Count Dracula and the Folkloric Vampire: Thirteen Comparisons

Patrick Johnson

[Patrick Johnson has degrees from San Francisco State University and the University of California at Davis. He has been studying the myths about vampires as a hobby since 1994. He is the creator and author of the web site Strigoi’s Tomb at]

“There are such beings as vampires ...The nosferatu do not die like the bee when he sting once.” -- Van Helsing (Dracula 286-87)

Western European words such as vampire (English and French) and vampiros (Spanish) derive from vampir which occurs in the Serbo-Croatian and Bulgarian languages. The term entered the mainstream press of Western Europe during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century along with sensational reports of “vampire plagues” from Eastern Europe. The original vampir of Slavic folklore was indeed a revenant who left his grave in corporeal form (at least in appearance -- there are cases where the revenant was considered to be the spirit of the dead person), brought death to the living, and returned to his grave periodically. There were other Slavic names for such revenants such as vorkudlak (Serbo-Croatian), obour (Bulgarian), upir (Russian, Ukranian, and Polish). But the name vampire became so fixated in western Europe that it has come to be applied to all the corporeal revenants bringing death to the living which occur in the folk beliefs of Eastern Europe.
In Romanian folklore, which is non-Slavic, the common names for corporeal revenants include strigoi, moroi, pricolic, and varcolac. Occasionally, one of these words applies to a certain set of origins or attributes of the revenant. For example, moroi might specifically refer to those revenants who died in their infancy without having been baptized. But in general there are no hard and fast rules for connecting a set of motifs with a certain name. As Agnes Murgoci notes, “We find also strigoi, moroii, and varcolaci, and strigoi and pricolici, used as if they were all birds of the same feather” (321).
Bram Stoker’s research papers for Dracula, including articles from newspapers, magazines, and books, indicate that his primary source for vampire folklore was “Transylvanian Superstitions” by Emily Gerard published in the July 1885 issue of The Nineteenth Century: “More decidedly evil, however, is the vampire, or nosferatu, in whom every Roumanian peasant believes as firmly as he does in heaven or hell” (142).
Below are matches between thirteen motifs of Stoker’s Count Dracula and those of folkloric vampires. In only one case, Dracula’s lack of a reflection, is there no counterpart to be found in recorded folklore.

Read further:
Journal of Dracula Studies 2(2000)