Actor Bela Lugosi first brought Dracula to the screen, but the first appearance of the so-called "modern vampire" appeared in a story published decades before the famous Dracula. Author John Polidori wrote the tale of The Vampyre in 1819.
European and Asian history is rife with tales of vampires stalking at night.
America too has its own history. One famous and well-documented vampire episode occurred in Dillsboro, North Carolina during 1788 to 1789. The town rapidly became gripped with terror when the young daughter of a minister was discovered one morning dead in her bed. An attending physician discovered the telltale fanged puncture marks on her throat.
Belief in vampires was rampant in the Middle Ages, mostly because the process of decomposition was not well understood. For instance, as the human stomach decays, it releases a dark "purge fluid." This blood-like liquid can flow freely from a corpse's nose and mouth, so it was apparently sometimes confused with traces of vampire victims' blood. The fluid sometimes moistened the burial shroud near the corpse's mouth enough that it sagged into the jaw, creating tears in the cloth.
Since tombs were often reopened during plagues, so other victims could be added, Italian gravediggers saw these decomposing bodies with partially "eaten" shrouds. Vampires were thought by some to be causes of plagues, so the superstition took root that shroud chewing was the "magical way" that vampires spread pestilence. Inserting objects—such as bricks and stones—into the mouths of alleged vampires was thought to halt the disease.
This photo was taken from one of the many medieval plague victims recently unearthed near Venice, Italy. A never, before-seen evidence of an unusual affliction: being "undead." The partial body and skull of the woman showed her jaw forced open by a brick—an exorcism technique used on suspected vampires. It's hard to munch with a brick in your mouth!
It's the first time that archaeological remains have been interpreted as belonging to a suspected vampire, team leader Matteo Borrini, a forensic archaeologist at the University of Florence, told National Geographic News.
Borrini has been digging up mass graves on the island of Lazzaretto Nuovo, where this "vampire" was found. "I was lucky. I didn't expect to find a vampire during my excavations," he said.