Five Fascinating Facts about Vampire Fiction

Fun facts about vampires in literature

1. Vampires began to appear in literature in a big way in the early eighteenth century, as a result of a real-life ‘vampire craze’. In the 1720s and 1730s, vampires became a big part of European culture, and even included the digging up of a couple of suspected vampires, Petar Blagojevich and Arnold Paole, in Serbia. Following this, there was a 1748 poem The Vampire by Heinrich August Ossenfelder, as well as the narrative poem Lenore (1773) by Gottfried August Bürger.

2. However, the first vampire novel was written in the early nineteenth century – and was conceived on the same holiday that produced Frankenstein. John Polidori, who wrote the first vampire novel, The Vampyre, in 1819, was among the group of friends staying at Lord Byron’s villa in 1816 when Mary Shelley came up with the story of Frankenstein. Polidori was also a qualified doctor and was the first person to study sleepwalking. (He recommended a sound beating, or else the application of an electric current.)

3. In Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula isn’t killed by a wooden stake through the heart. Although this method is mentioned in the 1897 novel, and Van Helsing uses a stake through the heart to dispatch a number of the ‘brides of Dracula’, the Count himself is actually vanquished by having two knives thrust into his chest and neck: ‘But, on the instant, came the sweep and flash of Jonathan’s great knife. I shrieked as I saw it shear through the throat. Whilst at the same moment Mr. Morris’s bowie knife plunged into the heart.’

4. ‘Sanguivoriphobia’ is the fear of vampires. The word literally means ‘fear of blood-eaters’.

5. The basic plot of each of the novels in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight saga is loosely based on a literary classic. Each book in Meyer’s phenomenally successful Twilight series was inspired by, and based on, a work of literature: the first novel, Twilight, was based on Pride and Prejudice, New Moon was based on Romeo and Juliet, Eclipse on Wuthering Heights, and Breaking Dawn on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Meyer was originally going to call the first book not Twilight but Forks, after the town in which it is set.

If you enjoyed these fun facts about vampire fiction, you might also enjoy our fascinating Dracula facts. For more literary trivia, we recommend our book crammed full of 3,000 years of interesting bookish facts, The Secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey Through Curiosities of History, available now from Michael O’Mara Books.

Image: A screenshot from the trailer for the Hammer Horror film Dracula (1958), Wikimedia Commons.

7 thoughts on “Five Fascinating Facts about Vampire Fiction”

  1. In the interests of strict accuracy I must point out that Dr Polidori wasn’t staying at the Villa Diodati as a friend, but as an employee – he was travelling with Byron as his personal physician – and they parted company soon afterwards (‘we did not suit’). This may have added something to his portrait of his vampire, Lord Ruthven, who was quite clearly based on his beautiful and extremely seductive employer – the very young Polidori was, if anything, even more beautiful, but eclipsed by his patron’s fame. The others – Mary Godwin (as she was then), her partner, Shelley and her step sister Claire were actually staying at a villa a little distance away, but visited Byron every day and sometimes stayed overnight at Diodati. Claire had persuaded them to accompany her across Europe in pursuit of Byron – she was pregnant by him, but he was not especially anxious for her company, Mary admitted to a strong dislike of her half-sister, and may have resented Shelley’s attentions to her – there was a great deal of what we used to call ‘bad vibes’ amongst the group, and laudanum was freely available…the general atmosphere of the villa party may have added a great deal to the atmosphere of both ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘The Vamyre’ – combined with the bad weather (1816 was the ‘year without summer’) possibly due to the dust thrown up into the atmosphere by a huge volcanic eruption the year before, which kept them confined to the house.

  2. To note, I read somewhere Bram Stroker was inspired by and/or he had a clipping in his files about Mercy Brown, a young woman from Rhode Island — so from then on — being from Boston it kind of takes the allure of all things vampire away from me. Smithsonian also did a comprehensive article about the New England vampire panic in 2012 — again informative but for me, takes away any old world mystery or literary allusions. For over ten years now, I put a Mercy Brown clipping into fall/Halloween care packages (mostly books and magazines) for the troops, and they love it. Get a lot of notes/comments back saying it’s interesting. Back in the 1990’s there was a small literary/horror and mystery zine out of Salem, Mass. (I think) called Freezer Burn. And I should have kept the single issue I had — there was a very well written story about a couple of vampires/post apocalypse/that were trying to save humanity. And this was really far before both the pop culture rising of both vampires and this whole swing toward Dystopian fiction we are experiencing today.


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