Bram Stocker's Dracula, Sesame's Street Count Dracula or Edward from the Twilight saga - popular culture is full of vampires but not many people know the real origin of these mythical creatures.
A vampire is a dead being, usually associated with the Devil, that stays among the living. Vampires can be either born or made and by this we mean that a person could be turned into a vampire once they have received ''The Vampire Kiss''. This happens when a vampire sticks their sharp fangs into your neck and drinks your blood.
Vampires look like any other human being, with the difference of having pale skin and a pair of, by now famous, fangs that allow them to tear human flesh easily. Because vampires are dead, they have a cool touch even though they are not particularly affected by neither low nor high temperatures.
It is believed that these mythical creatures do not grow old and that by feeding exclusively on human blood, they manage to regenerate at an astounding pace, and can even become young again. Vampires take refuge among humans because they are not very skilled when it comes to defending themselves, especially against technology.
Given that they are already dead, we can't actually kill a vampire using traditional methods. To finish off a vampire, you must expose it to sunlight (this is why they are active only at night), cut their head off or put a stake through their heart. Some legends describe vampires as being sensitive to water.
Vampires are also skilled when it comes to shapeshifting, and one of their most common alternative shapes is that of a bat. Vampires could also resort to turning into fog, and other animals like wolves, cats, dogs or sheep.
All over the world, there are legends about vampires, each with a different name: werewolf, vourdalak, strigoi. People believe we can find these creatures especially in the Carpathian Mountains and in Eastern Europe, after nightfall, of course.
This is mainly due to Bram Stocker's novel ''Dracula'', who found inspiration in the story of a bloody prince called Vlad Tepes (also called ''The Impaler'') and introduced vampires into mainstream culture. Vlad Tepes' castle in Romania can still be visited today.
There is also the legend of Elizabeth Báthory, a Hungarian countess that believed human blood had rejuvenating properties and so, proceeded to kill young maids and bathe in their blood.
Vampire stories are not exclusive to Europe, and in fact, there are records of such creatures across Latin America and Egypt. The vampire trend was popular in the Middle East, and we can even find mentions of these perverted creatures in the story ''One Thousand and One Nights''.
How much do you know about vampires? Here are some interesting facts.
If we want to stay protected from the attacks of these mythological creatures we have several resources we can use. One of the most common weapons against vampires is the crucifix, symbol of Jesus Christ, that would fend off the infernal beings. Another thing you can use with the same effect would be a rosary, and lastly, garlic can also be used to defend yourself from a vampire.
Depending on the area you are in, you can also turn to roses, mustard, open scissors or salt to keep vampires at bay.
Do vampires suffer from a mild form of OCD? According to some legends, they do, and they can't help themselves when it comes to counting things, for example, the grains of rice in a bag (something that would keep the vampire busy while its victim escapes).
Vampires have the same problem with knots; they have a strong urge to untie them. This is why, back in the day, people used to cover fresh tombs with fishing nets in case the deceased was suspected of being a vampire. So in the case of a resurrection, the vampire would not cause too much harm as it would be busy untying knots.
One of the very first legends about vampires emerged before that of Dracula, back in the time of Adam and Eve. They had two sons, Cain and Abel but because of jealousy, Cain murdered his brother. After God banished Cain to a life of solitude and wandering, Cain met his future wife Lilith which possessed magical powers. Wanting to have similar powers, Cain took part in a ritual whereby he drank his wife's blood.
After Cain did this, he was visited by three angels, each giving him an opportunity to repent of the murder of his brother. Cain refused each opportunity, and with each rejection, he was cursed. The first curse made him weak to fire, the second, vulnerable to sunlight and the third one created a thirst within him that would only be quenched by the taste of blood thus making him a vampire.
The same Lilith is mentioned in another legend, depicted as Adam's first wife. Lilith would not submit herself to her husband's will and wanted to be treated as an equal. Frustrated by this, she abandoned the Garden of Eden and lived in a demon-infested place where she became a vampire.
Vampires are soulless beings and because of this they do not cast a shadow, they cannot be photographed and don't have a reflection in the mirror. They do have other special skills that humans don't possess, such as great ability to recover from injury, increased speed, heightened senses and unique perception of colours.
Blood is usually the only type of food that vampires seem to need. In South America, vampires were famous for feeding on the blood of farm animals, and many records indicate that blood wasn't necessarily a staple food but more of a vital liquid that allowed vampires to stay among the living.
In the 1930s, Universal Studios started producing horror movies and cast Hungarian-American actor Bela Lugosi for the part of Count Dracula. His magnificent performance was the same reason for his downfall, as he subsequently became type-cast in the role of vampires, both in big-budget movies as well as in smaller productions.
Bela was so obsessed with his character that upon his death, he requested to be buried with his Count Dracula cape, the last wish that he, of course, was granted.
Legends say that vampires suffer from diseases similar to those of humans. Among others, we can mention anaemia, rabies, plague, anthrax, and porphyria (a group of disorders that can cause nerve or skin problems).