When we think of vampires we often reflect back to stories like Bram Stoker’s Dracula. We envision a seductive, immortal being who hypnotizes the living before wrapping their cape around them and taking a bite out of their neck.
Others may look back to even earlier legends like that of Vlad the Impaler who was said to have enjoyed watching his prisoners endure the excruciating pain of being impaled upon wooden spikes until they perished outside of his castle walls.
Elizabeth Bathory, the blood countess who was rumored to have murdered her servant girls with the belief that bathing in their blood would grant her eternal youth, is another name that may come to mind.
Many would be surprised to learn that legends of vampires go back even further. In Greek mythology, a man named Ambrogio falls for a woman named Selena after they meet in the temple belonging to the sun god Apollo. Ambrogio asked Selena to marry him on the spot, not realizing that Apollo had already had his sights on Selena. Apollo, seeking vengeance, cursed Ambrogio by causing his skin to burn when exposed to sunlight.
With no other gods to turn to, Ambrogio looked to Hades, the god of the underworld, as well as Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, in hopes that they could lift the curse. Making a deal with Hades, Ambrogio was ordered to steal Artemis’ silver bow. This deal would land Ambrogio in even more hot water and Artemis cursed him so that silver would burn his skin. Artemis would later take pity on Ambrogio and instead grant him immortality, superhuman strength, and fangs to kill.
Ambrogio would use the blood of his kills to write love poems to Selena. Selena, who had already been betrothed to Apollo would receive these letters and eventually escape from his temple. The star-crossed lovers were told by Artemis that if Ambrogio bit Selena and drank her blood he could make her immortal as he was. By combining their blood, both Ambrogio and Selena would not only live on but could make anyone they wanted a vampire by simply biting them.
Many would be equally surprised to learn that these legends that are nearly as old as time itself are alive and well today.
In the African nation of Malawi, RT reports that not only do the residents believe in vampires but those beliefs have culminated in vigilante lynch mobs that have resulted in the deaths of at least five people. The problem has become so widespread that U.N. staff has been removed from the southern districts of the nation, citing extreme violence as the cause for the recall.
“These districts have severely been affected by the ongoing stories of blood sucking and possible existence of vampires,” the UN Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) said in a security report.
Florence Rolle, who is the acting U.N. resident coordinator told The Guardian that they are monitoring the situation closely and will return the staff affected by the recall once they ensure that the widespread violence has passed.
This isn’t the first time the nation has been rocked by a vampire scare. In 2002, rumors spread that the government had been working with the vampires in order to collect blood for international aid agencies, The Guardian reports. These rumors resulted in the death of at least one man who was stoned to death after he was accused of being a blood-sucker. A local radio journalist was later arrested for further spreading these rumors by interviewing a man who claimed to have been attacked by one of the government’s vampires. The charges were eventually dropped.