What are the 3 types of vampires?

Vampires have captured the imagination of people for centuries. These mythical creatures are known for their need to drink blood to survive, their aversion to sunlight, and their supernatural abilities. While there are many different mythologies and lore surrounding vampires, many traditions identify 3 main types of vampires: the folkloric vampire, the literary vampire, and the modern vampire.

Folkloric Vampires

Folkloric vampires originate from Eastern European folklore and legends that were most prevalent in the late 17th and 18th centuries. These vampires were viewed by common villagers as reanimated corpses that preyed on the living. Some key characteristics of the folkloric vampire include:

  • Bloated, ruddy complexions from feeding on blood
  • Long, unkempt fingernails and hair
  • Pointed teeth or fangs
  • Strong body odor of decay
  • Red, bloodshot eyes
  • Rigid body movements, as they are dead corpses

Folkloric vampires were believed to be spread through bites, but also other methods like contaminated food or open wounds. Folkloric vampires are often depicted living in dark, secluded locations like old castles, cemeteries, or underground tombs. Common folklore also suggested that vampires were afraid of religious artifacts like crosses and holy water.

Some of the earliest references to folkloric vampires include:

  • 1100s – The 12th-century English historian and chronicler Walter Map’s De Nugis Curialium contains one of the earliest European vampire tales.
  • 1700s – The word “vampire” entered the English language in the early 1700s via translations of German and Serbian accounts.
  • 1725–1732 – Vampire hysteria broke out in Serbia leading to stakings and grave desecrations.
  • 1797 – Goethe’s poem “The Bride of Corinth” told of a young woman who returns from the grave and drains her former betrothed of his blood.
  • 1819 – John Polidori’s “The Vampyre” introduced the archetype of the seductive vampire lord, notably inspiring Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Thus the folkloric vampire became cemented in legend throughout Eastern Europe and went on to later inspire more fictionalized and literary vampires.

Literary Vampires

Literary vampires came onto the scene in the 19th century, ‘popularized by authors and poets like John Polidori, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, and Bram Stoker. The vampires of literature took on a more romantic, sophisticated aura than the monstrous revenants of folklore. Some hallmarks of the literary vampire include:

  • Charismatic, attractive appearance
  • Wealth, education, and social pedigree
  • Supernatural powers of mind control, transformation, healing, immortality
  • More restrained blood consumption habits
  • Vulnerabilities like sunlight, holy artifacts are less pronounced

Literary vampires were often portrayed as immortal, tragic antiheroes or even antagonists confronting their own existential crises. They had complex personalities and motives beyond just hunger for blood. Some seminal literary works about vampires include:

  • 1871 – Le Fanu’s novella Carmilla explored lesbian vampire themes
  • 1897 – Stoker’s Dracula defined vampire archetypes including vampiric nobility, stakes, and garlic
  • 1922 – Murnau’s silent film Nosferatu established Count Orlok as a hideous, rat-like vampire
  • 1954 – Matheson’s I Am Legend depicted a plague of vampirism overtaking humanity
  • 1957 – Lelic’s Blood and Roses added vampirism to the popular French horror film style.

This fleshed out literary form of the vampire went on to inspire authors, playwrights, and filmmakers right up through the modern era.

Modern Vampires

The contemporary, modern depiction of vampires retains some aspects of the folkloric and literary. However, they also go in new directions often influenced by trends in pop culture, urban fantasy fiction, and the Gothic subculture. Some contemporary vampire traits include:

  • Unique, modern fashion styles vs stereotypical Gothic/Victorian dress
  • Nightlife socializing in clubs, raves, parties
  • Listening to Gothic, industrial, and punk rock music genres
  • Body piercings and distinctive hairstyles or makeup
  • Alienation from or resentment of authority figures
  • Rejection of traditional vampire weaknesses like sunlight, garlic

Modern literary and film franchises that typify contemporary vampires include:

  • The Lost Boys – Depicted teen punk rock vampires in 1980s California
  • Interview with the Vampire – Showcased elegant, passionate vampires struggling with purpose
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Featured vampires fully integrated into modern world with its own subculture
  • Twilight – Illustrated vampire romance of the 21st century for a young adult audience
  • True Blood – Focused on vampires “coming out of the coffin” in vampire-human relations
  • The Vampire Diaries – Centered on vampire brothers at odds over a human girl amid vampire social circles

This evolution shows how contemporary vampires adopt the latest cultural and societal trends while shedding some of the more classical traits.

Comparing the Vampire Types

Despite the uniqueness across folkloric, literary, and modern vampire archetypes, they all retain some core traits that define their vampirism:

  • Need for regular ingestion of blood
  • Nocturnal habits and avoidance of sunlight
  • Fangs or sharp teeth that can puncture skin and draw blood
  • Immortality or extended lifespan
  • Supernatural physical abilities and resilience
  • Death-like sleep during daylight hours

Yet within those parameters, the different vampire types have distinctive looks, habits, weaknesses, and demeanors across mythological and fictional works. Here is a comparative table of some of their key differences:

Trait Folkloric Vampire Literary Vampire Modern Vampire
Appearance Disheveled, dirty, unkempt look. Pallid complexion, red eyes, long nails and hair. Refined, immaculate clothing. Aristocratic features and poise. Trendy, fashionable clothes. Body piercings, punk/Goth look.
Habits & Behavior Nocturnal awakening, limited thinking and speech. Attack victims animalistically. Cultured tastes like music, arts, philosophy. Charming seducers of victims. Socializing, partying in nightclubs or raves. Blending into human cities.
Weaknesses Sunlight, holy artifacts like crosses and communion wafers, decapitation, wooden stake through heart. Sunlight bothers but less than folkloric. Holy items still ward them off. Rejected vulnerabilities of past. Most shrug off sunlight, crosses, etc.
Origins & Spread Result of unusual death, like suicide or improper burial rites. Infect others via blood, contaminants. Usually turned by another vampire. Seek willing immortal companions. Turned diverse modern people. Integration and coexistence with humans.

As we can see, the differing undead mythology, author visions, and popular culture reinterpretations allow for reinventing the vampire across distinct archetypes tailored to the tastes of the era.


The vampire figure endlessly fascinates us by bridging the realms of horror, eroticism, philosophy, and humanity’s quest for immortality. This leads to continual reinterpretations and evolutions in their depiction. But whether the crude Slavic revenant, romantic Gothic antihero, or punk rock nightclubber, all vampire archetypes have that same underlying essence – the powerful blending of allure and terror that comes from undeath.

Leave a Comment