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Vampires

September 21, 2010

The Claims:

Vampires are claimed to be undead creatures/persons who continue to live on by ingesting the life force from another creature, usually in the form of blood. Much of the vampire lore we encounter today hails back to Slavic folklore. Here the vampire is often portrayed as a beautiful man or woman with superhuman strength and a thirst for human blood. The lore also claims that anybody bitten by a vampire may turn into a vampire at any time.

According to legend there are only a couple of ways to kill a vampire, one of which is to drive a wooden stake through the heart of the alleged vampire/corpse. This part of the legend is particularly ironic given that it may have been partially inspired by the Romanian hero Vlad Țepes (“Vlad the Impaler”), who was famous for killing his opponents by impalement.  

There are still reported sightings of vampires from all over the world, and invariably they lure modern day vampire hunters to these sites. These reports include everything from the Central American Chupacabra, a vampire-like creature who allegedly sucks the blood from goats and other domesticated animals, to the more classical forms we know from Western literature.  Tragically, in Africa today, there have even been reports of people being killed as a result of vampire accusations.

The Evidence:

The belief in vampire creatures that suck the life force or the willingness to live from out of a person has been around for thousands of years in many of the different cultures around the world. But it was not until the 1800s when the word ‘vampire’ was coined and what we associate with vampires today in the Western world was described. This was done through a couple of popular books such as Abraham Stoker’s Dracula. This book was loosely built on Slavic and Germanic folklore portraying the vampire we know today.

Conclusion:

Vampires can be entertaining but strictly as a work of fiction.

Links:

Wikipedia Page on Vampires

Skeptic’s Dictionary Entry on Vampires

How Stuff Works: Vampires

4 Comments leave one →
  1. John permalink
    December 20, 2010 7:43 PM

    Another medical condition that could probably attribute to the lore is rabies, people who get rabies become photosensitive, become crazy, tend to bite, and then if your bitten you get rabies.

  2. Drew permalink
    December 8, 2010 4:07 PM

    @Yochi “We have no evidence, but maybe science just hasn’t found it yet.”

    The immense class of objects, possibly infinite class of objects that fall into the category of things that science hasn’t found, would not lend a scrap of probability to the idea. Science has never found an invisible pink unicorn, nor has it found a hoop made of hope, nor has it found a duck billed shark with wings.

    Simply because science hasn’t found such things does not mean that we should consider them remotely possible. Actually, the fact that science has never found such things, given that science usually represents the (however limited) pinnacle of verified human knowledge, would usually rather be a detriment to the belief in something like this.

    It is a far more efficient use of thought to think about things that have a comparably high chance of existing, such as vampire bats or leeches, to explain such phenomena. The idea of a human that could suck blood, when people already have the idea of animals that suck blood and humans, is probably not too hard for the human imagination to come up with.

  3. December 7, 2010 2:03 PM

    @Yochi – there are some medical conditions that may mimic some of the symptoms of vampirism, such as porphyria. It’s entirely possible that many of those myths originated there, which may partially explain why different cultures have overlapping narratives. Also, the idea of a monster that sucks out your life force isn’t exactly the kind of super-detailed accounting that would lend credibility to the existence of a common root based on a real thing – it’s scary and vague enough to be dreamed up by different groups independently.

  4. yochi permalink
    December 4, 2010 7:24 AM

    Anytime I hear that some sort of belief “has been around for thousands of years in many of the different cultures around the world”, I feel that gives the claim MORE probability. Why would multiple peoples make up the same sort of story?

    I’m not saying that the modern, western, romanticized vampire exists, but perhaps there was some sort of blood drinking primate that went extinct thousands of years ago. (People would have hunted it to extinction to protect themselves?) We have no evidence, but maybe science just hasn’t found it yet.

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