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Vampire Q & A

Hey, you all kept asking me questions, so I'm posting the most common ones with my answers. If you have a question, e-mail it to me.

Q. Have you read Laurell K. Hamilton's books? You don't mention her on your site.

A. Of course I know Laurell! She's my hero... er... heroine. I'm horribly behind on my book reviews or I would already have my reviews of all of her books up. Something else I need to work on. Did you know that her 9th book is now out in hardback? I believe it is called Obsidian Butterfly. I'm cheap, so I'm waiting to get it paperback. I read some other reviews for it online and they were mixed. The main problem with it, it seems, is that Richard and Jean-Claude get pushed to the background (as they did in Bloody Bones) and it centers solely on Anita and Edward. I think Edward kicks ass, so I'll probably enjoy it, though I didn't like Bloody Bones as much as the others. But alas for poor Jean-Claude, whom we haven't seen since before Blue Moon. Being a vampire fan, of course he's my favorite intriguing character.

Q. Do you know where I can find some vampire pictures and/ or gothic music?

A. I don't know much about vampire pictures and gothic art, but I would guess the best place to look would be on a web ring or gothic search engine. You should look at www.horrorfind.com; I know they have a section on gothic art, and have sites within their vampire listings that have vampire art and pictures. If you also go to my "End" page you will find three or four vampire and gothic web rings that I belong to that you can search for vampire art. As for gothic music, I know nothing about it. Strangely enough, to be the queen of general vampire knowledge, I am not a gothic person. My hair's it's natural blonde color, I am wearing a yellow shirt as we speak and I listen to 80's music while I make my web page, or, at most, techno off of my Blade CD (which is a really good CD, if you liked the music on the movie).

Q. Do you know any vampires (or are you one)? Where can I find them?

A. As for you finding "living" vampires, I myself am not a vampire, nor do I drink blood. Not in this lifetime, at any rate. If you've been looking through websites, certainly you have found numerous sites for people who claim that they are. Claiming you are a vampire and being one are two different things. Personally, I think they existed, but I am not too sure that they still do. Certainly I haven't met or talked to anyone that has convinced me they are one. Drinking blood doesn't make you a vampire; it makes you a person with a blood fetish. As the original meaning of a "vampire" was an animated corpse, it's hard to be one and still be alive. Being a vampire has now become something that is equated with a religious experience.

Other than web sites, another good place for finding "vampires" are chat rooms. I have talked to a couple of people in an AOL chatroom about their vampiric tendencies (I don't have their names, so I can't tell you who they were). If you prefer to meet people in person and see them "in action," then I suggest you go to gothic clubs or specifically vampire clubs. I haven't been to any myself, but I do know they exist in big cities like New York, Miami, and throughout California. There is a "Dracula's Ball," that I have also heard, that is a convention for vampires and vampire lovers. I'm not sure if it has been held yet this year or not, but I heard from a friend that it was being held in Philadelphia.

I would guess that for every one person you find that wears black, drives a hearse, lives in a ramshackle old house and sleeps in a coffin, you will find hundreds of others who are just regular people with a historical or literary interest in vampires, or people who act out a blood fetish as part of their sexual nature. Too many people want to sensationalize vampiric people and it gives legitimate scholars a bad image. People look at me as if I was a devil worshipper or a strange cultist just because I say that I study vampires. I like to study vampires because I happen to like medieval and ancient history, where they are very prevalent, and I like the freedom and sexual overtones that can be played up when I write about them in my fiction. If I wanted the general public to go away with anything , it would be that this isn't some sort of bad thing, it's not necessarily related to cults and never (as far as I have ever seen) related to devil worshipping. I myself was raised Christian and still consider myself such and the two things have never run into conflict.

Q. What do you know about the ancient vampire?

A. The ones from Rome, the Mayans and Aztecs, and those in India are all the oldest forms of vampires. For the most part "vampires" in the ancient cultures were what I call demi-gods. In Greek mythology, deities such as Pan, the nymphs, and the Titans are all examples of demi-gods, or lesser gods. They don't hold the full power of the gods and are much lower on the chain of command. Most all of your blood-drinking entities were these sorts of lesser gods because they were viewed as a type of demon or wicked/ fearsome god. There are two exceptions of this that I have found; one being the Indian goddess Kali (who is still worshipped today), and the other being Camazotz of the Mayans. Both of these beings were (are) full-fledged gods in that they are fully worshipped and are included in the high ranking pantheon.

Rome only had one instance of a vampire, that I have found, but it seems like there are several different vampire-like entities in Greece. Most of them, like the lamia, are blood drinking spirits, and not animated corpses, which is the truest sense of the word "vampire." They did, however, have a vampire that was born from a dead body, and it was called a vrykolaka. Past that, there are few other instances, that I have found, of vampires in ancient cultures.

I'm going to be looking more into this specific time period for my own research paper this fall. As for now, I suggest that anyone trying to research or write a paper on the ancient vampire-- unless you have a lot of time and energy to spend on it-- broaden their topic. You might want to go into non-European vampires, which are very interesting because they are pretty varied from country to country, whereas European vampires were all interchanged and are almost constant from country to country. On my Step 3, I have listings of vampires in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. That would direct to less to the ancient vampires and more of the rural ones. Or, you could go right into the vampires of the middle ages. There's heaps of information on those kinds of vampires. Step 2 is nothing but the makings and killings and preventings of vampires during the middle ages in Europe. One thing that interests me is how they believed that vampires spread the plague. This old superstition is evident in the movie "Nosferatu," where Orelock (or Count Dracula) brings with him thousands of rats which infect the whole city with plague and death. Sorry I can't tell you more about the ancient vampire, but there just aren't that many cases of them and I haven't done any serious digging into them yet.

Q. Can I link your site to mine and/ or use it as a reference?

A. Certainly! That's what it's there for. Anyone using my site as a reference for school work should be sure to include the footnotes that I have listed for my information. Teachers are still pretty picky/ skeptical when it comes to research done on the web, so be sure to add on my footnotes to yours. (Something like "From: The Encyclopedia of the Undead, J. Gordon Melton, etc., as found on the web site, Everything You Need to Know About Vampires, www.angelfire.com/tn/vampires/index.html") If I don't have a footnote listed at all, (such as on Step 1) then that's directly from me and my own interpretations of vampire study, and no one singular book. (Then you would just footnote my site.)

Q. Do you believe vampires exist?

A. Well, I'm not too sure if real vampires still exist. I certainly haven't met one, and, I would think, they're not the kinds of people to be quick to jump on the Sally show and prove themselves. As soon as I hear anyone say they are a vampire, I disbelieve them. If they were really a vampire they wouldn't tell the likes of me unless they knew me very well, and then they wouldn't have to tell me because they could show me. I'm not sure what constitutes a vampire nowadays-- certainly they aren't walking dead bodies-- but they aren't just people who drink blood. That's a person with a blood fetish and a romantic notion living out fictional fantasies. All I know is that I would know a vampire if I was friends with one.

I do believe, however, that vampires once existed. I think that vampires were just a different species of human... an evolutionary track. That's why I'm not too sure if there still are some out in hiding. In many ways I wish I was a vampire, but in many ways being immortal is a great burden; it would be very hard to outlive family and friends. I'm preparing to write an essay on this crux of immortality and I hope to have it up by May. But, by the time you and I are getting to be middle aged it won't matter any because they will be able to sustain the human body for 150-200 years, or more. We will all be vampires, feeing off our own science to keep ourselves alive past our normal life-spans. Gene manipulation will be our elixir of life.

Q. Why are vampires always so good looking and sexy?

A. Vampires have a history of being glamourous. Originally, only female vampires were especially beautiful. Lamias and other such spirit-like vampires were always ugly in their true form, but had the ability to shift their appearance to that of a beautiful maiden, in order to lure men to them. Possibly the earliest record of this is of the Lilith figure (that the Hebrews borrowed from an even earlier culture- I think the Sumerians). Although I haven't found any reference to Lilith herself being especially beautiful, her demoness were (or must have been) because it was they who visited wet dreams upon young men. It seems that men liked to use beautiful women as an excuse for anything they might have done.

Men weren't mentioned as being handsome in the early vampire texts. However, they had the sexual appetite that any incubus had. Men were especially notorious for rising from the grave and heading back to their wives and killing them from exhaustion. So even before the Victorian Age, were vampire fiction comes into being, you have the setting for beautiful, sexual vampires.

With the coming of the Victorian age, both the male and female vampire became beautiful and both exhibited a sexual appetite (though this was subtle due to the confines of the society on such a topic), though both vampire and vampiress retained the beauty as only a facade. In anger or distress the vampire still revealed its ugly, more corpse-like side.

Today our vampires still retain those traits, played up even more. As Hollywood is big on having beautiful people in their movies, so too has the vampire gotten even more rich, powerful, glamourous and sexy. But still the vampire can show that evil, ugly side. The vampire, while always a nuisance and a evil to society, has grown even more callous in his vanity, perhaps to show the evil associated with pride and absolute power.

I hope that's a sufficient answer to the question of beauty among vampires. What started out as a good excuse for me to be sexually active, or a reason for them to be so sexually minded all the time, has turned into equality for the sexes in that both male and female vampire have a sexual appetite. Now it is a given that sex is part of the vampire package. It is so linked with them, that it's almost a second way of feeding. A vampire without sex is like a meal that consists only of the drink.

Q. Is there any one point in vampire history that is notable?

A. The vampire (or it's earliest demon ancestor) has been apparent in human history since history was recorded. And this creature has been all over the world-- from Japan to India, Africa to Scotland, the Mayans and Aztecs of Mexico and even to the Puritans in early America. However, medieval Europe exhibited the largest showing of vampire outbreaks than anywhere else in the world (roughly from the 1100's-1700's). If you want a more narrow time frame, vampire hysteria was often centered around all the major outbreaks of plague on the continent. Pick any major epidemic and you're assured to find people in villages in a panic over vampires.

Q. When did the myths, stories, and general fear of vampires begin?

A. That's a difficult question because the myth of vampires is so old that it proceeds written history. That, and it's hard to draw the line from where demons, gods and spirits end and animated corpses with supernatural powers-- vampires-- begin. Certainly man has had religion since he has had thought. And inherent in that is that for every good being there is a malicious one. So vampires were born in those beliefs of evil, malevolent spirits. As man progressed in his intelligence, blood began to play an important factor, since it was the life of a person. And when evil is afoot, it can be concluded that the evil would want that blood. Somewhere in there began a demon or demi-god or spirit that began to drink and steal that blood.

My hypothesis is that the coming of Christianity into pagan areas is what drove the vampire demi-gods into a real form-- that of a dead corpse. When Christianity pushed into an area and converted the locals, suddenly the gods of their ancestors were no more. But as I said before, evil must be where there is good. And priests were only too happy to play up the peasants fears, by telling them about demons and the devil. Suddenly those pagan gods of evil were out to get God-fearing people. Their beliefs were intensifed when the church was only too glad to have them use religious holidays and religious artifacts-- such as crucifix and communion wafers-- in battle against the evil. Somewhere along the way those demons began to take tangible form in dead human bodies (as the demons in the Bible sometimes took form in pigs).

Q. Are all vampires evil or can they have feelings and a free will?

A. As of yet, I have not seen a historical (or folkloric) vampire do anything but evil. Many vampires attacked their families first before anyone, but less out of revenge, it seems, and more because the body recognized them and went to them first, though the demon part lead the body to do evil against people they would normally not harm. (This is evident in that loving husbands turned into vampires would seek out their wives, yet exhaust them to death in bed.)

Literary vampires, on the other hand, are a different breed. Though many are callous with no regard for human life, many others live symbiotically with mortals, if not are kind to them. In the book that I am writing I have a mixture of both, though more good, or of lesser degrees of bad, than those who are very evil.

Q. Do vampire stories and the view of vampires differ in each country?

A. Yes. You should read Step 3 on my web page. I have written there many different kinds of vampires in all kinds of countries. In Europe especially you may find 3 different vampires in a country and 4 or 5 additional names that can be used interchangeably. This happened because villages or provinces often had different vampire beliefs than the neighboring area. Thus 1 country in Europe can have more different kinds of vampires than the whole continent of Africa.

Q. Does the physical appearance of a vampire change from the time of death to when the person becomes a vampire?

A. Again, there is a separation between vampires in history and vampires in literature. In folklore, there is not much difference between death and rising from the grave because the risen vampire looks (and often smells) like a corpse. The differences between when the person was alive and the time when they became a vampire are the differences that any body would undergo in death: either great pallor or a ruddiness of face (the redness, in vampires, was attributed to their blood drinking, but this red color is a very natural sign of decay in a body), bloating (again thought to be from blood, but really it too is a process of death), flexible limbs, and longer nails and hair (again, same as before).

In the literary vampire, the death-like appearance has generally been lost. Vampires now usually have very pale skin, and elongated canines, but are very beautiful, ever much more so than in life. They also gain added strength. Other attributes that the vampire gains is left up to the author. For instance, my vampires not only grow fangs and become pale, but their eye color changes-- either intensifying it's natural color or turning another one all together.

Q. I was wondering if vampirism is curse that can be put on by jealous ex-lovers, enemies, etc., and, if so, could it be reversed?

A. Folkloric vampirism is not a curse, but damnation. People who sin are the ones cursed to be vampires. The victims of vampires can also become vampires, as if the taint were transferable. Step 2 lists many types of people slated to rise from the dead as vampires, including witches, excommunicated (people thrown out of the church), suicides and murderers. Some things, like a nun stepping over a body, cause people to rise from the grave. This superstition seems a little far fetched-- how does a nun stepping over a body damn it?-- but I do not know where it comes from. Only a "curse" from the church-- excommunication, no last rites, no baptism-- could "cause" a vampire. If a person were to curse another person, a restless afterlife might be a possible option, though it is far more likely a witch would trap the soul on earth-- making the person a ghost-- or enslave the reanimated body-- a zombie-- than make the person a vampire, who was generally uncontrollable and caused more harm to the local people than he did to himself. As of yet, I have heard of no one becoming a vampire because some individual put a curse on them. However, with literary vampires, anything is possible.

As for reversing vampirism, there is no hope for the person who is already a vampire. Precautions can be taken in life, but once someone rise as a vampire, they're stuck as one until someone takes care of the problem. The specifics of this are covered on Step 2, and include staking, decapitation, and cremation. As for those who have been bitten by a vampire, they can avoid rising from the grave as a vampire by any number of ways (also on Step 2), including, but not limited to: drinking the blood of a slain vampire (or making the blood into bread or gruel to be eaten), eating of the earth of the vampire's grave, or being blessed by a priest.

Q. I was wondering, has anyone studied why people become vampires?

A. This question requires a lengthy explanation. Unfortunately, it's a bit beyond my expertise, as of yet. To know why some people were slated to rise as vampires is to know why people believed dead bodies could rise in the first place. Man has always feared death and the dead in some way or another. Indian tribes in South America put their dead in caves and rock shelves on high, inaccessible rock faces, well away from their village. Some peoples in Africa buried their dead family under their hut floors, but were very careful not to spill blood in the houses or near them, for fear that the dead would want to feed on it. Throughout Asia people have engaged in ancestor worship, which was originally done so that the ancestors would stay happy with the family and not send sickness or grief upon them. So across the world there has been a fear of the dead coming back, in one form or another, to hurt the surviving family members. So to the question of why people were believed to become vampires, one must study why people feared the dead in the first place.

I plan on investigating the history of vampires in pre-Christian Europe (0 C.E.) up through the middle ages (1700's) this fall, when I do my history thesis. So whenever I find a better answer for that, I'll be sure to post it.

Q. Why are vampires staked through the heart? If they are dead, aren't the organs as well?

A. A very good question. And though I have seen no specific answer for it, I can offer my own interpretation. The historical vampire is believed to be either 1, a dead body possessed by a demon, or 2, a soul still trapped in a body-- either through its own volition, or through a curse, such as excommunication. The reason why the vampire is staked through the heart probably lies with the very ancient notion that the heart is the seat of the soul. Dating back to the ancient Egyptians (or before), the heart was held with reverence because that is where the soul was believed to reside in the body, as well as the emotions and intellegence (that's why Egpytians preserved the heart during mumification, but not the brain-- they didn't know the brain was the organ of intelligence). So removing the heart or staking it frees the soul that is trapped inside the organ. I can only assume that they stake the heart more often than cut it out and burn it because it is less messy that way. In the case of cursed people, it seems that only a priest could relieve their soul trapped in the body, though for others who were vampires, staking worked... most of the time. Cremation of the body was the only sure-fire way to stop a vampire, though this was often a last resort, probably due to religious reasons and respect for the dead (Early Christians especially thought that the body had to be whole in order to rise on Judgement Day, and cremation destroyed the body, keeping that person forever lifeless, whereas a body saved from vampirisim through a simple heart staking could rise to be judged.)