If I were to ask what one of the most common characters in horror films was, what would you say? Yes, the screaming girl, but that’s not what I’m looking for. Or the obligatory “dumb cop”. No, not the teenage couple that’s hav– …
Vampires! I’m talking about vampires for crying out loud! They’re used in all sorts of horror films in many different ways; sometimes villains, sometimes heroes, and sometimes for comedy. But they’re everywhere. But could they, in some way, exist in the real world?
Before we look at how to reproduce a vampire in our quest to make monsters, let’s look at what legend tells us about vampires.
There are a few things which we think of when we think of vampires. Here is a short list of things in no particular order.
– They have fangs and like to bite people.
– They drink blood (and sometimes even feed on human flesh).
– They avoid sunlight due to health reasons. They also like darkness.
– They live longer than normal humans do.
– They can be killed by a wooden stake through the heart.
– They can heal fairly quickly
– They don’t have reflections
– They don’t care too much for garlic.
Now let’s see how it all translates to the real world.
Becoming A Vampire
If vampires existed in the real world, then there must be a real-world cause. The most likely is that it’s a virus. It would be able to be passed through fluid transfer. So if a victim of a vampire bite isn’t killed through loss of blood, that person, by way of the biting vampire’s saliva, will be infected by the vampire virus. When it fully invades the body, changes occur that cause a state of vampirism.
Vampires drink blood. They’re not always too happy about it, but they do. The reason for something like this is not magical or feeding off of “psychic energy” as is often believed. It would actually be a couple of medical issues.
The first is Iron-Deficiency Anemia. This is a shortage of red blood cells due mainly to low iron levels. So can’t the vampire just get more iron in its diet? Not exactly.
This leads us to the second reason. The gastrointestinal system isn’t what it used to be. The vampire cannot metabolize food like it used to. So it needs nutrients in their processed form. Concentrations of iron are highest in the blood. It’s what every growing vampire needs.
Let’s get one thing cleared up right here and now. Vampires don’t sparkle! They’re monsters, not disco balls. Got it? Good. Now let’s get realistic and talk more about vampires.
It goes without saying that vampires don’t do well in sunlight. But I said it anyway. There are actually three reasons for this. And all of them are fairly painful.
First of all, there’s the aforementioned anemia. This often leads to sun sensitivity. When you’re sorely lacking in red blood cells, you end up sorely paying the price for it. Luckily (for what it’s worth), vampires don’t tend to get the anemic skin rashes. They only get the sun sensitivity. But isn’t that enough?
Secondly, the vampire virus itself causes photodermatitis. It’s basically like a contact allergy, but with sunlight. The result is often some form of eczema. This is the same condition that prompts the warning on bottles of some antibiotics to avoid direct sunlight.
As if those weren’t enough, there’s one final whammy. A vampire has trouble producing melanin properly. The vampire’s body still produces melanin, but it’s composition makes it completely ineffective for its purpose. So even if you’re a vampire and are of African descent, you’ll still burn like an albino. Stock up on sunscreen.
It’s no wonder vampires prefer the darkness!
Livin’ The Long Life
Vampires are not immortal. But they certainly do live a lot longer than normal people do. Nobody knows exactly why for sure since it is not fully clear what causes aging to begin with other than chronological existence. However, there are some ideas which might explain vampiric longevity.
One of which is toxic buildup. What we ingest, breathe, and otherwise take in has toxins to one degree or another. Theoretically, the healthier one eats, the longer that person will live. Sure we have advancing medical science helping to keep us alive longer. But that is often counteracted by the processed crap we eat every day, the air we breathe, and even the medicines we take. Vampires, however, have a strict blood-based diet, rarely come out except at night when there is less polluting, and are not quite as heavily subject to toxins the rest of us are, tainted blood notwithstanding.
Secondly, there’s the degradation of telomeres on the chromosomes. Whenever a cell splits and chromosomes are reproduced, the telomeres (which are on the tips of the chromosomes to protect them) degrade. Vampire metabolisms are typically slower and cells don’t tend to divide as often unless the vampire is in a rapid healing process.
While I’m sure there’s a lot more, just those two alone will give a slightly extended lifespan. As medical science learns more about aging, we’ll understand more about a vampire’s lack thereof.
Death By Wooden Stake
Vampires can be killed by a wooden stake through the heart. But then again, pretty much anything can be killed by a wooden stake through the heart. By the same token, pretty much anything through the heart can kill a vampire. And it’s not exactly limited to the heart. This is about as basic as biology can possibly get.
I have no idea where the idea of only a wooden stake through only the heart can kill a vampire. Maybe there’s a group of vampire PR reps who put out some press release saying that they were invulnerable to all else, so don’t even try. It might have even saved the lives of a few vampires, especially the helpless starving vampires in Third World countries who are begging for the next pint of blood and trying not to die a horrible death at the hands of a Van Helsing.
As briefly mentioned before, vampires can heal rather quickly. Not Wolverine quickly mind you, but quickly nonetheless. Whenever there is a cut or other wound (with the exception of a wooden stake (or anything else) to the heart (or any other vital area for that matter)), the blood clots quickly and the healing neurotransmitters in the brain cause cell division to go a little wild for a bit. While the wound doesn’t heal completely in a super-quick fashion, it can heal enough in a very short amount of time to keep from totally ruining a vampire’s day with the hurting and restricted movement. It does eat into a vampire’s extended lifespan a little, but not enough to make a real noticeable difference.
Vampires And Mirrors
Legend has it that vampires don’t have reflections. The heck, I say! They most certainly do have reflections! But if you were changed into a dark-loving, sun-fearing, blood-drinking, depression experiencing, murdering monster with a serious vitamin D deficiency, you probably wouldn’t want to look at yourself in the mirror either.
Hold The Garlic
Vampires are not exactly big fans of garlic. This is probably why there aren’t many Italian vampires. Italians who become vampires would probably kill themselves quickly at the thought of spaghetti, ravioli, lasagna, and pizza made without garlic.
Vampires are allergic to garlic. They are also allergic to onions and leeks, but those aren’t publicized as heavily. A form of dermatitis is sometimes experienced among non-vampires due to a combination of chemicals in the Allium genus of plants. All vampires have this allergy. This includes all physical skin contact with the plants, not just inside of the mouth. If a vampire can get it into the stomach without touching it with the epidermis, there’s no issue. But when even the skin inside the mouth is badly allergic, it’s best to avoid garlic.
So there you have it, the real-world vampire. Sure it’s not as dramatic as Dracula. But biology isn’t always as dramatic as Hollywood would have us to believe. They create a fantasy that being a vampire is a glamorous thing. In fact, it’s a rather painful and less than enjoyable experience. The longer lifespan only makes it worse. So good luck and try not to get bit.