When you think of vampires, you may think of the stakes you’ve seen so many times thrust through the heart of the vampire to vanquish its evil presence. In older adaptations and stories, the vampire needs to be asleep at the time. However, this has become less important with modern adaptations, and vampires can be staked whether awake or asleep.
In different cultures and areas around the world, different types of wood are used and some are considered to be more effective than others. Hawthorn was required in Serbia—whereas oak was required in Silesia. Some of the more commonly used woods are wood from the rowan tree as well as mountain ash. In England, it was common to drive an ash stake through the heart of those who committed suicide. This was to prevent them from becoming vampires. People who were believed to have died violently or were considered evil in life were also thought to be at risk of becoming vampires, and at times, whole trees were plunged through graves to stop these people from returning as vampires.
Then, of course, there was the habit of planting wooden stakes on the ground above the grave so any vampire rising would impale itself on the stake. Many modern psychologists believe that by performing the rituals to destroy the “vampire,” they destroyed the psychological attachment to those who survived, thus allowing the family and friends of the deceased to cope with their loss and carry on with their lives.
Staking a vampire may have become popular because the man who inspired Dracula—Vlad the Impaler—impaled those who crossed him on large stakes that were driven into the body vertically. This meant they bled to death slowly; and this could be the reason why wooden stakes became common lore.