Interestingly enough, there are diseases and physical conditions that can cause people to have “vampiric” traits. Given the lack of medical knowledge and understanding, as well as cultures based in superstition, it’s not surprising that vampire sightings have occurred throughout history. Add to that the later practice of grave robbing for money, jewelry and scientific research and it just adds to the hysteria and mystery of vampires. The conditions we can identify now surely existed then. Any odd behavior associated with them would definitely have caused suspicion and fear. These are the main medical possibilites that might explain why people have always believed vampires exist:
Porphyria is a disease of the blood and it has numerous, unfortunate symptoms. Depending upon the specific “strain” of the disease, people afflicted are extremely sensitive to sunlight – to the point of not being able to walk past a sunny window without blistering and peeling their skin. Because the red blood cells don’t live as long in people with porphyria, there is a tendency towards anemia.
Anemia causes individuals to become extremely pale and lose most of the coloring around their lips, eyelids, gums and even hands and palms. It also makes the skin feel very cold. Anemia is a far more common condition and associated with many more things than something as rare as porphyria.
Recent studies have been published that discuss the symptoms of rabies in humans and linking them to vampirism. Interestingly, rabies tends to increase saliva (causing drooling), cause hypersensitivity to light and sound, biting and a strange fear of water (holy water??). There were several massive European outbreaks of rabies among animals in the 1700s (probably before and after, too) and no doubt people were also attacked and infected. Imagine meeting a rabid man, frothing at the mouth and having strange aversions to seemingly normal things. It would terrify the village and create an irrational fear that a vampire was on the loose. Excellent!
Lastly, catalepsy is similar to being in a trance – and having no muscle control or reaction to stimuli. Catalepsy can be caused by mental disorders such as Schizophrenia or diseases like Parkinson’s. We’re foolish if we don’t think people have always suffered from mental delusions – far earlier than we could ever know, understand, name or diagnose.
Being Socreepy, I don’t ever want to burst the horror bubble. Of COURSE vampires exist! I just wanted to point out why vampires seem to have such specific behaviors associated with them.