Paul Barber’s Theory on the Existance of Vampires

There was once a time in history when nearly everyone believed in the existence of vampires. Virtually every country and every culture has their own vampire myths and legends. You can find vampire folklore throughout the world. But there is more than just folklore, hundreds of years ago there were countless cases of real vampirism reported.  But is there any truth to these age-old tales of the undead? Paul Barber had a theory.

Vampire Girl in CoffinPaul Barber was one of the foremost contemporary scholars on the topic of superstitions and beliefs concerning the belief in vampires. Barber was a research associate at the Fowler Museum of Cultural History at UCLA when he presented his theories on vampires in Vampires, Burials, and Death (1988).

According to Barber, the reports of vampires can be explained by simple ignorance. People of the time knew nothing about the irregularities of the decomposition process in corpses – like blood around the mouth and hair and fingernail growth – since it was before the age of forensic pathology. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries people didn’t have the scientific knowledge to explain why a buried corpse would have blood around its mouth, why the corpse would be bloated…etc. so they explained it with superstition. It wasn’t science, it was magic, it was vampires. But in reality, there was a logical explanation for all of the irregularities. Barber states that the vampire tale is “an ingenious folk hypothesis.”

Personally, I agree with Barber. I’ve believed in his theory before I even read about it. Vampire tales came from scientific ignorance. I don’t believe there was anything supernatural about these occurrences. I don’t believe vampires ever existed, they were imagined by the ignorant and the fearful.

What are your thoughts on Paul Barber’s theory?

– Moonlight

(Oh, and PLEASE no one bring up sang or psy vampires! They have nothing to do with vampire folklore and history. Nothing.)

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).


  1. I do believe that he makes a very valid point with this theory. I also believe that it is true, but only 99% of the time. There was one instance (I can’t remember exactly when) but there was a man named I believe Paole? He was in the army and said that there was a man that drank his blood. Shortly after his arrival home he became ill and died. A week after his death, people in the town reported that they had seen him walking around. Now I would love to believe that he had been bitten and turned into a vampire, but I am also a little skeptic. I know that people in the town could have wanted to believe, therefore made it so. But after he was spotted, they went and opened his grave and noted the fresh blood on his clothes, and like many cases his fingernails were longer and his hair grew as well. This story was published in the newspaper, however I don’t remember when or where, and I can’t look it up now because I am at work!


  2. Moonlight while i partly agree that these ingonrance with decomp where responsible for more “recent” vampire tales i always thought that they were insuficiente to explain more ancient vampiresce tales there for my hypothesis has been that maybe some anciente nocturnal predator that in the dark could resmble a human so it could get close to its victims and feed, unted our ancestors and perhaps thats what led to humans to develop vilages and cities so they could keep the predator out and it died off, but the stories where passed down or some kind of genetic memory was passed to us that allowed us to “create” in our minds the idea of the vampire. i think this hypothesis explains how so many culture have a similar mythology around vampires, note the one true thing all vampire tails have incomun “humans as prey”

    1. I’m not trying to be rude and I am all up for discussions, but none of what you just said made any kind of sense.

  3. But why would they have the notion that the dead were walking and menacing the living – the reason why they exhumed the graves in the first place?

    I think that’s because of nightmares and sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis is a physiological phenomenon that includes the sensation of being unable to move while something is draining breath or life energy. Sleep paralysis is probably also behind reports of other folkloric phenomena like Old Hag, cats stealing breath, the incubus, and, in the modern era, alien abduction. In the case of vampires and revenants, the interpretation was that the malign presence was a recently deceased family member or neighbor.

    The vampire legend also explained outbreaks of deadly infectious diseases that killed several people in a family or neighborhood. So there was the epidemiological phenomenon, ‘eyewitness’ reports (nightmare & sleep paralysis) and finally confirmation through exhumation.

  4. lol well thank you for being nice about it, i didn’t say it was a good hypothesis lol, it’s just what i think could explain it

    1. I am not saying you are wrong, I was saying that I honestly didn’t understand what you were trying to say :)

  5. oh ok well simply what if vampire legends across the world are all based on an ancient prehistoric predator our ancesters really faced, not an undead creature but a nocturnal predator and over the ages it went extinct but humans continued to tell stories of it to there young and generation after generation the story changed a little, now add to that the great migrations humans did spreading over the world and the centuries of story telling each civilization will have diferente vampires all based on the same creature. i’m sorry about my previous post sometimes i think i’m makeing more sense than i really am, i hope this explains my theory better

    1. Ah ok. Not a bad theory :) But wouldn’t we have found some trace of such a creature? Like fossils?

      1. not necessarily while yes the fossil records are amazing they are not always complete due to the fact that you need very specific events to fossilize remains besides if this creature has a human like apearnce if instead of a full skelital remains where found only fragments scientist would just think it was another already known humanoid ancestor

  6. I’ve long been a fan of Barber’s theory and it does explain much.but not all.

    It doesn’t explain all (for instance the phenomena of sleep paralysis leading to visitations of vampires, or incubi/succubi or grey aliens – they are all remarkably similar) but modern experiments around this and the theories of such as Jung help us plumb those depths.

    However, for the vampire panics of the 18th century Barber’s theory is pretty spot on.

    For the person who mention Paole… that is perfectly within Barber’s theory and, whilst you were working from memory, important aspects were left out. Paole did claim he was attacked by a vampire (whilst a soldier) but also claimed he ate the dirt from a vampire’s grave to cure himself. He died several years later in an accident. As people died in his village his story caused his grave to be dug up. His corpse was destroyed. He was then blamed for another outbreak five years later (due to meat from a cow he had attacked being put into the human food chain).

    To any modern observer looking in it was all, pretty much, hysteria and not only fits in with Barber’s theorem perfectly but the case is cited in Barber’s book “By now it should be evident that the description of Arnold Paole is an accurate enough account of a dead body exhumed after twenty or thirty days in a grave.” (Barber, 1988, p161)

  7. oh well, I read in a newspaper article that some fossils are found that somehow proves that vampires existed….

  8. i dont mean to be rude but i strongly disagree … but i will not sit here and try to tell you something that you will never believe . but dont worry ill get the facts and prove you wrong about vampires even though the things you say do truly happen to the human body after they die , what you say about vampires is not the truth …sorry if it sounds rude ,and thank you .

  9. There are none more blind…than those who will not see. And none more gullible than those who cannot abide having their unassailable cherished beliefs challenged.

    Of course, Paul Barber was correct. And every aspect of the folkloric and literary/fictional Vampire is fully explained away when both knowledge and reason are applied. What is truly sad is the fact that were the true and far more intriguing reality of the fascinating Slavic Vampire known and understood, the world would be far more fascinated and around by the truth than they are by the fiction.

  10. You don’t believe until you’re bitten yourelf. A very simple and perhaps simplistic statement to sum up either a fantasy or a reality. Science can provide, very often, a very simple statement, if not explanation, and scientists like very much providing their true facts.

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