Vampires

Dracula Cross

Vampires are mythological beings who survive by feeding on the life essence (blood) of living creatures. In folkloric tales, vampires often visited loved ones and caused mischief or deaths in the neighborhoods they inhabited when they were alive. They wore shrouds and were often described as bloated and of ruddy or dark countenance. This is markedly different from modern fictional portrayals of gaunt, pale vampires beginning in the early 19th century. Although vampiric entities have been recorded in many cultures and according to speculation by literary historian Brian Frost that the belief in vampires and bloodsucking demons is as old as man himself, and may go back to prehistoric times.

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The term vampire was not popularized until the early 18th century, after an influx of vampire superstition into Western Europe from areas where vampire legends were frequent, such as the Balkans and Eastern Europe, although local variants were also known by different names, such as vampire (вампир) in Serbia and Bulgaria, vrykolakas in Greece and strigoi in Romania. This increased level of vampire superstition in Europe led to mass hysteria and in some cases resulted in corpses actually being staked and people being accused of vampirism.

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The vampire of modern fiction was born in 1819 with the publication of The Vampire by John Polidori. The story was highly successful and arguably the most influential vampire work of the early 19th century. However, it is Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula that is remembered as the quintessential vampire novel and which provided the basis of modern vampire fiction. Dracula drew on earlier mythologies of werewolves and similar imaginary demons and was to voice the anxieties of an age, and the fears of late Victorian patriarchy.

Western Wood Crafts Vampire Stake

In modern day fiction, the vampire tends to be depicted as a suave, charismatic villain. Despite the general disbelief in vampiric entities, occasional sightings of vampires are reported. Indeed, vampire hunting societies still exist, although they are largely formed for social reasons. Allegations of vampire attacks swept through the African country of Malawi during late 2002 and early 2003, with mobs stoning one individual to death and attacking at least four others, including Governor Eric Chiwaya, based on the belief that the government was colluding with vampires.

Western Wood Crafts Vampire Stake

In early 1970 local press spread rumors that a vampire haunted Highgate Cemetery in London. Amateur vampire hunters flocked in large numbers to the cemetery. Several books have been written about the case, notably by Sean Manchester, a local man who was among the first to suggest the existence of the Highgate Vampire and who later claimed to have exorcised and destroyed a whole nest of vampires in the area. In January 2005, rumors circulated that an attacker had bitten a number of people in Birmingham, England, fuelling concerns about a vampire roaming the streets. However, local police stated that no such crime had been reported and that the case appears to be an urban legend.

Western Wood Crafts Vampire Stake

People sometimes suspected vampirism when a cadaver did not look as they thought a normal corpse should when disinterred. However, rates of decomposition vary depending on temperature and soil composition, and many of the signs are little known. This has led vampire hunters to mistakenly conclude that a dead body had not decomposed at all, or, ironically, to interpret signs of decomposition as signs of continued life. Corpses swell as gases from decomposition accumulate in the torso and the increased pressure forces blood to ooze from the nose and mouth. This causes the body to look plump, well-fed, and ruddy "changes that are all the more striking if the person was pale or thin in life". In the Arnold Paole case, an old woman's exhumed corpse was judged by her neighbors to look more plump and healthy than she had ever looked in life. The exuding blood gave the impression that the corpse had recently been engaging in vampiric activity. Darkening of the skin is also caused by decomposition. The staking of a swollen, decomposing body could cause the body to bleed and force the accumulated gases to escape the body. This could produce a groan-like sound when the gases moved past the vocal cords, or a sound reminiscent of flatulence when they passed through the anus.

Western Wood Crafts Vampire Stake

After death, the skin and gums lose fluids and contract, exposing the roots of the hair, nails, and teeth, even teeth that were concealed in the jaw. This can produce the illusion that the hair, nails, and teeth have grown. At a certain stage, the nails fall off and the skin peels away, as reported in the Plogojowitz case—the dermis and nail beds emerging underneath were interpreted as new skin and new nails. It has also been hypothesized that vampire legends were influenced by individuals being buried alive because of shortcomings in then-current medical knowledge. In some cases in which people reported sounds emanating from a specific coffin, it was later dug up and fingernail marks were discovered on the inside from the victim trying to escape. In other cases the person would hit their heads, noses or faces and it would appear that they had been feeding. A problem with this theory is the question of how people presumably buried alive managed to stay alive for any extended period without food, water or fresh air. An alternate explanation for noise is the bubbling of escaping gases from natural decomposition of bodies.

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Dracula

Count Dracula is a fictional character, the titular antagonist of Bram Stoker's 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula. Some aspects of his character may have been inspired by the 15th century Romanian general Vlad the Impaler. In the United States the character became public domain in 1899 and subsequently appears frequently in all manner of popular culture, from films to videogames to breakfast cereals.

Western Wood Crafts Vampire Stake

Count Dracula (his first name is never given in the novel) is a centuries-old vampire , sorcerer and Transylvanian nobleman, who claims to be a Hungarian(Székely) descended from Attila the Hun. He inhabits a decaying castle in the Carpathian Mountains near the Borgo Pass. Contrary to the vampires of Eastern European folklore, which are portrayed as repulsive, corpse-like creatures, Dracula can exude a veneer of aristocratic charm which masks his unfathomable evil.

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Far prior to the beginning of the novel, Dracula studied the black arts at the academy of Scholomance in the Carpathian Mountains, overlooking the town of Sibiu (also known as Hermannstadt) and became proficient in alchemy and magic (Dracula Chapter 18 and Chapter 23). Later he took up a military profession, combating the Turks across the Danube, according to the character Abraham Van Helsing. Using the black arts, Dracula returned from death as a vampire and lives for several centuries in his castle with three vampiric women for company.

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As the novel begins in the late 19th century, Dracula acts on a long contemplated plan for world domination, and infiltrates London to begin his reign of terror. He summons Jonathan Harker, a newly qualified English solicitor, to provide legal support for a real estate transaction overseen by Harker's employer. Dracula at first charms Harker with his cordiality and historical knowledge and even rescues him from the clutches of his three bloodthirsty brides. In truth, however, Dracula wishes to keep Harker alive just long enough for his legal transaction to finish and to learn as much as possible about England.

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Dracula leaves his castle and boards a Russian ship, the Demeter, taking along with him boxes of Transylvanian soil, which he needs in order to regain his strength. During the voyage to Whitby, a coastal town in northern England, he sustains himself on the ship's crew members. Only one body is later found, that of the captain, who is found tied up to the ship's helm. The captain's log is recovered and tells of strange events that had taken place during the ship's journey.

Western Wood Crafts Vampire Stake

Dracula leaves the ship in the form of a wolf. Soon the Count is menacing Harker's devoted fiancée, Wilhelmina Mina Murray, and her vivacious friend, Lucy Westenra. There is also a notable link between Dracula and Renfield, a patient in an insane asylum compelled to consume insects, spiders, birds, and other creatures — in ascending order of size — in order to absorb their life force. Renfield acts as a kind of motion sensor, detecting Dracula's proximity and supplying clues accordingly. Dracula begins to visit Lucy's bed chamber on a nightly basis, draining her of blood while simultaneously infecting her with the curse of vampirism. Not knowing the cause for Lucy's deterioration, her companions call upon the Dutch doctor Van Helsing, the former mentor of one of Lucy's suitors. Van Helsing soon deduces her condition's supernatural origins, but does not speak out. Despite an attempt at keeping the vampire at bay with garlic, Dracula entices Lucy out of her chamber late at night and drains her blood, killing her.

Western Wood Crafts Vampire Stake

Van Helsing and a group of men enter Lucy's crypt and kill her reanimated corpse. They later enter Dracula's residence at Carfax, destroying his boxes of earth, depriving the Count of his ability to rest. Dracula leaves England to return to his homeland, but not before biting Mina.

Western Wood Crafts Vampire Stake

The final section of the novel details the heroes racing Dracula back to Transylvania, and in a climactic battle with Dracula's gypsy bodyguards, destroying him. Despite the popular image of Dracula having a stake driven through his heart, Mina's narrative describes his throat being cut by Jonathan Harker's kukri knife and his heart pierced by Quincey Morris's Bowie knife (Mina Harker's Journal, 6 November, Dracula Chapter 27). The absence of the proper rituals of destruction has led some to express doubts whether Dracula has really been finished off. Dracula, it is suggested, may rise again.

BELA LUGOSI

Bela LugosiBela Lugosi is Dracula. Bela Lugosi created his signature portrayal of the sophisticated Count on the Broadway stage, which he later brought to Universal Studios in its classic 1931 horror film “Dracula.” He thus played a pivotal role in the modern mythology and rich legend of my favorite “monster” Dracula, the popularity of which continues to endure.

It is only fitting that the man forever associated with Dracula was actually born near the western border of Transylvania in 1882, not far from the legendary Count’s home in the Carpathian Mountains. Reared in the town of Lugos, a name he would later adopt as his own, he was the youngest of four children. He grew up preferring acting to his school work, much to the dismay of his father, a strict businessman. However, his desire to act proved stronger than his family ties or his schooling, and at the age of twelve, he left home to pursue his acting career.

Bela Lugosi As Count Dracula By the early 1900’s, He was an established actor in Hungary becoming the number one ranked actor in the Hungarian theater. He toured with the National Theater of Budapest where he was highly regarded for his versatility. Here the man that would become known for his role as the devil’s disciple was also heralded for playing the role among others of Jesus Christ.

Although actors were exempt from military service, Lugosi left the theater and volunteered for service when patriotism called. He was promoted to Captain in the Ski Patrol during WWI, was wounded on the Russian front, and received the equivalent of the Purple Heart. The end of the war was followed by the Hungarian revolution in 1919. Lugosi, who had taken an active role on behalf of the actors union, found himself on the wrong side of the ruling party and was forced to flee the country. He went to Vienna and then on to Germany where he continued his acting career. Still pursued, He found safe passage to the United States aboard a merchant ship as a crewman. He landed in New Orleans and ventured to New York where he later went through Ellis Island and became a naturalized U. S. citizen.

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Ruins Of Castle Dracula

RUINS OF CASTLE DRACULA

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VLAD THE IMPALER
(1431-1476)

Vlad the Impaler  probably caused more rivers of blood to flow than any other tyrant in the history of the world. Bear in mind that there are many versions of Vlad the Impaler's life story, and there are no entirely accurate ones.

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What is interesting to note, is that Stoker's vampire, while being loosely based on Vlad the Impaler, is nowhere near as threatening, nor as sadistic.

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Vlad the Impaler, a.k.a. Vlad III, Dracula, Drakulya, or Tepes, was born in late 1431, in the citadel of Sighisoara, Transylvania, the son of Vlad II or Dracul, a military governor, appointed by Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund. Vlad Dracul was also a knight in the Order of the Dragon, a secret fraternity created in 1387 by the Emperor, sworn to uphold Christianity and defend the empire against the Islamic Turks. Transylvania, along with Moldavia, and Wallachia, are now joined together as Romania. The name Dracul can be interpreted in two ways, the first translation from Romanian would be Dragon, but it sometimes also means Devil. Vlad was not called Tepes, which means spike in Romanian, until after his death; instead, he was known as Vlad Dracula, the added a meaning son of, so essentially, throughout his life, he was known as the son of the Devil. While growing up with such a name would normally present problems for most of us, Vlad certainly did not seem to mind, as he really did live up to his title.

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The atrocities committed by Vlad in the German stories include impaling, torturing, burning, skinning, roasting, and boiling people, feeding people the flesh of their friends or relatives, cutting off limbs, and drowning. It was common for people when approaching, talking, coming before a lord such as Vlad to remove their turbans; however, it is not allowed for Muslims to do this. A messenger told this to Vlad, and Vlad from then on ordered that any Muslim that would not remove his turban should have it nailed to his head. All of these punishments mainly came from things people did that displeased Vlad the most; stealing, lying, and adultery, another very effective way that Vlad would punish his victims, for any crime (commonly thievery), he would skin the thieves' feet and put salt on them and let goats lick off the salt. This was a way that Vlad kept his people in order and taught them that stealing will not be tolerated in his lands. His victims included men and women of all ages, religions and social classes, children and babies. At times, Vlad would impale a mother and child together but this is only if the mother committed adultery and had given birth to a child that was not of her husband. One German account includes the following sentence: He caused so much pain and suffering that even the most blood thirstiest persecutors of Christianity like Herod the Great, Nero, Diocletian and all other pagans combined hadn't even thought of.

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Impalement was Vlad's preferred method of torture and execution. His method of torture was a horse attached to each of the victim's legs as a sharpened stake was gradually forced into the body. The end of the stake was usually oiled (to help that the stake not puncture any organs), and care was taken that the stake not be too sharp; else the victim might die too rapidly from shock. Normally the stake was inserted into the body through the anus and was often forced through the body until it emerged from the mouth. Vlad had a far more painful impalement planed for his victims, he'd stab the sharp part through the anus then take it out and take the rounded edge and put that through the hole just made. This made a more agonizing and humiliating death. However, there were many instances where victims were impaled through other bodily orifices or through the abdomen or chest. Infants were sometimes impaled on the stake forced through their mother's chests. The records indicate that victims were sometimes impaled so that they hung upside down on the stake.

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Death by impalement was slow and agonizing. Victims sometimes endured for hours or even days. Vlad often had the stakes arranged in various geometric patterns. The most common pattern was a ring of concentric circles in the outskirts of a city that constituted his target. The height of the spear indicated the rank of the victim. The corpses were often left decaying for months.

Count Orlock

COUNT ORLOCK

The film Nosferatu with Max Schreck as the vampire Count Orlok, shot in 1921 and released in 1922, was in essence an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula. The names and other details were changed because the studio could not obtain the rights to the novel (for instance, vampire became Nosferatu and Count Dracula became Count Orlok. At least one English language print features title cards with the actual names from Stoker's novel including Count Dracula.

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