VampiresWhat is this preoccupation we have with vampires? It seems as though one can no longer walk into a bookstore, or simply turn on the television for that matter, without being assailed by images of what looks to be leather clad models with a taste for blood. They’re everywhere. So called creatures of the night have always had a hallowed spot in our imaginations, but none so much so as vampires. Perhaps the recent surge in popularity can be attributed to the ever-changing image of the vampire.

Who wouldn’t want to bump into one of those present day vampires? After all, the men are shown as being edgy yet sensitive (apparently spending their nights hitting both the blood bank and the gym) while the women, whether ethereal or domineering, are downright gorgeous. Much is made of the sexual allure of the vampire and their bite (or vampire’s kiss) is seen as a painful yet erotic act. What a departure from the vampires of yore.

Early vampires, especially in Eastern Europe, were thought to be evil creatures who inhabited the bodies of the dead and looked…well…dead. They were most often described as being dark and bloated, with shroud covered heads. Not a very appealing image. By the 19th century vampires had slimmed down into the pale, gaunt figure popularised in the classic film Nosferatu, but had still not achieved present day appeal. Perhaps the turning point came with the advent of the Bela Lugosi films in which the infamous Count Dracula was portrayed as a debonair fiend able to charm helpless victims into submission.

Of course there are those who are more concerned with whether or not vampires actually exist than what they may look like. Those who believe in the existence of real vampires cite the fact that practically every culture has some history of a vampiric entity that drinks blood. Look into it if you doubt that it’s true and you’ll find references to the Greek ‘vrykolakas’, the Babylonian ‘Lilitu’ and the Hindu goddess ‘Kali’ to name just a few.

Vampires are thought to be creatures which survive by extracting something from the living. This is most often blood but it can take the form of energy as well. There is a need for this substance, more of a craving really, and various symptoms of ill-health ensue if this need is not met. Sounds like a drug addict, doesn’t it? But then there’s that pesky ‘undead’ part. Well I don’t know about that, but there’ve certainly been people throughout history who have had a taste for blood. Many will tell you that they need to regularly feed on small quantities of blood or they will become very ill, and some do. Whether it is a truly physical dependence or merely psychological is up for debate.