• Graveyard Shift

Here’s What Vampires Look Like From Different Cultures Around The World

List RulesVote up the regional vampires you would most like to become.

Vampires - blood-sucking, demonic, and undead monsters. While many assume vampire folklore first appeared in Transylvania, there are legends of these demonic creatures from ancient times. Evidence points to Bram Stoker himself getting inspiration from vampire lore from lands far away from Romania. Many vampire legends have seductive feminine vampires who lure men to their demise, others have corpse-like humanoid creatures who hunt in the dark, and some even come in the form of common household fruit.

From Caribbean soucouyants to the jumping vampires of China called jiangshi, vampires and vampiric creatures pop up in cultures around the world each in their own unique way with their own unique stories. But which of the world's vampiric cursees appeals to you?

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    Strigoi

    Photo: What We Do In The Shadows / FX

    Place Of Origin: Romania, specifically Transylvania

    Physical Description: The strigoi take many forms, including shapeshifting into bats or wolves. They can appear as themselves before they were dead, and haunt their family by slowly draining them of their life force. A female strigoi can appear normal and get married, only to suck the life force of her husband until he dies. 

    How The Creature Is Born: Throughout the folklore of the strigoi, there are many ways to become this vampiric being. One prominent way is by committing suicide. Another is by being born feet first, which will cause you to become a vampire after you die. If you are the seventh son or the seventh daughter, you will become a strigoi. If you're born with a third nipple or a tail or are cursed by a witch, you're also likely to become a strigoi. (Romania must be full of strigoi with so many methods to become one.)

    Abilities: The Romanian strigoi has superhuman speed, the ability to read minds, godlike strength,  immortality, astral projection (the ability to visit you in your dreams), and the ability to shapeshift.

    How To Defeat Them: There are many theories on how to defeat the strigoi. Some claim that when a person born feet first dies, they must have knitting needles stabbed through their heart and stomach to prevent them from coming back as a bloodthirsty undead vampire. As recently as 2005, a group of men from a small village in Romania were arrested for exhuming a corpse after they attempted to kill a vampire by digging up the suspected body, removing the heart from the chest of the corpse, incinerating the heart, and then drinking a potion made with the ashes. The body was pierced with stakes and sprinkled with garlic before returning to the ground. 

    Cultural Context: In Romanian, the word strigoi means "scream." According to Romanian vampire historian Adrien Cremene, Romanian vampire lore originates from Dacian mythology, from the period when the Dacian people ruled the land that is now called Romania, as far back as 2000 BCE.

    According to scholar Claudia Costin, many of the traditional Romanian stories about the strigoi regarded these vampires as a tool of punishment and a moralizing message for people to follow pre-Christian divine law: Life must be lived to its natural end and never should the world of the living cross with the world of the dead.

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    Upir

    Photo: Nosferatu The Vampyre / 20th Century Fox

    Place Of Origin: Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Belarus, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.

    Physical Description: Upirs have pale skin and are usually male. Their lips are receded and they have bloody red gums and sharp teeth. They have an unquenchable thirst for blood, more than most vampires. Not only do upirs eat the hearts of their victims, but they also bathe and sleep in blood. 

    How The Creature Is Born: Slavic traditions claim that Upirs were born from the corpses of people who committed deadly sins in their lifetimes. Also, people who were witches or necromancers during their lives would become upirs in death. Anyone with a damned soul had a chance of resurrecting as a bloodthirsty upir. 

    Abilities: Upirs have no problem walking in the daylight, but they prefer hunting at night. They are said to eat children first and prey on their parents later. Their teeth are stronger than iron and can bite through anything. 

    How To Defeat Them: Upirs can be defeated by stabbing them in the heart with a stake blessed by a priest. To make it even more effective, do it while immersing them in holy water. Some legends warn to only pierce them with a stake once; if you stab them twice, they can come back stronger than they were before. 

    Cultural Context: The upir originated from regional pagan traditions where there was a clear distinction between body and soul. When the body died, the soul would wander the Earth for 40 days, and only unclean souls became upirs. This tradition, however, remained constant with a few adaptations when Eastern and Central Europe converted to Christianity.

    The Belarusian form of this creature is the upor, who only differs in its ability to shapeshift into a horse. Some different words for this monster throughout Slavic legend are upyrs and ubers. 

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    Bruxsa

    Photo: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt / CD Projekt

    Place Of Origin: Portugal

    Physical Description: Bruxsa are almost always women, and take the form of beautiful young seductresses to lure their prey. It's said that they meet to honor their master, Satan, once a week, and slowly gain power. Once they are powerful enough, they can shapeshift into a giant bird, making it easier to hunt and stalk prey. 

    How The Creature Is Born: Some believe that a bruxsa was once a witch in her mortal life. 

    Abilities: As the power of the bruxsa grows, she can shapeshift into many forms, mainly a large black bird, but also a rat, wolf, or even an ant. She is able to step foot in the sunlight, but is most powerful between the hours of midnight and 2 a.m. 

    How To Defeat Them: Bruxsas have a particular taste for the blood of children, so the mothers of Portugal found many ways to ward them off or punish them after an attack. Amulets made of iron were worn to protect the wearer, and children's beds were surrounded by iron nails in the floorboards to keep them safe while they slept. Sometimes, scissors under the pillow and garlic sewn into clothes were used to ward them off. If a bruxsa was thought to be the cause of a child's death, the mother of the child could wash the child's clothes in hot water while stabbing them with iron, which the bruxsa will feel until it becomes so agonizing she will come to beg for the mother to stop. 

    Cultural Context: The bruxsa, which translates into "the witch," similar to the brujas of Spain and Mexico, became a commonly shared legend during the Inquisition - when the government was attempting to eradicate Portugal from pagan beliefs by instilling fear in demons and Satan. 

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    Pontianak

    Photo: Revenge of the Pontianak / Golden Village Pictures / Primeworks Studios

    Place Of Origin: In Malaysia, it's called the pontianak. This piece of lore is also found in Indonesia but goes by the name kuntilanak.

    Physical Description: The pontianak appears as a beautiful, goddess-like woman who uses her unearthly beauty to lure men into her trap. Then she rips out their organs with her long claws and eats them. She usually is depicted with long black hair, white skin, and red eyes. 

    How The Creature Is Born: The pontianak is more a vampiric ghost than a vampire. This creature is created when a woman dies in childbirth or at the hands of a violent crime committed by men. She returns to the earth in search of vengeance.  

    Abilities: The pontianak has superhuman strength and the ability to shapeshift. Her supernatural beauty is used to lure men to their demise. She only appears during a full moon. 

    How To Defeat Them: You can tell a pontianak is approaching when you start to hear a baby crying and smell flowers. To kill her, you must drive a long nail into the nape of her neck, where you will find a hole. Some legends say that if you succeed in driving the nail into her neck, she will become a beautiful, young woman who will be a faithful wife... that is, until you remove the nail again. 

    Cultural Context: Some experts point out that the rise of pontianak lore in Malaysian society coincided with the creation of new Islamic trade routes and may be an allegory representing the tensions between traditional religions like animism, Hinduism, and Buddhism and their incongruities with Islam. They may have further embodied patriarchal violence in Southeast Asian communities and the dangers of childbirth. The pontianak has since inspired many horror movies in Malaysia and Indonesia, making them a type of monster celebrity. 

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