The phenomenon of the vampire is ancient, ubiquitous, and fascinating; moreover, it can only be understood adequately within the context of more general blood reliefs and rituals. (See Prins, 1984 for a review). References to vampires and associated phenomena may be found in the world's great literature long before Bram Stoker created his notorious and evil Count (Summers, 1960, 1980). Belief in the vampire's actual physical existence was probably encouraged by the prevalent practice of premature burial during times of plague, by the large numbers of itinerants and beggars that abound at such times, and by the fact that many of them took refuge in vaults and graveyards. In addition, the myth was probably given more tangible reality by such physical explanations as Erythropoietic Protoporphyria or its variants. This disorder is said to induce the body to produce an excess of porphyria, which results not only in excess redness of the eyes, skin and teeth, but also a receding of the upper lip and cracking of the skin, which bleeds when exposed to light. It has been suggested that physicians of the day could only treat sufferers by secluding them during the day and by persuading them to drink blood to replace that lost by bleeding (Illis, 1964; Milgrom, 1984; Prins, 1984). In more modern times, there have been accounts of people seeking to protect themselves from vampiric attentions (Farson & Hall, 1978).
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