Real Vampire Hunters: Past and Present
Vampire Hunters, You Say?
Just as there are legends of vampires dating back to the earliest of history, there are also legends of the people who hunted and slayed them. Vampires have long been regarded as a menace to society, feeding off of the weak and innocent. It was the vampire hunter's job to rid the world of this blood-sucking monster. Believe it or not, vampire hunters might have been even more real (if that's possible) than vampires themselves.
Let's take a look into the distant and recent past to see if vampire hunters existed and how they have become a part of mainstream society's vampire folklore and legends.
A Very Real Belief in Vampires Spans Many Cultures
Many of us today believe that vampires are just a part of fictional imagination. They are a character in a movie...the plot of another paranormal romance novel. A Halloween costume. But if we were to travel back in time to ancient parts of the world, we would see that a superstitious belief in vampires was very real, and it was not something to be taken lightly. Vampires were thought to be demons in ancient Mesopotamia, coming out at night and feeding on the blood of whomever they could catch. They looked nothing like the romanticized, handsome versions of vampires we have today. In fact, they were monstrous and grotesque in comparison. Perhaps with glowing red eyes and mangled wings. Your worst nightmare wrapped up into one creature.
Fast forward some ten centuries or so and we see that during the Inquisition, or what some call The Burning Times, thousands of people were put to death for their supposed involvement in witchcraft. How does this relate to vampires? Well, during the same time the hunt for vampires was at an all-time high in history. There were people out hunting and accusing "witches", and there were real vampire hunters parading around slaying what they claimed to be the undead. During this same time, people believed that witches could shapeshift into wolves...hence the legend of werewolves.
The Dhampir: Balkan Vampire Hunter
The Dhampir is a legend of Balkan origin—it is the baby of a vampire and a human. This vampire-human hybrid child was almost always a man, and this man was thought to be a very powerful real vampire hunter. They were thought to "have powers like vampires but without the usual weaknesses", according to our friend Wikipedia. The dhampir was incredibly powerful as he could live in the sunlight, unlike his vampire family counterparts.
This legend seems to have made way to the Hollywood version of vampire hunters, such as in the popular vampire slayer movie Blade. His mother was a vampire and his father a human, which sounds like a dhampir to me.
So how do you know if you've met a real vampire hunter that is also a dhampir? Here are some of the well-known characteristics:
- long, dark hair...usually unkempt
- large eyes, nose, and ears
- pale skin
- no shadows or reflections (like a vampire)
- soft bones, increased flexibility
- superhuman strength
- an ability to sense a vampire in the vacinity
- a desire to kill vampires
A Real Vampire Hunter Needs Supplies!
Can you believe that actual vampire hunter kits were manufactured in the 1800s? More than one kit has been found in recent times, and usually they are sold for considerable amounts of money...probably as collectors' items. Most of these real vampire hunter kits contained objects that many of us have seen used in the movies, but some contained objects that maybe aren't as Hollywood popular.
Take this vampire hunter kit above for example. This bad boy is decked out with various types of weapons for slaying purposes: knives, guns, bullets, and a wooden stake. It even appears that there is surgical tools included...I guess in case hearts or bones need to be removed from the vampire's body. Not to mention, you get a crucifix (might nice wood piece, if I do say so myself), as well as a couple dozen vials of elixirs and oils that were thought to ward off the pesky undead. And don't you just love that it's lined in a blood red fabric? That really ties the whole look together, if you ask me. This particular vampire hunter kit was thought to have been owned by Anne Rice, but it now lies in a museum collecting dust somewhere in New Orleans, LA.
Many more real vampire hunter kits are popping up all over the place. And they still make them today.
Slayers in Colonial & Victorian America
Before the discovery of penicillin and other widely-used antibiotics, people died constantly from seemingly minor illnesses. One of those illnesses was Tuberculosis, but in Colonial times it was known as "consumption". The symptoms of this illness were very severe with no treatment, and it was a very contagious disease so if one person in a family had TB then most likely another person in the family would wind up with it. Often times, this disease was mistaken for the work of a vampire. Many people believed that indeed the reason why their family members were so sick was because a vampire would feed on them at night. And so came the Mercy Brown story...and the story of real vampire hunters in New England.
Mercy Brown was a teenage girl who lived in Rhode Island in the 1800s. To make a long story short, her father believed her to have been the walking dead. He exhumed her grave, staked her heart, and then burnt her heart and fed the ashes to his youngest and only surviving child. A very sad but true story where the father was actually a real vampire hunter...though he might have mistaken his daughter's dead body for a vampire, because she had just recently been buried.
More than one account of supposed vampires and vampire hunters plagued Colonial and Victorian New England for at least a century. In the state of Connecticut, there have been graves found in which the bodies were placed in a manner that makes historians and researchers believe that they could have been exhumed at one point. This was most likely because the townsfolk believed that these dead corpses were indeed vampires...and that they had to protect their towns and families from the vampires' feedings. Were these townsfolk that hunted vampires anything like what the movies make them out to be? I don't know, but one thing is for sure...if these people were raiding cemeteries at night to kill the "undead", they could be considered real vampire hunters.
One thing that I found particularly interesting is to learn that many times these vampire hunts were led by ministers, as in the case of Annie Dennett of Vermont. She died when she was 21, and again it was believed to have been TB (consumption) but was mistaken by her family and townsfolk that she was a vampire upon burial. They exhumed her body, and a Baptist minister wrote of the events in his diary...claiming that it was indeed a mistake as her body was not much more than a skeleton.
Real Vampire Hunters in Modern Society
We know that people in Europe, specifically in Eastern Europe, had a huge belief in vampires dating back centuries. We also know that people have believed in blood-sucking creatures since ancient times. But did you know that there are still people who believe in vampires, so much so that they believe they should hunt and kill them?
Perhaps we don't hear of real vampire hunters often in the United States, but in several countries across the globe there have been cases of murder in relation to mistaken vampirism...committed by people who believed themselves to be "killing vampires" or modern-day real vampire hunters. In 2002, in a small village in Africa, a group of men killed a man who they believed to be a vampire. They also ended up causing much harm and destruction to a drilling site, as they claimed it was the local vampires' headquarters.
In Australia, a man on trial for rape "admitted" that he was a vampire and liked to drink human blood by force. What was presumed to be a group of people raided where the suspect was staying and killed him...again, making newspapers as modern-day real vampire hunters.
And in Eastern Europe there has been a couple cases of defilement of the dead, as a few people have believed their recently-deceased loved ones to be vampires. They then exhume the bodies, and stick a wooden stake or dagger through their loved ones' hearts. Yes, it is still happening to this day, folks!
So there you have it. Old and modern-day real vampire hunters...are there still dhampirs out there hunting the evil undead?
Video of a Woman Describing the Contents of a Vampire Hunting Kit
© 2013 Nicole Canfield