In a new series of videos, I’m going to be looking at the history of horror. And I’m starting with vampires. The origins of these blood suckers goes all the way back to ancient Greece and the myth of the Lamia. Interestingly a female vampire. Men, it would seem, do not have a monopoly on sinking their fangs into the living and draining their blood!
Vampire history and real-life murders!
Fascinating that over the last century several murderers have claimed – sometimes in mitigation for their appalling crimes – that they were vampires. The infamous English killer John George Haigh is referred to today as the Acid Bath Murderer on account of how he disposed of the bodies. But at the time, Haigh claimed he drank the blood of his victims and was referred to as the Vampire Killer back in the 1940s.
In the 1920s, the German city of Hannover was rocked by a series of murders of young men and boys. Their necks were savaged by the killer’s own teeth as he tore at their jugular veins. Eventually Friedrich Haarman was apprehended and confessed to everything. He begged the state to behead him. If you’ve watched the TV drama series Babylon Berlin – set at this time – you’ll be aware that beheading was still a form of capital punishment in Germany. Haarman got his wish and was decapitated in April 1925.
The Irish history of Vampires
One curious aspect of vampire literature that I discuss in this film – which I hope you enjoy – is the preponderance of Irish Protestant authors who loved to write about vampires. Charles Maturin was a Church of Ireland cleric and the descendant of French Huguenots – as were the other vampire scribblers, Sheridan Le Fanu (wrote the lesbian vampire drama Carmilla in 1872) and Dion Boucicault (wrote The Vampire as a theatre play renamed The Phantom for American audiences in 1856). And of course, Bram Stoker – author of the novel Dracula – was also an Irish Protestant.
I note their religion because Stoker in particular is keen to show that only Roman Catholic sacred items like the crucifix, rosary, and communion wafers, can deter Count Dracula. A very odd twist on the ancient vampire myth from an Anglican. And even stranger when you consider that Transylvania is actually in a part of Europe where the form of Christianity is Eastern Orthodox. I’d be curious to know what you think about this.
Do watch the video – it’s pretty comprehensive and should give you a thorough understanding of the history of vampires!