Articles and Essays



Martin V. Riccardo

Vampires are often seen as the most terrifying kind of ravenous evil, a revenant from the dead who attacks and feeds on the living. Similarly, in the movie "Stephen King's Sleepwalkers," the predatory lizard-like entities in the film are defined as being nomadic shape-shifting creatures that feed on the life-force of virginal human females. This concept of a "sleepwalker" is purely the creation of Stephen King, but it isn't certain exactly why he called these entities "sleepwalkers." Perhaps it is because they could change the appearance of themselves and their environment as if they were moving in a dream. for the movie, King defined these sleepwalkers as the possible source of the vampire legend.

Interestingly enough, in actual folklore there is an explanation of vampires which uses the more common definition of "sleepwalker," that is, one who really walks about while asleep, usually actin out dreams in the process. S. Hanush, a researcher in folklore and mythology, was told by a Greek from the seaport of Mitilini that there are two species of vrykolakes (vampires), one kind being those who were dead and returned, and the other kind being those who were alive but in some kind of trance or dream-state. The latter could be spotted roaming at night, especially when the moon was full.

Cyprien Robert, a writer and researcher in the 19th century, was given descriptions of vrykolakes in Thessaly and Epirus, regions of Greece. From what he heard of these vampires he wrote, "These are living men mastered by a kind of somnambulism, who seized by a thirst for blood go forth at night from their shepherd's huts, and scour the country biting and tearing all that they meet both man and beast." Somnambulism is another word for sleepwalking.

R.E.L. Masters, mythology scholar and author of "Eros and Evil" (1962), defines the Slavic voukodlake of Eastern Europe as "Somnambules (occasionally regarded as possessed by demons) who ravish young girls and drink their hot nourishing blood. While in trance the Voukodlaks are exceedingly dangerous and attack with tooth and nail any living creature they may meet..."

There are a number of possible theories to explain the vampire legend. Those who claimed they experienced the onslaught of a vampire attack honestly believed they experienced something ferocious, unearthly and tangible. Perhaps some of these experiences were actually encounters with individuals who were not in their normal waking minds, but physically acting out their dark desires in their sleep as they moved about in the world of their dreams. According to folklore, vampires may in fact be the stuff that dreams are made of.

Martin V. Riccardo is director of Vampire Studies, P.O. Box 151, Berwyn, IL 60402

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