'If ever there was in the world a warranted and proven
history it is that of vampires.'

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1788)

'Throughout the whole vast shadowy world of ghosts and
deamons there is no figure so terrible, no figure
so dreaded and abhorred, yet the cause of such fearful
fascination as the vampire'

Montague Summers (1928)

Of all creatures on this planet few attract the interest and fascination of the vampire, with more books and films devoted to it than to any other creature. This fascination has propelled the vampire into a unique position in contemporary society with it now being revered by many instead of feared and hated as it was in less developed times.

So why is there such fascination with this evil blood-sucking creature? Many today might say that it is the immortality and power the vampire seems to posses that fascinates them: the ability to see the great changes of civilisation over time and to be able to influence, even to direct the future. Yet these qualities are also present in other mythical creatures or people, such as sorcerers like Merlin, who lived for several centuries, or Faust who sold his soul to the devil for riches, knowledge and youthful looks. Others have suggested that the fascination has more to do with the vampire's bestial and hungry look, its ability to turn into a bat and the fact that it tends to hunt and stalk it victims before killing. Through these acts and images, we perceive a lifestyle that is seen by society to be evil and unnatural, thus to enter into such acts would be a rebellion against human society. Again through this characteristic can be seen in other creatures such as the mythical werewolf, and so this seems to be an unlikely source for the fascination.

It seems more likely that the answer lies in the nickname attributed to modern vampires, that of blood-sucker, for this is their one unique characteristic. That they acquire their power from human blood fascinates us. Most would agree that this is a sexually motivated act for several reasons. Firstly, when we think about the act of taking blood we imagine the picture of the young innocent woman being bitten by the vampire on the neck, an image given to us by numerous Dracula films. This can be seen to symbolise much, such as the wish to remove or destroy innocence, the sensuality involved in the penetration of a woman's neck and the desire to take without consent.

Furthermore the blood has been seen to symbolise much more, as discussed in a Freudian argument which compares blood with semen and suggests that similar guilt or elation can be brought about by the discharge of either.

Yet the fascination with blood can be traced back to more ancient ideas for example: Ulysses in "The Odyssey" used blood to converse with the dead, by pouring it onto the lifeless body. Once consumed the host was again given the power of speech. This illustrates the primitive idea that blood was a life liquid which could transmit life to the dead. The Aborigines believed that blood was the strength of life which feeds and nourishes the soul. The connection between blood and the soul is even stronger in other primitive races, where the belief is that the soul is contained within the blood and that the divine spirit is the blood of God. This idea led to the use of blood in religious ceremonies. The Aztec people had many rituals, including the releasing and drinking of blood as well as human sacrifice which was seen as an honour. Other rituals were seen to include an elemental concept of the transfer of 'soul stuff' by close contact with the flesh and blood. This connection between blood life and the soul can be seen in the Bible at the last supper, where Jesus offered his blood to the apostles saying "this is my blood which shall be given up for you". Even here the sacrifice of blood and life are connected resulting in the freeing of the soul.

This idea of a connection between blood and the soul can be seen in the modern day vampire tale by Anne Rice which portrays the drinking of blood as sexual ecstasy, coming from the sharing of body and soul, making it the ultimate pleasure, greater than that of any sexual act.

Our morbid fascination with the vampire may be due to these and many other factors but the ultimate reason for our fascination with this mythical creature must be their similarity to us in both their looks, biology and actions.