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Vampires have become increasingly popular in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, particularly because, in modern books, movies and television shows, they've become sexy. That was not the picture of the original vampire, however. Traditional vampires were humanoids with pale skin, generally seen with the blood of their victimes on their face. Vampires are immortal, and can be killed only when a wooden stake is plunged into their heart, by exposure to sunlight, or by garlic. Dracula may have been the first infamous vampire, but the legend preceeded him. Dracula was based on Vlad the Impaler, who got his name from his habit of impaling his victims in long lines of wooden stakes, and was hardly the stuff that romance is made of. The original vampires weren't sexy, and they weren't loved. They were dangerous sadists, who were often believed to be demons. They weren't pretty, either. If you were to picture a ghoul or a zombie, you'd have an idea of what the original vampires looked like. Although there are believers, most people today don't believe that vampires truly exist. Still, the legends long preceded the movies and books of today, and legends generally come from somewhere. One theory has to do with a disease known as porphyria, which stems from an unpredictable production of heme, which is a chemical in the blood. When people have this disease, it adds toxins to the skin that act like an acid when exposed to sunlight, and they may also have an intolerance for foods like garlic, with a high sulphur content. Another is tuberculosis. We know now that TB is a lung disease, but people with TB tend to have a pale appearance and are prone to coughing up blood. As TB is highly contagious, people may have assumed that the TB sufferer was a vampire who was turning others into vampires. Catalepsy may have also played into it. Catalepsy attacks the central nervous system, slowing the sufferers heart and respiratory rate, making them appear temporarily dead.



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