BBC History Magazine

“Upon her neck was blood… to this the men pointed, crying with horror, ‘A Vampyre!’”

A dark and stormy night in Greece. Our hero, the English gentleman Aubrey, is attacked by an unknown being of irresistible strength.

Villagers with torches burst in to save him just in time. But they are too late to save his love. The pure and beautiful young Greek girl, Ianthe, is found dead a few moments later:

“There was no colour upon her cheek, not even upon her lip; yet there was a stillness about her face that seemed almost as attaching as the life that once dwelt there:—upon her neck and breast was blood, and upon her throat were the marks of teeth having opened the vein:—to this the men pointed, crying, simultaneously struck with horror, “A Vampyre! a Vampyre!”

The genteel readers who clutched this story in trembling fingers 200 years ago were witnessing the birth of the vampire in fiction – but had no idea about the lurid culture of ‘vampotainment’ to which he would give rise.

The vampiric revenant of popular belief is probably as old as fear itself. In 2008, archaeologists in the Czech Republic found a 4,000-year-old body that, a 1748 poem by the German writer Heinrich August Ossenfelder, which already offers hints of the dark eroticism later exploited by Bram Stoker and his successors.

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