Of all the classical monsters, vampires have to be the most popular. Unfortunately, popularity does tend to have its bad sides. Remember how everybody gossiped about that hot cheerleader back in high school? Gossip happens to take a life of its own, and pretty soon everyone was convinced Britney was anorexic, even though she wasn’t. In that regard, vampires surprisingly have a lot in common with cheerleaders. The bloodsuckers have become so ingrained in popular culture that we accept rumors about them as true, no matter how far off they may be from the real legend.
You can blame the movies for a lot of misconceptions about vampires. All you have to do is take a look at the Twilight series to know that Hollywood doesn’t really care much about getting the details right when it comes to the history and mythology of vampires. Some “creative liberties”, however, don’t sparkle in the sunshine like the other obvious errors. Here are some of lies about vampires you didn’t know filmmakers told you:
Vampires Sleep in Coffins — You’ve seen it happen in countless films — the daring vampire slayer enters a dark, musty mausoleum, hoping to catch the vampire unaware. He lifts the coffin, gazes at the sleeping monster, and drives a wooden stake through his heart. Then everyone cheerfully dances.
Interestingly enough, the dancing portion isn’t the only thing that’s wrong with the picture. Vampires, as creepy as they are, don’t usually sleep in coffins. Some of them might not even sleep at all. Those that do sleep, though, grab some shut-eye wherever they feel safest. This could mean anywhere from a rusty storage box buried under seven feet of dirt, to the extremely comfortable king-sized beds at their summer home in the Hamptons. In fact, some Asian vampires have been reported to be sleeping in trees!
Vampires are Beautiful, Sexy Beasts — Brad Pitt. Tom Cruise. Kate Beckinsale. Robert Pattinson. Salma Hayek. Gerard Butler. The list goes on. Many vampires depicted in modern films are played by some of the most attractive people on the planet.
Much to the chagrin of swooning members of Team Edward, vampires traditionally don’t look like they could moonlight as professional models. Before Anne Rice upped the bloodsuckers’ sex appeal and matching libidos in her Vampire Chronicles, vampires were generally known as horrifying creatures. Appearances ranged from grotesque images of people (as in Nosferatu), to things that hardly resembled anything human at all. Some of the older mythologies even describe newly-risen vampires as bloated sacs of blood. Come to think of it, maybe the new looks were a good choice after all.
Vampires are Always Pale and Colorless — Only a few vampires have hair as black as ebony, lips as crimson as blood, and skin as white as snow (where have we heard that before?). Those that do look like they need a tan, though, tend to get some color back once they feed. Some of them look positively flushed following a good meal. After all, all that blood has to go somewhere, right?
Crosses Ward Vampires Off — In From Dusk ‘til Dawn, one of the heroes has the brilliant idea of forming two shotguns into a cross in order to survive a vampire siege. The logic was simple — ward them away with the cross, then blast their heads off with the shotguns. If he was ever caught in a fight with real vampires, the shotgun part of that plan would probably help a lot. The cross part? Not so much.
The idea that crosses ward vampires off is an idea from the Catholic Church. Back in the Dark Ages, any sort of monster, demon, or spirit that wasn’t on the side of God was considered unholy. The only way to keep them from eating your soul, then, was to combat them with holy objects. Vampires, even if they weren’t the infernal denizens of Hell that the Church made them out to be, eventually got lumped together with the rest of riffraff. In actuality, however, the most you’d get out of fending a vampire off with a cross is laughed at for believing that old wives’ tale.
Holy Water is One of the Best Weapons Against Vampires — You can thank the Catholic Church for this one, too. Holy water has no special properties over regular water when used against vampires. In fact, you’re better off lobbing a water balloon at the bloodsucker than trying to get him by sprinkling with that water you had blessed at the Vatican itself.
This isn’t to say that the holy water won’t have an effect. Some vampires actually are quite vulnerable to water, as it causes their skin to break and burn. A few splashes will send the creature of the night into hot, steaming agony. More than that, and you’ll probably send it permanently back into the grave. Of course, you can probably get the same effect by drowning the vampire, vulnerable to water or otherwise. The bottom line is, you don’t need it to be holy water.
Vampires Can’t Be Seen in Mirrors — It’s a familiar scene — Jonathan Harker brings out his mirror, only to have Count Dracula react with disgust, ordering that the Englishman put it away. The Count’s reason for this was that Harker might have noticed Dracula’s lack of a reflection in the mirror exposing the awful truth that his client was in fact a vampire.
While vampires do possess some amazing powers, breaking the laws of physics isn’t really one of them. We see the things we do because light reflects off of them, and we see our reflections because the light bounces off of the mirrors. If we can see vampires, then, it means that light is somehow bouncing off of them. That means that when placed in front of a mirror, our bloodthirsty buddies will indeed have reflections.
So why is it that vampires despise mirrors? The answer for many is simple — vanity. They just don’t like looking at what they’ve become, and avoid seeing their own twisted reflections.
Vlad the Impaler was Bram Stoker’s Inspiration for Dracula — Vlad III, known to many as Vlad Tepes or Vlad the Impaler, was a Wallachian prince known for his extreme methods of torture and execution. He got his namesake for his fondness for impaling his enemies and prisons atop tall stakes. Great care was taken to make sure that the victims wouldn’t die immediately, but would lose their lives as the blood slowly trickled out of their bodies. The prince was reported to have watched the impalements with glee. Vlad was often called “Dracula”, which meant “Son of the Dragon”. This was because his father, Vlad Dracul, was a member of the esteemed Order of the Dragon.
The bloodshed and the name certainly make for a convenient backdrop to Bram Stoker’s Dracula; even the 1992 film starring Gary Oldman introduced the character as the historical Vlad Tepes. However, research has shown that all that the Vlad the Impaler’s only contribution to the book was his name. Stoker had already finished the book before he even learned about Dracula, originally calling his vampire Count Wampyr. He eventually became so enchanted with Dracula’s name that he decided to use it for the book’s main antagonist. The name is the only thing that the historical and literary Dracula have in common, as even their ethnicities differ (Vlad was a Vlach, Count Dracula was a Szekely).
Garlic Keeps Vampires Away — We’ve seen it in tons of films — vampires can’t stand garlic. Its mere presence keeps them away like mosquito repellent does to the smaller bloodsuckers. Of course, if this were true, the best way to escape a vampire would be to run to the nearest Italian restaurant.
Vampires aren’t afraid of garlic. In fact, there’s actually nothing about the stuff that can seriously hurt a vampire, except maybe to give him a case of stink breath. It just so happens that newly-turned vampires aren’t quite used to their extremely-enhanced senses yet, and so powerful odors can be just as powerfully overwhelming. Young vampires avoid garlic because they just can’t stand the smell of it, not because it’s a threat to their lives. Older vampires, however, will think that the garlic will a delightful accent to the taste of your warm blood.
Vampires can Fly — A lot of people don’t know that, in his original incarnation, Superman couldn’t fly. The most he could do was jump really high, thus the “leap over tall buildings in a single bound”. Vampires are pretty much the same, minus the “tall buildings” part. Thanks to their enhanced strength, vampires can jump inhuman distances, making it almost as good as flying.
Of course, it can be argued that some vampires can fly on a technicality, the technicality being the ability to transform into bats that can fly. Still, not all vampires possess this ability, and so the majority remains flightless.
Vampires Must be Killed by Wooden Stakes through the Heart — According to what we’ve seen on film, one of the surest ways to slay vampires is to drive wooden stakes through their hearts. A quick stab with these giant toothpicks is more than enough to ensure that no one’s going to be gnawing at your neck for a while.
If you did try this against an actual vampire, though, you’d be surprised to see him still standing in front of you, fangs bared and ready to attack. Traditional vampires had to be dealt with in more brutal manners — ripping them into pieces and burning them to ashes were the most popular methods. Of course, this was a lot easier said than done, so vampire-wary folks in the olden times preferred to prevent vampire attacks rather than confront them.
This could be done by trapping the dead body underground, which was done through placing dolmens (large, heavy stones) over graves; or by occupying the vampire’s time, which was done by throwing seeds out the window (vampires couldn’t resist counting them) and burying the bodies with a lot of impossibly-tight knots (vampires just had to untie them). Who knew vampires could be so obsessive-compulsive?
Hopefully we’ve whetted your appetite with these vampire facts, but if you’re still thirsty for some blood-sucking fun you might want to check out some high-end vampire costumes to help you get into character.