|Lamia by Herbert James Draper (1909)|
Many believe vampire legends have their roots in Ancient Egypt. Although most agree that the blood thirsty, garlic-repelled versions belong to much more modern times and originated somewhere in Europe.
One source is Greece where Lamia, a mistress of Zeus, is cursed by Zeus' wife and turns into a child-devouring monster. Later, similar creatures were called lamiae and supposedly drink the blood of young children.
Arnold Paole and Peter Plogojowicz
Reports from 1720s in the Balkans region of Europe fueled the fire of vampire legends, and amongst the most famous of instances are the stories of Arnold Paole and Peter Plogojowicz.
The word vampire seems to have come from a report into the death of Peter Plogojowicz. Plogojowicz's death was followed by other's, including Paole's a year later. Both Plogojowicz and Paole's death were followed by the deaths of a small group of people they are seen as having been the cause. The interest behind these deaths stemmed from both their coincidence as well as abnormal body decomposition. Many of these "victims" had no "unpleasant smell", appeared vibrant and youthful even though cold and dead, and still had liquid blood.
Today, most of these abnormalities can be explained with modern science. For instance, Paole gave out a "groan" when he was staked through the heart sometime after death. This can be explained by the accumulation of gases from bacterial driven bodily decomposition.
Vampire bites and infectious diseases
One theory for the origin of the vampire turning others into vampires from their bites comes from how infectious diseases spread. In ancient times, people did not have the germ theory of diseases, such as plague, and therefore believed that demons, such as vampires, would prey on individuals making them sick. These individuals would often die before infected family members became ill. The explanation for this phenomenon was that the first family member to die must be rising from the dead and killing the others.