A vampire is a corpse that is not really dead. It arises at night to drink the blood of the living to replenish itself. The word itself originated as the Slavic word obyri or obiri, which evolved into the Bulgarian vampir. Another word for vampire, nosferatu, comes from the Greek nosophoros, plague-carrier.
Vampires fear light, have pale skin, and grow fangs. Doctors believe there may be a medical explanation for the proliferation of vampire stories in Eastern Europe. Porphyria, a hereditary blood disease, was once widespread among the aristocracy. Patients were sensitive to light, developed brownish teeth, and had skin lesions. They were often told to drink blood from other people to replenish their own.
Rabies also causes vampire-like symptoms, insomnia, delirium, and strange behavior. A rabies epidemic occurred in Transylvania around the time of Dracula, the world's most notorious vampire.
In Greek myth, Lycaos was the extraordinarily cruel king of Arcadia. Lycaos sought favor with Zeus by offering him the flesh of a young child. Enraged, Zeus turned Lycaos into a wolf. The belief that certain people can turn themselves into animals, especially wolves, and roam the earth doing evil became widespread.
The word "werewolf" means "manwolf" since wer is the Saxon word for man. Werewolves love to eat babies and corpses. Only silver bullets or arrows can kill a werewolf. After death, a werewolf resumes his human identity.
In the Middle Ages, many Europeans believed wolves were tools of the devil and the animals were ruthlessly hunted. Epileptics and the mentally ill were often brought to court and accused of being werewolves. Today, psychologists use the term "lycanthrope" to describe a mentally ill person who actually believes he has been changed into an animal.
Certain branches of Haitian and West African vodou, or voodoo, believe a spirit or spell can bring a corpse back to life to perform heavy labor or evil deeds for its master, a sorcerer.
Zombies walk like robots. In August 1995, National Geographic magazine reported that men of the Ewe people of Togo, West Africa, chanted a blessing over sacred knives, which were then pointed at a chicken, which promptly shivered and died without being touched.