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