I’ll finish my series of posts about vampires with some ideas about the relationship between the fictional and the historic vampire. The fictional vampire is a far cry from its original source material. Yet even today the classic, modern version of the vampire still retains hints of this historic vampire. The historic vampire was a ghost-like entity that haunted its own dead body, abandoning its body to roam at night to torment the living. If we look at the fictional vampire, we can explain it’s strange magical abilities by referring to the historic vampire of folklore. For instance, the vampire can’t see its reflection in a mirror. Why? That is a hint of the historic vampire who was a spirit and not a physical being. Spirits don’t cast a reflection. The classic vampire could turn into a bat, which is a pretty odd ability for the walking dead. But if we view the historic ghost-like vampire, it makes sense. Spirits can fly. In theory a spirit could assume any form it wished, if it had the awareness of this ability.
The classic vampire slept in a coffin and the historic vampire’s body remained in its grave while its ghost traveled about seeking sustenance. What about all this blood sucking stuff? A vampire spirit would not need blood, but it did drain the energy from the living. The stake in the heart? That action was a symbolic attempt at staking a vampire’s spirit down into its body to keep it there. Sunlight destroyed both the fictional vampire and the historic vampire. Sunlight’s powerful radiation would disrupt the subtle energies necessary for a vampire spirit to manifest its ethereal body. As for immortality…spirits don’t age.
The idea of the historic vampire being a ghost-like being does not make for thrilling fiction. I can see why today’s fictional vampire still has a physical body at the same time it retains many of the spiritual traits of the historic vampire.
If there ever was such a thing as a spirit vampire, they no longer exist. The reason is our modern funerary practices. Embalming the dead effectively destroys the subtle connection between the body and the spirit still trying to inhabit it. This connection is brought to an end with cremation or embalming. The historic method for destroying the vampire was to destroy the physical body, usually by fire, and severing the link that kept the spirit connected to the physical world. For any ghost hunter, the greatest prize would be to encounter a genuine vampire. For that reason only I wish they still haunted the world!