If you're over the age of twelve, chances are you know that vampires didn't start with Twilight. Thankfully, they come from a more complex background, with centuries of nuanced history behind them. The creatures that have exploded into pop culture as of late are all different variations of beings that exist in the folklore of many different cultures. Let's take a look at some real-life places that blood-suckers have been known to frequent.
#1: Highgate Cemetery - London, England
On March 13th, 1970, vampire hunters from all over England swarmed Highgate, one of the creepiest cemeteries in the world. They were convinced that a Romanian nobleman-turned-vampire had been lurking the grounds since the 18th century. One of the most avid hunters, David Farrant, was told by a psychic exactly where this vampire could be found. He went to specified grave and opened the coffin so that he could drive a stake through the body of this supposed vampire. A friend of Farrant's persuaded him to stop at the last second, and he reluctantly shut the lid. Instead, he left garlic in the vault. Our thoughts?... Where were the police during all of this?
#2: Cairngorms - Scottish Highlands
Legend has it that ancient, undead vampires called baobhan sitlh, or the White Women of the Highlands, hunt the young men that travel through these hauntingly beautiful, pine-clad slopes. What's their technique? They lure the men to dance with them- because who doesn't love dancing in the middle of a snow-covered mountain range? At the first kiss, they sink their fingernails into their victim's neck and drain their blood. If you stumble upon a the grave of a baobhan sitlh, make sure they never rise again by building a mound of stones, or cairn, over their graves. To this day, many cairns can be found throughout the Scottish Highlands. Some may call it superstition, others call it survival.
#3: Bran Castle - Transylvania, Romania
Now a museum, this gothic castle deep in the Transylvanian forest used to be the home of the ferocious man who inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula. He was the tyrannical medieval ruler now known as Vlad the Impaler. Allegedly responsible for the deaths of 80,000 men, women, and children, he regularly threw his prisoners from the walls of the castle into a pit of large stakes below- hence the "impaler" nickname. It is said that the approaching Turkish army fled after stumbling upon a forest of rotting, impaled corpses beside the Danube river. Hey, you can't say the guy didn't have effective means of repulsion! Legend has it that he would dine with his men among the impaled corpses, and drink the blood of his unlucky victims. Yuck.
#4: Kadaň- Czech Republic
In 1337, villagers near the town of Kadaň complained that they were being visited by a vampire shepherd. A document written in 1687 recounts that the shepherd left his grave and terrorized the villagers for 8 nights. He would drain someone's blood while in they slept in their bed, and they would inevitably die with eight days. When the villagers finally staked the vampire, it taunted them and ripped the wooden stake from its rotting flesh. Only when the vampire was burned and staked multiple times was the village at peace.
#5: Čachtice Castle- Trenčín, Slovakia
These ruins may not look like much now, but between the 16th and 17th centuries they were home to Countess Elizabeth Báthory, popularly known as the Blood Countess. One day, while the notoriously youth-obsessed Báthory was being dressed by her maid, blood from the maid's pricked finger trickled onto the Countess' cheek. When Báthory looked in the mirror, she thought her skin looked much younger and more radiant. The crazed woman proceeded to murder over 600 girls in her quest for eternal youth. She would lure the girls to the castle, promising them jobs as servants, and would torture or kill them in order to extract their blood. The grossest part? She didn't just do a blood facial every now and then... No. She BATHED in blood every single day. Thankfully, she was eventually found out and imprisoned. To this day, locals will not go near the castle, for fear that the spirit of the Countess still searches for the blood of young girls.
#6: Château de Chambord- Loir-Et-Cher, France
This gorgeous chateau was the court seat of French monarch Louis XV, which included a mysterious man, The Comte de St. Germaine. Famous French writer Voltaire described the count as "a man who knows everything and who never dies." We suspect he may not have been speaking metaphorically. Nobody knew anything about the Count when he first came to the French Court, though he eventually claimed to be the son of a Transylvanian prince. He supposedly introduced the king's mistress to what he considered to be the "elixir of life." You guessed it: blood! Some thought he was a spy, others thought he was an alchemist. The smart ones suspected he was a true vampire. The count had many strange habits and claimed that he was centuries old. He never ate in public, he conjured diamonds from his pockets, and rarely left his room during the day. Several of the Count's close associates died of wasting disease, no matter their age. Interestingly, the Count was quite friendly with the rulers of Austria, who subscribed to a vampiric cult called Nephilim.
#7: Mytilene- Lesbos, Greece
In Greek folklore, a vrykolakas is a creature that resembles a werewolf. If killed, it comes to life as a vampire, fangs and all. The beast is said to feast on the flesh of animals and people, sometimes driving them insane or tearing them apart. A suspected vrykolakas was either taken to a remote island and burned, or nailed to a coffin with iron stakes.
Archeologists working in the remains of an old Turkish cemetery near the town of Mytilene made a gruesome discovery that mirrored the folklore. It was the remains of a body that was, for some reason, buried separately from the other bodies. The corpse had been nailed to the coffin with iron stakes through its neck, pelvis, and ankles.
#8: Paramin, Trinidad
In Northern Trinidad, a soucouyant is a female vampire who obeys the orders of her demon master, who sends her to look for new victims each night. Her MO is pretty spectacular, we think you'll agree. Basically, she turns into a ball of fire and enters homes through keyholes, then sucks the blood from the women sleeping inside. She then delivers the blood to her demon lord in return for magical powers. Spooky, but kind of awesome!
#9: Pontianak- West Kalimantan, Indonesia
If you ever find yourself in West Kalimantan, make sure you never leave your clothes out at night. If you do, legend has it that a bloodsucking lady will sniff you out, disembowel you with her long fingernails, eat your innards, and tear off your genitals. We think that's total overkill, but we'd rather not argue with a creature like that. This evil thing is called a pontianak, and it is said that the city of Pontianak was named after this vengeful spirit in order to placate her. She lives in banana trees by day, but at night she becomes a beautiful woman and beguiles any man that comes near her. The only way to defeat this temptress is to plunge a fingernail into the nape of your neck. Our advice? Don't cut your nails when visiting Indonesia.
#10 Cebu Island, Philippines
Something's wrong in paradise, and it's the evil aswang spirits that feast on pregnant women and their unborn fetuses. They appear on calm evenings between December and February and descend from the mountain volcanoes. They hold social gatherings disguised as normal, unassuming people who are reported to be shy and polite. At night, however, they turn into horrific versions of cats, pigs or bats, and use their long, barbed tongue to suck fetuses out of the womb of their mother. They are said to be quick, silent, and so thin that they can hide behind a bamboo cane. That's a whole lot of nope!
Author: Nate Morgan