The History of Vampires

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We currently live in a pop culture world that seems obsessed with vampires. From gothic vampire novels, to endless movies, television and art, the vampire archetype continues to grow in popularity and sophistication.

What is behind this seeming obsession with vampires, in our western culture? Why does this archeype endure? What does the vampire have, or do, that makes him/her so attractive and compelling? When did the transformation occur, from foul miscreant to suave tragic hero? Who is the vampire - really?

Vampire culture seems in stark contrast with the current technological age and advances in science. Starting out in the dim and obscure recesses of Eastern European folk tales and legends, the vampire has reached center stage in modern pop culture. From foul revenant of the grave, to super hero status within 100 years of evolution. Why?

The vampires of folk history were totally repugnant creatures. They were depicted as crude, foul smelling, reanimated corpses, with a single parasitic-like motivation for blood. They are never actually observed in their vampire state, by the living, but their existence is confirmed by circumstantial evidence within the surrounding community.

The evidence for the existence of a vampire was thought to include such things as the sudden deaths of citizenry and livestock, under unclear or questionable circumstances. Also indicative of vampirism, was the sudden onslought of mysterious disease symptoms, especially those causing pale skin coloration and slow physical wasting (like tuberculosis - which was rampant and contagious during the 19th century in Europe and the U.S.).

Along comes a traveling vampire hunter, often a clergyman or other supposed learned person, with a specific knowlege of vampires and vampirism, and the cure.

The only cure of course, for the wretched, eternally damned vampire and for the welfare of the entire community, was to find the grave of the suspected vampire/corpse, dig it up, cut-off it's head and drive a wooden stake through it's heart.

Now the dug-up vampire/corpse would show certain characteristics that would confirm the vampire identity. These vampire/corpse characteristics included such things as long fingernails (supposed proof of continued life), reddened lips, cheeks and fingers, and finally, blood remaining in the heart, demonstrated when the stake was driven in.

There are actually many historical, documented cases in the U.S. and Europe where vampire hunts were conducted, along with the grisly cures. I will provide one such example from the State of Connecticut in the late 19th century.

The story of the last official case of vampirism in the U.S. is that of 19 year old Mercy Brown of Exeter, Rhode Island, who died on January 17,1892.

The Browns were an upstanding farming family and pillars of their community. Mercy died of consumption (tuberculosis), which had previously killed her mother and sister and which now also seriously affected her brother, Edwin.

Mercy's father, George Brown was now faced with losing his entire family to this then misunderstood and incomprehensible disease. He was frantic and there were no answers available from science or medicine to help.

To save his son and only remaining relative, Edwin gave-in to the folklore suggestions of some of his neighbors, who felt the situation was indicative of vampirism in their community. It was asserted that the deaths and illnesses of his family were caused by vampirism. Son Edwin was slowly wasting away and it was necessary to immediately put an end to the vampirism in the Exeter community.

Mercy had been laid to rest in a temporary above ground crypt behind the Baptist Church in Chestnut Hill Cemetery. The ground was frozen in January and she could not be buried until Spring. On March 17,1892, George Brown and a group of neighbors went to the cemetery and inspected Mercy's body. Finding the body suspiciously well preserved, they cut out her heart and...
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