The British have only recently been fascinated by vampires. There are few stories of note prior to the 18th century—but what caused them to start fearing the undead?
In the 18th century, fear of vampires ran riot in Eastern Europe, with regular hunting and staking of vampires. Two specific cases did the most to bring vampires to the British Isles: those of Arnold Paole and Peter Plogojowitz.
Plogojowitz died in his 60’s but came back after his death several times asking his family for food. When his son refused to feed him, the son was found dead the following day. Then Plogojowitz came back and attacked others, many of whom died from a lack of blood.
The case of Arnold Paole is also a strange one. He was a soldier-turned-farmer who claimed to have been attacked by a vampire many years previously. When he died, there were a rash of deaths in his vicinity, and he was said to be the one who had returned to kill his former neighbors.
Since these two stories were extremely hot news at the time and their stories told from person to person, the vampire “scare” grew—not to the lengths of Eastern Europe where villagers would dig up bodies and claim to have killed a vampire on a monthly basis—but it was still a great fear.
It took a French theologian, Dom Augustine Calmet, to get people thinking rationally again. When he wrote a respected document that stated vampires didn’t exist, it was listened to; and when Austrian Empress Marie Theresa passed laws prohibiting the desecration of graves and bodies, the vampire craze died down across Europe and vampires became the creation of authors…