Five Vampire Stories You Haven’t Heard Yet
Through the centuries, the vampire myth has taken many different forms. Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images
Vampire lore reaches back more than a millennium, to the first known written reference to the undead bloodsuckers in an Old Russian religious text. And Dracula scholar Edward G. Petitt doesn’t think our interest in them will ever die. “That fascination is rooted in our anxiety over death,” he says. “And vampires are tied up in the way we relate to each other and how we relate to each other in intimate ways.” These five favorite Atlas Obscura stories show the evolution of the vampire—through history and literature, yes, but also through tales of fraud, conspiracy, and even mathematics.
The vampire myth was born out of disease, demons, and discord.
As a professor of Slavic studies who has taught a course on vampires called “Dracula” for more than a decade, author Stanley Stepanic has always been fascinated by the vampire’s popularity, considering its origins—as a demonic creature strongly associated with disease.
A warped version of the vetala may have been an inspiration for modern vampire stories.
As 11th-century legend goes, the vetala is a ghoulish trickster of varying description that haunts cemeteries and forests, hanging upside down from trees and waiting for humans to play pranks on. It existed in Indian lore, at least until 19th-century British explorer Richard Burton brought the story of the vetala to Western audiences. He chose to describe the creature as a “vampire” instead of a “spirit.” The rest is history.
A first edition of Dracula, published in 1897, in the Rosenbach collection. COURTESY THE ROSENBACH, PHILADELPHIA (EL3 S874D 897)
Bram Stoker defined the rules of vampirism.
The Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia holds Bram Stoker’s notes on his now-famous novel about the fanged among us. They reveal that the author considered giving his main character the ability to “give no shadow,” to “see in the dark,” and to have “the power of getting big and small. ”
A vampire killing kit from the Royal Armouries in Leeds, not quite as vintage as some might think. Item XII.11811 © Royal Armouries
Can a modern fraud protect you from a centuries-old threat?
Around 1970, when movies and television series starring Dracula helped revive interest in Eastern Europe’s ancient bloodthirsty undead, dealers started catering to the burgeoning market for antiques related to vampires. Worn wooden boxes full of tarnished weapons, said to kill or at least gross out vampires, surfaced widely at auctions. The only problem: Historians have debunked them as hoaxes.
Running the numbers on a mass bloodletting.
A surprisingly large number of academic studies—as in, more than none—have applied mathematical modeling to the concept of human-vampire coexistence. We have 165 days—or a lifetime, if we can make peace with the bloodthirsty among us.
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10 Out-of-the-Ordinary Vampire Stories | The New York Public Library
By Denise Jarrott, Library Information Assistant
November 13, 2020
Most readers are familiar with a certain ancient, vaguely Eastern European count in a mouldering castle, or even John Polidori’s short story “The Vampyre,” which predates Dracula by several decades. Who among us wasn’t at least curious about Stephenie Meyer’s brooding, sparkly creatures? Stereotypes are the standard, but if you’re looking for a vampire-themed book with something a little different, these texts offer the unexpected. These are vampires of a different sort, who lead very different lives and operate by a different set of rules.
From uncanny short stories to gender-bending erasure poetry, the novel isn’t the only genre where you can find a vampire lurking in the shadows.
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno Garcia
An earlier novel by the author of Mexican Gothic, this fast-paced noir thriller set in Mexico City follows a street kid who becomes attached to Atl, a descendant of ancient Aztec blood drinkers. Part love story, part noir thriller, Moreno Garcia establishes herself as a master of the new Gothic novel.
“La Morte Amoreuse” from My Fantoms by Theophile Gautier
All of Gautier’s short tales contain love, death, and a sense of the uncanny, from a tapestry that comes to life to a time travelling tourist to the preternaturally beautiful undead parishioner who takes it upon herself to seduce a newly ordained priest, these stories by French poet Thophile Gautier are as original as they are terrifying. Newly released as a collection by The New York Review of Books.
Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Adapted twice, once as a film by the same title in Lindqvist’s native Sweden and again in the United States as Let Me In, the book is, as always, more terrifying than the films. An isolated young boy, Oskar, befriends a mysterious new neighbor girl, Eli, who only comes out at night.
Fledgling by Octavia Butler
Another hybrid of science fiction and vampire novel, Fledgling features complex world building and unforgettable characters, including the main character, Shori, who appears to be a young African American girl, but is actually 53 years old. As always, Octavia Butler creates a brutal yet engaging scenario for her characters.
RED by Chase Berggrun
This collection of poems, formed from an erasure from the text of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, create a new narrative, one in which the silenced feminine voices take center stage. These poems transform Stoker’s original novel, but retain the terrifying creature that lurks between the lines.
A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising by Raymond A. Villareal
What if a virus that turned humans into vampires shifted from something feared into a full-on coup? In Villareal’s novel, a virus turns humans into vampiric creatures called “gloamings” and they slowly seize power over the human population—to the point where catching the virus and transitioning into a vampire is now preferable, and adopted by the ruling class.
“Vampires in the Lemon Grove” from
Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
Among other stunning short fiction, the title story from this collection focuses on a married pair of vampires who, after years of having to subsist on blood, decide to relieve their thirst with none other than good old fashioned lemonade. The language is subtle and moving.
The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed by Karen Elizabeth Gordon
Who knew a grammar guide could be so deliciously spooky? The Deluxe Transitive Vampire is a must for those who want to understand the nuances of language and discover its challenges in new ways. With dramatic, Victorian-esque illustrations, you’ll find your way around even the most complex sentences with the help of bats, gargoyles and ghouls.
The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez
A seductive blend of speculative fiction spanning time and place and elements of the lush vampire novels we know and love, Jewelle Gomez’ heroine spans time and place, and provides a portrait of America through the eyes of an unnamed Black, queer vampire who begins her life as a vampire first as a runaway slave and is taken in by Gilda, the owner of a brothel-cum-vampire coven. A study on chosen family and the bonds between women through the lens of an ever-changing and unforgettable heroine.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
Grady Hendrix’s novel strikes a difficult balance between hilarious and actually truly terrifying. Set in the 90s, a group of Southern women become entangled with a mysterious, handsome stranger. When they discover who he is and what he wants from them, they must find out how to stop him.
Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.
Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We’d love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!
15 books about vampires that are not ashamed to read
June 12, 2022
Taboo love, Guillermo del Toro’s writing debut, modern urban fantasy and no Twilight.
Despite the wildly popular love story between the girl Bella and the vampire Edward, there is an opinion among critics and fans of mysticism that the Twilight saga, to put it mildly, failed. An inexpressive plot, clumsy dialogues and undeveloped characters are far from a complete list of complaints about these novels. But they should not cast a shadow over the entire genre as a whole. Among the books about cold-blooded bloodthirsty monsters, there are those that will not cause a feeling of embarrassment to read.
1. Dracula by Bram Stoker
Bram Stoker told the story of the most famous vampire in the world through his diary entries and letters from the characters. The choice of the epistolary genre was not accidental. The writer wanted to give the plot credibility and terrify the reader.
Jonathan Harker goes to a mysterious castle whose owner wants to buy property from him. Very soon, the man realizes that he has fallen into a trap, and the future buyer not only poses a real threat to the young man, but also wants to harm his bride, Mina. He comes to the aid of another canonical hero – Professor Abraham Van Helsing.
For many, the name of Count Dracula is synonymous with the word “vampire”. The influence of this novel on culture is difficult to overestimate. His hero became the prototype for many book ghouls. Films are made about him, cartoons are drawn, performances are staged and songs are written.
2. Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan le Fanu
25 years before the publication of Dracula, a book was published that tells about the love of a vampire for a mortal girl. The author carefully wove the topic of same-sex love, which was taboo in the 19th century, into a gloomy short story. Unfortunately, according to the laws of Gothic literature, it ends sadly.
Bram Stoker made no secret of his inspiration from Le Fanu’s work. It was “Carmilla” that became the starting point for the creation of “Dracula”. In addition, the main character influenced the spread of the vampire woman archetype: tall, stately, mysterious and always lonely.
3. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
The king of horrors, the great King, also did not bypass the vampire theme. Salem’s Lot takes the reader to the author’s favorite place, a small town in northern Maine. People are slowly but steadily disappearing from there. Where they go and whether they are alive remains a mystery. Those who are lucky enough not to disappear decide to simply leave, without waiting for the sad fate of their neighbors.
Intrigued by this story, young writer Ben goes into the thick of things, where he quickly realizes that the inhabitants of the city are divided into two camps – vampires and their victims.
4. “Interview with the Vampire” by Anne Rice
It’s hard to believe now that in the distant 70s, publishers dismissed Anne Rice’s debut book, “Interview with the Vampire”. For three years, the manuscript was gathering dust on the shelf, and as soon as it saw the light, it made the writer famous all over the world.
Mysterious Louis tells a reporter about his long life story, which began in the 18th century. Heartbroken by the death of his brother, he despairs, begins to drink and sinks to the very bottom. It is there that the vampire Lestat finds him, bites him in the neck and turns him into his own kind. This is where things get interesting. By the way, the book is different from the film adaptation, so you can read it after watching the movie.
5. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
The novel depicts vampirism not as a condition that is transmitted through a bite, but as an epidemic. One by one people turn into monsters. Among them is a man who is immune to this strange disease. Every night he is besieged by bloodsuckers, and he is forced to fight for his life with this insatiable horde.
Published in 1954, the book was an immediate success. After the film adaptation of the same name with Will Smith in the title role, she was covered by a second wave of popularity. But the reader will be quite surprised, because the original differs from the movie in many ways.
6. “Night Watch”, Sergei Lukyanenko
“Night Watch” opens the legendary book series of the same name about the world of Others, which exists in parallel to our usual one. Two opposing forces clashed in the Twilight, the Night Watch and the Day Watch. They balance each other and do not allow either side to succeed, so as not to upset the balance.
In addition to vampires, there are mages, witches, werewolves and other mysterious and powerful creatures in the Other world. This book is considered one of the most popular in modern Russian literature, and the phrase “Everyone get out of the Twilight” became winged thanks to the film adaptation.
7. Freak Circus, Darren Sheng
Like many schoolchildren, the main character Darren does not like to go to school, does not understand his parents and complains about life. Soon he will appreciate the calm everyday life of a teenager, but it will be too late. Together with friends, the boy gets into an unusual circus. The performances seem strange and frightening because the performers are not entirely human.
Intrigued by what he saw, Darren’s friend decides to do something rash and nearly dies. His life is saved by one of the circus performers, who is also a vampire. To repay for saving a comrade, the hero will have to work for a bloodsucker. But first, the boy needs to stage his own funeral.
8. “Historian”, Elisabeth Kostova
The professor’s young daughter accidentally finds mystical letters in his library. The father, who does not want to reveal the secret, still gives up after much questioning. Once he tried to find the grave of Vlad Tepes, a real person whose identity was overgrown with rumors that he was a vampire.
There are three elements in the book: the biography of the ruler of Wallachia, Stoker’s story of Count Dracula, and legends of bloodsuckers from all over the world. Father and daughter investigate any clues and travel to different countries, trying to unravel the mystery of the most famous vampire. To find out once and for all whether he really existed or was a figment of the imagination.
9. “Cold City” by Holly Black
Against the background of the abundance of literature that romanticizes vampires and makes them attractive, “Cold City” stands out. From the very beginning, these creatures are shown to be evil and deadly.
The main character Tana wakes up after a fun feast and finds that almost all of her friends have been killed by bloodsuckers. Survivor Aidan is in mortal danger. To save him, you have to go to the Cold City, inhabited by ghouls. This place looks like an eternal holiday. But it is worth going deeper, as Tana understands: it is difficult to get out of here unscathed.
10. Profession: witch, Olga Gromyko
Another book that breaks the stereotypes of the genre. Vampire stories are supposed to be creepy and dark, but not this one. The writer brought comedy and a funny play on words into the mysterious world of nosferatu. For example, the main character’s name is Volha Rednaya or, for short, V. Rednaya.
Characters are the main feature of the novel. Even the vampire here is not an evil killer, but a hospitable hostess. Gromyko combined adventure lines with humor, weaved in a bit of Slavic mythology and flavored it with a well-thought-out magical world that is easy to believe in.
11. “King of the Hill”, Vadim Panov
The Masan family, which is discussed in the book, appeared on the pages of other novels of the “Secret City” cycle, where she was assigned a secondary role. But the images turned out to be bright and soon migrated to their own work – “King of the Hill”.
The plot develops around the confrontation between two vampire clans that are fighting for power and the right to dominate. However, soon they will have to realize that together they are stronger. But in order to become a single entity, each of the parties will have to sacrifice something. Not all members of the family are ready for this.
12. Carpe Jugulum. Grab your throat!”, Terry Pratchett
Vampires are certainly dangerous creatures. But people for many centuries have learned to defend themselves against them. In the course are fetid plants, daylight and religious symbols, from which the evil spirits are removed, or even die.
The head of a vampire family is sick and tired of this vulnerability. Therefore, he began to temper himself and his loved ones: he put garlic in their pillows and waved a crucifix in front of their faces. In the end, these methods ceased to be deadly for them. And since vampires are now so powerful, it’s time to grab the world by the throat.
13. “Strain. The Beginning, Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
Famous director Guillermo del Toro wanted to make a series about vampires, but could not find funding for it. He did not want to put the idea on the shelf, so he joined forces with writer Chuck Hogan, and together they published three novels. The books were so successful that they received their own film adaptation.
According to del Toro and Hogan, vampirism is an epidemic that is spreading rapidly throughout New York City. Parasites penetrate people, which take possession of the hosts and change not only eating habits, but also appearance. The longer the infection sits in the body, the less its victim resembles a person. A team of epidemiologists will have to understand the nature of the virus in order to figure out how to destroy it.
14. “Empire V”, Viktor Pelevin
As you know, vampires are not born, but become. They do not immediately gain strength and do not always quickly adapt to changes in their lives. Pelevin followed the young Roma, who accidentally turns into a bloodsucker.
The protagonist will first have to change his name to be accepted in vampire circles, learn social skills and etiquette, and come to terms with the fact that nothing will be the same for him. But the most difficult test for Roma is to forget that he was once a man.
15. “Vampires”, Baron Olchevry
A descendant of Count Dracula comes to an old Transylvanian castle to claim his rights to the property. In the library, his assistant finds mysterious diaries and letters, which he reads to the new owner and his friends. At first, what was written seems to be nothing more than a game of someone’s imagination. But inexplicable incidents begin to occur in the castle, indicating that the famous vampire could still exist.
This classic vampire story was published at the beginning of the last century. Mysticism permeates not only the text, but also the history of its creation. It is still not known for certain who was hiding under the pseudonym Baron Olshevri.
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Fangs. Vampire Stories
Ed. Ellen Datlow and Terry Windling
Ellen Dutlow and Terry Windling. Foreword
Let’s face it, vampires are very popular. Moreover, they are popular not only among those who prefer everything dark and dangerous (or, in the case of Edward Cullen from Twilight, loves rock and glitter), but also among many other people. Now vampires can be found everywhere – in movies, on TV shows, on the pages of vampire novels in any bookstore where they have a special section.
Vampire bands, vampire style, blogs and forums about vampires have emerged, even an alternative subculture that claims to actually drink human blood. Magazines write about the “sudden” vampire craze that has taken over teen culture. However, this fascination is not new – it has been going on for at least two centuries. Even Lord Byron and his friends, who at that time were themselves teenagers, wrote the first bestseller about vampires. It was then that the genre of English Gothic literature was born.
But first, let’s look at the origins of vampires in ancient myths, since it was from there that Edward Cullen’s long-time ancestors went. Despite the fact that the word “vampire” is rooted in the legends and folklore beliefs of the Slavic peoples, vampire-like creatures have appeared in many old writings around the world. So, various blood-sucking spirits were mentioned in the legends of Assyria and Babylon. Some of these vile creatures were originally people – they were the restless souls of those who died a violent death or were not buried properly, and then began to wander the land where they once lived. Others were supernatural, such as Lilith, whose legends were well known throughout Mesopotamia. Lilitu was a sacred figure among the Sumerian deities, but over time she turned into a fearsome demon who seduced and devoured men. At night, she turned into an owl and, experiencing an irresistible thirst for the blood of babies (especially of noble birth), circled in search of the next victim.
The vampires of Central and South America were also women. Sometimes they were treacherously seductive, sometimes, on the contrary, they resembled disgusting birds. As a rule, these were the ghosts of women who died without giving birth to children, or died during childbirth, and then began to crave the blood of living children. In many African tribes, stories of vampire-like creatures tormented by an unbearable thirst for young and fresh blood were circulated.
In the beliefs of the tribe, Ewe Adze could appear in the form of a firefly or an ugly person with pitch-black skin. Adze fed on palm oil and human blood, and the younger the victim, the better. Obayifo in the Ashanti stories was an evil spirit that inhabited the bodies of ordinary men and women, causing them to crave children’s blood. At night, when they went hunting, they could be seen by the light coming from their anuses and armpits.
Ghoul, one of the most vile vampire demons of old Arabian tales, was a werewolf who lived in the desert and preyed on travelers. He robbed and killed his victim, drank her blood, feasted on a rotting corpse, and then took her form, waiting for the next prey. Indian cemeteries were home to various vampire spirits that hunted for living people – these were the evil souls of those who were not buried properly. Restless people from the other world were also popular in China. These included both blood-sucking and carnivorous creatures, and simply dull and annoying creatures. It is noteworthy that the most effective remedy for scaring away Chinese vampires was considered not garlic, but rice. Strange, but they were very fond of counting rice, and if you throw it at the spirit, he certainly stopped and could not move until he counted each grain.
Russia and other Slavic countries in Eastern Europe had the largest number of legends and stories about vampires, compared to any other place in the world, but other blood-sucking creatures were also popular in the rest of Europe. For example, the Portuguese Brooksa was a seductive bird woman (similar to Lilithu) who seduced unwary men, drank the blood of babies, and practiced all kinds of magic. The Gypsy Mullo was the reanimated corpse of a man or woman who died a violent death and was not avenged (or, again, was not buried properly). According to some legends, Mullo sometimes managed to hide among people and even get married, but each time he was betrayed by one or another oddity in behavior. Strige and Stregoni were Italian sorcerers who took human blood to enhance their dark magical abilities. They drank the life force from crops and animals they especially feared. A distinctive feature of Italian folklore is the presence of vampires who are kind to people, for example, Stregoni Benefici, who practiced white magic, helped conduct funeral rites and protected the population from harm caused by his more evil relatives.
The folklore of the British Isles includes not only a large number of carnivorous degenerates and ghouls, but even a blood-sucking fairy. However, vampires as such did not appear on the English coasts (or in the English language) until the eighteenth century. Only in 1721 did the English newspapers spread the news that the honest citizens of East Prussia were frightened by the brutal attacks of vampires. Readers learned that vampires represented the dead who returned to earth to drink the blood and eat the flesh of the living. This phenomenon was explained either by serious sins in relation to the church (for example, the practice of occult magic), or the result of an incorrect rite of repose, due to which the soul could return to a dead body. Soon, vampire attacks swept the entire Habsburg Monarchy, after which mass hysteria began, raging across Eastern Europe for the next two decades. People suspected of being vampires were hunted down, graves were dug up, and corpses were staked with stakes until the Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa put a stop to this. She passed laws strictly forbidding the exhumation of graves and the desecration of the dead.
The vampire controversy in the 18th century (as that historical period later became known) continued, inspiring many German poets. Notable works include The Vampire by Heinrich August Ossenfelder and The Corinthian Bride by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, whose English translations were very popular. The influence of poetry in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was incomparably greater than it is now – everyone (at least all educated people) read it, and the most popular poets had the same ardent admirers as Stephenie Meyer or Neil Gaiman. The English poet Lord Byron, the most famous among them, left behind a trail of enthusiastic readers who were fascinated not only by his poetry, but also by his dark, but attractive appearance. Despite the fact that he was not the first English poet to write poems about vampires (this fame belongs to Robert Southey), it was Byron’s popularity in those days, akin to the popularity of a rock star, that contributed to the romanticization of the vampire image. He first used the vampire theme in his epic poem The Gyaur in 1813, and a few years later came up with a horror story about an English aristocrat who turned into a vampire. This vampire is the great-great-grandfather of the vampires we know and love today.
Like everything else in Lord Byron’s life, this story had an interesting twist. In 1816, when Byron was twenty-eight years old, he gathered his friends at a mansion in Geneva. Among those invited were twenty-four-year-old Percy Bysshe Shelley (then an unknown poet), his eighteen-year-old wife Mary Shelley (then an unknown writer), half-sister Mary Claire Clairmont, twenty-year-old John Polidori, friend and, presumably, lover of Byron. Forced to stay at home in the rain, they began to read German horror stories together to somehow amuse themselves. Byron came up with the idea to challenge everyone – everyone had to write their own horror story. Byron himself began to compose a story about two Englishmen traveling in Greece. One of them died under mysterious circumstances, and the second man returned to London, where he ran into his buried friend and realized that he had become a vampire. Byron never finished this story (there are only excerpts from it), but he discussed it at length with friends, while John Polidori quietly made notes in his diary.