Vampires have seen a big transformation throughout history

By Lily Angel

Although vampires today are often depicted as brooding teenagers, possibly with shiny skin, this is very different from what people in the late 17th to early 18th centuries thought of when they read about the supernatural creatures.

The late 17th and early 18th centuries were times fraught with diseases that were commonly confused with vampirism such as Tuberculosis, Congenital Erythropoietic Porphyria (CEP), Comas, and even simply drunkenness.

According to the American Lung Association, people with Tuberculosis exhibit symptoms such as pale skin, low body heat, light-sensitive eyes, coughing up blood, and a weak heartbeat. These symptoms may have been mistaken for vampires because vampires are known to have pale skin and no heartbeat because they were considered undead. They were also thought to be sensitive to sunlight. The coughing of their blood may have been confused with drinking blood.  

According to Judy Lavelle in an explanation for Britannica, vampirism may have also been confused with CEP. Symptoms include extreme paleness, sensitivity to light, and anemia.

“The disease may have been more common when high-profile families intermarried. This inadvertently narrowed the gene pool, especially in geographically isolated areas, like Transylvania,” Lavelle said.

The reddish discoloration of the teeth would have seemed like an indication of drinking blood, although it is due to a buildup of porphyrin.

Even simpler, those who were drunk or in a coma were also mistaken for being dead. When woken up, this could have been confused for being raised from the dead. 

Those who were thought to be dead were buried alive.  If they woke up before being buried alive then they were thought to be a vampire. In the 17th and 18th centuries, these were times where suspicion of the supernatural was present and often punished. We all know how that worked out for Salem.

The advancement in health has helped lead modern society away from vampires, but the lore of vampires is still around today. The lore, especially that published in teen fiction, is different from what was believed in the past. 

Now the vampire is seen more as a romantic hero in the style of Edward Cullen from the “Twilight” series and films or Stefan and Damon Salvatore from “The Vampire Diaries” series and show.

While modern vampires are clearly still human with supernatural characteristics, according to Live Science, older versions of the vampire were not human at all, but more demonic. 

Rather than adults like Bram Stoker who invented Dracula, it is now teens that help reinvent vampires in modern times, according to a CNN interview with vampire historian Curt W. Herr. 

“I think people are tired of the [basic] vampire, but that tends to be the adults 18 and up rather than the students who are reading ‘Twilight’ in high school and consider it the apex of romantic fiction,” Herr said.

If vampires can transform from demonic undead diseased individuals to attractive romantic heroes, it will be interesting to see their next reinvention.