Vampires are a type of mythical creature that stays alive through the consumption of blood (usually human but in some instances animal blood also). Before the early nineteenth century, vampires were often depicted as bloated, disgusting, and dark creatures wearing a shroud. The popular image of the tall, thin, pale, charismatic, and often sexy vampire arose in the early nineteenth century. The first popular work of fiction to depict such a suave, sophisticated creature of the night was The Vampyre by John Polidori. However, the book that most influenced today's image of the vampire was undoubtedly Bram Stokers Dracula, published almost 80 years later.
The Creation Of A Vampire
The process of creating a vampire has varied widely in the many cultures they are seen in. In ancient China, any body jumped over by an animal was thought to become one of the undead. In Russia, it was often thought that vampires were people who had rebelled against the church, and other various weird explanations for how one becomes a vampire. It is primarily believed that this myth, like all others, was invented to explain a phenomenon. In this instance, if a corpse did not decompose at a normal rate, oh shiz it's a vampire.
Many cultures also came up with ways to prevent the turning, including but not limited to the placing of special herbs in the mouth or at the grave site, the placement of a coin with the corpse (in ancient Greece, thought to pay the toll to cross the River Styx), and the severing of the tendons in the legs. Perhaps the most creative is the superstition that if a vampire came across a sack of grain, sand, rice, etc. it would be compelled to count every grain, so the placing of sand, grain, rice, etc. at a gravesite became common.
Common Attributes (Popular Culture)
1) Super speed, strength, reflexes, etc.
2) The general ability to pass undetected (sneaky BASTARDS!!!)
3) Ability to charm/influence people almost as if they have a mental hold over them
4) In some cases, shapeshifting (common forms include bats, cats, wolves, etc.)
5) The ability to regenerate non mortal wounds (typically by ingesting human blood)
1) Vampires are often weak or simply burn in exposure to direct sunlight
2) Religious symbols (especially crosses/christian symbols) irritate or burn vampires
3) Silver, wooden, or "blessed" projectiles to the heart or head
4) One myth which is losing popularity in modern culture is that special herbs (garlic) ward off vampires
Generally, modern vampires are not the bloated freaky creatures they were in ancient cultures. They have changed dramatically from their origins. Originally, vampires were seen as disgusting things to be feared and hated, they were often bloated, with a skin tone somewhat like a bruise, they would be dressed in their linen funeral shroud, and though the teeth, hair, and nails may have grown somewhat, fangs were not a popular attribute. Today's stalkers of the night are often tall, pale, charming creatures sporting gothic clothing and large fangs.