Jan 18, 2023 I Nick Redfern

Blood and Blood-Drinking: Paranormal Creatures and (Alleged...) Real Vampires

There is one particular paranormal parasite that just about everyone has heard of, regardless of whether or not they have an interest in the subject. It’s the vampire. For the most part, the image of the vampire has been dictated by popular culture, such as movies, television shows, and novels. The vampire of the past was typically presented in the form of a middle-aged man dressed in a black suit and cloak. Today, though, Hollywood’s vampires are far more likely to resemble a cross between Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson. That the vampire is such an integral part of horror-fiction has led to the assumption that blood-sucking monsters of the night don’t exist outside of the imagination. This is, however, very much at variance with the facts. It’s somewhat ironic that, to understand why the vampire has taken on such an iconic stance, we have to first look at the world of entertainment. There is absolutely no doubt at all that the vampire – as we know it today, at least – would not exist without one particular book. That title is Dracula, which was published in 1897. As we’ll now see, though, Stoker’s classic, gothic novel was certainly not the first work to tell a fear-filled saga of the blood-sucking undead. But, it was definitely the most visible and popular. 

It should be noted that Dracula was a definitive Johnny-Come-Lately. For example, in 1819 – almost eighty years before Stoker’s book surfaced - John William Polidori penned The Vampyre: A Tale. For years, it was incorrectly attributed to George Gordon Byron, better known as Lord Byron, an acclaimed poet and politician. His most famous piece of work was the epic poem, Don Juan. Polidori was Byron’s physician and close friend, and who also penned The Fall of the Angels and On the Punishment of Death. The Vampyre: A Tale was written in 1816 and published in 1819 in the pages of The New Monthly Magazine. The central character is a somewhat Dracula-like figure. He is one Lord Ruthven, a dangerous and deadly character – indeed, just about anyone and everyone who crosses his path is destined for tragedy. As Polidori’s story reveals, Lord Ruthven is a definitive drainer and drinker of blood. A precursor to the famous saga of Count Dracula? Definitely. Such was the success of the story – and the fascination with Lord Ruthven – other writers of the day continued where Polidori finished and wrote their own stories concerning the evil lord. They included Cyprien Bérard’s 1820 novel, Lord Ruthwen ou les Vampires.

Then, in 1847, Varney the Vampire; Or, the Feast of Blood, caught the attention of the people of the U.K. when it appeared in a “penny dreadful”-style publication. Written by Thomas Peckett Prest and James Malcolm Rymer, the saga of vampiric Sir Francis Varney became a huge success, thus further cementing the image of blood-swilling monsters in then-modern day England. Carmilla, penned in 1872 by Joseph Sheridan, is a highly atmospheric novella, which sees the vampiric Carmeall of the title attracted to, and obsessed with Laura – the protagonist in Sheridan’s tale – which emphasizes the sexual and erotic aspects of vampirism. But, none can deny that it was Bram Stoker’s Dracula that really got the ball rolling, in terms of making the vampire known both far and wide. While Dracula is certainly seen as the number-one vampire-themed novel, it’s unfortunate that those titles which came before it have largely been forgotten by most people – apart from by firm devotees of the genre.

(Nick Redfern) Vampires: the worst parasites of all.

Without Bram Stoker’s gothic masterpiece there would not have been Universal’s 1931 movie of the same name, which starred Bela Lugosi. Nor would there have been such sequels as Dracula’s Daughter and Son of Dracula. And, had Universal’s movies not have been such phenomenal successes, it’s all but certain that Christopher Lee would not have been given the chance to make the role his own in numerous movies from Hammer Film Productions, including Scars of Dracula, Taste the Blood of Dracula, The Satanic Rites of Dracula, and Dracula A.D. 1972. Would we have had Stephen King’s Salem Lot? Interview with a Vampire? Twilight? True Blood? The Strain? Almost certainly not. The phenomenal and combined success of all the above movies, TV shows and novels has exposed the vampire to millions of people, over the course of a couple of centuries. These same productions have achieved something else too: a widespread assumption that vampires are only fictional in nature – which, as incredible as it may sound, is far from being the case. That’s right: those blood-sucking monsters that you were told didn’t really exist…really do. And they have done so for millennia. 

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.  Even failing to pay the newly dead the respect they deserved might cause a man, woman or child to come back as a Draugr – and come back quickly, too. These creatures were not just ferocious drainers of blood and eaters of flesh, though. They also had a fascination for gold and silver and millennia-old treasures, which they would obsessively hoard. They also possessed supernatural abilities, too, including the power to turn themselves into a form of thick fog – which, in that ethereal form, prevented them from being killed. After all, it’s impossible to plunge a wooden stake into fog. As a result, putting an end to a Draugr was an arduous and highly dangerous task.

Certainly, one of the most notorious of all the vampires was Jure Grando Alilovic. He was a resident of Kringa, in what, today, is Croatia, Eastern Europe. The term “vampire” was still unused at the time, but the local folk had their very own title for the blood-sucking monsters of the area. They called them the “Strigoi,” which was the term used in the popular show, The Strain, which was broadcast on the FX channel from 2014 to 2017. Alilovic lived all of his life in the area and passed away in his late seventies. Alilovic wasn’t ready to give up on his life, however. He came back as a dangerous vampire with a wild craving for blood. Interestingly, whereas most vampires are said to return in undead form within days of their original passing, for Alilovic, it was around a decade and a half later before he reappeared on the scene. He quickly instilled fear in the people of Kringa.To begin with, Alilovic caused absolute hysteria in many people by staring malevolently through the windows of the homes of the village folk, and scaring them out of their wits – and which included Alilovic’s widow. Rumors flew around the area that whoever’s door Alilovic knocked on, they would soon be snared by the Grim Reaper. The local priest, Father Georgio, was finally able to confront the vampiric Alilovic with a cross – which clearly had an effect on the deadly thing, to the extent that he fled away at a phenomenally high speed.

(Nick Redfern) Pale and red eyes: avoid!

The confrontation between Father Georgio and Alilovic proved to be the latter’s final day – or, rather, final night – on Earth. Having learned that each and every night Alilovic returned to his grave, the locals chose to take care of things when he was at his most vulnerable: sleeping in his wooden box. The coffin was hauled out of the ground, and carefully opened. All were shocked and horrified by the sight before them: there was Alilovic, sporting an evil-looking, maniacal grin, but fully asleep. Father Georgio said prayers, while one of the townsfolk, Stipan Milasic, sliced Alilovic’s head clean off his shoulders. Alilovic awoke, screaming, as the blade cut into him, but it was too late: the vampire’s life-force was already ebbing away. Finally, the good folk of Kringa were safe from the terrible Strigoi. 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.

Determined to ensure that the vampire of Guadalajara would never again kill or cause mayhem, the people of the area quickly buried the remains of the fiend in a deep grave and then, for good measure, covered the body with layer upon layer of concrete – and with the stake still in its heart. In situations like this, it’s far better to be safe than sorry. The story is still not quite over, though. It was only around six or seven weeks later when the concrete slab started to fracture. It was not, however, due to the blood-sucking creature finding a way out. Rather, it was caused by a large, nearby tree, the huge and thick roots of which were pushing against the concrete and making it look as if the vampire was the cause. This aspect of the saga has led to the development of a story that, in the area, still exists today. Local lore tells of a tree in the cemetery which bleeds when its bark is cut into. What kind of blood? Human blood. In all likelihood, this aspect of the story is a piece of folklore – but born out of an all too real story of vampirism, blood-sucking, and terror. We’re finished, now, with the night-walker of Guadalajara, but, we’re certainly not done with cemeteries. It’s now to time to take a trip to England. The time: the late 1960s. 

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. 

Cemeteries are atmosphere-filled places at the best of times. In the 1960s, however, that atmosphere became distinctly chilled – maybe even freezing. Skulls, and even partial human skeletons, were found strewn around Highgate Cemetery, which at the time was very much overgrown – largely because, at the time, the entire place had been left to fall into rack and ruin, something which only amplified the air of mystery and fear that dominated the area. It should be noted, though, that long before the events of the 1960s began, there was already a vampire tradition at Highgate Cemetery. The story has a connection to none other than the man who brought Count Dracula to life: Bram Stoker. It’s most intriguing to note that in Dracula, Stoker made mention of the old cemetery being the final resting place of one of the deadly count’s followers. It’s possible that Stoker was inspired by an all too real set of eerie circumstances that occurred in the 1800s. In 1855, a woman named Elizabeth Siddal was buried in the cemetery. She didn’t stay there for too long, though: in 1862 her grave was opened up – the reason being, we’re told, that the family wanted to recover a number of poems which Siddal had written and which were interred with her. To the horror of everyone present, and after seven years spent six-feet-under, Siddal looked exactly as she did in life: her corpse had not decayed and her red-hair looked freshly washed and dried. The implication was that Siddal was one of the undead: a vampire. 

It’s almost certainly not a coincidence that Bram Stoker chose to feature the old cemetery in his classic novel. On this point, and in a 2013 article titled “Elizabeth Siddal - The First ‘Vampire’ of Highgate?” Redmond McWilliams wrote: “Some notable literary scholars have theorized that the fictional character of Lucy Westenra; one of Count Dracula’s disciples, was largely based on Elizabeth Siddal: the late wife (and muse) of pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti.” 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. Another person who saw the monster at close quarters was David Farrant, a paranormal investigator who decided to check out the cemetery for himself. It was a case of be very careful of what you wish for. With midnight less than an hour away, and on the monster-haunted Swains Lane, Farrant suddenly developed a sense of something deeply malevolent in his midst. He strained his eyes, staring intently into the darkness of the cemetery, and realized that there was something staring back at him. Was it merely a trick of the light? No, unfortunately, it was not. Farrant had barely got fifteen feet into the cemetery when he saw, to his horror, a large, tall figure in black. Like several of the earlier witnesses to the vampire, Farrant felt his self-will leaving him – and rapidly so, too. Luckily for Farrant, the entity suddenly vanished, leaving Farrant frazzled and traumatized.

(Nick Redfern) The late David Farrant, who was an expert on the history of Highgate Cemetery. And the vampire, too.

As a new decade dawned – the 1970s – Highgate Cemetery’s resident vampire was still causing terror and mayhem. Numerous people contacted the local Hampstead & Highgate Express newspaper to share their encounters with the thing. One of those, whose story was published in the paper – R. Docherty – stated: “There is without a ghost. Of when and whom he originated I do not know. Many tales are told, however, about a tall man in a hat who walks across Swains Lane and just disappears through a wall in the cemetery. Local superstition also has it that the bells in the old disused chapel toll whenever he walks.” The above quote can also be found in Neil Arnold’s 2010 book, Paranormal London. We’ll hear more about Arnold shortly. Realizing that tales of monsters and spooky places sell newspapers, the staff of the Hampstead & Highgate Express ran an article in 1970 titled “Does a Wampyr Walk in Highgate?” a wampyr being an old German term for a vampire. The interest in, and intrigue surrounding, Highgate’s cemetery’s resident monster was increasing rapidly. The newspaper quoted the words of Sean Manchester, of the British Occult Society. Manchester said that he believed the vampire originated in Turkey, and that its followers “eventually brought him to England in a coffin at the beginning of the eighteenth century and brought a house form him in the West End [of London].”

The ongoing publicity prompted a young woman to come forward with her own account of an encounter with the creature as she walked past the old cemetery late one night. The pale-faced thing threw her to the ground and vanished into the darkness. Things got even more bizarre when two young men, James White and Simon Wiles, were arrested by the police: the pair was seen prowling around the cemetery and brandishing nothing less than a wooden stake and a crucifix! The police took an extremely dim view of the attempts of the two to slaughter the vampire, but no charges were ever brought. Certainly, it’s doubtful that killing a vampire could even be considered a crime. By 1971, the sightings – and the accounts of people feeling “drained” by the monster - came to a mysterious halt. That is, until decades later – specifically in 2006. Neil Arnold is someone who has extensively investigated the many and varied paranormal mysteries of the U.K.’s capital city. Notably, he has uncovered post-1970s sightings of the Highgate Vampire. In his 2010 book, Paranormal London, Arnold stated that on one particular night in the summer of 2006, “a man walking down Swains Lane saw a dark figure standing near the gates of the West Cemetery. Upon approaching, the man noticed that the figure was dressed in a long, dark coat and had a tall, black hat perched on its head.”

The figure in black – if it was indeed human – said “Good evening, sir” to the somewhat disturbed man. That sense of feeling disturbed was quickly replaced by sheer terror, when the figure rose off the ground, floated across the road, and vanished into the shadows of the cemetery. Then, one year later, a glowing-eyed figure in black was also seen on Swains Lane and which walked through a solid, brick wall. Perhaps, one day, the energy-draining vampire of Highgate Cemetery will return, once again causing terror and mayhem, and just as it did back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 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. 

(Nick Redfern) The Chupacabra: a real vampire?

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. 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. And, remember to take a couple of stakes and crosses with you, too.

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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