by Lois H. Gresh (author of BLOOD AND ICE, a futuristic vampire thriller — January 2011)


In Romania, vampires were known as Strigoli, from the Roman word, strix, which referred to the screech owl.  It was thought that the strix were demons.  Of the various forms of strigoli, the strigoli vii were live witches who become vampires after they died; and the strigoli mort, or reanimated dead.  There was also a vircolac, a type of wolf who ate the sun and moon; and this type of demonic being later became known as a werewolf.

Speaking of owls, Lilith from the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament supposedly was a monster who roamed at night as an owl.  Adam’s wife before Eve, Lilith supposedly became demonized because she demanded that Adam respect her opinions.  In fact, the myth has it that she was so demonized that she killed babies and pregnant women at night using her owl form.  Later it was thought that Lilith became a vampire who attacked all of Adam and Eve’s children.

In the English language, the word vampyre or vampire was first noted in the early 1700s.  It may have come from the Turkish uber, meaning witch, and from there, to the Slavic upior or upyr, which became vampyre.

The Eastern European Nosferatu also referred to the vampire.  The western world learned of Nosferatu when Bram Stoker wrote his famous novel, Dracula.

In the middle ages, many people blamed the black death–the bubonic plague–on vampires.  The plague killed perhaps one-third of Europe and was actually spread by fleas and rats.

In the eighteenth century, a major vampire scare broke out across Eastern Europe.  Peter Plogojowitz died when he was 62 years old, but he supposedly returned a few times after dying to beg his son for food.  His son refused to help the dead Plogojowitz and was soon found dead himself, followed by several neighbors, all of whom died from massive blood loss.  Another famous case of vampirism from this period involved Arnold Paole, a farmer who had been attacked by a vampire and who died while collecting hay.  Soon after Paole’s death, the local farmers and villagers began to die, as well.  Government officials examined the bodies of both Plogojowitz and Paole, and their reports were distributed throughout Europe.  Terrified of vampires, people began digging up bodies to examine them for evidence of the undead blood-sucking killers.  In 1746, Austrian Empress Marie Therese asked her personal doctor to conduct an investigation into vampirism.  He concluded that vampires did not exist, and the scare died down.

–Excerpted from Exploring Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials by Lois H. Gresh  (St. Martin’s Press, 2006)

Lois Gresh
New York Times Best-Selling Author – 6 times
Publishers Weekly Best-Selling Paperback Author
Publishers Weekly Best-Selling Paperback Children’s Author

2 comments to VAMPIRES AROUND THE WORLD: PART 3—Lois Gresh

  • Having read this well constructed overview of the vampire trope and having had the immense pleasure of meeting Ms. Gresh in person, I must say that I am quite looking forward to the book.

    M. Keaton

  • I love learning about the history of things that go bump in the night. “Vampyre” is related to “witch.” Hmm. That just sets off lights in my head. That usually means the subconscious sent the message, “Hold on a sec, I’m working on it.”

    I know that the bloating of bodies was sometimes mistaken for signs of vampirism, as well as the other examples of decay (the skin withdraws and shrinks, leading some to believe nails and hair grew, not to mention noses, after death).