The 10 Most Intriguing Vampires of Legend & Lore

Photo by Gerd Altmann

Vampire Collage

Some of you may have suspected by my website name, Vamp Jenn’s Corner, that I’m fascinated with vampires. I’ll admit my fascination borders on obsession. Although my initial introduction to these figures was Sesame Street’s Count von Count, it was Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles that had me spellbound by these undead creatures. They exude mystery and possess multifaceted natures. Although they have a voracious appetite for human blood, we mortals cannot help but be entranced. They’ve been presented in many lights, from ghastly to charming, cruel to caring, repellant to sexy.

So, I thought, why not share with you some of the vampires with whom I have fallen in love over the years. Following is a list of 10 that, in my opinion, have been influential in shaping the vampire image in both history and pop culture. But this is not a definitive list. Here they are presented in chronological order.

Vlad The Impaler, a.k.a. Vlad Dracula (1431-1476)

Portrait of Vlad III Dracula (c. 1560)
Portrait of Vlad III Dracula (c. 1560)

Many popular vampire legends we know today began from the mysteries surrounding this man. Although there is no concrete evidence, it’s possible that Vlad III Tepes was the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s renowned horror novel “Dracula.” Vlad, prince of Walachia, was born in Transylvania, Romania, a region synonymous with vampire folklore. Both glorified and vilified in his time, he was part of a militant fraternity called Order of the Dragon. He was raised surrounded by combat and carnage and became infamous for impaling his enemies on stakes. Was Vlad a real vampire? Although that can’t be proven, as a warrior, he definitely had a thirst for blood.

Elizabeth Báthory (1560-1614)

Portrait of Countess Elizabeth Báthory (c. 1585)
Portrait of Countess Elizabeth Báthory (c. 1585)

She is the Hungarian Countess who purportedly drank and bathed in the blood of young women to maintain a youthful appearance. Her lust to preserve her own vitality is reminiscent of never-aging vampires. The countess was accused of torturing and murdering more than 600 females with the aid of accomplices. Although she never went to trial, three of her servants suspected of assisting her were executed. Elizabeth was forced to live out the rest of her years in her quarters at Castle Čachtice. There is speculation regarding how much of the horrendous tale is fact. Despite that, our fascination with her has yet to cease. In “American Horror Story: Hotel,” Lady Gaga plays Countess Elizabeth Johnson, a vampire character who seems to be inspired by the historical figure.

Carmilla (1872)

Illustration in
Illustration in “Carmilla”

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Gothic novella “Carmilla” is one of the first works of vampire fiction. Many people do not realize that this narrative predates Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” It is the story of a young woman who is lured by female vampire Carmilla. The story was ahead of its time in terms of the homosexual and lesbian themes that underlie the plot. Notions of seduction and sensuality that have come to be associated with the vampire figure are present in this narrative.

Dracula (1897)

Bela Lugosi as Dracula (c. 1931)
Bela Lugosi as Dracula (c. 1931)

This is the most widely recognized work of vampire fiction. Even those who haven’t read the 19th-century novel know that it’s about a blood-sucking vampire. Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” has had many film adaptations and it is this character that has permeated into pop culture. I mentioned before that scholars have not been able to ascertain whether Stoker modeled his vampire off Vlad The Impaler, but it is known that the author spent years studying European and vampire folklore and took a great interest in Emily Gerard’s 1885 essay “Transylvania Superstitions.”

Count Orlok of “Nosferatu” (1922)

Nosferatu
Max Schreck as the vampire Count Orlok in “Nosferatu”

This was one of the first film adaptations of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” Instead of a vampire that charms the audience with his looks, this undead creature’s appearance is spine-tingling. I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen a few years ago when it was featured at The Theatre at Ace Hotel during the Halloween season. Since the original orchestral score of the film has been lost, the Los Angeles Opera reimagined the music, and the soundtrack was conducted live while the movie played!

Lestat, The Brat Prince (1976)

Stuart Townsend as Lestat in
Stuart Townsend as Lestat in “Queen of the Damned” (© Warner Bros. Studio)

The star of The Vampire Chronicles, Lestat has transformed the image of the undead. He first appears in Anne Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire,” published in 1976, where we see a compassionless and selfish creature. It is not until the second book of the series, “The Vampire Lestat” where we begin to learn his story and continue this journey with him several books later. Lestat is a deeply complex figure and the vampire he represents goes beyond an immortal predator with fangs. The beauty lies in how Anne Rice shows the duality in his nature and the ceaseless internal struggle between human and inhuman urges.

Vampire Hunter D (1985)

Vampire Hunter D
Poster for the animated film “Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust”

Based on the Japanese novels by Hideyuki Kikuchi, “Vampire Hunter D” was made into an animated film in 1985. The follow-up to the first movie, “Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust” released in 2000, was my introduction to this character. Hunter D is a beguiling and tortured soul. He is a dhampir — half human, half vampire — who hunts the undead. The stories are set in a post-apocalyptic world and contain elements of science fiction, horror, gothic fiction, the occult, romance and fantasy. I have yet to read the series, but you can be sure it’s on my to-do list.

Selene of “Underworld” (2003)

Kate Beckinsale as vampire Selene in
Kate Beckinsale as vampire Selene in “Underworld” (Photo courtesy of moviestillsdb.com)

I absolutely love the “Underworld” films. There are five parts in the saga. For those unfamiliar with the series, it focuses on the war between vampires and the Lycan clan (werewolves). It’s a vampire story for the new millennium and reminds me of “The Matrix” trilogy in certain ways. The dark and futuristic setting, the soundtracks, plus Kate Beckinsale as Selene make the movies compelling. Who can resist a dominant female vampire who kicks ass while donning a black latex body suit?

Adam of “Only Lovers Left Alive” (2013)

Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as vampires Adam and Eve in
Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as vampires Adam and Eve in “Only Lovers Left Alive” (Photo courtesy of moviestillsdb.com)

I couldn’t help but think of Lestat when I saw Tom Hiddleston as tortured vampire musician Adam. A darkly, poetic film, “Only Lovers Left Alive” follows immortals Adam and Eve (Tilda Swinton). The pair draws you into their complicated world that is made more difficult when Eve’s uncontrollable sister Ava, played by Mia Wasikowska, shows up unexpectedly. The movie is not a typical vampire tale and reveals how these characters are plagued by the same vulnerabilities as humans.

Dracula & Alucard of “Castlevania” (2017)

Castlevania
Poster for the “Castlevania” TV series

Originally a horror video game, “Castlevania” is now an animated series streaming on Netflix. The Dracula of this TV show is based on Vlad III Tepes who seeks to avenge the murder of his human wife, who was killed by men, by taking out his rage on humanity. His son, Alucard, does not agree with his father’s agenda to destroy all mortal life, so a battle ensues. The second season released a few months ago and it seems like a third one is well on its way.


Of course, there is a wealth of vampire-inspired literature, art, films and more that could be added to this list. Who are some of your favorite blood-sucking night creatures?

5 thoughts on “The 10 Most Intriguing Vampires of Legend & Lore

  1. Well at the risk of sounding like the narcissistic Donald Trump of vampire literature, I do have to confess it’s my own characters of the Vampiress Lilith and the Aztec vampire princess Qonzilqointec who are probably my favourite blood-sucking night creatures.

    Although I have always been intrigued with Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla.

  2. Fascinating collection! If I remember correctly (and, hand on heart, I may not), didn’t the vampire who “created” Lestat date back to pharaonic Egypt? Or maybe it was Lestat himself. Either way, it was a significant part of Rice’s storyline, and the characters’ ancientness always captivated. Imagine that, millennia before Vlad!

    Oh, and thanks for mentioning Count von Count. All these years, I never realized “The Count” had a name. Had I known this back when I was five, it would’ve enhanced my enjoyment of Sesame Street. Instead, I’m left to lament my wasted childhood. Or something!

    1. Yes, the first vampires in Anne Rice’s story do date back to ancient Egypt. The vampire that created Lestat wasn’t that old, but it’s where they all come from!
      I didn’t realize the Count on Sesame Street had name either when I was watching the show. How funny. Thanks for reading!

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