What real-life character inspired Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula? Did a blood-sucking demon haunt ancient Mespotamia? Did 16th century Venetians drive a stake through the heart of a true vampire, or was something more sinister at work?
For thousands of years vampires have both terrified and titillated our imaginations. Today vampires pervade our popular culture in books, films, and TV shows, and recent discoveries are shedding new light on the origins of vampire myth and legend. This fascinating history, written in conjunction with leading experts in science, anthropology, and archaeology, explores the myriad origins of 8 fascinating vampire stories, providing gripping historic and folkloric context for the concept of beings who seemingly defied death and fed on the lifeblood of others. From ancient whispers in Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome, legends of vampiric demons passed through the centuries and around the globe, fed by misconceptions about the afterlife, fear of disease, and the unshakable feeling that demons might dwell among us.
In True Tales of Vampires, Mark Jenkins will revisit some of the touch points of vampire legend to base his tale in the historical record: shards of Persian pottery depicting blood-sucking demons; the amazing recent discovery by National Geographic archaeologist Matteo Borrini of a 16th century Venetian grave of a plague victim and suspected vampire, buried with a brick through its mouth to prevent it terrorizing the living; the Salem-witch-trial-like epidemic of vampire stakings in 18th century Germany that challenged notions of Europe’s so-called Age of Enlightenment; and the castle of Transylvanian count “Vlad the Impaler,” whose bloodthirsty methods added a new dimension to the vampire story.
The term vampire itself made its way to Europe in the 18th century, arising out of Slavic and other eastern European traditions. In 1897 Bram Stoker’s Dracula solidified the concept of a coffin-dwelling, bloodthirsty “undead” human. Today, the vampire myth is stronger than ever, and continues to fascinate the living. In Vampire Forensics Jenkins works with noted experts in the fields of archaeology, forensics, and anthropology to skillfully navigate centuries of myth and legend, adding new chapters to the vampire story and weaving spine-tingling tales along the way.
Jenkins’ long-form book about vampires, Vampire Forensics, was dubbed a “A lively and entertaining survey of the historical and scientific materials relating to the natural phenomena that earlier centuries relentlessly misinterpreted as evidence for the undead" by The Washington Post.