History Of The Vampire

Publicity still of Bela Lugosi for the 1931 Universal Studios film Dracula. (Bettmann/Getty Images)

From the Asanbosum of southern Ghana to the Puechen of Chile to the jiangshi of Qing-dynasty China, some version of the vampire has existed across cultures and "through oceans of time," as Dracula would say. Much of what we recognize today as vampires, however, comes from movies and books that are rooted largely in the ever-evolving mythology of Eastern Europe.

Early death was pervasive in the Middle Ages, as illness and plague ravaged the European continent, and the vampire lore that arose from it was likely rooted in misunderstanding of certain diseases. Maladies that ranged from the common (like tuberculosis, which can cause bleeding around the mouth) to the rare (like porphyria, which causes sensitivity to sunlight and receding gums that give the appearance of longer, fake-like teeth) have symptoms that are easily recognized in vampire mythology.