Vampire myths go back to the dawn of time and occur in nearly every culture around the world. The variety of form is almost endless; red eyed monsters with green or pink hair in China; the Greek Lamia which has the upper body of a woman and the lower body of a winged serpent; vampire foxes in Japan; a head with trailing entrails known as the Penanggalang in Malaysia.
The vampires we are familiar with today, made famous by fiction and film, are largely based on Eastern European myths. The vampire myths of Europe originated in the far East, and were transported from places like China, Tibet and India with the trade caravans along the silk route to the Mediterranean. Here they spread out along the Black Sea coast to Greece, the Balkans and of course the Carpathian mountains, including Hungary and Transylvania.
Our modern concept of the vampire still retains original concepts (blood drinking, resurrection, nocturnal human-hunting) in common with the Eastern European myths. However many things we associate with vampires; the wearing of evening clothes, capes with tall collars, turning into bats, are modern inventions.
On the other hand, many features of the old myths such as the placing of millet or poppy seeds at the gravesite in order to keep the vampire occupied all night counting seeds rather than preying on passersby, have all but disappeared from modern fiction and film.
I was told as a child that witches and vampires could not enter a house unless invited. But I was also told that they could call to you in your sleep and trick you into bidding them welcome while you lay in a trance. The only thing preventing their entry was the screen on the door. Each opening had to counted so that the witch or vampire could divide their body into tiny enough particles to infiltrate the screen and gain entry.
I lost a lot of sleep as a child…