The vampire story has been popular with readers for over a century, and vampire literature even has its own genre. There are many people who are not comfortable with teenagers becoming enticed by vampire literature and some who even say that times have changed for the worse because of this fixation with the undead. However, history shows that vampires have been a part of our lore for centuries and some of the vampire tropes (behaviours) go back as far as the 1700s. The real change in vampire stories is the delivery, from oral storytelling, to print, to film.
“Dracula” was first written in 1897, but this novel by Bram Stoker was not the first text to introduce the “Count” to audiences for the first time. John William Polidori wrote “The Vampyre”, which was published in 1819. This short story is considered the first successful story to present coherent vampire behaviours to a reader. But vampire mania goes back even further to the early 1700s, when a number of suspected vampires were exhumed from the grave.
The standard vampire “tropes” or common behaviours were not invented all at once in one writing. German author, Heinrich August Ossenfelder, wrote a poem entitled “The Vampire” in 1748, and this poem details the vampire’s kiss. “Varney the Vampire”, written in 1847, is the first to have the vampire come through the window of the victim’s home. That’s right, Mr. King didn’t invent this one.
There were also lots of behaviours that were written that never stuck to become tropes of the vampire. In The Giaour” by Lord Byron, the vampire was doomed to only feed on relatives. Imagine being chased by Granny Fang.
As time went on and storytelling changed, vampires entered the film screen, television, comic books, and video games. Shows like “Buffy the Vampire Killer” had unexpected success, running from 1997 until 2003. “The Vampire Diaries” is another television vampire series aimed at a young-adult audience. It is based on a book series and premiered in 2009. Fans can follow episodes on the web site, get spoilers through Twitter, download full seasons on Netflix and through Apple TV. This “series saturation” is a new way to enjoy vampire stories without waiting a week for a new episode.
If you’re a vampire junkie, you might want to watch “The Lost Boys,” “The Hunger,” “Salem’s Lot” and some black and white classics, including the very creepy “Nosferatu”. Bella Lagosi is hailed as being one of the best performing vampires, next to Christopher Lee of the black eyes, and Gary Oldman of “Dracula”.
Vampires have long thrilled, chilled and scared us through stories, print, films and have started to appear in games and other forms of text. Vampire literature is not new but the delivery is ever-changing. For those of us who enjoy stories of Dracula, Nosferatu and other creatures of the night, we can be assured that the storytelling will continue to evolve with entertainment technology, and just like the undead, be around for eternity.