Thanks to today’s date – 10.10.10 – we’re bringing you a top 10 list, because really, what day is better than today?
After thousands of years of history, the vampire has earned itself countless well-known legends and when you mix in the stereotypes created by the entertainment world you have even more. Many folks have a pre-conceived notion of vampires, so today I’ll explain those top 10 vampire myths and stereotypes.
10. Stake through the heart.
Thanks to movies and books a stake through a vampire’s heart has become the most popular way to kill a vampire. The truth is, this idea didn’t originate in any book or movie. Every country has it’s own vampire myths and its own vampire species – from the Malaysian Langsuir to the Czechoslovakian nelapsi – and every country has its own way to destroying a vampire, most of the time this involves a stake in the heart. Certain types of wood were said to be the most effective towards these old vampires, such as maple, hawthorn and aspen.
Vampires being able to transform into a bat was made popular by Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But Stoker wasn’t too off, many old vampire legends claim that certain vampires could transform into animals. Germany’s nachzehrer and the bruxsa could transform into an animal, along with many other vampires. A bat isn’t a far stretch, they are nocturnal animals after all, so it makes sense that some would think vamps could turn into one.
Two common vampire stereotypes are that vampires can’t cross running water and that holy water burns them. Once again, these were made popular by the entertainment world and again, the original idea came from history. Water was believed to be a purifier that washed away evil and sin. In Greece, naughty vampires were “exiled” to islands (because they were surrounded by water see), which isolated them and kept them from leaving and eating up the living. As for holy water, this is water that has been blessed by a cleric, therefore made sacred and possessing powerful anti-evil properties. So people believed that holy water had the power to hurt damned beings like the undead.
Shows like Buffy and Angel have shown us vampires have no reflection, and countless books and movies say the same. And guess what?! This myth also has historical ties – shock shock! Back in the day, they believed that mirrors reflect souls and that evil beings have no soul, therefore no reflection.
The most popular vampire Halloween costume involves white makeup, slicked back hair and a big cape. This vision of a vampire glued to the minds of most people, but why? It’s all because of actor Bela Lugosi and his role in the old Dracula flick. Christopher Lee and Frank Langella later helped to reinforce Lugosi’s look by repeating it over and over again. Years later, we still remember their classic image of a vampire and every Halloween we have hundreds of Lugosi vampires running around.
5. Vampires can fly
We’ve seen flying vampires in quite a few movies and TV shows and so it’s has become a pretty common idea that there are flying vampires. Believe it or not, flying vampires can be traced back to folklore. There’s a species in the Philippines known as the aswang that can fly.
The stereotype that vampires hate garlic wasn’t created by Hollywood. It’s another myth that can be traced back to the Middle Ages and earlier. Garlic was believed to have many anti-evil properties (like these), so it was used to protect against vampires and other supernatural beasties.
All vampires have fangs right? Wrong. The fact is that very few vampires in folklore have fangs. Fangs are another example of the way in which authors and films have made an otherwise unrelated characteristic one of the most recognized traits of the undead. The entertainment world gave vampires fangs to drink blood and to be a little scarier, that’s why fangs are so common nowadays.
One of the best known vampire stereotypes is that they are killed by sunlight. Fiction and folklore combined have created this myth. The truth is that some vampires in folklore could walk in the sunlight, like Poland’s upior, which came out between noon and midnight. But honestly it’s a mixed bag, some vamps in lore could walk in the day, while others stuck to the night. Bram Stoker’s Dracula could also walked in the day, so why is the death by sunshine so popular? It was the influential 1922 film Nosferatu that really triggered the idea that vampires were destroyed by sunlight. A host of films followed suit and after a while we had tons of films about vampires being killed by the sun, and a stereotype was born.
Vampires drink blood! This is hands down the best known belief concerning vampires. Nearly every vampire in folklore drinks blood and nearly every vampire in entertainment drinks blood. Blood is life after all, so it makes sense that an undead being would feed on blood to survive.