How Was The Vampire Legend Born?

wolfrabiesAges 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?

– Moonlight

By Moonlight

Moonlight (aka Amanda) loves to write about, read about and learn about everything pertaining to vampires. You will most likely find her huddled over a book of vampire folklore with coffee in hand. Touch her coffee and she may bite you (and not in the fun way).


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  4. It’s like people (scientists mostly) are trying to prove that vampires aren’t real. They don’t know that it all is fact (maybe not all but vampires do truely exsist). Why not one of those “all knowing” scientists try to prove that vampires ARE real? I would. And yes, ewwwwwwww……rabies…..

  5. Sorry, not a good theory. It does not explain red, fat bodies with blood in their mouths like bodies found in 18th century.
    According to Paul Barber, red skin of the vampire bodies, exposed under dead one, was just dermis. They were swollen by gas. Blood dripping from their mouths was also caused by decomposing process.

    1. That’s true, but one theory may not work in every single area of the world. Decomposition is behind a lot of vampire myths due to people simply not knowing enough about it back then, but rabies is a viable theory as well.

  6. What about the REAL ones, that actually do exsist? Why don’t scientists try to prove those ones to be real, the ones that awaken during puberty, who don’t go around killing ppl, those ones… HUH? How about looking into real human vampiricism?

  7. i am a student of psychology and has recently done Masters in it, i would say that i can undastand the theory ov Dr.David Dolphin but rabies!!!!a dun think so…… because there are so many diseases and disorders which can ‘ve some similar symptoms and signs but it doesn’t mean that they are the reason for dese origins ov vampires.
    In early 18’s people did think about these spirits in one’s body but at that time they didn’t know about science and scientific reasons ov dose behaviors.
    i really do believe in vampires, but really ppl rabies doesn’t ‘ve anything to do vid vampires.

    1. I find it highly unlikely that someone with a masters in psychology would write like an 8 year old. Also, psychology isn’t what we’re talking about here.

  8. I have to agree with this theory just because of how true it sounds. It seems to me to have enough facts and reasons to agree with. If you really think about it back then there wasn’t very good medical care and they didn’t get shots to prevent them. So how come there isn’t anymore vampires now? That’s just my question now.

    1. because there are vaccines given to animals to prevent the spread of rabies. If a human does get bit by a rabid animal, the human gets a lot of shots. Plus, there are vampires, they just control themselves better. Today, vampires don’t attack and go on feeding frenzies.

  9. My grand-father, father and Uncle told me about people they knew as children who were accused of being vampires and attacked. They had many of the symptoms of Porphyria. There could be many explanations as to what causes vampirism. I can understand why this theory was rejected by the medical community. If a person had Porphyria on their medical records, they opened themselves up for prejudiced and risk of being attacked. When my father and grandfather were children, (back in the 1900-1930″s there was not much medical science.

    People who recently immigrated from Europe still believed in vampires and thought they were evil. Especially if people lived in small towns and rural areas. My father heard about the report on Porphyria on the news and he cried. He said that the people he knew as a child got attacked for no reason. Such a shame that people were attacked for having a disease.

    This is from Wikipedia:

    Vampires and werewolves

    Porphyria has been suggested as an explanation for the origin of vampire and werewolf legends, based upon certain perceived similarities between the condition and the folklore.

    In January 1964, L. Illis’ 1963 paper, “On Porphyria and the Aetiology of Werwolves”, was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine. Later, Nancy Garden argued for a connection between porphyria and the vampire belief in her 1973 book, Vampires. In 1985, biochemist David Dolphin’s paper for the American Association for the Advancement of Science,
    “Porphyria, Vampires, and Werewolves: The Aetiology of European
    Metamorphosis Legends”, gained widespread media coverage, thus
    popularizing the idea.
    The theory has been rejected by a few folklorists and researchers as
    not accurately describing the characteristics of the original werewolf
    and vampire legends or the disease and for potentially stigmatizing
    sufferers of porphyria.[

  10. well that might be true but what about the legends that existed before this research or even the spread rabies or any other disease .. I don’t agree with this .. this doesn’t prove that vampires don’t exist and all the folklore came from diseases or writers etc etc.
    There must be source the exact time when it all started I don’t wanna believe from the religious point of view but still it fascinates me..

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