Bela Lugosi's Dead: Vampire History, From Scary Monster to Sexy Beast
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Love it or hate it, you can’t deny the sheer impact of the Twilight phenomenon.
But the evolution of the vampire from horror to hottie is a surprising development. Sure, mysterious and brooding is always sexy when you’re a teen (or at least that’s what Stephenie Meyer is banking on), but how did we ever get from the bloodthirsty Count Dracula and beastly Nosferatu-style freaks of nature to sexy vamps like Edward Cullen and Bill Compton? On the release of the third installment of the Twilight film series, Eclipse, we explore, in timeline form, how our perception of these creatures of the night went from terrifying to swoon-worthy.
To get your full, bloodlusty fix, check out our gallery below for a look at all the featured vampires in chronological order, brush up on your auxiliary vampire myths via our handy field guide or rock out with our vamp-centric playlist.
Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler) (1456)
Prince Vlad III, also known as Dracula (“son of the dragon” or “son of the devil”), comes to power in Wallachia (modern-day Romania). His cruelty earns him the nickname “Vlad the Impaler,” and his legend becomes the framework for the greatest vampire tale of them all, Dracula.
Elizabeth Báthory (1614)
1614 marked the death of Hungarian noblewoman Elizabeth Báthory, a.k.a. “The Bloody Countess” and “Countess Dracula,” who according to legend, tortured and murdered young women so she could bathe in their blood to retain her beauty. Stories that surrounded her life and death, particularly the legends about bathing in blood, provided some background for Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla and other vampire stories.
Lord Ruthven (1818)
You could call Lord Ruthven the original “sexy vampire.” The subject of John William Polidori’s The Vampyre, the first modern English-language vampire story, Lord Ruthven is described as being physically captivating, a master of seduction while still, on the inside, a beast out for blood.
Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu’s Gothic novella Carmilla tells the tale of a hauntingly beautiful vampire who falls in love—and bloodlust—with a mortal woman. With a surprising level of erotic passion in the narrative, Le Fanu’s story could be where the love/obsession dynamic in vampire stories began, as Carmilla’s obsessive pleas (“You are mine, you shall be mine, and you and I are one for ever”) sound vaguely Edward Cullen-esque. Carmilla served as an influence on Bram Stoker’s Dracula (with clear character parallels to the ill-fated Lucy and Van Helsing) and the character has appeared in a number of works the world over, including, most recently, the 2009 British spoof Lesbian Vampire Killers.
Count Dracula (1897)
Irish writer Bram Stoker publishes his opus, Dracula, about the iconic undead Transylvanian nobleman hellbent on world domination. The traits Dracula exhibits in the novel—shapeshifting, aversion to garlic, the swinging pendulum of personas between friendly, cosmopolitan elite and terrifying, homicidal maniac—have become immortal not just in the context of horror fiction, but the world of fiction at large.