The concept of vampires—or supernatural creatures who sustain themselves by consuming the life essence (often in the form of blood) of the living—stems from ancient folklore and mythology, and it can be found in various forms across many different cultures worldwide.
In Western culture, the modern perception of vampires largely originates from Eastern European folklore, particularly from the regions that today encompass Romania and Hungary. These traditions speak of creatures who return from the dead to feast on the blood of the living, often having characteristics we associate with vampires today, such as an aversion to sunlight or garlic.
The vampire as we know it today, however, is heavily influenced by 18th-century vampire superstitions from Western Europe, which led to mass hysteria and public vampire hunts. This phenomenon was well-documented in scholarly treatises of the time, spreading the vampire myth throughout Europe.
The vampire figure gained even more prominence with the publication of John Polidori’s “The Vampyre” in 1819, followed by Bram Stoker’s iconic novel “Dracula” in 1897. Stoker’s Dracula solidified many of the characteristics and lore we associate with vampires today, including their immortality, their need to be invited into a home before they can enter, and their ability to transform into bats.
However, it’s important to note that similar creatures exist in the mythologies of other cultures as well, including the Greek vrykolakas, the Indian vetala, the Chinese jiangshi, and many others. While these creatures might not be identical to the modern Western vampire, they share enough characteristics that they could be considered part of the larger vampire mythos.