Belief in the re-animated corpses of the dead rising from their graves and preying on the living has existed in every culture since the dawn of civilization.
In all likelihood, these fears were born of the common dread the living have of death and the grief we experience when we lose someone we love.
Sometimes, the violence and reputation of someone in life is so terrible, that even after they have died, those who have survived them live in fear that they might come back, now possessed with whatever mysterious power entering the underworld might bestow.
These nightmare creatures have been known by many names, but starting in the later 18th century and now well into the 21st, their most common name is Vampire.
The current popular idea of the Vampire is a relatively new one. In centuries past, belief that humans sometimes rise from their graves was summed up in grisly tales of the Revenant, or the Draugr.
These myths were often the result of a general lack of understanding on the workings of decomposition, in which bloated corpses were believed to be the undead satiated by the blood of the living.
These characteristics – re-animation and the thirst for blood – become common traits for the Vampire, which in time inherited other traits from other myths, such as the ability to take animal forms, to pass through walls like a ghost, an infernal relationship with the Devil and the power of hypnotism and mind control.
Across Europe in the 18th century, belief in Vampires led to a cultural phenomena and mass hysteria.
Thousands of graves were unearthed and the remains within mutilated and burned out of a real fear that the undead were the cause of a deadly outbreak of tuberculosis, known at the time as “consumption.”
This wave of superstition in time gave rise to the popular culture of Vampires, starting with the seminal vampire novel, Dracula, by author Bram Stoker and remaining to this day, as seen in books, film, television shows, comic books and video games.