1. The modern concept of a vampire comes from the 17th century.

The earliest reference to the vampire (an undead human who comes back to prey on humans) comes from Croatia. The legend follows Jure Grando Alilović who lived and died in Kringa, Istria. The story goes that he would rise from his grave to terrorize his village and bring death to those houses he visited. This went on for the 16 years following his death in 1656 until the villagers exhumed his perfectly preserved corpse and decapitated it.

Johann Weikhard von Valvasor documented this story in 1689 in a 15-volume German encyclopedia on the region, entitled The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola. Valvasor’s work covered everything from geography and medicine to culture and folklore. He used the local term for Jure Grando, strigoi, which has roots in ancient Greco-Roman mythology. It usually refers to a nocturnal supernatural creature that feeds off human flesh and blood.


2. One of Bram Stoker’s original titles was The Dead Un-Dead.

And then it was simply The Un-Dead with the vampire antagonist called Count Wampyr, which doesn’t quite have the same ring as Dracula. Stoker actually renamed the book after reading about the violent Romanian prince, Vlad III of Wallachia, a region that borders with Transylvania and the Carpathian Mountains. Vlad became known as Vlad Dracul (nicknamed Dracula), after his initiation into the aristocratic military Order of the Dragon in 1431.

Vlad III was also called Vlad the Impaler (or Vlad Țepeș) for some pretty grim reasons, so if you’re in the mood for some gore, check out his wiki page here.

Against popular belief, contemporaneous tales of Vlad III describe him as a powerful, calculating and cruel warlord-like leader, not a vampire. Stoker was actually the first to draw these comparisons.


3. References to vampire-like creatures go back thousands of years.

Ancient Babylonian, Indian, Persian and Greco-Roman cultures all have stories of supernatural creatures that drink human blood.

Medieval England and Norway also reference vampire-like blood-sucking ghosts or revenants.

But… vampires as we know them really come from 17th and 18th-century Balkan folklore like Jure Grando mentioned above. Leo Allatius, the Vatican Librarian under Pope Alexander VII, was the first to legitimately document these vampiric stories in 1645 in his De Graecorum hodie quorundam opinationibus, or On certain modern opinions among the Greeks. (You can see the first edition here.


4. Stoker never made much money from Dracula.

Is this starting to sound familiar? The book was very popular in the Victorian period, but it never translated into a large income for Stoker. Dracula only gained serious fame and financial kudos with the film adaptations in the mid-20th century, of which there are many ranging from parody to horror. Of course, there have also been TV series, theatre productions, musicals, etc. all based on Stoker’s fiction. Here’s a great wiki compilation.


5. 1897 was a pretty big year for Vampires in London.

Firstly, a few months after Stoker published Dracula, Florence Marryat’s book The Blood of the Vampire featured a female vampire with Jamaican roots named Harriet Brandt.

Next, Philip Burne-Jones’ (son of Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones) painting, The Vampire, was exhibited at the New Gallery in London. While the painting was well reviewed by critics, it caused an uproar with the public. Interestingly, this was NOT because of its sexually-charged lady vamp preying on a helpless man, but because everyone knew she was based on a famous stage actress, Mrs Patrick Campbell. Campbell was married but the rumour mill connected her romantically with Burne-Jones, which was all a bit too much for the Victorians.

Burne-Jones’ cousin, Rudyard Kipling, was so inspired by the painting (and the gossip), that he wrote a poem to accompany it in the New Gallery. The poem is also called The Vampire and is pretty obviously a warning to men who love cold-hearted temptresses…

A fool there was and he made his prayer
(Even as you or I!)
To a rag and a bone and a hank of hair,
(We called her the woman who did not care),
But the fool he called her his lady fair–
(Even as you or I!)

Oh, the years we waste and the tears we waste,
And the work of our head and hand
Belong to the woman who did not know
(And now we know that she never could know)
And did not understand!

A fool there was and his goods he spent,
(Even as you or I!)
Honour and faith and a sure intent
(And it wasn’t the least what the lady meant),
But a fool must follow his natural bent
(Even as you or I!)

Oh, the toil we lost and the spoil we lost
And the excellent things we planned
Belong to the woman who didn’t know why
(And now we know that she never knew why)
And did not understand!

The fool was stripped to his foolish hide,
(Even as you or I!)
Which she might have seen when she threw him aside–
(But it isn’t on record the lady tried)
So some of him lived but the most of him died–
(Even as you or I!)

`And it isn’t the shame and it isn’t the blame
That stings like a white-hot brand–
It’s coming to know that she never knew why
(Seeing, at last, she could never know why)
And never could understand!”