Scary: 9 Vampire Legends That Are Actually True

Hold onto your garlic: These vampire myths are actually rooted in fact, which makes them all the more creepy.

By Reader's Digest Editors
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The Legend of the Blood Countess

Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who lived from 1560 to 1614 in Hungary, was accused of vampire behavior: biting the flesh of victims and bathing in their blood as a beauty treatment.

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The Legend of Dracula, "Son of the Dragon"

Vlad of Walachia, better known as Vlad the Impaler, is most likely the root of several vampire legends, including Dracula. In addition to impaling enemies on stakes, Vlad would eat bread that had been dipped in his enemies’ blood.

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The Legend of the Ka

Egyptians also had their share of vampire lore and blood suckers. The Egyptian goddess Sekhmet was known for her taste for blood; and according to the Egyptian Book of the Dead, if a certain part of the soul called the ka didn’t receive adequate offerings, it left the tomb to drink blood.

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The Legend of the Ch'iang Shih

In China, vampires had long, hooked claws and red eyes. They were known as ch’iang shih, which translates to “corpse-hopper.”

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The Legend of the Ekimmu

A Sumerian and Babylonian myth dating from 4,000 B.C. describes an ekimmu—a spirit that isn’t buried properly that returns to suck life from the living.

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The Legend of the Rising Dead

Throughout northwest Europe, stones called dolmens were placed over graves to prevent the dead from rising.

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The Legend of the Vampires of the Plague

During the 16th century, it was believed that vampires fed off the bodies of plague victims, and that female vampires spread the plague. Those suspected of being vampires were even buried with rocks wedged in their mouths.

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The Legend of the Vampire Coffin

Sometimes grave robbers would open a coffin and the corpse would move or sit up—a natural reaction that can be caused by decomposition. This may have led to the legend of vampires sleeping in coffins.

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The Legend of the Vampire in Medicine

Medical ailments can mimic symptoms of vampirism. For example, haematodipsia is a sexual thirst for blood, and hemeralopia is day blindness. Porphyria causes sensitivity to light and teeth that are stained reddish brown. 

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