12074654_175515936123830_2309385175264434983_n Vampires are the stuff of myth and legend – the undead, coming out at night from their graves to suck the blood of the living to maintain their own health and vitality. The idea of vampires goes as far back as the Ancient Greeks and Romans but the vampire as we know it stems from 18th Century Europe and the modern vampire is rooted in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, precursor the an entire genre which is still popular today. Vampires are fictional characters, with their origins in attempts to explain aspects of disease and death that couldn’t be understood at the time. Or are they?

Julia Caples (born 1968) from Pennsylvania claims to have been drinking human blood for thirty years, and says she consumes nearly two litres per month from willing volunteers because “When I feed off a person and drink their blood I feel stronger and healthier”

John Brennan Crutchley (born 1946, Pennsylvania – died 2002) dubbed the Vampire Rapist, is suspected of murdering over thirty women between 1977 and 1985 but was convicted on only one charge of kidnapping and assault after one of his victims managed to escape. The girl told police he extracted her blood with a needle and drank it – in hospital she was found to be missing almost half her blood. Crutchley killed himself in prison

Jonathan The Impaler Sharkey (born 1964, New Jersey) is believed to be the only vampire to have run for President – in 2012, as a Republican. Sharkey claims to have been drinking blood since the age of five and drinks blood from his wife and girlfriends several times each week, or if human blood isn’t available he drinks blood from cows or pigs.

Don Henrie (born 1975, California) sleeps in a coffin – the sensory deprivation apparently helps his fibromyalgia symptoms, avoids sunlight – he is prone to burning, and to complete his ‘Vampire Emperor’ persona, drinks donated blood from a wine glass.

Over time there have been many examples of vampire burials uncovered. Generally, if someone was thought to be a vampire, upon their passing locals would resort to various methods to prevent their rising again. Archaeologists in Poland for example have found several cases of stones in the mouth and on the chest, said to prevent them being able to rise or bite. In Bulgaria remains have been discovered staked with an iron rod, and with a leg removed to prevent them rising and walking.

In the Peruvian town of Pisco, there endures the legend of Sarah Roberts, who it was claimed was executed on guilt of witchcraft, vampirism and other associated nasties in Blackburn 1913. It is said that because of the nature of her crimes, backed up with evidence given by her husband John, following her execution, burial was refused on consecrated ground in the whole of the country. Her husband, still loving his late wife despite the charges of her biting children and sucking their blood and so on, toured the world looking for hallowed ground in which to lay his beloved Sarah to rest. Eventually she was accepted by a small town church in Pisco in Peru. However locals grew afraid, believing that following a wait of 80 years, Sarah would rise again from the dead as a bride of Dracula, along with her two sisters, Andrea and Erica, so on the appointed night in 1993, they lay in wait with their holy water, crucifix and garlic…. And prayed.12109046_175514602790630_5564280787071593946_n

Of course Sarah failed to claw her way out of the coffin, and so they all went home congratulating themselves on a job well done. Later, there was an earthquake and all the graveyard was devastated except for Sarah’s grave. Guess what…. She wasn’t a vampire, she was a saint and this was a sign. Of course Blackburn Mayor refused offers of twinning with the town, claiming he didn’t want the rest of the world to think Lancashire were a bunch of blood-sucking undead. Pisco meanwhile has a booming tourist industry based around Sarah’s legend.

In reality, Sarah was a cotton weaver, with one sister (not Andrea or Erica) and so was her husband and his brother, Paul who set up a factory in Peru. The couple had two sons, and worked with Paul in Peru, where it is highly likely she died of natural causes somewhere rather isolated, forcing her husband to make an arduous journey with her remains in order to facilitate burial. Lancashire in 1913 was hardly a place to hold witch-trials; that went out with the Pendle incident. And should Sarah have been found guilty of any crimes against children of the nature of the accusations, she would likely have been locked up in an appropriate facility.

Of course, there are several enduring tales of vampires haunting English Churchyards, Highgate in London, St James in Liverpool and St Peters in Derby being prime examples. Though if I’m honest, if I were any kind of self-respecting vampire, I would pick somewhere slightly more entertaining to hang out than a place filled with dead people.

JJ and Phoebe