The Vampire Look
With the caped Count Dracula look long out of fashion vampires are now generally portrayed as being indistinguishable from other humans. They often have retractable fangs and may appear pale since they don't go out in the sunlight but they are the least visually scary of all the horror genre monsters. Perhaps because of this, films such as The Lost Boys popularised the idea that when feeding vampires morph into hideous versions of themselves, an idea which many modern vampire shows and movies picked up on and ran with. Of course the earliest vampire movie, Nosferatu, depicted the vampire as a bald, fanged creep with long sharp nails who emerged from the ground each night to sneak into bedrooms and feed on virgins.
What's with the Virgins?
Vampires seem to have a real preference for virgins as victims. This is surely partly to do with their long association with sexuality and sexual awakening, even the act of feeding itself is penetrative and involves bodily fluid exchange. Some modern takes on the vampire genre have simply explained that virgin blood tastes the best which is a great glib explanation.
Vampires have been associated with a variety of powers. They are assumed to be immortal unless killed properly (beliefs on how to kill them also vary). Sometimes they are depicted as being able to transform themselves into mist or bats. They are also superhumanly strong and fast and have heightened senses. Many vampire stories imbue them with hypnotic powers imagining they can hold sway over their victims and make slaves of weak minds.
The one common thread which runs through all vampire fiction is the idea that they have to drink blood to survive. The drinking of blood is their defining factor. Another popular idea is that they are creatures of the night and as such exposure to sunlight weakens or even kills them. Many vampire tales tell of their fear of religious artefacts, they cannot enter churches, they fear crosses and holy water burns them. An appealing variant on this is the idea that it is not the symbols themselves which carry power but the faith of the person wielding them and so, as in one memorable Twilight Zone episode, a devout communist is able to scare away a vampire with his little red book. Some vampire tales also suggest garlic is poisonous to vampires and while silver is more commonly associated with werewolves it is also sometimes suggested as a defence against vamps. The origin of the garlic repelling vampires idea is unknown but garlic has long been associated with good health in general and interestingly is supposed to work as a natural mosquito repellent.
Killing a Vampire
The preferred method to slay a vampire seems to be the wooden stake through the heart. Beheading is also often assumed to work and sometimes setting them on fire will do the job. They can also generally be killed by sunlight.
Becoming a Vampire
Again thoughts on this vary but it seems to be generally accepted that not only does the vampire need to feed on you but you also need to drink the blood of a vampire in order to become one. In the past it was believed anyone who was drained by a vampire would inevitably rise from the grave themselves.
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