Vampires have been seen and documented throughout history. The history of vampires goes further back in time than most people realize. The Chaldeans who lived near the Euphrates river in the southwestern part of Asia more than five hundred years before the time of Christ feared vampire or creatures similar to vampires enough so that they created charms to protect themselves from being attacked by such creatures. The Assyrians and the Babylonians feared a creature similar to a vampire known as an Ekimmu. These creatures known as Ekimmus were believed by the Assyrians to roam the planet searching for food although it was not always a person’s blood but rather a persons' vitality or that persons' energy force. It was believed that if such a creature would enter someone's house that person along with his or her family would slowly weaken, get sick and probably die. In the countries of Syria and Palestine references were made to such blood sucking monsters on ancient carved tablets. In Ireland the people believed in these creatures, which they affectionately came to call RED BLOOD SUCKERS. Due to their belief in these mythical creatures they began the practice of placing stones on these vampires’ graves to keep them from escaping. This then became standard practice and is still used to this day in the form of a tombstone. Tombstones were used to control ghosts and other spirits instead of their original use in controlling vampires.
Due to the fact that vampires seemed to be so commonplace around the globe, there was a large variety of vampires that differed in shape, behavior and method of becoming a vampire. All of these factors varied from region to region. In the country of Bulgaria a vampire had only one nostril. This Bulgarian vampire would rise out of its grave nine days after death in the form of a shower of sparks and remained in this shape for a period of forty days. After the completion of these forty days the shower of sparks would regain its human form. Once human-like the vampire goes from playing childish tricks, which it did in its spark form to more serious matters such as the attacking of humans and drinking of their blood. Vampires are well known for their craving for blood but in many countries vampires were not limited to just that substance as part of their diet, but would also consume foods that humans ate such as eggs and rice. That, however, does not mean that they yearn for blood was any weaker than before. Most vampires would attack their victims and suck the blood from puncture wounds made in the neck (The Russian vampire would suck the blood directly from the victims heart).
Sometimes the vampire would gorge itself until it had drained the victim completely while other times it would take just enough to satisfy that night's thirst and come back the following night and take a bit more. The method of drinking from the same victim night after night would cause the victim to get weaker and weaker. Due to the fact that the victim was indeed attacked by a vampire that would mean that upon the victims death they too would become undead. Vampires Certain cultures around the globe also had systems to recognize vampires. In some cultures vampires were distinguished due to the color of their hair. In most Christian countries vampires could be recognized because they had red hair like Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Christ in the bible, was said to have had red hair. Eye color was another tell-tale sign used to identify vampires. In Greece where most people have dark colored eyes vampires were said to have blue eyes, Rumania they were said to have had gray eyes, and in Ireland they had black eyes. Vampires have been around for centuries in some cases they have been recognized and feared by cultures that were around thousands of years before the time of Christ, such as the Babylonians and the Assyrians. Throughout the ages many medical explanations that could explain the vampire phenomena have been overlooked. The first reason was the lack of education that many people, because schooling was not an important part of these societies. Their lack of medical knowledge about diseases, some of which are quite rare and hard to explain even to this day was a large factor in the spread of vampire lore. Along with the fact that very uneducated people have always had a tendency of being overly superstitious also contributed to the vampire legend. In 1985 Dr. David Dolphin, Ph.D., a professor of chemistry at the University of British Columbia presented his theory that blood-drinking vampires were not vampires at all but rather victims of a disease known as Porphyria.
Porphyria is an incurable genetic disease which affects at least 50,000 patients in the U.S. that causes sudden symptoms of severe pain, respiratory problems, Skin lesions and sometimes death. Porphyria may well have been responsible for many a vampire tale - especially since the disease is hereditary. A person that is affected by Porphyria can seem very scary to the average person since the disease causes the persons gums to tighten. That causes their teeth to be seen much more prominently as well as causing their teeth and nails to gain a fluorescent glow. These traits could then go on to explain the fact that many vampire stories described the vampires as giving off a greenish glow. Victims of this disease are likely to be deformed in other ways as well but usually in the facial area.
Because of the skin lesions suffered by victims of Porphyria they are usually very sensitive to light which would cause them to not venture out of their homes until night. This aspect of the lifestyles of people suffering Porphyria would fit in very well with vampire lore. Garlic was used as a repellent of vampires but more likely victims of the disease known as Porphyria would have a strange chemical reaction with garlic which would cause the person to have a severe porphyria attack. This would then make that person very reluctant to come close to the garlic since it contains large amounts of Dialkyl Disulfide which destroys Heme in the person’s blood (Heme is the pigmented component of Hemoglobin and related substances found in largest amounts in the bone marrow, red blood cells and the liver). The further destruction of Heme in a Porphyria victim would set off a severe allergic reaction. Since Porphyria is also a genetic disease several siblings in a family usually carry the defective gene. While the siblings may share the same defective gene sometimes only one of the siblings will display any of the symptoms. It is known that in many vampire tales, vampires return to attack their sibling or other family members. This along with the fact that Porphyria could be triggered in a person who is genetically predisposed to have the disease by a sudden loss of large amounts of blood. When these factor are taken into consideration, one could say that when a vampire came back to attack a sibling and when the sibling also began to show some vampire characteristics, it could be assumed that the Porphyria gene in the second sibling could have been triggered by the loss of blood which was suffered during the attack by the first sibling or the vampire. This would make it seem as though the vampire attack had caused the second sibling to turn into a vampire as well.
Plague was another factor which could explain the growth of the vampire legend. In the Stephen King book Salem's Lot which is the story of a town that is infested by Vampires and due to the infestation of vampires causes the town to become a ghost town. In the book it says" But a little over a year ago something began to happen in Jerusalem's Lot that was not unusual, people began to drop out of sight." This phenomenon which is found in Stephen King's book was not at all uncommon in ancient times especially in remote places. Villagers in these remote places would have believed that blood was a Vital substance that gave life. Since they did not know much about disease their lack of knowledge of diseases and their lack of medical practitioners in these remote areas would give the perfect opportunity for their superstitious beliefs to come into play. If suddenly much of the town began to fall ill at the same time and they all displayed similar symptoms such as weight loss, weakness and paleness they would think that these people must have been drained of the vital substance - blood. Searching for an explanation without any medical knowledge the one thing that would make sense to them would be that a vampire was on the loose while the fact that the town could be in the middle of an epidemic such as the black plague during the Dark Ages. In Stephen King's book a town would just seem to disappear for no reason and the only explanation would be vampires. In the Dark ages the situation would be very similar to that in the Stephen King book except that in Stephen King's book the vampires are real.
Tuberculosis or consumption as it was often called is a disease that although was not highly contagious was a very common disease up until the mid-1800’s. The beginning stages of this disease do not contain very recognizable symptoms. By the time the symptoms showed up (such as weight loss and fatigue which is where the name consumption came from) the disease was already in its later stages. Tuberculosis would have been very difficult to diagnose by people with no medical knowledge especially when the most serious symptoms of the disease such as coughing and spitting up blood were not present. Tuberculosis was often openly confused with vampirism as was the case when in the mid- 1800's the corpses of many victims of Tuberculosis were treated as vampires and buried face down or by being dug up and burned when members of their families suddenly came down with Tuberculosis. The mental aspect of vampires has always seemed to be that of someone who was not in their right mind. In Anne Rice's book The Vampire Lestat at one point one of the vampires in the book just looks at the other one and simply says "You're the mad one,” not realizing that madness plays a large part towards explaining the vampire legend as well as other mental conditions. One of these conditions which could explain the vampire legend is the condition known as a cataleptic condition which many times is brought.
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