Date of Discovery
Vampires date back to prehistory and were significantly lacking in physical documentation until the “Scriptures of Delphi,” were discovered during the second half of the 19th century. Having been written somewhere around 450BC, it predated any other known documentation of vampires. These creatures didn’t actually appear by name until 1047 in a more modern Russia.
The Vampire as we know the legend today has had many names over the years, such as the original name it was known by, Upir, which was discovered in the document from 1047 which referred to a Russian prince as an Upir Lichy, which translates into, “wicked vampire.”
Alternative names for the vampire (French) are derivations from the original form, Upir, as vampyre (Archaic), vampir (German), vàmpīr (Serbo-Croatian), *ǫpyrь (Proto-Slavic), upýrʹ (Russian), and upiór (Polish).
Descendants of the original vampire lore are known as bhêmpayar (Bengali), vaimpír (Irish), vanpaia/banpaia (Japanese), vhĕmpāyar (Marathi), wɛm-paai (Thai), bhampair (Scottish-Gaelic), vampiri (Swahili), and fampir (Welsh) just to name a few–all of the terms that are used to describe the vampire are related etymologically.
There are many creatures that resemble the vampire in nature but are not directly related to the original demon.
Due to the wide variety of characterizations of vampires, but they are often portrayed as sharp-fanged humanoid creatures–they are typically said to have pale skin and range in physical appearance from grotesque to preternaturally beautiful depending on the source of the folklore.
Having originated during prehistoric times, it’s difficult to know just how they came into being. Although not always documented as the first official legend of vampires the “Scriptures of Delphi,” were found in the archaeological sites of Delphi, said to be written by the infamous Oracle of Delphi. The scriptures have within, there is a section known as the “Vampire Bible,” which is, of course, used as a colloquial term. The “Vampire Bible,” speaks about the first vampire, Ambrogio.
The first, more modern document that is known to enter vampires into legend in the new age as Upir, appeared a significant amount of time after the Scriptures of Delphi were written and subsequently lost to time.
The first known document that has entered them into legend is clear that the vampire existed well before the word for it did. In 1190, “De Nagis Crialium,” was written by Walter Map and accounts for vampire-like beings in England. Just six years later and William of Newburgh’s, “Chronicles,” accounted for several more stories of vampire-like revenants which also occurred in England. As far as is known, this was the last time they were written about until the 1400s, after Vlad Tepes, son of Vlad Dracul was born. Vlad Dracul or, “Vlad the Dragon,” was the father of the man that the world came to know as Vlad the Impaler–the original Dracula.
Mythology and Lore
Blood and flesh consuming revenants or demons can be found in nearly every culture worldwide; these creatures were incredibly well documented in each of these cultures. Before they were known as vampires, they were considered demons or spirits, and are often still comparable to demons in modern pop-culture. In the millennia that the legends of vampires have existed, there are only a handful that have truly captured attention worldwide. Most of these originate from the 1700s and particularly Transylvania –where there were reports of vampires that came from evil beings, suicide victims, witches, a malevolent spirit inhabiting a corpse, or being bitten by another vampire. This actually caused mass hysteria in many regions and was followed by believed vampires being publically executed.
Tales like Ambrogio, Dracula, Nosferatu, and more have led to the evolution of the vampire legend and turned these creatures into one of the most popular and well-known figures in horror culture.
Modern Pop-Culture References
Due to the immensely popular nature of the vampire, these modern media references are but a raindrop in the ocean of what can be found in literature, movies, and television series.
- The Vampyre (1918)
- Dracula (1897)
- I Am Legend (1954)
- Some of Your Blood (1961)
- ‘Salem’s Lot (1975)
- Interview with the Vampire (1976)
- The Vampire Tapestry (1980)
- They Thirst (1981)
- Fevre Dream (1982)
- Dracula Unbound (1990)
- Children of the Night (1992)
- Carpe Jugulum (1998)
- Way of the Wolf (2001)
- Dead Until Dark (2001)
- Fat White Vampire Blues (2003)
- Agyar (2004)
- Guilty Pleasures (2004)
- Let the Right One In (2004)
- Vlad (2004)
- Fledgling (2005)
- Fangland (2007)
- The Strain (2009)
- Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2010)
- A Discovery of Witches (2011)
- Certain Dark Things (2016)
- Dracula (1992)
- Interview with the Vampire (1994)
- Blade (1998)
- Vampires (1998)
- Blade II (2002)
- Queen of the Damned (2002)
- Blade Trinity (2004)
- I Am Legend (2007)
- Let the Right One In/Låt den rätte komma in (2008)
- Let Me In (2010)
- Fright Night (2011)
- Dracula Untold (2014)
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997 – 2003)
- Angel (1999 – 2004)
- Supernatural (2005 – )
- True Blood (2008 – 2014)
- American Horror Story (2011 – )
- Being Human (2011 – 2014)
- The Strain (2014 – 2017)
Is there anything we missed about vampires? Let us know in the comments section below!
North Carolina-based author and artist, Mary has been a horror aficionado since the mid-2000s. Originally a hobby artist and writer, she found her niche in the horror industry in late 2019 and hasn’t looked back since. Mary’s evolution into a horror expert allowed her to express herself truly for the first time in her life. Now, she prides herself on indulging in the stuff of nightmares.
Mary also moonlights as a content creator across multiple social media platforms—breaking down horror tropes on YouTube, as well as playing horror games and broadcasting live digital art sessions on Twitch.