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Research & Thoughts

Vampires -- Reality Behind the Myth Part II

Have you ever wondered about the phrase "God rest his soul?" How about "Rest in peace?" Where do you think they came from? One online site noted that it meant "May this person find peace in the afterlife." Why would a dead person's soul need peace? From stuff they did when they were alive, supposedly.  Another site noted that "In spiritual terms rest means primarily to cease from one's works with the idea of release from anxiety, worry and insecurity." So yes, we can rest now that we're dead, but isn't that a given? The phrase was found on some tombstones before the 5th Century, back when many were superstitious. Today, we just have fun with superstition on Halloween (well, most of us).


I would interpret that phrase as a restless soul, in Judeo-Christian terms, would belong to the devil. Since the vampire myth is nearly completely Christianized, then, the term "God rest his/her soul" simply means do not let the devil get hold, do not welcome that body back into life. Do not become vampiric. Rest in peace is the same. It's giving a blessing over the grave to keep them from coming back to life. Let none of what has happened to you anger you in the afterlife realm. I'm not the only one who thinks so. Here's from another source: "It possibly reflects the old superstition that if you said the deceased's name three times you could summon them from the grave - so you add the phrase to make sure they rest in the grave." This is probably due to how conversations at funerals would result in the deceased's name often being said. Remember that at the next funeral you attend.


Anyway, I use that kind of restless idea to show how and why Mikos returned from the grave and became Arabus Drake. But don't expect Journal of an Undead to hold any Christian connotations. What Arabus shares about the afterlife includes the fact that vampires do not fear crosses or holy water.


So I picked, to create Arabus Drake, which parts of the myth that would be the most interesting and unique for his development. You'll see some of the myths in Part One reflected in my short story "So the Legend Goes," coming soon.


With Arabus, burning is only effective if the corpse is completely burned. Because demons possess the corpse to make it rise and walk about and imprisoned the soul, any part of that corpse can reanimate. A walking skeleton is a half-burned vrykolakas. Whatever rules authors create, they need to be faithful to them; be sure to know the legends before creating or adding to them. If you didn't know burning killed a vampire you wouldn't use it. Fire didn't kill Lestat in Interview with a Vampire, the movie. If you do not treat a vampire as a physical creature you stretch credibility, and risk turning the vampire into a ghostly or non-corporeal figure, rather than a physical corpse. 

The Serbian vampire myth, where the word vampire comes from, became very real for local townsfolk, as shown in this story:


"In late 1731, Austro-Hungarian Regimental Field Surgeon Johannes Flückinger journeyed to the Serbian village of Medvegya (around 120 miles from Kisiljevo, on the Ottoman border) to investigate another series of mysterious deaths. This time the suspected "Vampire Zero" was an Albanian named Arnaud Paole. When he was alive, Paole claimed he had protected himself from a vampire's bite by eating dirt from its tomb and cleansing himself with its blood. Unfortunately, these precautions didn't prevent him from breaking his neck when he fell off a hay wagon. Forty days after his demise, four villagers declared the deceased Paole had returned "to torment them"— and then those four promptly expired. The local elders (advised by their administrator, or hadnack, who clearly had past experience in such matters) disinterred Paole's corpse and found it "complete and incorrupt," while "...completely fresh blood flowed from his eyes, ears and nose." Satisfied by the evidence, the locals drove a stake through the torso, "whereupon he let out a noticeable groan and bled copiously."


This reference to "on the Ottoman border" has significance for my own vampire creation. It might make its way into one of my future novels.


Hollywood and literary depictions of vampires are vastly different than of historical myths. Vampires were widely believed to be very old, tall, attractive, intelligent and aristocratic, sleep in coffins on native ground, have an insatiable thirst for blood, and must be staked through the heart to be killed. Think Bela Lugosi, Barnabus Collins, and the Christopher Lee versions. Folkloric vampires (before Bram Stoker) were usually peasants of low intelligence, recently dead, do not need their native soil, and were often cremated with or without being staked.


Note the Serbian myth and others demonstrate that the stake is driven through the body in order to pin it to the ground so it can no longer move. These myths do not specify the heart.


By the end of the twentieth century, over 300 motion pictures were made about vampires, and over 100 of them featured Dracula, name taken from a historical king of Wallachia who treated his Turk enemies in a very cruel way. Over 1,000 vampire novels have been published, most within the past 25 years (as of 2014). There are around a dozen new variations coming out in 2022.


Here are a few to look at the literary writings and the rules they utilized.


Vampyre – John Polidori (1819)

This is the first full work of fiction about a vampire in English. John Polidori was Lord Byron's doctor and based his vampire on Byron - in other words, turning Lord Byron vampiric. 


"His peculiarities caused him to be invited to every house; all wished to see him, and those who had been accustomed to violent excitement … In spite of the deadly hue of his face, which never gained a warmer tint … many of the female hunters after notoriety attempted to win his attentions, and gain, at least, some marks of what they might term affection."


Even here we see evidence that the man (and Byron) has this sexual attraction. Where did that come from? Did you see any of that in Part One?


"There was no color upon her cheek, not even upon her lip; yet there was a stillness about her face that seemed almost as attaching as the life that once dwelt there. Upon her neck and breast was blood, and upon her throat were the marks of teeth having opened the vein—to this the men pointed, crying, simultaneously struck with horror, "a vampire, a vampire."


Dracula by Bram Stoker

"It is the eve of St. George's Day (this is a bastardizing of the real day in April when all evil spells will be broken). Do you not know that to-night, when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway?"

"I could hear a lot of words often repeated, queer words, for there were many nationalities in the crowd. So I quietly got out my poly-glot dictionary from my bag and looked them out. I must say they were not cheering to me, for amongst them were "ordog" – satan, pokol – hell, stregoica – witch, vrolok and vlkoslak – both of which mean the same thing, one being Slovak and the other Servian for something that is either werewolf or vampire."


He did his research here. Those are words for the vrykolakas.


"Having answered the Count's salutation, I turned to the glass again to see how I had been mistaken. This time there could be no error, for the man was close to me, and I could see him over my shoulder. But there was no reflection of him in the mirror!"


This is a literary addition; how could a physical body not have a reflection? Perhaps this is more related to what we learned of the poltergeist spiritual demon, how they grow stronger the longer they exist until they become corporeal. 


"But my very feelings changed to repulsion and terror when I saw the whole man slowly emerge from the window and begin to crawl down the castle wall over that dreadful abyss, face down with his cloak spreading out around him like great wings … I saw the fingers and toes grasp the corners of the stones …"


Here is a rule he's made that he will need to be consistent on. The vampire's unusual mode of travel. Arabus Drake has another that I illuminate in my short story being published, called "So The Legend Goes."


"Yes, I too can love, you yourselves can tell it from the past. Is it not so? Well, now I promise you that when I am done with him you shall kiss him at your will … one of the women jumped forward and opened (the bag) …if my ears did not deceive me, there was a gasp and a low wail, as of a half-smothered child. The women closed round, whilst I was aghast with horror, but as I looked they disappeared, and with them the dreadful bag."


Dracula here was talking to women he turned into vampires, and they needed to feast so he gave them a victim. But human emotion makes Dracula sound like a vrykolakas. I believe this was also the legend of the vampire in the movie Dracula where Gary Oldman was the vampiric legend -- oh the bad makeup!


"There, in one of the great boxes, of which there were fifty in all, on a pile of newly dug earth, lay the count! He was either dead or asleep, I could not say which—for the eyes were open and stony, but without the glassiness of death—and the cheeks had the warmth of life through all their pallor; the lips were as red as ever. But there was no sign of movement, no pulse, no breath, no beating of the heart. I bent over him … but when I went to search I saw the dead eyes, and in them, dead though they were, such a look of hate, though unconscious of me or my presence, that I fled from the place" … (almost Poe-like isn't it?)


Doesn't describe it as a coffin but all movie versions show it that way. So perhaps our more current vampiric literature is more due to inspiration from movies. Arabus Drake was actually conceived from my love of Barnabas Collins, in the original Dark Shadows—so intense and piercing and yet so human-like. So desiring to be human again.  What as the first movie vampire? Nosferatu, and I've never seen it so I don't know if they use a coffin for him. Roger Ebert noted that this was played more appropriately, without the cliches: "The vampire should come across not like a flamboyant actor but like a man suffering from a dread curse."



I never liked this one. I've read bits and pieces, and watched the movie. There are some differences in the legend, but Louis allowed Lestat, the vampire, turn him because he was despondent. The author made it a religious reason; the movie changed that. I have to believe, though, that the method of turning was the same in both – he drained Louis near to death and then fed him his blood. Where did we note this? Yeah, it was that Greek myth with Ambrogia. I also watched Lost Boys and they had the same turning method there. But until that new vampire killed someone, he was only half-vampire.


This idea that Lestat was not an ordinary vampire but a demon himself is another myth that might apply here. He simply could not be destroyed, not by burning or burying in a swamp. The demon inside a human corpse body could probably not be burned, but if that corpse is destroyed will "move on" to another.


TWILIGHT – Stephanie Meyer (2005)

Bella's viewpoint, after prologue:

"They were sitting in the corner of the cafeteria, as far away from where I sat as possible in the long room. There were five of them. They weren't talking, and they weren't eating, though they each had a tray of untouched food in front of them. They weren't gawking at me, unlike most of the other students…"


"And yet, they were all exactly alike. Every one of them was chalky pale, the palest of all the students living in this sunless town. Paler than me, the albino. They all had very dark eyes despite the range in hair tones …"


"I'd noticed that his eyes were black—coal black. He continued to sit so still it looked like he wasn't breathing. What was wrong with him?"


Obviously this is young adult with the setting of a high school. We see the white skin and dark eyes and stereotypical features of a vampire. They weren't eating, as well they can't, and not breathing. If they can eat and/or breathe, they are not dead. That's gotta be at least one rule we all follow.


VLAD: The Last Confession (2011) CC Humphreys

"You repeat gossip, gleaned from tales of one Dragon—Vlad Dracula, your former prince. Yet part of what you say is true—it is his dark deeds that have tainted the Order to which he swore his oath. Tales that have all but destroyed it … until it is slain by St. Mihail's magic lance, a Dragon cannot die. It sleeps only. Sleeps perhaps one day to awaken…"


"On its front page a crude woodcut depicted a nobleman eating his dinner among ranks of bodies twitching on stakes. Before him a servant hacked limbs, severed noses and ears. "The story of a bloodthirsty madman."

"You asked me to accompany you on this journey, Count. You said I was needed to judge something …was it to listen to the tale of a monster? Was it to see if we can rehabilitate Dracula? And all this? Was it so that the secret fraternity he led, and buried with his horrors, can rise again? For the record … who cares?"

"He as the one who last rode under the Dragon banner against the Turks. And under it, nearly beat them. Would have beaten them, perhaps, if the Pope, my King and yes … his fellow Dragons had not forsaken him."

Yes, much of their research is from King Vlad Dracula. This one might deserve a further read for its historical references.


MIDNIGHT BITES (2016) by Rachel Caine

"What Guy was asking was whether I intended to pick myself a protector of my very own. It was traditional to sign with your family's hereditary patron, but no way in hell was I letting Brandon have power over me. So I could either shop around to see if any other vampire could, or would, take me, or go bare—live without a contract."


"Which was attractive, but seriously risky. See, Morganville vampires don't generally kill of their own humans, because that would make life difficult for everybody, but free-range, non-Protected humans? Nobody worries much what happens to them, because usually they're alone, and they're poor, and they disappear without a trace."


A common theme for vampires with souls is to go after those who are either criminal, or homeless, or who otherwise won't be missed. In her novel the vampires are dominant and treat humans like chicken. As long as your chicken gives you eggs – or blood – you're not going to eat it, right?


"That was the thing about Morganville. Nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live here. And honestly, Shane couldn't exactly define why it was he did live here. He could have left, he supposed. He had, once, and come back to do a job for his father, Fearless Frank the Vampire Hunter. But now he stayed because … because at least in here he understood things. He knew the rules, even if the rules were crappy and the game of survival was rigged."


Yeah, in this book the rules ARE crappy. It felt like anything goes. I did not sense that there was much that stopped these vampires. Like a universe without boundaries. For some reason that's not at all clear, the humans don't move away; cowards here forge a more or less normal way of life. The book is well written and enjoyable enough for its young adult audience. It's pretty hard to find a serious adult vampire novel, which is what mine is.


"Vampires, as Hannah well knew, had religion—often the same one they'd been born into. There were Catholic vampires and Jewish vampires and Muslim vampires. A couple of religious institutions in town catered to vampires as well as humans with night services. Still, it was unusual to see a vampire attending any kind of daytime human religious ceremony, except funerals."


This kind of ideology reflects the author's religious stance. If we were to analyze this, we'd say that since vampires are dead people who refuse to stay dead, then their souls remain trapped so they could arise with their religious beliefs intact. There's nothing in the original myth folklore that talked about religion in this way, but we can see religion developed as a way to fight them. How can a cross fight a vampire who wasn't Christian to begin with? Does the demon in him fear anything related to the Christian god?


"Maybe she didn't know. Maybe she'd never looked into the heart of the red and black tormented thing that lurked deep inside me. But looking at her now, at her utter sincerity and fearlessness, I couldn't help but think that maybe she did, after all. Know me and love me."


The author refers to something inside the human turned vampire that made them that way. Obviously the human still had the soul from their mortal life, as this character talking in first person had been mortal in the series and was turned, and retained many of his mortal traits.


There are elements that are not explained in history, and that I've had to create for Arabus. I call them my vrykolakas rules. For instance, the body does not decay once possessed by demons, as long as blood intake is sufficient in dead veins. The skin of a corpse cannot heal. When Mikos came back as Arabus, he still had the spear hole in his gut. Blood kept leaking out, making him always thirsty until he found a way to seal his wounds. Blood is taken specifically to keep the corpse in a human appearance, so that he can get close to its victims and relatives; that's a demonic talent. That he is able to get close to humans leads him to also seek acceptance in a world not of his choosing, and can choose who and when to kill with his trapped soul, but also destroys his victims to keep them from arising. This give the myth a more realistic feel to make the legend even more disturbing.


SANDS OF TIME: Fate of the True Vampires (2017)

"Father! Your ability to startle me has not waned in five-hundred years. One would think in all this time I would learn to sense you."


"And what of loving a mortal—watching them grow old … die. If I stay, how long shall we have to share life together?"


"One of few raised to recall a time when my people were seen as gods from the sky. When offering their blood to us was an honor."


"I have heard rumor that many thousands of years ago gods in human form emerged from the night desert, that they were, and gave birth to, a new race—blood drinkers. Night stalkers with superb strength and a lethal demeanor. Killers who fed on others."


And the origin?


"Perhaps one day humans will understand the concept of journeying beyond the stars, but for now it is too far a reality to grasp."


This is delicious material that is also used in some form in my legend of Arabus Drake. But it's also unrealistic, because if you keep creating new blood drinkers, eventually there will be no one left to drink from. This makes vampires no better than zombies. I believe those two worlds need to be completely separate. You could do a vampire/zombie legend, however.


VRYKOLAKAS: Book 1 (2017)

There was no mention of the vrykolakas anywhere in the sample, which, if you use a word or concept so foreign, you need to introduce it early in your book.



So yes, you can do all this historical research and find things still don't necessarily make sense or even great story. The nice thing about fiction? We do get to make things up, but if you're creating a new "universe" of creatures, you might want to write your bible of rules first. It will help you to understand what your characters, can, can't and shouldn't do.


Let me leave you with this story:


"I've been a vampire for some seven-score years now, ever since that fateful night when I was drained of my humanity by a beautiful dark Goddess of the night. I left my mundane life behind and now I do great things like helping old ladies cross the street and then watching them shriek in horror as I empty their worthless veins and leave their lifeless husks in alleyways. Yes, being a vampire is all you've heard it is. Except for the part where nobody will hire me because I can only work at night and I can only kill people who are stupid enough to invite me into their homes. Do you know how hard it is to convince someone you're a Jehovah's Witness at two in the morning? Anyway, if you would like to become a vampire please send two dollars to this address …


What some people will conjure.  


Additional Sources:






Karina Wilson, "Decomposing Bodies in the 1720s Gave Birth to the First Vampire Panic: How superstition collided with public health concerns to create a modern monster," https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/decomposing-bodies-1720s-gave-birth-first-vampire-panic-180976097/?utm_source=smithsoniandaily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20211029-daily-responsive&spMailingID=45861171&spUserID=MTA2NzA5NTYyMDU3NQS2&spJobID=2103219954&spReportId=MjEwMzIxOTk1NAS2  

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