Aug 24, 2022 I Nick Redfern

Blood-Sucking Vampires: Do They Really Exist? It Depends on Your Approach to the Phenomenon

Well, are vampires the real deal? Do I think vampires of the Dracula / Christopher Lee /  Hammer movies type are real? My answer is "No." However, there's no doubt that bizarre blood-based mysteries exist in our world. They're here, there and everywhere. Let's begin with a sinister story from the 1960s and the island of Puerto Rico. In September 1959, a groundbreaking paper was published by the acclaimed scientific journal, Nature. Its title was: Searching for Interstellar Communications. The authors were two physicists, Phillip Morrison and Giuseppe Conconi, both of Cornell University. In essence, the paper was a study of how microwaves might be successfully used to seek out alien intelligences, in other parts of the Universe. It had a great effect on one Frank Drake – a man who, after having carefully read the report, embarked on a life and career to search the Universe for aliens. Drake began his work at the West Virginia-based Green Bank National Radio Astronomy Observatory. He was, without doubt, the star of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) conference that was held at the observatory in October 1961. Drake ultimately gravitated to Puerto Rico, home to the Arecibo Radio Telescope, of which he became the director.

(Nick Redfern) Beware of the blood drainers

Midway through the 1960s, something decidedly strange happened at the telescope, something that may well have a direct bearing upon the chupacabra phenomenon. A guard reported, one day, seeing a curious character roaming around the edge of the installation. What made the man – if a man it was – so curious was his attire: a long, black cloak. The guard, apparently, had his own ideas on what he was seeing: one of the undead; a vampire. A report on the affair was prepared for Drake’s attention. That was far from being the end of the matter, however. Forty-eight hours after the sighting, Drake said: “I really was forced to look into it…because a cow was found dead on a nearby farm, with all the blood drained from its body. The vampire rumor had already spread through the observatory staff, and now the cow incident whipped the fears of many people into a frenzy.”

The term, “Vampire” was not used in the English language until the 1700s, when it appeared in the pages of Travels of Three English Gentlemen in 1746. Nevertheless, tales of marauding, deadly blood-drainers – in human form – can be traced back to the dawning of history and civilization. Lilith – quite possibly the most dangerous bedroom invader of all – was said to not just have sex with men as a means to “steal” their sperm, but also to take their blood. Joseph McCabe noted that the Lilith-like Lilu and Lilitu of ancient Babylonia caused their victims to fall sick with anemia – a sure and certain sign that blood was extracted from those same victims to a dangerous degree. The people of ancient India believed in the dreaded Vetala. Although they were spirit-based in nature, they also had the ability to drain the living of blood. They were also known for bleeding dry fresh corpses – they would lurk in the shadows of old cemeteries and graveyards, patiently waiting for darkness to blanket the landscape, at which point they would dig deep and fast into the ground, seeking out that most precious commodity of all: blood. 

Empusa was very much a Lilith-type entity who tormented the people of Greece, thousands of years ago. Just like Lilith, Empusa – a beautiful woman with a disturbing craving for blood – would creep up on the unwary in the dead of night and drain them of blood. Whereas blood and sperm were all that Lilith needed, Empusa would also devour the flesh of her victims. The early Greeks also feared Lamia, a female vampire who was the secret lover of Zeus – the Greek god of thunder – and who fed on the blood and flesh of children. The ghostly Gello of Greek lore also spent most of her time seeking out the young to extract their blood, specifically to make it hers. Moving on to Scandinavia, circa 1,100 years ago, we have tales of a violent and incredibly powerful monster, of human-looking proportions, known as the Draugr. Its alternate title: the Aptr-gangr. Both roughly translate as one who walks after death. This particular vampire wasn’t just partial to human blood, though: it was also a cannibalistic-type of creature that had a taste for human flesh. Scandinavian lore maintained that to ensure the dead never rose up and attacked the living, all human bodies should be buried in horizontal fashion. If a corpse was interred even slightly angled, there was a very good chance that it would return as a dangerous Draugr.

In relatively modern times, there are few stories quite as strange and sinister as that which concerned a fearful monster called “The Highgate Vampire” - on account of the name of the old, London, England-based cemetery in which the creature lurked, slaughtered and, of course, drank.  It was in the 1960s that Highgate Cemetery found itself inhabited by a most unwelcome visitor: a seven-to-eight-feet-tall monster with bright red eyes, an evil-looking and gaunt face, pale skin, and who wore a flowing black cloak. Amid the old graves, a dangerous parasite roamed by night. As for Highgate Cemetery, it was opened in 1839, is located in north London, and is comprised of the East Cemetery and the West Cemetery. It’s a huge and undeniably atmospheric cemetery which extends close to forty acres in size. Catacombs abound, as do moss-covered, crooked gravestones. The dead are everywhere. Also, the cemetery is dominated by huge trees, endless bushes and a massive variety of plants – not to mention a large fox population, owls, and birds of prey. In fact, so revered are Highgate Cemetery’s wooded areas, it has officially been listed as a “Historic Park and Gardens” by the British Government. 

It’s not at all surprising that when the sun has set, when the land is shadowy, and when daylight is gone, the cemetery takes on an eerie air. The hoot of an owl, the creaking of the branches of an old tree, and the sight of many and varied old and battered gravestones all combine to send chills up and down the spine of more than a few who know the legend of the resident vampire. And, in decidedly synchronistic fashion, Hammer Film Productions’ 1970s movie Taste the Blood of Dracula was partly filmed in Highgate Cemetery. As for the latter day affairs, when the fiery-eyed creature in black began to be seen in Highgate Cemetery in the 1960s, it didn’t take long before the legend grew and grew: there were stories of people going missing, of graves allegedly desecrated, and of bodies vanished under mysterious circumstances.

The creature was also seen roaming around at night, in the old Swains Lane area; its grim and cruel visage sending people into states of unbridled terror. One of the most significant cases took place in late 1969. The story was both strange and creepy: the man in question was taking a walk through the cemetery when he suddenly became disoriented – which was strange, as he knew the area very well. He also felt weak and sick – which is something we have seen time and again in relation to numerous confrontations with paranormal parasites. Suddenly, a black-garbed, red-eyed terror loomed into view – hovering several feet off the ground. The man did his utmost to flee the area, but it was all in vain. The creature got closer as the man got progressively weaker – which, with hindsight, led the man to believe the monster was draining him of his life; of his vital energies.The publicity surrounding the alarming incident prompted others to come forward who had also seen the vampire of Highgate Cemetery. One witness who, while walking her dog through the thick and unkempt trees late one night, encountered a shrieking, banshee-like thing that sailed through the air, after which it suddenly dematerialized. 

When it comes to the issue of paranormal activity on the island of Puerto Rico, there’s no doubt that the legendary Chupacabra leads the pack. Twenty years before the Chupacabra surfaced, however, there was yet another monster roaming the island. It became known as the Moca Vampire – on account of the municipality in which the creature lurked and hunted. The mystery and controversy began in early 1975. Witnesses described seeing a large, winged monster, which would swoop down on farm animals, killing them instantly and drinking their blood. Imagine something that was part-pterodactyl, part-giant bird, and part-Mothman, and that will give you an idea of the nature of the beast, which fed on not just small animals like chickens and geese, but even on cows and pigs. It always emitted an ear-splitting shriek as it dive-bombed the unfortunate animals, and killed them with one swipe of its sharp claws. For two terrifying weeks, the Moca Vampire had the people of the area living in fear – and none can blame them for that. Then, mysteriously, the monster was gone and the attacks were over. The creature was never seen again – unless, of course, you subscribe to the theory that the Chupacabra and the Moca Vampire are actually one and the same, but with different names, which is admittedly not impossible.

(Nick Redfern) Puerto Rico: the lair of the Moca Vampire

Panteon de Belen is the name of a cemetery which can be found in Guadalajara, Mexico. Just like so many cemeteries all around the world, it has a deeply sinister vibe surrounding it – one which still persists today, almost 170 years after it was built. Most of the residents of the cemetery do what they are supposed to do: namely, stay at rest. One, however, did not. In the latter part of the 19th century, one particularly restless character roamed the cemetery, something which led to horror and even death. Matters began when the blood-drained body of a woman was found, late at night, on nearby Nardo Street. Her body was found in an alleyway off the street, with nothing less than a savage wound to the neck – specifically to the jugular vein. Days later, yet another body was found; this time, on the fringes of the cemetery itself. This one, however, had been dug up from the grave in which it had been buried just days earlier. The dangerous monster which was responsible had dug deep into the grave and wrenched the lid of the coffin off. Yet again, there was the classic calling-card of a vampire: two bites to the neck. Across the following week, several children were killed – all in the very same fashion. Clearly, something had to be done, and done quickly. It was.

Within forty-eight hours of that week-long period of savagery, there was yet another death: this one of a young girl, whose body was found discarded in the cemetery. The violent mode of attack was as it has always been for a vampire. The fact that most of the attacks either occurred in the Panteon de Belen Cemetery, or around it, led the townsfolk to conclude that the best approach was to keep a stealthy and watchful eye on the place. It worked: in the early hours of one morning, the creature was yet again prowling around the graves, seeking out fresh corpses, when a gang of men suddenly appeared out of the shadows and surrounded the snarling, staring abomination. It took more than a few men to force the beast to the ground. And, as it violently fought and struggled to make good its escape, one of the group hammered a wooden stake into its heart. The undead was now dead – period.

As we have seen, the vampire, which many people assume to be a fictional entity that was largely created by Bram Stoker and portrayed in masterful fashion by Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee, is an all too real monster. It’s a blood-draining, diabolical thing that has been with us for millennia and which shows no signs of going away anytime soon. The ongoing phenomenon of the Chupacabra is a perfect example of that. Remember that, should you ever decide to take a trip to Puerto Rico. But, as I see it, we're not dealing with regular people who turn into monsters at night. In many respects, the reality is even worse.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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