Myths of vampires have existed since many centuries, in almost every part of the world. These creatures were thought to be ghosts, evil spirits, witches, or demons, that subsisted on the blood of human beings. It was also believed that human beings who die an unnatural death rise from their tombs at night to drink human blood to gain life and power. These dark and ugly creatures, with fangs to suck the blood out of people, can be said to have emerged from the underlying fear of the unknown, which exists in the mind of every human being.
Though vampires are present in the legends of almost all cultures, no one knows exactly how the myth of these terrifying bloodthirsty beasts came into being. They can be found in the fables of Persia, China, the Yucatan, India, Malaysia, Polynesia, etc. Hebrew scriptures of the Old Testament mentions a demon named 'Lilith', who used to drink the blood of little babies. However, it is believed that the myth originated in Europe. Greek and Roman mythologies have stories of goddesses who disguised themselves as humans to drink the blood of living beings. This must have triggered the myth, which eventually spread to other countries and cultures of the world.
Another theory that strengthened people's belief in vampires began in the 11th century. In those times, it was believed that people who committed suicide, or those who were excommunicated by the church, were likely to become vampires. The myths never ceased to exist, and evolved and were embellished over time.
Superstitious stories of human beings also contributed to the irrational belief of people. One of them was Vlad Tepes Dracula, the Prince of Wallachia, who killed people for his own pleasure. He was later characterized as a bloodthirsty vampire by Bram Stoker in his novel 'Dracula'. Another related story is that of Countess Erzsebet Bathory, who killed young girls to drink their blood, which she believed would make her look young and beautiful forever.
With the advent of industrialization, such superstitions started to fade out. The main factor that brought back the myth was literature. It was the romantics who reintroduced vampires in their writings. This age gave rise to the 'Gothic' novel, which turned these blood-sucking creatures into charming erotic beings, who seduced people in order to suck their blood. Stoker's Dracula became the most successful vampire novel, and 'Dracula' became synonymous with the entire concept of the blood-sucking creatures. Anne Rice, a 20th century novelist, changed the image of 'the undead' completely. The vampires in her novels were ordinary people who have a vicious side to them.
Stoker, in his Dracula, created the belief that vampires were first found in Transylvania, and that they can be repelled with the smell of garlic and killed with a stake.
Today, there are many movies and television shows based on vampires. Though people are scared of them, there are some who are really fascinated by these dangerous beasts. This has given rise to many cults, where ordinary people believe themselves to be eternally undead, and drink human blood, believing it will give them a long life.
Vampires are definitely fictitious, and were created by the belief of human beings in superstition and supernatural ideologies. But, these mysterious characters continue to captivate us, even in this era of modern beliefs and rational thinking.