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Essay/Term paper: Vampires

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Essays

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Vampires have been seen and documented throughout history. The history
of vampires goes further back in time than most people realize. The chaldeans,
who lived near the Euphrates river in the southwestern part of Asia more than
five hundred years before the time of Christ , feared vampire or creatures
similar to vampires enough so that they created charms to protect themselves
from being attacked by such creatures. The Assyrians and the Babylonians feared
a creature similar to a vampire known as an Ekimmu. These creatures known as
Ekimmus were believed by the Assyrians to roam the planet searching for food
although it was not always a persons blood but rather a persons' vitality or
that persons' energy force. It was believed that if such a creature would enter
someone's house that person along with his or her family would slowly weaken,
get sick and probably die. In the countries of Syria and Palestine references
were made to such blood sucking monsters on ancient carved tablets. In Ireland
the people believed in these creatures, which they affectionately came to call
"red blood suckers" . Due to their belief in these mythical creatures they began
the practice of placing stones on these vampires graves to kep them from
escaping.This then became standard practice and is still used to this day in the
form of a tombstone. Tombstones were used to control ghosts and other spirits
instead of their original use in controlling vampires.
Due to the fact that vampires seemed to be so commonplace around the
globe, there was a large variety of vampires that differed in shape, behavior
and method of becoming a vampire. All of these factors varied from region to
region. In the country of Bulgaria a vampire had only one nostril. This
Bulgarian vampire would rise out of it's grave nine days after death in the form
of a shower of sparks and remained in this shape for a period of forty days.
After the completion of these forty days the shower of sparks would regain it's
human form. Once human-like the vampire goes from playing childish tricks, which
it did in it's "spark" form , to more serious matters , such as the attacking of
humans and drinking of their blood. Vampires are well known for their craving
for blood but in many countries vampires were not limited to just that
substance as part of their diet, but would also consume foods that humans ate
such as eggs and rice. That, however, does not mean that their yearn for blood
was any weaker than before. Most vampires would attack their victims and suck
the blood from puncture wounds made in the neck (The Russian vampire would suck
the blood directly from the victims heart). Sometimes the vampire would gorge
itself until it had drained the victim completely while other times it would
take just enough to satisfy that night's thirst and come back the following
night and take a bit more. The method of drinking from the same victim night
after night would cause the victim to get weaker and weaker . Due to the fact
that the victim was indeed attacked by a vampire, that would mean that upon the
victims death they too would become "undead." (. Vampires p22)
Certain cultures around the globe also had systems to recognize vampires.
In some cultures vampires were distinguished due to the color of their hair. In
most Christian countries vampires could be recognized because they had red hair
like Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Christ in the bible, was said to have
had red hair. Eye color was another tell-tale sign used to identify vampires. In
Greece ,where most people have dark colored eyes, vampires were said to have
blue eyes, Rumania they were said to have had gray eyes, and in Ireland they had
black eyes.
Vampires have been around for centuries , in some cases they have been
recognized and feared by cultures that were around thousands of years before the
time of Christ, such as the Babylonians and the Assyrians. Throughout the ages
many medical explanations that could explain the vampire phenomena have been
overlooked. The first reason was the lack of education that many people, because
schooling was not an important part of these societies. Their lack of medical
knowledge about diseases, some of which are quite rare and hard to explain even
to this day was a large factor in the spread of vampire lore. Along with the
fact that very uneducated people have always had a tendency of being overly
superstitious also contributed to the vampire legend. In 1985 Dr. David Dolphin,
Ph.D., a professor of chemistry at the University of British Columbia presented
his theory that blood-drinking vampires were not vampires at all but rather
victims of a disease known as Porphyria.(Dresser, Norine. American Vampires
p171) " Porphyria is an incurable genetic disease which affects at least 50,000
patients in the U.S. that causes sudden symptoms of severe pain , respiratory
problems, Skin lesions and sometimes death."(Dresser, Norine. American vampires
p171) "Porphyria may well have been responsible for many a vampire tale -
especially since the disease is hereditary" (Garden, Nancy. Vampires p98) A
person that is affected by Porphyria can seem very scary to the average person
since the disease causes the persons gums to tighten. That causes their teeth to
be seen much more prominently as well as causing their teeth and nails to gain a
fluorescent glow.These traits could then go on to explain the fact that many
vampire stories described the vampires as giving off a greenish glow. Victims of
this disease are likely to be deformed in other ways as well but usually in the
facial area. Because of the skin lesions suffered by victims of Porphyria they
are usually very sensitive to light which would cause them to not venture out of
their homes until night. This aspect of the lifestyles of people suffering
Porphyria would fit in very well with vampire lore. Garlic was used as a
repellent of vampires butmore likely victims of the disease known as Porphyria
would have a strange chemical reaction with garlic which would cause the person
to have a severe porphyria attack. This would then make that person very
reluctant to come close to the garlic since it contains large amounts of Dialkyl
Disulfide which destroys Heme in the persons blood ( Heme is the pigmented
component of Hemoglobin and related substances found in largest amounts in the
bone marrow, red blood cells, and the liver ). The further destruction of Heme
in a Porphyria victim would set off a severe allergic reaction. Since Porphyria
is also a genetic disease several siblings in a family usually carry the
defective gene. While the siblings may share the same defective gene sometimes
only one of the siblings will display any of the symptoms . It is known that in
many vampire tales , vampires return to attack their sibling or other family
members.This along with the fact that Porphyria could be triggered in a person
who is genetically predisposed to have the disease by a sudden loss of large
amounts of blood. When these factor are taken into consideration, one could say
that when a vampire came back to attack a sibling and when the sibling also
began to show some vampire characteristics , it could be assumed that the
Porphyria gene in the second sibling could have been triggered by the loss of
blood which was suffered during the attack by the first sibling or the
"vampire." This would make it seem as though the vampire attack had caused the
second sibling to turn into a vampire as well.
Plague was another factor which could explain the growth of the vampire
legend. In the Stephen King book Salem's Lot which is the story of a town that
is infested by Vampires and due to the infestation of vampires causes the town
to become a ghost town. In the book it says" But a little over a year ago
something began to happen in Jerusalem's Lot that was not unusual, people began
to drop out of sight." (King, Stephen. Salem's Lot p15) This phenomenon which is
found in Stephen King's book was not at all uncommon in ancient times especially
in remote places. Villagers in these remote places would have believed that
blood was a Vital substance that gave life. Since they did not know much about
disease their lack of knowledge of diseases and their lack of medical
practitioners in these remote areas would give the perfect opportunity for their
superstitious beliefs to come into play. If suddenly much of the town began to
fall ill at the same time and they all displayed similar symptoms such as weight
loss , weakness and paleness they would think that these people must have been
drained of the vital substance, blood. Searching for an explanation without any
medical knowledge the one thing that would make sense to them would be that a
vampire was on the loose while the fact that the town could be in the middle of
an epidemic such as the black plague during the Dark Ages. In Stephen King's
book a town would just seem to disappear for no reason and the only explanation
would be vampires. In the Dark ages the situation would be very similar to that
in the Stephen King book except that in Stephen King's book the vampires are
Tuberculosis or consumption as it was often called is a disease that
although was not highly contagious was a very common disease up until the mid-
1800's . The beginning stages of this disease do not contain very recognizable
symptoms.By the time the symptoms showed up (such as weight loss and fatigue
which is where the name consumption came from) the disease was already in it's
later stages. Tuberculosis would have been very difficult to diagnose by people
with no medical knowledge especially when the most serious symptoms of the
disease such as coughing and spitting up blood were not present. Tuberculosis
was often openly confused with vampirism as was the case when in the mid- 1800's
the corpses of many victims of Tuberculosis were treated as vampires and buried
face down or by being dug up and burned when members of their families suddenly
came down with Tuberculosis.(Garden,Nancy. Vampires p69)
The mental aspect of vampires has always seemed to be that of someone
who was not in their right mind. In Anne Rice's book The Vampire Lestat at one
point one of the vampires in the book just looks at the other one and simply
says "You're the mad one." ( Rice, Anne. The Vampire Lestat p73) not realizing
that madness plays a large part towards explaining the vampire legend as well as
other mental conditions. One of these conditions which could explain the vampire
legend is the condition known as a cataleptic condition which many times is


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