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Bela Lugosi with Frances Dade in Dracula (1931).—Courtesy of Universal Pictures; photograph, The Bettmann Archive
In popular legend, a bloodsucking creature that rises from its burial place at night, sometimes in the form of a bat, to drink the blood of humans. By daybreak it must return to its grave or to a coffin filled with its native earth. Tales of vampires are part of the world's folklore, most notably in Hungary and the Balkan Peninsula. The disinterment in Serbia in 1725 and 1732 of several fluid-filled corpses that villagers claimed were behind a plague of vampirism led to widespread interest and imaginative treatment of vampirism throughout western Europe. Vampires are supposedly dead humans (originally suicides, heretics, or criminals) who maintain a kind of life by biting the necks of living humans and sucking their blood; their victims also become vampires after death. These undead creatures cast no shadow and are not reflected in mirrors. They can be warded off by crucifixes or wreaths of garlic and can be killed by exposure to the sun or by an oak stake driven through the heart. The most famous vampire is Count Dracula from Bram Stoker's novel Dracula (1897).
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on vampire, visit Britannica.com.