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Vampire n: A reanimated corpse that is believed to rise from the grave at night to suck the blood of sleeping people.

Vampire in Slavic legend is a blood-sucking ghost. The Vampire's corpse was believed to renew itself by arising from the grave at night to prey upon sleeping persons. Sometimes it took the form of a bat. It sucked the blood so gently that the victim might waste away and die without being aware of the vampire's act. Sometimes the victim became a vampire. The vampire's work could be halted only if its coffin were opened and a stake driven through the corpse's heart. Vampires were supposed to be the ghosts of suicides, witches, wizards, and those cursed by the church.

So, what are vampires? Loathsome creatures of the night? Immortal blood drinkers who stalk their victims? Well, is this a vampire? In a sense, yes - but this kind of blood sucker exists only in books and movies, otherwise it’s just a creature of our imaginations. But does a vampire truly exist? Bram Stoker created his vampire villain from the history of Vlad Dracula (Dracula meaning, The Son of the Dragon), and over the years the character of Dracula evolved into what is known today as the "Hollywood Vampire". This monster is eternally beautiful, charming, rich and flies in the night as a bat. It also drinks the blood of the living and is repelled by garlic and holy symbols.

The legend of the vampire originated in Transylvania which is now a province in Romania. These vampires, which were actually bloated corpses of the dead, were thought to roam around the villages to drink the blood of man. Now lets think about this. Why blood? When the townspeople would dig up the suspected vampires they’d find large amounts of blood in the mouth, eyes and nose. The corpse would moan as the gases pushed their way out from every hole of the corpse, thus the culprit was found and killed again. It was most likely beheaded, staked or burned.

Blood among vampires has also revolved around kings and queens and powerful figures in history. They expressed their power, courage and strength through the drinking of human blood. It also served another purpose... to spread fear. Erzsébet Báthory, (The Blood Countess), was born in Transylvania in 1560 and later married the Slovak Count Ferenc Nadasdy. She murdered several young women for their blood and would drink and bathe in it as much as possible, believing young blood would make her immortal and keep her precious beauty. In one account, a girl accused Báthory of biting her. That method of attack, along with the bathing in blood sparked interest in the countess and has engulfed her in the vampire legends. In the end she was thought to have killed at least 650 people and was convicted for her crimes in 1611. Erzsébet was sentenced for life in a windowless room where she died three years later.

Gilles de Rais, who fought along with Joan of Arc against the English, became a great soldier and quite wealthy. Soon Gilles was arrested and tried for the murder of several young boys. He later admitted to torturing the boys and drinking their blood. In 1440 he was executed and his remains were burned.

Ancient Mayan kings had also practiced human sacrifice and the drinking of blood to express the passing down of power from God to king. The kings had also drank their own blood during private ceremonies to welcome a good season for crops and to gain power for battle. One way to extract their blood would be to pierce their foreskin and collect their blood into a bowl.

To this day, there are cultures around the world which, after killing an animal as a sacrifice, the elders drink the blood of the animal as a sign of faith. This is different to vampires I know, but I thought you may find it interesting.