vampire, in folklore, animated corpse that sucks the blood of humans. Belief in vampires has existed from the earliest times and has given rise to an amalgam of legends and superstitions. They were most commonly thought of as spirits or demons that left their graves at night to seek and enslave their victims; it was thought that the victims themselves became vampires. The vampire could be warded off with a variety of charms, amulets, and herbs and could finally be killed by driving a stake through its heart or by cremation. Sometimes the vampire assumed a nonhuman shape, such as that of a bat or wolf (see lycanthropy). Probably the most famous vampire in literature is Count Dracula in the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker.
See A. Masters, The Natural History of the Vampire (1972); N. Auerbach, Our Vampires, Ourselves (1995).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.