The Myths Behind the Most Famous Paranormal Creatures 1 - Vampires

If you are a fantasy junkie like me, you probably read a lot about vampires, werewolves, fairies/feas, etc. In each book they are different with different abilities, appearance, history, habits and so on, however, there are certain basic pieces of information that are common in all of them. So let me get you acquainted with their mythology and these basics. There are going to be a post about a given creature each week. You can give me orders as well. :)


Very shortly, vampires are mythical beings who live on blood. 
Although, vampiric entities have been recorded in most cultures for a long long time, yet the term vampire wasn't well-known until the early 18th century, an influx of vampire superstition into Western Europe from areas where vampire legends were frequent. Local variants were also known by different names, such as vrykolakas in Greece and strigoi in Romania and this increased level of vampire superstition in Europe led to mass hysteria and in some cases resulted in corpses actually being staked and people being accused of vampirism. However, nowadays, vampires are mostly fictional characters in our books. 
The vampire of today's fiction was born in 1819 with the publication of The Vampyre by John Polidori; the story was rather successful and one of the most influential vampire work of the early 19th century. Nevertheless, it is Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula which is remembered as the quintessential vampire novel and provided the basis of the modern vampire legend. After this, the vampire genre has changed and we got the vampire that we have been cherishing since then in books, films, and television shows. 


Vampires sleep in coffins:

Source: This myth likely arose from gravediggers and passersby who observed vampires emerging from coffins and crypts.

Fact: If a vampire did spend the night in a coffin, it probably had nothing to do with sleeping preference. In the old days, many bite victims were interred while still in a vampiric coma. (Like the cop in On the Edge of Humanity by S. B. Alexander.) The truth is, vampires will sleep wherever they feel safe.

Garlic repels vampires:

Source: Most likely based on observation. To ward off vampires, garlic would be worn, hung in windows, or rubbed on chimneys and keyholes.

 Vampires have sensitive noses and can be momentarily driven off by pungent odors. However, this method of deterrence is unreliable and certainly won't work on an experienced vampire.

Crosses repel vampires & burn their flesh: (E.g. Cassandra Clare: The Mortal Instruments)

Source: Christian beliefs that vampires are demons and therefore enemies of God. During the Dark Ages, vampires were known to have been tortured by the church using superheated iron crosses to "burn the Holy Spirit into them" before execution.

Fact: Unless heated as a torture device, or used as some kind of melee or throwing weapon, crosses have absolutely no effect on vampires. They have no trouble entering churches either.

Vampires are killed by driving a stake through their heart:(I don't know about the book, but The Vampire Diaries tv series definitely features this one)

Source: This myth actually started out as a misguided method of keeping suspected vampires in their coffins by driving a long iron stake through the torso and into the coffin floor, effectively pinning it in place. Eventually this evolved into simply stabbing the heart using special kinds of wood such as oak, ash and hawthorn, which were thought poisonous to vampires because of their "purity."

Fact: Because their blood clots quickly and is circulated by skeletal muscles, vampires can easily survive injuries to the heart and torso, and they have little trouble freeing themselves from impalement. They also have no apparent allergy to wood.

Vampires burst into flames upon exposure to sunlight:

Source: Most likely based on observation of a vampire's extreme reaction to sunlight.

Fact: Sunlight renders vampires, with their hyperdilated irises and reflective retinas, blind. It also causes neural pathways to fire randomly in the brain, creating an extreme epileptic reaction. Lastly, vampiric skin is highly sensitive to UV rays, becoming badly burned and blistered within minutes. However, as dramatic as these reactions may appear, not even a hint of smoke will occur.

Holy water burns vampiric flesh:(I'm sure I know at least one, but it just wouldn't come to my mimd. Any guesses?)

Source: Christianity.

Fact: Holy water, or any water for that matter, has little effect on vampires. They can, however, still be drowned, and they generally hate getting wet as it can lower their body temperature, making them less energetic and able to hunt.

Vampires can fly & move at the speed of sound:(Twilight)

Source: Observation of vampires running, leaping and using their quick reflexes.

Fact: While they can sprint faster than most humans (25 to 30 miles per hour) and jump higher than any (at least ten feet), vampires cannot fly, levitate, teleport, or move any faster than a world-class athlete.

Vampires can turn into bats:

Source: Association of vampires with vampire bats, since they're both nocturnal, have fangs, drink blood and are the main vectors of the human vampirism virus.

: Vampires cannot turn into bats, or anything else for that matter. Although vampires can't shapeshift (or retract their fangs), their appearance does change over time, and they can be quite adept at disguising themselves using makeup and other methods.

Vampires do not cast shadows & are not visible in mirrors:

Source: Christianity. It was thought that a vampire, or any creature lacking a soul, would not cast a shadow or produce a reflection in a mirror.

Fact: Vampires do cast shadows and are indeed visible in mirrors—although interestingly enough, they are often quite uncomfortable with their own reflections.

Humans become vampires by drinking their blood: (Hey-ho Vampire Diaries)

Source: 19th-century sexualization of vampires and their victims "exchanging" bodily fluids.
Fact: While it's true that the vampirism virus is carried in both vampire blood and their saliva, transmission almost always occurs through biting. Contrary-wise, ingestion of vampire blood tends to cause a person to throw it back up, while injection can be outright lethal.

Vampires have psychic, hypnotic & telekinetic powers: (Twilight once more)

Source: Observation of a vampire's ability to read subtle emotions, and their reputation for using their "silver tongue" to get what they want. Telekinesis was simply thrown in later as a baseless supplement, likely due to a common association of vampirism with witchcraft and the occult.

Fact: While vampires do have heightened senses due to their enlarged amygdalae, they cannot read minds or see the future, only physical expressions and mannerisms. This in-turn benefits their powers of persuasion, as they can more easily figure out what to say. However, these abilities depend largely on individual skill and experience.

Vampires look eternally youthful:(Ummm...Twiligh, I guess [Okay, I actually only know a few vampire stories. I mean, I know a lot, but I have never read most of them])

Source: 19th-century romanticizing of vampiric longevity.

Fact: Older vampires look more like Nosferatu—or, more specifically, anorexic drowning victims with alopecia (and pinkeye).

Vampires can choose to live on only animals and blood bags:(Okay, Twilight AND The Vampire Diaries. Kind of.)

Source: Hollywood idealization of vampirism as something that can be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society.
Fact: Although animals and blood bags can get them by for a while, vampires need to feed on live humans to get all the nutrients they require.

A vampire's wounds can heal within seconds:(Like about... all of them)

Source: Likely an exaggeration of vampiric dexterity.

Fact: While it's true that even major injuries can clot within a few minutes, vampiric healing rate is only double that of a human's, and they still form scars. Moreover, although they can regenerate their upper and lower fangs, they cannot regrow lost body parts such as limbs or eyes.

resources (for the myths):

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