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- Historic Vampires -
There have been a few people that have "qualified" as historic vampires. The most famed, and often screwed-up report was that of Elizabeth Bathroy... or Elizabeth Bathory... or, more likely, Erzsébet Báthory (1560 - 1614) who, at the time of her "blood-lust", was oddly enough living near the Carpathian mountains... a stones throw away from Vlad Jr.'s stomping ground, but missing him by about two-hundred years. Liz got the idea that bathing in the blood of young women would keep her looks from fading. Liberal estimates figure that Elizabeth and a couple of her servants, tortured, killed, and then drained of blood over six-hundred women for Liz's unsuccessful "beauty baths". The crimes were discovered and the "helpful" servants were tortured and then burned at the stake. Liz was walled up in her "torture chamber" and fed through a small hole in the stones. She died after three years of this imprisonment.
Liz's story has been bounced about and re-written to come from France and to include a lover, but this was a case of broken-telephone/urban myths gone whacky. Liz's husband was killed in 1602 or 1604 (depending who's account you read) by a "harlot" in Bucharest who he did not pay for... um... services rendered. Being a soldier and an aristocrat, this wasn't considered an unsightly or uncommon thing for a man to "wander" while away from his castle in the mountains...
Anyway, the reports of the time say that her "blood-baths" (literally!) weren't terribly affective, hence the enormity of the amount of victims.
Granted, as with Vlad Jr., one should keep in mind that even these tales I've related were probably "inflated" to make them more interesting... none-the-less, it's a given that Liz did kill a lot of young woman to bathe herself.
Next one you may have heard of is Fritz Haarmann better known as "The Hanover Vampire". In the 1920's, Fritz did kill at least twenty people and said he drank their blood... it would go to reason as his favourite method of "dispatch" was biting through the throat! He also was a cannibal and ate their flesh. Fritz was a sicko, far more than an actual vampire... but none-the-less, he makes the cut as some have tried to say he did this for "power". I'd venture a guess at saying if this was the case, his "power" wasn't too good as he was well and duly executed (beheaded, at his own request, in public) in 1924.
- Modern Vampires -
Aside from the multitudes of television programs and movies ranging from "Dracula meets Abbot and Costello" to "Blackula"... again, what would Vlad III think?... vampires in the last thirty years have really come into their own... This, in the most part, is thanks to Anne Rice who penned some very entertaining novels with Vampires in the lead roles. "The Vampire Chronicles" follow Louis and Lestat, two demi-American (New Orleans French) vampires through their "afterlives", if you will.
The books are entertaining, but to some, became a religion. Rice, herself, admitted she wrote them after a daughter died of a fatal blood disease as a form of therapy, but many contend that they are based on some form of "truth". If you want to see certain "goths" cry, let them know, and this is true, that Ms. Rice is a plump, bespectacled, older lady who prefers to write about bondage and sex than vampires... and is a huge "new country" fan. On Rosie O’Donnell’s now defunct talk show, she admitted that her "Judd’s" CD was almost worn through.
- "Oh my goth! It's a VAMPIRE!" -
Rice's books took a firm hold in many circles, especially in the "gothic subculture" who embraced the asexual/homoerotic figures in the novel as mysterious and vaunted characters... indestructible and living by night... on the fringe of good and evil. The appeal isn't too mysterious, itself. Problem is/was, many had issues separating fact from fancy. Many, indeed, started proclaiming vampire tendencies and possible "powers". This, of course, was absolute and utter codswallop. In fact, as documented in one book, one of these denizens took "power" and genuine glee from "lapping up" the "blood" left over by meat at a butcher shop. One wonders if this girl who told the interviewer this knew that, in essence, she was more likely suckling on Red Dye #8 or #9 and water mixed with God knows what bacteria. Meat, at most butchers, is not "bloody", as it's been processed already.
None-the-less, you're humble author spent thirteen years in and out of the club scene and, in all his travels, only met four people that truly believed in vampires and thought, to a degree, they were vampires or could become one. These people amused me so that my studies began as I found their claims to be ridiculous. In fact, one woman who was honestly too old to be at the clubs once said aloud to an acquaintance, "I'm 367 years old!"... I couldn't resist and chimed in, "And you don't look a DAY over 327!"
Much like many of the zealots of both belief and non-belief, I enjoy a good debate... provided it's based on facts. I proceeded to arm myself... they proceeded to embrace their fantasy...
I pointed out the origins (as above) and how the vampire came to be. Inconvenient facts... Then I asked them about the popular (late-Eastern European/Victorian) line of thought that vampires couldn't stand the site of religious iconography. The answer, "Well, we're not THAT type of vampire!"
As adulthood came in and these folks needed to find meaningful employment, I would ask about having to go out in daylight? Again, "Well, we're not THAT kind of vampire.
Apparently, for some, the definition of a vampire is whatever fits their purposes at the time.
I usually labelled them as "Time-Life Vampires" as they based most of their "eternal knowledge" on the Time-Life books about vampires, Anne Rice, and, on rare occasion, role playing games. (I knew many people involved with the role-playing games, few of them bought into it beyond being a "fantasy", and as a War of 1812 re-enactor myself, I don't pop into my red coat, load my musket, and believe that I'm really one of Wellington's Invincibles, so I do understand their "playing a part”... the only difference is their hobby is admitted fiction and mine is qualified as “living history”.)
Of these original four, (and I do caution people, that was four people out of literally hundreds. Most "goths" do not believe in vampires nor believe they are or have met a "real" vampire. This is a daytime talk-show myth,) most abandoned their vampiric fantasy at around the age of 29. A little late... but it did happen.
Now, this was my personal experience... What's frightening was how in the late 1990's, a couple of "vampire cults" started up... mostly in the United States. A couple of them even got into ritualistic "blood letting/drinking" and one even became "deadly" with a murder. This led to the above mentioned "daytime talk show myth". Me and my friends were often asked, while heading to a bar, concert, or club, "Are you vampires?"
Amusing to some, a headache for us after a while.
Luckily, after the release of the movie version of "Interview with a Vampire", the craze died down and although there is a tiny fringe that still believe in blood-letting/vampiric fetishes, it's not quite so "cool" and sub-mainstream anymore. One has to assume, there will always be those that will "believe" yet not know the true origins and not realise that their fantasy is based in folklore... and their fantasy is nothing like the true origins.
- Buffy to the Rescue! -
One has to give "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" it's due... I mean, at least in "Buffy", vampires are, when in vampire mode, demons bent on killing and not sweet-talking Victorians more interested in prose and philosophy than having a drink. None-the-less, the vampires (or demons) in Buffy are based very loosely on the above and have little to no origin in fact. "Buffy", in many ways, has done a disservice to "vampire" aficionados as well as Wiccan by it's portrayal of these two items, one fanciful, the other a legitimate religion, by offering the "sheeple" (a term we first heard by Message Board Irregular, Stu, used to describe "the masses") a very twisted view of fiction with just enough "fact" to sway the unwary into mistaken belief that the stuff is "all true". Too many times during the true reign of the television program did I see young people proclaiming to be "Wiccan" discussing spells and "the craft" as well as "magik" (Author's Note: Whenever I see someone spelling "magic" as "magick" or "magik", I know I'm dealing with someone who's education started with some form of popular media... or "Time-Life", again...) and, on occasion, saying they had "powers" or were in some sort of control of these super-abilities... without realising they were really mocking and belittling a reasonably well known and fairly well grounded religion... not as ancient as some assume, but none-the-less, a well grounded faith.
Then there's the vampires... After reading the above, does anyone truly believe that "Angel" is a vampire or even closely based on vampiric traditions? Most of the vampires that "Buffy" faces are characters based loosely on folklore and heavily on the Victorian characterization.
The one thing to remember is the best way to make an urban legend or myth take hold with the "sheeple" as fact is wrap just enough truth in it to make is seem likely... Sometimes, "Buffy" did this a little too well.
Like "Star Trek", some people have to realise that "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is an entertaining and engaging television program... not a documentary and not a way of life.