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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Roussel

Varney the Vampire

Varney can be your friend too if you just make-believe him!

Varney the Vampire (or The Feast of Blood) was a serialized gothic horror story published in the Victorian era. It first appeared in the Penny Dreadful magazines between 1845–1847. Like all cheap magazines created to thrill and sell, the writing isn't stellar. But it's usually a hilariously hyperbolic read.

With a plunge he seizes her neck in his fang-like teeth—a gush of blood, and a hideous sucking noise follows. The girl has swooned, and the vampyre is at his hideous repast!

If you're curious, you can read the full text here!

So Varney is winning best-named vampire, but he certainly wasn't the first. At the now legendary evening at the villa in Geneva in 1819, two famous works were created. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and John William Polidori's The Vampyre. The scholar Christopher Frayling calls it:

.... the first story successfully to fuse the disparate elements of vampirism into a coherent literary genre.

Where do vampires come from?

Oh Varney, you so silly.

John William Polidori was already working off a lot of mythology. Legends of vampires go back to the ancient Greek myths of Ambrogio and Selena. But perhaps more well known is the legacy of Vlad the Impaler and his habit of impaling his victims on stakes and drinking their blood.

Vampire characteristics

A vampire's lack of reflection, while one of the most commonly known traits, actually originated with Bram Stokers' 1897 novel Dracula. Other characteristics are a little more standard to the myth. They're undead, souless, vulnerable to holy items and seemingly immortal.

Interestingly, Varney the Vampire was able to walk in the sunlight with no negative effects. He could also be healed by moonlight which is something we rarely see in modern vampires. Some characteristics we now take for granted were still being hashed out by these early writers.

And we still cling onto vampires in popular media. Some cultures even still believe in them.

In an article from 2002 in the New York Times, commenting on the vampire panic in Malawi, journalist Ralph Blumenthal points out that the myth is a useful stand-in at times of upheaval. To some people, the idea of being powerless and preyed by a vampire is more understandable than an AIDs epidemic. Or corrupt governments.

President Muluzi, in debunking the vampire rumors, may have inadvertently encouraged them when he said, ''No government can go about sucking the blood of its own people.'' The denial rang false, Ms. Auerbach said, because, ''Governments have always sucked the blood of their people.'' A Fear of Vampires Can Mask a Fear of Something Much Worse

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