Death and the Vampire

Fangs

The vampire has long been established as a powerful icon of our culture. Many are tempted to believe that the power and popularity of the fanged beast are simply explained by our collective love for danger.

Yes, the vampire is dangerous. There is no question that he (or she!) has taken his position among horror monsters that will survive the ages. However, few creatures inspire the kind of devotion you find in followers of the vampire. Few people are as fascinated with the mummy or Frankenstein's monster as they are with the creatures of the night.

I agree with the "danger theory" wholeheartedly as an explanation for the pervasive nature of horror in general, but I tend to think the reasoning behind the vampire's vast history has more to do with the most universal and powerful of human fears: the fear of death.

From a folkloric standpoint, the vampire may have served as mythic explanation for a process that few cultures understood historically. Death has always been a mystery, but never more so than prior to the developments of science and medicine that have evolved in this century.

Humans have always tried to understand the world around them; our thirst and capacity for learning are unlimited. Historically, however, something that cannot be understood or explained is relegated to the breeding ground from which springs myth and superstition. How many things are "known" to cause bad luck, for example? Spilled salt, walking underneath a ladder, a black cat crossing our path... the list goes on and on. The vampire's presence in folklore indicates that its purpose may well have been to explain through superstition what could not be understood through any other means: the mystery of death.

In modern times, death is better understood, but not fully; old superstitions are always just beneath the surface. Death still frightens people more than anything else. We're still not sure as a culture what happens after death - which is why we have everything from cryogenic corpse preservation to elaborate Roman Catholic funerals. Stephen King once said, "Burial is a mystery, but death is a secret." Media today (from film to fiction and beyond) is a reflection of these beliefs and fears - which is why the vampire continues to hold us in thrall.

The vampire, to some, is still a representation of a frightening truth in our lives - every living thing must die. The vampire fascinates us because his very nature is the antithesis of that truth. He died in order to have existence, and his existence is fed by the death of others.

To others, the vampire of today represents the ability we all wish we had - the ability to cheat death, to overcome it and continue to exist. It can be a romantic vision - this creature is immortal, and yet no other creature on earth knows death as intimately as he. What a delicious dichotomy.

 

--written by Angie McKaig


Fanged Films

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

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