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SYRACUSE, N.Y.--The annual observance of Halloween as an unofficial American holiday can't help but make us wonder: Why are many supposedly normal people attracted by the dark side? Likewise, the successes of "The Twilight Saga," "Vampire Diaries," and diverse other current vampire tales raise
Vampires are nothing new. In Western culture--this unique beast can be traced back to the Bible. In its unexpurgated form, the Hebraic Torah contains a "first wife" for Adam, Lilith, who subsisted on human flesh. The Greeks had a parallel creature called Lamia who sucked away men's life-force in a ritual that combined sex and violence. Every culture has some sort of vampire figure, male or female, with names ranging from succubus to Nosferatu.
Apparently, these are legendary (loosely based on fact) rather than mythic (entirely fictitious) beings. Early renderings of the vampire portrayed male bloodsuckers as rat-like carriers of the plague. During the Victorian Era, Dublin-based writer Bram Stoker transformed the historical figure Vlad the Impaler (1431-76) of Transylvania into a literary figure, Count Dracula. At that moment, the modern vampire was born as a figure of dangerous sexual allure.
With the publication of "Dracula" in 1897, the vampire emerged as a romantic figure in the most melancholy sense of that term. After all, what could be more romantic than to die for love? Key to this is the convention that a vampire can never enter a house without invitation. Dracula emerged as the original "bad boy," able to seduce good London girls away from boring fiances and husbands--never mind that these women sense all along that Dracula's embrace carries the kiss of death.
Human beings tend to be both repulsed and attracted by such a relationship. If few people are actually willing to go that route in actuality, isn't that what popular fiction has always existed for? Anyone can experience the thrill secondhand by reading an Anne Rice novel or catching the latest vampire movie or mini-series--just as Victorians thrilled to Dracula in print, then on stage, and, soon thereafter, on the Silver Screen. With vampires, however, the concept of 'vicarious living' turns into vicarious dying.
But what a way to go!