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Stories about vampire women have been a part of the vampire
history since the beginning of vampires. Some of the earliest vampires,
such as the langsuyar in Malaysia and the Jewish Lilith, were vampires
even though they all shared different names. Most of the female
vampires had their start in explaining difficulties and illnesses that
occurred in childbirth.
The vampires were blamed to the faults of stillborn children or pregnant mothers who became ill. The idea was that female vampires came and sucked the blood or the life out of the mother or child, thus killing them. A way to describe the unexplainable was the beginning of the modern day vampire.
As female vampires evolved, they transformed from the beastly figures of the ancient vampires to the more beautiful and sexy vampire we refer to today. The lamiai in Grecian times was introduced by Philostratus in the story The Life of Apollonius. In Greek mythology, Menippus was getting ready to wed a beautiful rich lady. Apollonius informed his friend Menippus that she was actually a blood-sucking lamiai, meaning vampire, who was going to suck all of his blood after they were married.
Another vampire associated with gods and goddesses is the deity of Kali in Hinduism. Predominant to India, Hindus consider Kali to be the goddess of destruction and death, with her striking beauty, multiple arms, and fiery long tongue.
The goddess is believed to be a vampire who sucks out the life force from animals and people. West Africa and the Caribbean, especially in the regions that follow polytheistic religions that believe in many gods and goddesses, people think that female vampires and witches live among the rest of society. No one knows who are the vampires including their husbands and family members.
Some cultures refer to vampire women as succubus or the mara. While these creatures behave similar to vampire women, as they attack males in the night and leave them in a state of confusion, they are not true vampires.
One of the first documented cases of a very real person who was thought to be a vampire is the case of the Blood Countess. Countess Elizabeth Bathory was a Hungarian countess who lived in Transylvania during the 17th century. She made history creating one of the first large-scale panics of vampirism. According to history records, the countess would torture and kill her young female servants so she could drain their blood and take baths in it. She thought the blood would make her skin look forever youthful. Local townspeople became panicked when hundreds, 714 according to the record books, of their young daughters were missing.
The girls would go to the countess’ castle to work as a servant only to never return. Then some of the girls managed to escape. The girls’ testimonies of torture and murder, as well as visual signs of abuse, led villagers to arrest the countess. Following her trial, she was locked away in her own castle, placed in a tower that was built around her using stone leaving her with nothing more than a small slit for her food tray to come and go. Everyone was so afraid that the Blood Countess would transform into an animal and escape.
Literature was the next place to explore the notion of female vampires. One of the first books to star a vampire girl was the novella Carmilla written in 1872 by Joseph Sheridan le Fanu. In the story, the noxiously beautiful vampire Carmilla is attracted to female victims. The story was considered controversial because of the sexual attention that Carmilla gave to her victims, thus describing lesbian lovers. By the time that motion pictures came to be in the early 20th century, the story of Carmilla was one of the first films to showcase vampires.
The first motion picture to star a vampire woman was Dracula’s Daughter in 1936. As the sequel of the original Dracula in1931, starring Bela Lugosi, Dracula’s Daughter starred Gloria Holden as Countess Marya Zaleska who is the daughter of Dracula. By the 1970s Hammer Film Productions brought a gaudy new glamour to vampire women in the cult classics of the Karnstein Trilogy.
In the early 20th century several short stories in literature starred a vampire woman. “The Tomb of Sarah” by F. G. Loring, “The Vampire Maid” by Hume Nisbet, and “Mrs. Amworth” by E.F. Benson all portray the lead villain as a female vampire.
One of the first modern day novels that featured vampire women was The Vampires of Finistere written by Peter Saxon in 1966. Soon after in 1969 the novel Dracutwig was published by Bernhardt J. Hurwood aka Mallory T. Knight. Dracutwig was a lighthearted story focused on the daughter of Dracula who was “coming of age.”
More recent literature written about vampires has been written by vampire women authors including Anne Rice, P N Elrod, Elaine Bergstrom, Stephenie Meyer, and Charlaine Harris. While the majority of the stories written by these female horror writers are based on male vampires, they have including some vampire women as well. For instance, in Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice,, which was adapted into the film Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, the daughter of the Louis de Pointe du Lac, played by Brad Pitt, and Lestat de Lioncourt, portrayed by Tom Cruise, is named Claudia, a child vampire, who is played by Kirsten Dunst.
One of the most recent novels to be released about vampire women is a satire of the novel Little Women by Louisa May Alcott that is titled Little Vampire Women. By Lynn Messina, this retake of the classic story transports the March sisters into a world of blood lust and dark nights.