Ages ago, mass vampire hysteria was common throughout Europe. The people were plagued by vampirism, countless were affected by the malady and with every case of vampirism grew the myth and legend that we know now. Back then demons, spirits and magic ruled above science and logic, what they felt was caused by wicked spirits is now, many years later, explained by science and facts. But do we now have an explanation for vampirism? I was recently reminded of a vampire myth theory, one thought up by Dr. Juan Gomez-Alonso. Could rabies be behind the legend of the vampire? You may be rolling your eyes and thinking, “what the hell does rabies have to do with vampires?!” Well, let me explain.
According to Dr. Juan Gomez-Alonso, “…one day I saw a classic Dracula film,” he said. “I watched the film more as a doctor than as a spectator, and I became so impressed by some obvious similarities between vampires and what happens in rabies.” After that the doctor did some serious vampire history and medical research. It turns out that rabies attacks the central nervous system, which causes the one infected to suffer mood swings and odd behavior changes. Sufferers become agitated and manic and can become very violent. Dr. Juan Gomez-Alonso showed that 25% of men infected with rabies had the tendency to bite others.
But that’s not all; rabies has a few more vampire-like symptoms. It can cause insomnia, which explains the nocturnal bit of the vampire myth. People with rabies also suffer from muscular spasms, which can cause them to spit up blood. Fun fact: these spasms can be triggered by water, mirrors, strong smells (like garlic) and bright lights. Hmmm… that sounds awfully familiar.
After reading up on the history books Dr. Gomez-Alonso discovered that early tales of vampirism frequently coincided with reports of rabies outbreaks. Big story spreading vampire epidemics turned out to happen at the same time certain areas were affected by horrible rabies outbreaks, this was most common in the 1700s.
But it doesn’t end there; you also have a handful of vampire myths that involve vampires turning into wolves or bats. Why? Perhaps because the source of rabies infections are often linked to bats and wolves.
The doctor also said even the vampire’s deadly kiss, the bite itself, could be traced to rabies.
“Man has a tendency to bite, both in fighting and in sexual activities,” Gomez-Alonso says. “The intensification of such tendency by rabies increases the risk of transmission, as the virus is in saliva and other body secretions.”
So, Dr. Juan Gomez-Alonso theorized that rabies actually inspired the vampire myths and legend. His research was published by the prestigious medical journal Neurology in 1998.
What are your thoughts on the theory?