Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Entertaining Gravestone Epitaphs

Everyone has been to a graveyard at least once in their life. If you happened to walk around and look at a few of the gravestones you probably noticed that most had just the names and dates of the dearly departed. Every once in a while however, you may find one that is actually kind of funny, or one that is kind of spooky. In honor of the holiday season, I compiled a few spooky, but mostly funny gravestone epitaphs. Enjoy!

Effie Jean Robinson
Come blooming youths, as you pass by,
And on these lines do cast an eye.
As you are now, so once was I;
As I am now, so must you be;
Prepare for death and follow me.

Here lays Butch.
We planted him raw.
He was quick on the trigger
But slow on the draw.

Here lies the body of Arkansas Jim.
We made the mistake, But the joke's on him.

In memory of Anna Hopewell
Here lies the body of our Anna
Done to death by a banana
It wasn't the fruit that laid her low
But the skin of the thing that made her go.

Sir John Strange.
Here lies an honest lawyer.
And that is Strange.
Jedediah Goodwin
Born 1828

Here lies
Johnny Yeast.
Pardon me
For not rising.

Here lies the body
of John Round.
Lost at sea
and never found.

Here lies Ann Mann,
Who lived an old maid
But died an old Mann.
December 8, 1767

Anna Wallace
The children of Israel wanted bread
And the Lord sent them manna;
Old clerk Wallace wanted a wife,
And the devil sent him Anna.

Here lies
Ezekiel Aikle
Age 102
The Good
Die Young.

Here lies Pa.
Pa liked wimin.
Ma caught Pa in with two swimmin.
Here lies Pa.

(On a Hypochondriac’s grave)
See. I told you
I was SICK!

Blown upward
out of sight:
He sought the leak
by candlelight

And now for some famous ones:

Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare,
To digg the dust encloased heare!
Blest be the man that spares thes stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones.
-William Shakespeare

"That's All Folks!"
-Mel Blanc

At Rest
An American Soldier
And Defender of the Constitution
-Jefferson Davis

“So we beat on, boats against the current,
borne back ceaselessly
into the past”
-Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald

Here was buried Thomas Jefferson,
author of the Declaration of American Independence,
of the statute of Virginia for religious freedom,
and father of the University of Virginia.
-Thomas Jefferson (notice he left the part about him being president out?)

"He could have given us a few more laughs, but noooooo."
-John Belushi

"Gee, he was here a moment ago."
-George Carlin (written by himself)

"There goes the neighborhood."
-Rodney Dangerfield (written by himself)

Now he belongs to the ages.
-Abraham Lincoln (by Edwin Stanton)

-Kurt Vonnegut (written by himself)

Ironic Consequences of Being Superstitious

"When the Black Plague devastated Europe in the 14th century, many people assumed it was caused by witchcraft. And cats, with their glowing eyes and night-prowling habits, were thought to be tools of witches. Thousands of cats (and a lot of women thought to be witches) were slaughtered. Scientists later determined that the plague was transmitted by fleas that lived on rats. Had all those cats not been slaughtered, they might have been alive to kill all those rats, which could have vastly reduced the death toll of approximately 30 million."

"Historical Blunders." Uncle John's Triumphant 20th Anniversary Bathroom Reader. Pg. 481. 2007.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Ah yes. The other side of the Twilight movies. In my opinion, werewolves aren't as popular as vampires. Sure, people go crazy for Taylor Lautner and everything, but werewolves haven't really hit a new growth in popularity like vampires. The name werewolf comes from Germany, literally meaning wolf man. Werewolves have many different names, most often referred to as Lycans or Lycanthropes. Lycanthropy is basically the ability to transform into a wolf. Lycanthropy is also a clinical disorder found in a rare amount of humans where they believe that they are in fact wolves or other beasts.

OK, so basically what most everyone knows about werewolves is that if you are bitten by one, you become a werewolf. That, or you were cursed by a gypsy or something. If you are a werewolf you will turn every full moon and kill a bunch of people and then turn back to normal. If you are a werewolf, you are also screwed, as you will most likely get shot with a silver bullet. How can you tell if someone is a werewolf in their human form? Well, most people in Europe will tell you that the person has a unibrow, curved fingernails, low set ears, and a swinging stride. If you get really close and cut the person, hair should sprout from the wound. They also might freak out every time they hear a full moon will be happening. Don't worry, they aren't avoiding you because they don't like you, it's because they don't want to tear your throat out when the moon comes out.

In werewolf forms, it is said that you can tell the difference between werewolves and regular wolves by the fact that they don't have a tail. Werewolves are also said to retain human eyes and voice. When a werewolf turns back, it is often weak or in a heavy state of depression. There are varying accounts on whether werewolves know what they did while they were in their wolf form. If they did remember, it would cause them to go into a manic-depressive state, agonizing over what things they did. Werewolves are also much much stronger than a man or a wolf, which would only be obvious if they hit you.

How does one become a werewolf, though? Well, there are apparently more than Hollywood has led us to believe. One method is putting on a belt made of wolf skin. This is a substitute for wearing a whole wolf skin, as putting the whole thing on has been described too. This form of werewolf is a hexenwolf. Another way is to rub the body with magic salve or drink water out of a werewolf's footprint. In Italy, France, and Germany, it was widely believed that if one slept outside on a certain Wednesday or Friday and had the full moon shining right on their face, they would turn into a werewolf. Those who threw their lot in with Satan or were excommunicated by the Catholic Church were also said to have been punished with lycanthropy by a divine power. There are cases in which people claimed that they became werewolves for the sole purpose of carrying out God's will and destroying evil. An 80 year-old man named Thiess from Jurgenbeg, Livonia in 1692 testified under oath that he and other werewolves were the Hounds of God. He claimed that the Hounds of God went into Hell and did battle with witches and demons in order to keep Satan and his minions from taking the grain from the earthly farms and bringing them down to Hell. He also declared that when werewolves died, they were openly welcomed into heaven for their efforts. Thiess was ultimately sentenced to ten lashes for Idolatry and superstitious belief. The Hounds of God are further explored in the book, The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. For the most part, the legends tell of people becoming werewolves on purpose. Those who did had surely made a pact with the devil so they could go out at night and kill. If a person was not a werewolf by choice it was because they had been born under a new moon or with epilepsy. For some reason epilepsy was considered a form of lycanthropy. I'm sure that didn't end well. The notion that werewolves had to bite you to turn you into a werewolf are not found in any of the old legends, but are a product of 20th century Hollywood.

In the old European legends, the only guard against werewolf attacks was rye and mistletoe, with some countries legends detailing mountain ash and wolfsbane to also be an effective ward. The notion that silver defeats a werewolf and nothing else is another case of modern depictions of werewolves. Legends on how to cure a person of lycanthropy border on the cruel to just plain stupid. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that a person could be cured by exhaustion. They would force the person to work for a very long time in hopes that they would be cured of the malady. This thought stemmed from the belief that werewolves were often weak and debilitated after a night of murder and mayhem. In medieval Europe, there were three ways to cure a person of lycanthropy: medically (usually by applying wolfsbane), surgically, or by exorcism. Almost all of the remedies to lycanthropy proved to be fatal to the patient. In other certain European countries during the 17th and 18th centuries it was believed that simply saying the person's Christian name three time would cure the person, or by simply scolding them. Another medieval cure was simply having the person convert to Christianity. At least they didn't have to get unnecessary surgery.

The origins of the werewolf myth have been around since the ancient times but didn't really take off until the 1500's in Europe. Wolf attacks were occasional but still a huge threat in Europe, so it wasn't totally crazy that Europeans projected their most feared enemy into the folklore of evil shapeshifters. This was not a isolated incident as many other regions did basically the same thing, even if they didn't have wolves. Africa has werehyenas, India has weretigers, and South America has werepumas and werejaguars. Some modern scholars blame the disease Porphyria, stating how the symptoms of photo sensitivity, reddish teeth, and psychosis could be grounds for accusing a sufferer as being a werewolf. This theory is argued by those who believe it was started by the disease hypertrichosis, which makes a person grow an obnoxious amount of hair all over their bodies. Another theory states that perhaps rabies could have been the pretext to the belief in werewolves.

The thought that people can transform into beasts is all around the globe, even being spread by to Vikings to the natives in Canada. The early colonial period also brought the belief of werewolves to the American natives eventually evolving over time into the story of the Wendigo, which is a combination of a Native American spirit and the french belief in the werewolf (they called them loup- garou. The Wendigo is a legend that basically covers the lower and upper peninsula's of Michigan, parts of Canada, and northern New York. I live in "Wendigo Alley" so I may have to worry about it, but most of the U.S. doesn't. People who are possessed by the spirit of a Wendigo can be turned into one, or if a person eats another person, they have an increased risk of turning into a Wendigo. Why? Well, because the Wendigo eat people. Watch out next time you take a late night trip through the woods of the Upper Peninsula. Whether it be a Wendigo, loup-garu, hexenwolf, or just a lycanthrope, werewolves are just nasty. There may be a lot of different versions of them, but all agree that they are incredibly strong and incredibly deadly.

Here are a few movies, TV shows, and books that deal with werewolves:

  • The Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr. as the eponymous monster. A bit dated and kind of boring but it had its moments)
  • The Harry Potter series (most notably The Prisoner of Azkaban)
  • The Brothers Grimm
  • Van Helsing
  • Ginger Snaps
  • Big Fish
  • Teen Wolf
  • Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf (a staple of my childhood)
  • Underworld
  • The Dresdon Files: Fool Moon (All you ever wanted to know about the different kinds of werewolves. Great book.)
  • Supernatural (There are a few about werewolves and even a Wendigo in the first season)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Ghosts are basically the centerpiece of the supernatural world. They are all over the place when Halloween comes around and you can't even stop seeing them on the TV when its Christmas. Ghosts are very much a part of our culture whether we know it or not, and many other cultures. Ghosts have apparently been around for a very long time. They are not only mentioned in the Bible but are also part of ancient civilizations and their ancestor worship. Basically legends of ghosts have been around forever, and its very unlikely it's going to go away any time soon. Ghosts are not always people, as people have claimed they have experienced ghost versions of animals, trains, boats, and even whole armies. There are ghosts that look like full bodied people, ones that look translucent, and ones that are invisible and choose to throw things to let it's presence be known. Ghosts come in every shape and size, and for the most part scare the crap out of everyone they come in contact with. Though not all are here to do anyone harm, some have been down right evil. Do I believe in ghosts? I'm not sure, really. Throughout the years I've wavered back and forth but haven't seen or heard anything that has made me a strong believer. Is there a chance they exist? Sure, but most would rather pretend they didn't even if they did. I have been at various haunted establishments throughout my life and experienced odd things, but let's just say that the jury is still out.

There are a ton of theories on how ghosts are made. Many ancient civilizations just believed that all their ancestors were spirits that would totally haunt them if they dishonored their memory. Many people today believe that ghosts are made when a person dies and they have unfinished business. Another popular one is that a person that is really connected to a place, like a house or lighthouse, will continue to stay there after death. The more troubling maker of ghosts is a place of a traumatic episode. This would be the case of a brutal murder or a battlefield. The raw emotion of the ordeal bounds the person or people to that certain place. Then there's the revenge one. Person is murdered or dies really angry at someone and basically wills their spirit to stay on earth and torment someone. There are two main types of ghosts, as least to my knowledge. The first is those as part of a residual haunting.

In a residual haunting, you have a place that has a ghost, but is just going through a loop of sorts. An example is a lighthouse keeper's ghost. Every night or every friday, people will see the ghost walk up the stairs in the lighthouse and look like he's working on lighthouse stuff when he gets to the top. In this case the ghost is just a shell of the person, not any part of who they were when they were living. It's basically like watching a continuous video loop. The ghost cannot do anything else and cannot think. If it is experienced, it will not acknowledge the living, but keep going about it's task, whatever it is. The far more disturbing residual haunts are the ghosts of people that were murdered or killed themselves. In this case, you see a person jump of a roof or hang themselves every once in a while. Or you could even hear a scream and see someone murdered. These are very rare, but people have claimed to have seen them, especially on the night of the murder or some other date that was special to the ghost. While still scary, residual haunts will not hurt you or interact with you. Think of the whole scenario as energy manifesting itself to replay past events. Residual hauntings are also very common on battlefields, like Gettysburg for instance.

The next type of haunting is the scary one: the intelligent haunt. These ghosts know whats up. They know that you are there and they will sometimes reach out to you if they want something. Many cultures think that in this case, the person's soul remains on earth. Some people claim that intelligent haunts manifest themselves to have the living help them pass on to the afterlife, to give clues as to who their murderer was, to simply tell a story or show that they exist, or to just hurt people. Intelligent haunts can be invisible and make their presence known by moving things. Those specific ghosts are called poltergeist. Poltergeist is a German word, polter meaning "to make noise," and geist, which means "ghost." Poltergeist are usually fun-loving ghosts like just want to scare people. Some like to throw things at people however. Watch the movie Poltergeist for a good example. Most other intelligent haunts will make themselves visible, though it does take up a lot of energy. That's why many people claim to feel very cold when they think a ghost is around. The ghost uses energy to manifest itself or move objects. Some people have seen translucent ghosts that hardly appear to be there, and some look just like you and me! Frightening! Intelligent haunts, like residual haunts are usually tied to a specific location and won't follow you around. Notice I said usually. In rare cases, people and objects have been known to be haunted. The movie Paranormal Activity is an example of people being haunted. It has nothing to do with where you live, it's going to follow you around until you can somehow get rid of it. A popular urban legend claims that the painting, The Hands Resist Him (left) is haunted and those who have the painting will be cursed with death. The painting has apparently killed off three of it's owners.

Many things can happen to you if you have a intelligent haunt. First off, it can do nothing and just walk up and down your stairs every night. It can also flush your toilet and turn lights off and on. It can also tickle your feet while you are asleep. This apparently happens a lot in haunted hotels. Or it will just appear in front of you when you wake up suddenly in the middle of the night. In rare cases, the spirit will try to hurt you, most likely throwing an object at you, pinning you down in your bed, or even scratching you. The real spirits you have to worry about are the ones that are apparently not human. Though extremely rare, there have been supposed cases where the spirit haunting the house or location was not a person but a demon. As you can probably assume, a demon haunting a place is extremely bad and should be avoided at all costs. How does one get rid of a ghost? Well, a lot of people believe that you need divine intervention like a priest coming over and blessing the house. Some believe you need a spiritualist to banish the spirit. Then there's the belief that you have to help the ghost move onto the afterlife, however that may be. There's apparently a lot of ways, most have been elaborated on in movies.

People have been trying to contact the dead for hundreds of years, and many believe they have through mediums. Mediums are spiritualists who believe they can communicate with the dead. They hold seances to usher up spirits so that grieving people can communicate with their dearly departed. Mary Todd Lincoln was way into seances and held many after her husbands death. Mediums are usually put in the same realm as fortune tellers, as in they are thought of as con-artists who just want to get your money. I have never met a medium or done a seance so it's hard for me to take them seriously. I think why many don't like the thought of mediums is the Christian belief that we should not conjure up spirits from the dead.

According to a poll done by CBS in 2009, 48 percent of people believe in ghosts, while 45% say they do not. While the side that believes barely wins out, that's still almost half the US population. In the poll it also found that women tended to believe more than men and experiences happened to women more often too. There are groups that are specifically out there to prove that ghosts exists, some of them with TV shows like Ghost Hunters. I used to watch the show all the time as it was pretty entertaining, but since that show started, a bunch of other ones have shown up. Most follow the same premise: group goes into supposedly haunted house or building, walk around in the dark, get spooked by any noises, and sometimes they actually see something that the home audience doesn't see. While Ghost Hunters did the same thing, I liked that they at least tried to take a scientific approach to their investigations, and nine times out of ten they would say that the place wasn't actually haunted. Other shows that I've watched are a bit goofier and some use mediums. I'm honestly not a fan of any of the shows that use mediums but that's just me. How do these people attempt to hunt these ghosts though? It's the general consensus that ghosts have a certain aura of electromagnetic radiation around them. Thus, a EMF meter, or a Electromagnetic field detector will help people determine where ghosts are. Consequently, if you have a product in your house that is giving off a ton of electromagnetic energy, then you think you have a ghost, as the massive amount of energy has been known to cause hallucinations and that sense of someone watching you. The other big tool that ghost hunters use is an EVP recorder, which records sounds that are out of our hearing range. This is how they attempt to hear ghosts. They will usually have the EVP recorder out and ask questions, pausing for responses. After the investigations are done they go over the many hours of EVP recording and see if they hear anything. This is massively creepy when you do hear something, though it's usually kind of garbled. Thermal detectors are also used in investigations, used to detect the heat that ghosts give off when they use up energy. The ghost hunting shows and other groups that hunt ghosts are challenged by skeptic groups who feel that these people are wasting their lives and peoples time with their parlor tricks and pseudo scientific findings. Check out one of the shows sometime! Most are pretty silly, but can be scary! One of freakiest things I've seen was the St. Augustine Lighthouse episode of Ghost Hunters.

Science does usually explain away any evidence that people find of ghosts. Either it's too much electromagnetic energy being emitted from a device in the house or a gas leak that leads people to hallucinate and feel like someones watching them. Orbs, mist, and faces are the fault of the camera due to double exposure and dust. If there was legitimate proof of ghosts out there, I'm pretty sure more people would believe. Most photos you see that claim to have ghosts are issues of double exposure or are just plain photoshopped. There are still a few pictures, old ones, that make you think though.

Ghosts are most likely to show up at night, as that is the scariest time of the day. Figures. Thunderstorms are basically a big battery for ghosts, as they use the energy flying around everywhere to manifest themselves or cause mischief. I'm not sure where we got the white sheet thing from, but that's the first thing that people think of when they hear the word ghost. A floating white/translucent sheet with two eye holes. Ghosts are apparently everywhere: houses, battlefields, lighthouses, prisons/sanitariums, old buildings, graveyards, and basically anywhere you can think of. They're even in our movies and TV! Ghosts show up in Hamlet (left), A Christmas Carol...movies with Patrick Swayze. There are a ton of ghost stories, movies, and TV shows in our culture. So, whether you believe in them or not, they are a big part of our entertainment industry.

Some of my favorite ghost stories:

  • The Others
  • The Sixth Sense
  • The Frighteners
  • Paranormal Activity
  • House on Haunted Hill (1959)
  • Thirteen Ghosts (1960)
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and the first adaptation of it, The Haunting (1963)
  • The Willows by Algernon Blackwood
  • Poltergeist
  • The Shining
  • The Canterbury Ghost
  • High Spirits (Yes, a silly Steve Guttenberg movie)
  • Ghostbusters 1 & 2 (Couldn't leave these two out)
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (one of my favorite stories of all time)

Saturday, October 8, 2011


This will be the first post in my Halloween series. I hope to get through all the main supernatural creatures by the end of October. We appear to be in the middle of a vampire craze. That is to say that we are in the middle of a craze that surrounds supernatural beings that feed on our life-force and are generally dangerous to be around. I blame the Twilight books but I'm sure there are many factors that have led up to this sudden fascination with the supernatural blood-suckers. All I know is that it's all gotten very annoying. I can't go to a bookstore without seeing the young adults section completely filled with vampire novels and other brooding tales. I am almost absolutely certain that as soon as authors realized that kids liked the Twilight series, they wanted to match it by crafting a similar story but with just a few differences. God forbid these young adult authors spend their time actually coming up with new material. Anyhoo, the Twilight books have brought up a few points about vampires. Namely about what they can and can't do. It strays away from the turning into bats folklore and vampires burning up in the sun and instead creates it's own myth that vampires instead sparkle in the sunlight. This has caused much outcry in geekdom which I think has added to the reasons that many people despise the Twilight books. My point is that the myth that surrounds vampires is always changing. Depending on what source you read, vampires are generally described as bloodsucking zombies that die in the sunlight and can be killed with a stake in the heart. Also, they can turn into a bat and despise anything holy like the Cross. That's the general consensus, but again everyone has a different version. What we are perhaps most privy to is the story of Dracula. Well, the basic outline of Dracula, not the whole story. I'll get into Dracula later though, as I first want to describe where the legend of vampires first came from.

The term vampire was not popularized until the early 18th century, but that doesn't mean that its basic description wasn't around before that. In fact, many believe that the bloodsucking creature has been a mainstay of early civilization. While many areas around the globe had their vampire like legends, the true vampire legend took off in Eastern Europe in the early 1700's. People living in the Balkans and Eastern Europe passed down stories of vampires who they believed were revenants (ghosts or undead versions) of evil beings, suicide victims, or witches, but could also be created by being bitten by a malevolent spirit possessing a corpse, or by being bitten by another vampire. Things got so bad in the area that mass hysteria broke out and people were randomly staking corpses and accusing their neighbors of vampirism. Though not the case that started the widespread panic, a reported case of vampirism in Croatia got things going a little bit. Giure Grando was a local peasant that had died in 1656 but had risen from his grave to drink people's blood and sexually harass his widow. The town's leader ordered for the undead monster to be staked which apparently didn't kill him, so they cut his head off, which did the trick. I have no idea how the village mistook someone for a dead person and surmised he was a vampire, but perhaps Giure wasn't actually dead at all and only appeared dead to his family. In any case, this scared the crap out of the whole region who thought there were now a bunch of these creatures lurking around and word soon spread. What started the real widespread panic was a few cases in Serbia. In the first officially recorded vampire case, Peter Pologojowitz and Arnold Paole allegedly rose from the grave and started harassing their old neighbors. Peter died at the age of 62 but rose from the grave to ask his son for food. The son refused and he was found dead the next day. Peter's neighbors were also found dead in the next couple days, all of blood loss. Paole was a ex-soldier turned farmer who was said to have been attacked by a vampire years before he died while haying. In the subsequent days, Paole's neighbors all turned up dead. Everyone assumed that Paole had come back from the grave and drained the neighbor's blood. The 18th century was supposed to be the Age of Enlightenment, an age in which most superstitions and myths were stamped out, but for some reason the vampire legend still spread across all of Europe. When word of vampire attacks hit Germany and England, things really got out of hand and the legends really spread throughout every land the two countries made contact with. Books were published about the two cases and everyone was thrown into a frenzy. Even the writer Voltaire seemed to buy into the Vampire pandemic in Europe. The panic only subsided when Empress Maria Theresa of Austria sent her physician out to study the bodies and determine whether vampires were real or not. He concluded that they weren't, so the Empress made it illegal for people to open up graves and desecrate bodies. This proclamation soon became commonplace in European countries, but that didn't mean that the legend was dead. Vampires lived on in artistic pieces and in local superstitions.

How we basically interpret vampires though is mainly thanks to the Slavic and their beliefs about what vampires are. The Slavic people, though eventually Christianized, held onto their pagan beliefs, especially when it came to honoring their ancestors and believing that there was a stark difference between the soul and the body. In their opinion, the soul was not perishable and would leave the body after death, roaming around the person's neighborhood for forty days before heading into the afterlife. People would leave a door or window open in their household so the soul could pass more easily through. During this time however, the soul could go back to it's deceased body and occupy it for a time. The reanimated corpse would either bring glad tidings to it's neighbors, or wreak havoc on them. Slavs took extra care in providing the appropriate burial rites for the dead, as they believed that if they did it wrong, the soul would become unclean and had a much better chance of coming back and taking out some zombie vengeance. The souls of wizards, witches, suicides, murderers, and unbaptized babies were also considered unclean souls and many believed that they could be possessed by more than one undead being. Thus, the Slavs came up with the word Vampir for a decomposing body that had come back to life. These being were vengeful and jealous of the life that humans had. To stay alive in their reanimated corpse, the Vampir had to drink the blood of the living.

How were people fooled into thinking that bodies were coming back from the grave and seeking vengeance? Well, there were a few reasons. One was the way the bodies decomposed. Gases inside the stomach make bodies swell and appear well fed and give them a little bit of color. When the people dug up the graves of some recently dead folk, they saw what they thought was a vampire that was fat from drinking blood and still had color to their features as if they lived again. In fact, in the Paole case, an old woman was dug up and the villagers determined that she looked more healthy and full of color than she did when she was alive. Another prominent reason people thought that the dead were rising was because of premature burial. Yes, this is one of the most terrifying things that can happen to a person, but medieval medicine wasn't that great and sometimes people were thought to be dead when they really weren't. Some people would dig up the newly dead only to discover claw marks on the inside of the coffin or blood on the corpses face where the person most like hit their head or face while trying to escape. The diggers took this as the undead trying to get out and the blood as proof that the corpse had been feeding. In the cases of Arnold Paole and Peter Plogojowitz, the likely cause of the death all around the men was disease and not vampires. In both cases the neighbors all died from what appeared to be a loss of blood, but was most likely an effect of whatever contagion they had. So, even though all the cases could be explained away, the thought of vampires still lingers to this day. While almost no one believes they are real, the legend of them is alive and well.

So where did the attributes and ways of destroying vampires come from? Well, with any creature of the night, it was thought that vampires could only come out at night and that eventually evolved into that vampires are destroyed by the sunlight. The whole vampires turning into bats wasn't an integral part of the legend until the 1700's with the discovery of the vampire bat in South America. Sure, they aren't in Europe, but many people believed that vampires could turn into any nocturnal bird such as an owl. Vampire bats do only drink blood, though it's always from cattle. The frightening creature and it's blood sucking ways eventually made it a part of vampire lore and cemented it's own name as a "vampire" bat. We think of vampires of being kind of pale, but like mentioned before, a lot of people thought them to be bloated and looking a little purple, seemingly from feeding on people. This was of course the look of a decomposing body. In more recent years, people have instead pictured vampires as pale creatures since they don't get any sunlight. The stake being used as a weapon against the vampire goes back to the Slavs and other scared Europeans. They noticed that when they stabbed the corpses, the bloated look went away and thus they believed they had killed the evil being. The corpse was of course just getting the gas stabbed out of it. While the Slavs would stab in the heart, others would stab in the chest or even in the mouth (example in the above picture, though they used a sharpened brick instead of wood). The type of wood it took to kill the vampire varied from country to country. Early vampires weren't even thought of as having fangs as we think today. That was just an added feature onto vampire lore, something that made sense when thinking about someone drinking another's blood. The Holy Cross as a weapon against the undead vampires is just practical. As agents of evil, they can be warded off by the ultimate sign of the Holy Spirit.

The vampire's depiction has changed a lot over the years, and we know think of them as being kind of a suave villain or not even a villain at all. Sightings of vampires are still reported every year and there are vampire hunting groups worldwide. Urban legends have popped up in America, London, and countries in Africa detailing a group of vampires that have either taken over the government or haunt a local graveyard. A professor at University of Central Florida wrote a paper about the existence of vampires, namely how it's impossible due to geometric progression. He argued that if the first vampire bit a person in 1600, and then from then on the victims would bite another person every month, then in two and a half years the whole population of the Earth would be vampires. This study was assuming the part of vampire lore that once you are bitten by a vampire, you become one yourself. Vampires have now become part of our culture. It's basically a sub-culture that influences kids who consider themselves goths. And of course with the whole Twilight thing you have even more people getting into the vampire legend, no matter how cheesy and out of order with prior vampire lore it is.

Vampires have been the subject of many books over the years, perhaps most notably in the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. Released in the Victorian age, it struck a cord with many due to it's subject on evil, lust, and vampirism as a disease. Dracula has of course been adapted into many different movies and is now THE vampire that people think of when they hear the word "Vampire." Read the book if you get the chance, as the movie is great and all, but a bit clunky. Dracula also gets it's roots from Vlad the Impaler, someone known for their ruthless and bloody vampires! While there have been countless movies and books on vampires, the two that stand out among pop culture are Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice and Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. I would recommend Rice's novel before the other (yes I have read the first Twilight novel). The movie version of Interview with the Vampire with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt is also very good. Both books have sparked new interest in vampires and made them out to be a somewhat more sympathetic creature. To end off, here are a few recommendations for movies that involve vampires:

  • Interview with the Vampire (1994) (Modern Vampire classic.)
  • Nosferatu (1922) (Eerie even though it's a silent movie. Hope you like organ music!)
  • Dracula (1931) (Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye are great, not much else. Still a classic.)
  • Fright Night (1985)
  • Shadow of the Vampire (2000) (This is a must. Fantastic movie.)
  • The Lost Boys (1987)
  • From Dawn Til Dusk (1996)
  • House of Dracula (1945)
Other books and shows that heavily involve Vampires:
  • The Dresden Files: Storm Front, Grave Peril, and Death Masks. (All involve vampires but Grave Peril is centered around them. Very good book series. I'm at the end of Death Masks at the moment.)
  • The X-Files: "Bad Blood."
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Obvious addition though I haven't watched it. Heard good things though.
  • Dark Shadows. (Cheesy vampire soap opera. Tim Burton is making it into a movie.)
  • Supernatural. (Several episodes in this excellent TV series deal with vampires.)