There was a time when people truly believed in vampires. That’s not to say there aren’t those who still hold on to such convictions. However, in the past, vampirism was an integral part of many cultural belief systems throughout the world. Most people are probably somewhat familiar with Eastern European folklore, since that was the basis for the Nosferatu-type image of the vampire at the turn of the 20th century. That picture has morphed considerably over the years to the point where we now have sexy vampires who sparkle in the sun.
Sure there are certain vampires in folklore who are known more for their ability to seduce than to sever, but that’s not necessarily the norm. In fact, some of the folkloric vampires are pretty damn vomit-inducing. Imagine a vampire that’s more or less a disembodied head with its guts hanging out. I’m guessing you wouldn’t want that climbing into your bedroom at night. So, who’s up for a trip around the world to check out a sample some of the weirdest vampire legends?
Australia: The concept of the bogeyman isn’t confined to the western world alone. The Aborigines of Australia had their own, a four foot tall vampire who drank blood through suckers on its fingers and toes. The Yara-ma-yha-who would perch on the top of a fig tree and wait for an unsuspecting traveler to pass by. It would then launch itself on them and feed until its victim was close to pass out. It would then swallow them whole. That’s right, it would swallow them. After a well deserved nap, the Yara-ma-yha-who would then regurgitate them, although they’d be a tad bit shorter than before. If this happened to one person enough times, they would become a Yara-ma-yha-who themselves.
Chile: It may sound like some sort of adorable dog breed, but Chile’s Chonchon is anything but cute. There’s not much information available on this creature other than it is essentially a disembodied head with grossly oversized ears which it uses to fly. Some say that tribal sorcerers could transform into the Chonchon through the use of powerful magic. You could tell one was close by their shrill call, if you weren’t asleep that is. If you were well then it would just drink your blood.
Germany: The Doppelsauger, or ‘double sucker’ is just plain weird. It’s essentially the revenant of a child who continued breast-feeding after being weaned. For those who may not know what a revenant is, it’s usually a reanimated corpse. The Doppelsauger will eat its own burial shroud to build up its energy for breaking out of its grave. It will also feed on its own breasts at this point. Once free, it will enter its previous home by the same means that its body was taken out and feed on family members until they waste away. One way to ensure that the Doppelsauger doesn’t rise is to keep the head away from the chest and to ensure that the lips, which are the only body part that does not rot, cannot touch the burial shroud.
India: Ah, India. Land of the beautiful Taj Mahal and an assortment of delightful curries. Too bad it’s also home to this guy. Forget garlic and all that other stuff. If you saw this creature coming towards you, with a crown of its victims intestines, you’d best be running as fast as your petrified legs could take you. Should the Brahmaparusha catch you, he’ll first drain your blood into his trusty skull cup (literally, a human skull he uses as a cup) before gorging himself on your brains. Brahmaparushas are thought to be male demons that have the ability to possess a living body in order to feed.
Indian folklore also brings us the Churel, a frightening being with a sad story. Women of low caste are at the highest risk of becoming Churel should they die while menstruating, while pregnant, or during childbirth, especially if they were neglected by their family. For this reason, contrary to general customs, such women were buried rather than cremated, often with nails driven through their arms and legs to keep them in place. The Churel could take on a pleasant form to entice men and drain them of their bodily fluids, but in reality she was a terrifying hag. One characteristic feature is her backward-facing feet. She is also said to have unkempt hair, sagging breasts, and a black, unnaturally long tongue. Some legends claim she has no mouth at all.
The Philippines: The Manananggal is a vampiric creature, sometimes a witch, who hails from the Philippines. Typically female, it has the ability to sever its body at the level of the torso, with the upper portion sprouting bat-like wings to hunt for victims. Its preferred prey are pregnant women and it uses something like a proboscis to feed off the fetuses while the mothers are asleep. Actually, any slumbering individual is fair game in a pinch. It is vulnerable to sunlight though, and none too fond of garlic or salt ether. A similar creature, the Penanggalan, makes its home in neighboring Malaysia. If you’re visiting any of these places, you might be interested to know that the way to destroy these vampires is to get your hands on the lower torso so they can’t reattach.
These are just a few of the vampires that exist in folklore, albeit some of the stranger ones. You could probably pick any country in the world and they’re likely to have something at least resembling a vampire as part of their mythology. Why? Perhaps it was a fear of the dead or rather a lack of knowledge as to what happens after death. Perhaps it was a way to explain the inexplicable or to get children to toe the proverbial line. I don’t know. What I do know is that I wouldn’t want to come face to face with any of these.