All About Dracula
Facts, history, and legends
by David Johnson
Learn all about Dracula and vampires in our guide to the fact and fiction of the Transylvanian prince.
From Prince to Frightening Modern Legend
What's a Vampire?
According to tradition, a vampire is a person who does not die, an "un-dead," whose corpse rises from the grave at night and seeks to suck the blood of the living. The vampire must return to the grave at dawn.
Excommunicated people, unbaptized children, criminals, babies born with teeth, witches, magicians, and the seventh son of a seventh son can all become vampires.
Various methods have been used to protect against vampires. Driving a stake of ash or aspen wood through the heart during the daylight hours will kill one. Until 1823, when it was made illegal, it was common practice in England to drive a stake through the heart of suicides. In Romania, red-hot bars were often used. The vampire's body would then be burned or reburied at a crossroads.
In Eastern Europe, vampires are believed to be afraid of garlic. Farm animals can be rubbed with garlic to protect them, while garlic often hangs from doors and windows to keep vampires out. Anyone who does not like garlic can be suspected of being a vampire.
Thorns of wild roses will also keep vampires away. Because vampires are compulsive counters, poppy seeds are often tossed around cemeteries, so that when the vampire awakes, he will spend the night counting and be forced to return to the grave before dawn.
Vampires dislike mirrors and silver, so silver crosses or icons were frequently displayed in houses for protection.