Ever wonder how vampire legends were born, or why vampire hysteria in the Middle Ages reached the level it did? Well you aren’t alone; those questions also crossed the mind of Dr. David Dolphin, who was a chemistry professor at the University of British Columbia.
In 1985 Dr. Dolphin presented a theory that the victims of the disease porphyria during the Middle Ages may have been responsible for the spread of the vampire legend and hysteria. At the time, thousands upon thousands of people lived in fear of vampires, and just as many innocents were executed for being vampires. Countless corpses were dug up and staked, chopped up, burned and more. Dolphin argued that those that suffered porphyria may have caused this.
The symptoms of porphyria may make a person appear undead. They have serious photosensitivity, aversion to garlic, hairiness, and elongated teeth – just like the vampires in the myths we all know so well now. These people that had the disease supposedly took to drinking blood in the desperate effort to alleviate their pain. You see, blood introduced the required element into their body, heme.
The press covered Dr. Dolphin’s theory, but most headlines mocked or criticized him. The hypothesis also caused quite the stir in the medical field as well, they would either point out all the flaws in the theory or they took to complaining about the negative publicity generated. Others simply didn’t like the mixing of science with traditions and legends.
Considering that people back in the Middle Ages didn’t often use science as an explanation for events, but rather religion and superstition, this theory could very well hold true. But porphyria isn’t the only culprit here, there are others as well, like rabies.
What do you think, do you agree with Dr. David Dolphin’s porphyria theory? Or do you think that the vampire legends really did come from real vampires?