Oldest Vampires

8 Oldest Vampires to Ever Exist in History

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Vampires are a critical part of world folklore dating back thousands of years. The oldest vampires of legend are the ones that defy the modern definition a bit, existing somewhere between zombies, vampires, and witches. Regardless of how they are classified, their abundant heritage has produced some truly ancient deities and real-life cases of brutality.

Here are the 8 oldest vampires we know.

8. Mercy Lena Brown

Location: United States
Year: 1892
Trick: Brutal family drama

Mercy Lena Brownphoto source: Flickr

In New England, the 1800s was a time of progress and superstition – the two ideologies clashed in the middle. The source of the confusion was the widespread panic caused by a contagious disease, which as we’ll see in this list frequently had a hand in creating the vampiric legends. In this case, the place was Rhode Island. The disease – tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis was not a fun way to go. Also called “TB” or “consumption,” tuberculosis is a bacterial ailment of the lungs that attacks and damages the whole body. People who suffer from it expel blood, as well as the disease, when they talk or cough.

Now, to Mercy Lena Brown. Scared that his son suffered from vampirism, which had already killed his wife and daughter, George Brown exhumed the corpse of his daughter, Mercy, to examine it. Suspicious townspeople removed her heart and burned it on a pile of rocks, used the ashes to create a potion, and administered it to others who were sick with TB.

Did you know?

Unlike many diseases mentioned in history texts, tuberculosis is still scarily prevalent in the modern, undeveloped world. 2 billion people per year still come down with consumption due to low standards of sanitation and nutrition in certain areas, particularly in Africa and the Asian isles.


7. The Vampyre

Location: England
Year: 1819
Trick: The famous storytelling contest

The Vampyrephoto source: Vampire’s Tears

John Polidori was in attendance at a famous story contest held in Lord Byron’s villa in 1816. Those in attendance were challenged to create a ghost story. Polidori’s story was called The Vampyre and it is known as the cornerstone of modern romantic vampire fiction. Yes, before Dracula was even a whisper in the mind of the yet-to-be-born Bram Stoker, the first Twilight book was already written.

The story is about a couple madly in love who are unfortunately attacked on the road. The man, Ruthven, is killed. Taking a year-long vow of silence, the girl, Aubrey, mourns his death until finding him alive and well in London. She not only dies a tragic lover’s death, but the vampire then marries her sister and drains her blood.

Did you know?

Though Mary Godwin could not think of a story for a while, she also wrote a now-famous tale at Lord Byron’s ghost story contest. That story was called, Frankenstein, later, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.


6. The Vampire Graves

Location: Bulgaria
Year: 1700s
Trick: Brutal burial tradition

photo source: Nikolay Doychinov via The World

In Bulgaria near the Red Sea, researchers in 2004 discovered 700-year-old skeletons in a burial site east of the town of Debelt. They theorized that similar rituals had been practiced for a long time, both in Bulgaria and Serbia but also throughout the Balkan regions.

The skeletons were pierced straight through the chest with iron rods. Researchers believe that these and the 100 or so other “vampire skeletons” are evidence of regional superstitions related to vampires. The rods kept the bodies in their graves, they believed, unable to rise and take new victims. The skeletons also had their teeth removed, presumably so that even if they escaped, they couldn’t bite anyone.

Did you know?

The Bulgarian vampire myths that these skeletons represent are a direct inspiration for Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula (1897). Though the story takes place in Romania (in the region known as Transylvania), it borders Bulgaria and was an easy transfer of shared cultural lore.


5. Manananggal

Location: Philippines
Year: 1589
Trick: Brutal mythology

Manananggalphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The manananggal is not a person but a mythical creature in Philippine folklore that is now well-known as a potential mythological precursor to the modern vampire. They have bat-like wings, fangs, and devastating claws.

Most manananggals are female. They have the power to separate their upper and lower bodies (the upper flies into the night in search of human prey). The manananggal’s favorite victims are pregnant women, whom the creature invades with its long tongue to suck the blood and heart from the unborn baby. Legends were … grislier, back then.

Another connection to vampire lore is that the creature fears crushed garlic, salt, and ash, which prevent it from being able to reconnect to its lower body. Our written accounts of the creature in folklore date back to 1589 and the accounts of Juan de Plasencia in his Customs of the Tagalogs. The actual legends of the creature among the people who invented it, however, are much older.

Did you know?

The Austronesian language, Tagalog, provides the word “tanggal” from which this creature’s name is based. This means “separator” or “to separate” and refers to the creature’s unique ability to split its body in half and search for prey.


4. Porphyria Victims

Location: Europe
Year: 1600s
Trick: Superstitious medical practices

photo source: Flickr

While not a single historical vampire, but rather a blood disorder called “porphyria,” the ailment intersects with vampire folklore in interesting ways. Porphyrin created, among other symptoms, rashes, red urine, pain, hallucinations, disorientation, and light sensitivity.

Do you see where this is going? People suffering from porphyria, particularly in the Middle Ages when treatment was scarce and understanding was scarcer, may have created the behavioral archetype of the modern vampire. This included their disoriented mental state, hallucinatory rantings, and their pain (they blistered, even leading to harsh burns) when exposed to direct sunlight.

This sensitivity was so severe that some victims even lost their noses and ears, leading to a demonic appearance.

Did you know?

Another symptom of porphyria is receding gum tissue. This, on top of everything else, might give sufferers of severe porphyria the appearance of having long teeth!


3. Venice Vampire

Location: Italy
Year: 1576
Trick: Early archaeological evidence of a vampire

photo source: ABC

The plague hit Venice, Italy hard in the 1500s, partly owing to the close quarters of the city’s construction, partly its popularity as a center of trade, and partly because it was … the plague. However, one of its interesting artifacts feeds directly into the timeline of vampire mythology, with this Venetian woman, whose grave was uncovered in 2006.

In a mass grave of plague victims, one particular skeleton stood out. A brick had been jammed directly through her teeth and into her jaw, a known custom of vampire exorcism in Europe at the time. While some researchers believe that the brick fell in after burial, others such as the excavator, Matteo Borrini, confidently point to it as early archaeological evidence of a confirmed vampire.

Did you know?

Many people in the Middle Ages believed that the plague was started and spread by vampires. They didn’t believe they sucked people’s blood, but instead that they chewed the shrouds of dying people to spread their illness. Bricks were sometimes jammed into the jaws of corpses to prevent them from rising and doing this again.


2. Lilith

Location: Israel
Year: 40 B.C.
Trick: Major folkloric presence in the Jewish faith

Lilithphoto source: My Jewish Learning

In Jewish Folklore as old as 2,000 years ago or more, Lilith is a fascinating figure. In texts such as the Alphabet of Sirach, written around 800 A.D. and the Dead Sea Scrolls dated to around 40 B.C., Lilith is the first wife of Adam, before Eve. She was created simultaneously with him, from the same mortal clay, as opposed to Eve, who was created later from Adam’s rib.

During the Middle Ages, the legend of Lilith continued to grow, detailing how she not only refused to be Adam’s subservient but also how she left Eden and got in good with Samael, an archangel.

Her name is ancient Babylonian, a name for female demons and spirits. They believed that she remembered being human and still snuck into houses and victimized wives, then taking their place.

Did you know?

The Hebrew term “lilit” means “Night creature” or “night monster.” While she has long been considered a hag and witch, even showing up as the First Vampire in the True Blood series, she is now also a feminist icon. The Jewish-American magazine aptly named Lilith considers her an ancient, feisty, but misunderstood lady.


1. Sekhmet

Location: Egypt
Year: circa 1500 B.C.
Trick: Being the oldest vampiric deity

Sekhmetphoto source: Flickr

The oldest vampire is Sekhmet. She was a warrior goddess in ancient Egypt. Though the term “vampire” would not have been used, this feline monster lady fits the bill and historians often consider her to be the first ancient vampire tale.

Sekhmet was not only a warrior goddess but a god of death and healing as well, the combination creating a definite feeling of similarity with vampire folklore (eternal death and eternal life at the same time). Her father, the sun god, Ra, sent Sekhmet to punish mankind for their unfaithful, disobedient habits, by slaughtering them. As she killed people, Sekhmet drank human blood to give herself power.

Did you know?

Ra dyed a huge amount of beer red and tricked Sekhmet into drinking it to quell her bloodlust. Despite this, her full title in ancient Egyptian has been translated to “Lady of Slaughter” as well as “One Before Whom Evil Trembles.”


The Takeaway

Vampire lore spans millennia of human history, delivering a diverse exploration of human fears, then-current world events, and the superstitions that resulted from combining them. From ancient graves of precautionarily mangled corpses to the texts themselves detailing the vampires by name and nature, the oldest vampires serve as tales of horror that are as old as we are. And that might be the scariest thing.


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