We all love vampires. Even if the latest teen-vampire fad has mostly come and gone, there’s a cultural fascination that will never go away. People may complain that vampires are played out and that they don’t want to see them in movies anymore, but these monsters didn’t just begin with Twilight or The Lost Boys or even Dracula. No, vampires go back a long, long time.
Every culture in the world has had its own myths about them. From the Russian Upir to the Chinese Jiangshi to the Hungarian Strigoi and more, vampire stories have been told as far back as we can remember, all throughout history.
And while many European legends have featured the traditional fangs, coffins and stakes through the heart, there are legends from all over the world and all throughout history that went very differently than you might expect. These are the ones that never quite made it into the movies.
In Romania, having red hair meant you would become a vampire
Romania was not content with the idea of just being bitten by a vampire meaning you would become a vampire. They needed more. A third nipple, too much hair, your mother seeing a black cat, all of these meant you could become a vampire. But if you had red hair? Yes, this doomed you to be a vampire without fail.
In Malaysia, vampires sucked blood through a hole in their neck
The Malaysian Langsuir appeared as a woman who’s face was covered by long, dark hair. She used this hair to cover a hole in the back of her neck which she used to suck the blood of children. The only way to stop her—I’m not even kidding—was to take her hair and jam it into the hole.
In China, vampires were greenish-white and covered in fur
The Chinese Jiangshi were vampires typically resurrected through sorcery. When a person died in a land that was not their birthplace, the family would hire a sorcerer to bring them back. The Jianghsi had long, curved fingernails and greenish, furry skin which may have been derived from seeing mold or fungus on the body after death.
South Slavic vampires were incredibly similar to Hellraiser
In some ways, Hellraiser is a non-traditional vampire movie, with Frank taking blood to bring himself back from nothing. But it turns out South Slavic traditions are incredibly similar to this. A vampire would start out as nothing more than a shadow, and would use blood to slowly return its physical form. It would even usually be aided in its return to physical life by a widow or lover.
Some African vampires turned into fireflies
We’re used to the idea of vampires turning into bats, wolves, fog, and even rats, but in areas of Ghana there were stories of the Adze which took the form of a firefly to stalk children. Upon capture, they would revert back to human form, where they would then have the ability to possess people.
In areas of Europe and China, vampires were obsessed with counting
In many areas of Europe, placing seeds or sand around the grave of the vampire was expected to keep them occupied all night as the vampire would be obsessively driven to count them. In China, if a vampire came across a bag of rice it would be forced to count every grain. This led to an interesting association with vampires and arithmomania, a mental disorder that forces one to obsessively count things in their surroundings.