We’ve all grown up with them. Dwellers of the night, with long fangs and razor sharp claws, slitted eyes and scales, leathery wings and a roar that can freeze blood. Our parents knew of them, too. In fact, the abnormal and shadowy unknown has fascinated man since the dawn of time. Urban legends and myths decorate cave walls and museums alike.
Who doesn’t know of the Yeti, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster? Vampires and the werewolf? Even if you don’t believe – even if you think all those sightings and stories, films and snapshots are a bunch of hogwash – wouldn’t all our lives be a lot more boring without them?
This, then, is my page in tribute to the legends of those who flavor our night. Who wait in dark shadows for us, until we become just brave enough to step into their world. The stories behind the myths and legends that brighten – or darken our little world.
You’ll find some that you’ve heard of, but perhaps will learn a bit you didn’t know – others may be new to you entirely. In either case, enjoy…
The ruler of the night, he who can hypnotize young women with a look, capture them forever with a bite.
The legend of the vampire has a two-prong beginning, it seems.
The one that seems to have inspired Bram Stoker to write “Dracula” is a real-life prince, Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, or as he’s more popularly known, “Vlad the Impaler”.
Young Vlad’s father was Vlad II Dracul, whose last name is “Dragon” in Slavic. “Dracula” is actually a slight alteration of Vlad III’s actual last name, “Dracolya”, which means “Son of the Dragon”.
Vlad was a member of the Order of the Dragon, a group of Romanian rulers who had sworn to protect Christianity, and thwart all attempts by the Ottoman (Turkish) empire to invade their country. When Vlad III and his brother were captured by the Turks, their father tried to bargain for their release, and was accused of treachery. He and Vlad’s brother were assassinated, and so the legacy of Vlad III began.
He was known to be a merciless ruler, and his choice of execution for his enemies (and folks who had just angered him) was impalement on a long spike. He was also said to have killed thousands of his countrymen by this method, and also a fearless warrior for his homeland. The myths surrounding him are legion, and his thirst for spilling blood unquestionable – but much of what is written of him reflects a hero whose sole purpose was to protect his country, and in that, he had no equal.
Interestingly, he did not obtain his moniker “The Impaler” until after his death – probably a wise choice.
Middle Ages medical professionals would drain blood from sufferers, finding it to be lacking in colour, and encourage them to drink large quantities of fresh, red blood, in the hope of curing them. David Dolphin, of the University of British Columbia, believes that his research shows this disease to be the cause of vampire legends.
Ironically, there probably never would have been a Prince of Darkness, were it not for a real disease called “Porphria”. This is a genetic disorder that has it’s beginnings in the intermarriages of European nobility. The name is relatively new, but the disease is ancient. The doctors who treated it in the middle ages thought of it as a blood disorder, and treated it as such. This is, in fact, when the term “vampire” came to be.
The Vampire Disease, or porphyria in scientific term, is a set of genetic disorders characterized by the malfunction of the hemoglobin production. People suffering from porphyria have symptoms manifested by mythological vampires. They are listed here:
1) Sensitive to sunlight – When a porphyria sufferer is exposed to the rays of the sun, his skin and face get disfigured and blackened. It also ruptures and swells and the resulting sores have thick hair growing from it.
2) Fangs – The fangs that vampires have are actually the appearance that a porphyria patient gets when his ears and nose start to be eaten away resulting to red lips that peel back from his receding gums. This results into the exposed fang-like teeth that are quite gruesome and frightening in appearance.
3) Drinking of blood – Since porphyria patients have purple-colored urine, it is widely believedthat this was because they drink blood. Aside from this however, there were really some instances when they did drink blood. However, it was animal blood that they used to drink as a means to relieve their anemia and pain.
4) Garlic to ward-off vampires – It may come as a surprise but even this has basis. Porphyria patients has aversion to garlic since the chemicals contained in it aggravates their symptoms. They can experience agonizing pain because of garlic.
5) No reflection in mirrors – It is believed that it must be very hard for any porphyria sufferer to see his appearance once he reached the later stage of the disease where he would have his nose, ears and lips eaten away and his canine-like teeth exposed in an ugly grin. Thus, it is but normal for him to avoid mirrors so as not to see his own deplorable reflection.
6) Aggresiveness – Those with acute porphyria are diagnosed to be irritable, uncooperative, violent and aggressive. They would swear and are basically disinhibited. This may be the reason they are taken to be dangerous.
It is tragic that those with porphyria, who were supposed to be getting medical help, were instead feared, abhorred and were burned at the stake during the Inquisition by no less than the church officials. About 600 of them were burned at the stake during this period. This is where the idea that vampires are repelled by crucifix originated. This is also the reason why porphyria victims, and so are “vampires”, are afraid of the church and anything that symbolizes it.
Thus, we have it. The legend of the blood sucking prince, doomed to roam the earth forever, seeking his victims by moonlight, and escaping the sun’s poison by day. The culmination of two strings of events, wide apart yet drawn together, once by the imagination of a brilliant writer, and again by the ignorance of those who feared what they did not understand.