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The History of Vampirism

Writer: Bob Larson |

The real story of Dracula upon which Hollywood's celluloid successors of vampirism are based, has nothing to do with the 1931 Bela Lugosi "Dracula" film or the 1897 Bram Stoker Gothic novel. The real Dracula, Vlad Dracula, was a 15th Romanian monarch, a hero to his country. Dracula's father got his title membership in the crusading "order of the Dragon." (He really did live in a Transylvania castle for which he taxed local merchants.) It wasn't until 1972 that Romanians finally connected the Hollywood Dracula to the historic Vlad.

His reign of savagery against the invading Ottoman Turks led to his assuming the name of Vlad Tepes or Vlad the Impaler. He was said to have impaled military challengers on upright wooden stakes, creating what was called the "forest of the impales." This barbarianism was done to intimidate his foes, and it worked. When the Turks marched into Dracula's province of Wallachian in the summer of 1462, they were horrified to see 20,000 of their fellow soldiers rotting on stakes, which formed a two- mile long wall of corpses. They immediately retreated.

In addition to intimidating his opponents, Vlad extended his butchery to support his own brand of family values. Promiscuous women were skinned alive. Hats were nailed to the heads of visiting dignitaries who failed to show respect by taking off their hats.

In spite of this checkered history, present-day Romanians see Vlad Dracula and his son as positive figures because they ruled during a prosperous period and rid the region of thieves. Furthermore their repelling the Turks saved Christian Europe from encroachment of Islam. Today, tracing Dracula's footsteps is one of Romania's most popular tourist attractions.

Whatever the historical accuracy of vampire legends, the fact is that the media has reinvented the Dracula epic and infused it with hedonism and savagery. As a film producer quoted in USA TODAY put it,

"Some observers believe today's growing sexual paranoia and widespread safe sex concern have unearthed Dracula's popularity once again, Vampires are at the core of our deepest fears about sex and death."

Why have vampire stories persisted and gained in popularity? Perhaps the "asexuality" of vampirism blends well with today's gender confused society.

Definition of 'Asexual'

Having no sexual organs, or engaging in no sexual activity.

Reference: The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

■ Having no evident sex or sex organs; sexless.
■ Relating to, produced by, or involving reproduction that occurs without the union of male and female gametes, as in binary fission or budding.
■ Lacking interest in or desire for sex.

Reference: The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary 2002,

1. Biology
(a) having no sex or sexual organs, (b) independent of sexual processes, especially not involving the union of male and female germ cells.
2. free from or unaffected by sexuality: an asexual friendship.

Reference: Unabridged. Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.

After all, the real tension in the movie "interview with the Vampire," was the homosexual interaction between Louis and Lestat. One English professor suggested, "The vampire allows us to talk about things that are difficult to deal with directly. The vampire has always had sexual overtones — the sharing of blood, the biting of the neck."

Ironically, vampire love states that these creatures of the night never have sexual intercourse. Their real pleasure comes from the kill — male or female, young or old. Hollywood has created a compromise where sex is twisted to the point it is not only accomplished without genitalia, but also without guilt, and without love.

Understanding the contemporary interest in vampires may be no more mysterious than the obvious supernatural nature of their character. In their defiance of death and religious dogma, vampires are a way of grasping at the unknown. Vampires aren't bound by time and space limitation. They appear and disappear they will emerge from the mist to provoke our deepest fears and suspicions. Vampires, if understood in this way, are indeed that most mysterious of all the aliens among us.

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