the previous makes for fantastic story-telling, it would not be the first or last time rumors about the novel were created. In fact, new stories are still appearing today.
Vampire Bats and Other Blood Suckers
According to Tumblr legend, the connection between vampires and bats comes from Vlad the Impaler’s war history. Legend says that during battle, Vlad led the enemy into a valley where facing Vlad’s army meant staring directly into the setting sun. Then, Vlad’s men released rabid bats, which fled the sunlight and attacked the unsuspecting enemy. The loss of a visual on the men plus the bat attack caused the attacked to believe that Vlad and his men had turned into bats.
The true story, however, is not as glamorous. The truth is that bats of that caliber are not native to Romania and were frankly impossible. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is the first-time vampires were associated with bats, and experts believe he was inspired by the nocturnal nature of the winged mammals and the blood-drinking vampire bat.
Speaking of bloodsuckers, did you know that it was a long-held belief that the smell of garlic repels mosquitos? This form of mosquito repellent is strongly believed to be the reason that vampires would also be deterred by garlic. Essentially, what’s bad for one bloodsucker is bad for the gander. (Though, according to this study, garlic turns out not to repel even the tiniest of bloodsuckers.)
Notwithstanding the rumors, the fate of Bram Stoker’s novel was sealed and would see a resurgence of popularity in the following century.
Twentieth Century Vampires
Armed with Bram Stoker’s legendary novel for inspiration, the film Nosferatu brought the horrific creature to audiences of the 1920s. The 1930s saw the Universal Monster treatment of the classic Dracula emerge in 1931, with Bela Lugosi acting in the titular role. Lugosi would star in other vampire films, such as Mark of the Vampire in 1935, followed by House of Dracula and The Devil Bat in the 1940s.
From there, the characteristic image of the vampire was set. The words vampire and Dracula became synonymous with one another. The pale-faced, intricately dressed undead creature who bites the neck of his victims was revamped (pun intended) with hundreds of Dracula-inspired productions, spanning the entire 20thcentury
It was not just horror films that saw the presentation of Dracula. Numerous comedies (such as the 1990s Dracula: Dead and Loving It) and children’s cartoons such as Pink Panther in 1975’s “Pink Plasma” and Looney Tunes’ 1963 short “Transylvania 6-5000” would go on to depict the legendary vampire. This dilution of the once repulsive creature picked up steam into the 21st century, creating a much different depiction than the monster who haunted the dreams of generations before.
The modern treatment of vampires is typically wealthy, attractive-looking creatures with fangs. Whether its True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, Underworld, Twilight, Daybreakers, Queen of the Damned, American Horror Story: Hotel, Night Teeth, What We Do in the Shadows, etc., the modern look of vampires is tirelessly overdone. While the decades before lent a hand in creating this version of vampires, dating back to Bela Lugosi, the era after 2000 ran this trend into the ground.
Although the vampire image tends to be bastardized into the personification of tween fantasy (which, for the record is perfectly fine in small doses), I know that horror is not done with these undead creatures of the night just yet. Morbius was at least bestial, and with films like Salem’s Lot on the horizon, there is still hope that the upcoming generation will view vampires as the nightmarish ghouls they were from the beginning.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY HORROR PRESS! Celebrating One Year and Looking Back on Our Finest Articles
If you had told me a year ago I would still be chained up to a haunted computer in the basement of an even more haunted mansion in Asbury Park, I would have laughed!
Well, hindsight is 20/20 kids.
All jokes aside, it really has been a landmark year for us here at Horror Press. What started as a blog with a handful of horror fiends has become a well-oiled, bloodthirsty editorial machine. I’m genuinely so proud of everyone here at Horror Press for the top-notch content they’re constantly producing. Just a remarkable gang of horror film buffs!
And an equally important part of this was, well, you! What is writing without someone to read it? With barely a handful of regular readers, we cultivated over 14,500+ followers on Tiktok and over 8,000 followers on Twitter. That’s not mentioning our Instagram following, which has grown to over 3500+ followers (horror censoring algorithm be damned, we’re still in this game whether Facebook likes it or not!).
And really, we couldn’t have done any of this without the help of you lovely, lovely horror fanatics out there, so thank you. And stay tuned for more special giveaways on the horizon!
But now that we’ve hit an entire year, we fondly look back on our favorite articles of the year and give you guys a curated list of the best HP has to offer. So, let’s remember…
I wrote a fair bit about Scream this year, but I enjoyed doing this review the most, even if just for the experience of seeing it with everyone in the theatre. And you all seemed to enjoy it too! Who can resist those rascally Ghostface Killers?
Finding Queer Safety in Brian De Palma’s Carrie, and Rising Up Against Abuse
Abigail Waldron, author of Queer Screams examined her deeply personal relationship with an ex, tattoos, and the tale of Carrie White.
Meditating on Doffing the Shackles of Otherness with Let The Right One In
Miles Mendoza, one of our latest crew members on this ghost ship of the damned (translation: fun passion project where we get to wear pirate hats) came out the gate swinging with my favorite article from Vamp-tober!
When Tiffany Hosted the Battle of the Streaming Services Between Shudder & Screambox
This definitive article by our TikTok spearhead Tiffany Taylor that you should consult to decide which streaming service to buy for you or the horror head in your life has all the information you need to know about the big two.
Thinking About Messy Marriages and Master Vampires in Jakob’s Wife
HP regular and Boulet Brothers’ Dragula correspondent Alex Warrick wrote this wonderful article on Jakob’s Wife, the stifling nature of stagnant relationships, and being Barbara Crampton (see: forever badass).
That Hotly Anticipated M3gan Review That Confirmed Everyone’s Expectations
Until my shackles get loosened— I mean, until the next anniversary, it’s been quite a time. Thanks again for all the love; we hope you’ll stick around and keep an eye out for Horror Press as we continue to grow and give you the news, articles, and merch you crave!
Back to the grind(house), horror fans!
Fangoria: The #1 Magazine Subscription for Horror Fans
This article contains affiliate links.
Here at Horror Press, we are longtime fans of Fangoria. Between the iconic merchandise, the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards, the magazine that began a prolific horror empire, and more, Fangoria creates content that speaks to fans of the macabre everywhere.
Because of our love of the brand, is it any wonder that we’ve teamed up?
Now, you, dear fans of Horror (Press), can save 20% at Fangoria with discount code: HORRORPRESSLLC.
Look at this amazing cover art by @GhoulishGary exclusive to Subscribers for the January issue!
What is Fangoria?
Founded in 1979, Fangoria holds the title of the longest-running horror-centric magazine in the world. Its famous pages have even appeared in horror productions such as Friday the 13th Part III, Gremlins, Brainscan, Seed of Chucky, and, most recently, Mike Flanagan’s The Midnight Club, among many others.
Inside the glossy pages of Fangoria magazine, you’ll find high-resolution images from your favorite horror films, exclusive interviews, peeks behind the scenes, recommendations for horror reading, and more.
One of my favorite things about Fangoria is all the coverage explaining how special effects artists achieve different looks. Legendary masters of the craft, such as Tom Savini and Greg Nicotero, are only a tiny sample of the experts featured in Fangoria to give insight into their work.
With all this macabre magazine has to offer, treat yourself or your favorite horror buff to the ultimate gift of horror via a subscription to Fangoria+.
What Comes with a Fangoria Subscription?
A one-year subscription to Fangoria comes with more than 400 pages of horror, as 100-page magazines oozing with gruesome goodness are delivered every three months. These collectible issues contain content that you will not find online. Keep an eye out for the magazines which include a poster inside!
— Jillian Kristina (@RootDownTarot) October 15, 2022
You’ll also get a “Mini Fango” periodically sent to your email via the Terror Teletype newsletter, written by none other than Phil Nobile Jr. These emails include horror news, updates to the Fangoria archives, where covers from the last forty years of horror coverage are regularly added, links to the weekly crossword, and more.
Finally, Fangoria+ subscribers are given first access to merchandise releases and opportunities for exclusive giveaways.
How Much Does Fangoria Cost?
This bounty of incredible, ghastly content usually costs $6.66 monthly or $79.99 for the year, but because you’re a Horror Press reader, use HORRORPRESSLLC as a discount code at checkout to receive 20% off your entire order. That brings the year total down from $79.99 to $63.99 (before applicable taxes and shipping, of course).
While we cannot recommend enough the Fangoria+ subscription for horror fans everywhere, the discount code works for almost everything in the Fangoria shop. So, this means merch and single issues too!
The October 2022 edition (Vol. 2 Issue #17) of Fangoria is already sold out on the website. Own the future remnants of horror history before it’s too late; sign up for your Fangoria+ subscription today!