What do pointy teeth, garlic, and a wooden stake have in common? They are all paraphernalia associated with the vampires of legend. Where did this legend originate and why the pointy teeth?
Stories about beings who consume the blood of the living stretch back for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Ancient Persian and Greek cultures each had vivid tales describing the activities of creatures that roamed the earth, usually in darkness, and preyed upon hapless men, women, and children.
Medieval and European folklore is rich with myths describing fanged creatures leaving victims with bites on their necks and throats. These beliefs became more widespread and accepted in the late 17th and 18th centuries, leading to cases of mass hysteria. Superstitions arose that garlic, crucifixes, and other talismans could ward off vampires. Villagers adopted many methods to end a vampire’s reign, including driving stakes through the heart and arms and legs to ensure the body could not rise from its grave. Sounds gruesome—but not as gruesome as the fate awaiting the vampire’s victims.
In 1897 Bram Stoker wrote about the vampire Dracula. Incorporating a “real life” vampire, “Vlad the Impaler,” his book captured the imagination of Victorian readers. Together with folkloric tradition Dracula evolved into the “modern” fictional vampire. By the late 20th century, vampires in literature were sometimes seen as tragic heroes rather than evil monsters. Ann Rice’s Interview With The Vampire was a huge hit with readers, and was made into a blockbuster movie. Vampires and their ilk can now be found in movies and on television screens everywhere. Stories range from horror to sympathetic “victim” to cartoon vampires that hurt no one. It appears that fascination with vampires and their stories will continue to entertain us for many years to come.
Whether a couple or a group, creating a “vampire” and “victims” is a great costume idea. Dress the vampire all in black with pointy teeth available at costume stores. Face makeup can create any “personality” desired, from ghoulish to tragic to romantic. The “victims” can dress as anything from medieval villagers to modern hipsters, but be sure to string cloves of fresh garlic into necklaces for them to wear and locate plenty of stakes for them to carry to complete the vignette. But whatever your costume – have a Happy Halloween!