The modern day term "vampire" most likely derived from Slavic origins. The Serbian word "vampir" was incorporated into the German language, then to the French as "vampyre" and finally into the English "vampire."
These undead horrors have various abilities and powers depending on folklore and place of origin; literature and cinema have also had a lot of influence on the vampire image. According to Eastern European folklore, the dead become vampires because demons or evil spirits enter the bodies. Vampires are also said to be dead werewolves, witches, criminals, suicides, and heretics: persons whose beliefs are contrary to the church doctrine. Again, sources vary, but a victim of the vampire's bite typically rises again as a vampire after dying.
Vampires often possess higher physical strength, dexterity and sharper senses than their mortal prey. Some may have the ability to take the form of a bat, wolf, rat or mist/smoke. The vampire can influence some animals - typically wolves, bats and rats. They can scale vertical surfaces and can use an uncanny hold on a victim through their mesmeric gaze. If a vampire has a masterly hold on a human victim, it may be using said victim over a period time as a constant source of nourishment.
Weaknesses include silver and sometimes iron which will cause the vampire pain. Similarly in some traditions, the wood of the hawthorn tree, which has Biblical roots, will also harm a vampire. Holy religious symbols can be used to hold the creatures at bay. Vampires also seem intolerant to garlic. Vampires, being nocturnal beasts, cannot function in sunlight; indeed, exposure is fatal in most folklore and adaptations. Some vampires cannot cross running water, and most can only enter a property if personally invited inside.
Burying a victim face down or placing poppy seeds in the grave of the deceased will, according to legend, prevent the resulting vampire from rising.
If nosferatu can be tracked down to its lair, generally the place they where buried - a tomb, grave, mausoleum, or even family estate - they can be disposed of traditionally with a wooden stake through the heart. Severing the head will assure destruction.
Scott Snyder's and Rafael Albuquerque's creator-owned American Vampire franchise is built upon the concept that there are several breeds of vampire. These breeds emerge when the curse of vampirism comes to new peoples and new lands. Every breed is different, possessing its own abilities and weaknesses. In the late 19th century, the first of the American breed of vampire arises in the west. This new type of vampire is stronger than most others and is even strengthened by the sun, but it becomes very weak on moonless nights and can be killed by gold.
The Carpathian species of vampire coincides the most with the traditional view of vampires with their almost human appearance, extreme weakness to sunlight and vulnerability to a wooden stake to the heart. They are the most numerous and dominant species, and they take measures to either suppress or wipe out the others.
There are many other species. The Gaelic vampire, which transforms into a large werebat creature, is almost extinct. It is resistant to sunlight and can only be killed by brass. A species found only on a small Southeast Asian island infects by bite alone and turns a person within minutes into a monstrous and completely feral vampire. Other lesser known vampire breeds are:
- Balkan - Related to the Carpathians but with slight cosmetic differences.
- Bavarian - Similar in looks to the classic Nosferatu. Very resistant to to sunlight.
- Sahran - A very old species that is immune to sunlight.
- Caspian - Has a larger mouth than other breeds.
- Iberian - Immune or resistant to sunlight.
- The Ancients AKA Vampyr - Primordial vampires that are the oldest of all known species. They are giant in stature and have become like living statues over time. The Carpathians have been waging a secret war on them in the hope to kill them all before they wake.
In the continuity of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, vampires are undead beings whose souls have been replaced with demons. These demons share all of the same memories as the original living being and essentially become a conscienceless, murderous version of that person. They are capable of transforming themselves back and forth from a human appearance and their vampire form, which includes a mouth full of fangs, yellow eyes and facial ridges. Exceptionally old vampires like the Master lose this ability and appear always with more demonic vampire features.
Vampires in this continuity have super-strength, speed, stamina, agility, reflexes, acute sensory perception, rapid healing, and immortality. Some vampires display other psychic abilities. They possess all of the traditional weaknesses of vampires, including wooden stakes to the heart, holy symbols, sunlight, fire and decapitation. Upon death, their bodies immediately deteriorate into dust. Conventional things like bullets will not kill them but will hurt them for a time until they heal from the injuries at an accelerated rate.
The method of turning someone into a vampire involves draining them of their own blood and feeding them the blood of a vampire. The person will then die and rise later as a vampire.
It's Never the End for the Eternal Romance Vampires, who seek their soul-mates but often experience dating horror stories instead. The first issue of Eternal Romance (Best Destiny, 1997) promises Love! Heartache! Vampires! and introduces Destine, a love-challenged energy vampire who serves as narrator to a trio of campy, emotionally vampiric tales presented in the style of 50s and 60s romance comics. Later in the series, Destine becomes a protagonist and, to the chagrin of her wise-cracking cat Ankh, becomes involved in her own romantic misadventures. Destine also possesses some magical powers, has a bizarre fashion sense and makes very poor choices in men (including Vampire suitors Alain Sangfroid and her maker, Cliff).
In "The Night Student," (Eternal Romance #1), teacher Katrina March lectures on Bram Stoker's Dracula and what is generally known about Vampires: abnormal strength; fangs; drinking blood; aversion to mirrors; the Crucifix, garlic and daylight; plus transformation into animals or mist.
Vampires in the Marvel Universe typically have enhanced strength, speed, and regenerative abilities. Their weaknesses vary from writer to writer, but generally sunlight and decapitation are the constant methods of killing a vampire. These vampires also seem to be able to shift from a human (albeit pale) form to a demonic form (with red eyes, fangs, claws, and change in skin color). Vampirism in this comic universe is most often perceived like an infection and sometimes able to be cured via magic or particularly strong willpower.
Though different tribes of vampires appeared sporadically throughout the years, the issue Death of Dracula revealed that the different species of vampires are organized into sects and every hundred years the sects converge under the leadership of Dracula for a conference on an ancient Greek island discovered following the sinking of Atlantis. The sects attending the most recent gathering are the Krieger, Claw, Charniputra, Mystikos, Anchorite, Pureblood, Tryk, Nosferatu, Atlantean, Moksha, and Siren Sects.
The sects absent from the gathering are: the Adze of Guyana, Africa, who do not succumb to the normally fatal weaknesses of a vampire until 10 minutes afterwards; the Ancients of Italy, who possess superior speed and healing; and the Yiki Onna of Japan, who can transform into razor-sharp clouds of ice instead of mist.
The True Blood Vampires in the Comics and the Television Series are based on the vampires native to the Sookie Stackhouse Novels, The Southern Vampire Mysteries. They have strength, speed, and regenerative abilities, but are vulnerable to sunlight, silver, decapitation, and wooden stakes to the heart. The are also rendered completely inert during the daylight hours (except for the most ancient vampires).
Each vampire can glamour (mesmerize) humans and also develops a particular gift (such as flight, hovering, telepathic communication, and extra sensory ability). The blood of these vampires, called "V", can temporarily bestow peak human physical abilities to humans.