Well, here is the part all the skeptics love. This is how medical research, cold hard facts, can prove that there are
no vampires, rather, they can disprove corpses of old are vampires. Perhaps. They can only offer you convincing evidence
that everything "vampiric" is normal. They can neither disprove or prove. Believe what you want...
The "Dracula Disease"
This rare disease known as the "vampire" or "Dracula" disease, or by it's proper medical name, porphyria (pronounced
por-fer-e-ah, or por-fi-re-ah) is thought to be one of, or the reason for the vampire scares throughout time, in
cultures around the world. It is very hard to describe it out of a nurse's dictionary-- it's a lot on the technical
side-- but I'm going to try my best to put it in layman's terms.
First of all, porphyria is a genetic disease. Because it is hereditary, it can't be caught by blood or other fluid
exchange. There shoots down all those old legends of vampires biting someone and they become a vampire themselves. If
having porphyria makes you a vampire, then you cannot give it to others. You cannot make other vampires. You cannot
"embrace" anyone. I'm not sure to what percent it is that it gets passed from parent to child, i.e. I'm not sure if 100%
of children of a porphyritic (making up a word here) parent gets it or if 50% of them do, or if it passes more readily
into one sex or another or if grandchildren are more likely to get it than children (as is sometimes the case with
hereditary diabetes). The only sure thing is you can't get it through blood or bodily fluid transfer. Sorry if that
ruins your evening plans of a little... necking.
Porphyrins (hence the lack of them gives you the name of the disease), combined with iron form hemes in the blood. Heme
is what makes blood red. If you don't have the right porphyrin content, you don't have the right heme contents, and then
things start to go bad. Prophyria imbalance can cause the following:
gastrological problems (stomach cramping, nausea)
neurological and psychological disorders (you get crazy)
photosensitivity (intolerance to sun or bright lights)
pigmentation of the face (skin changes color, usually getting lighter, losing color)
anemia (blood deficiency) with enlargement of the spleen (an organ acting as a reservoir for blood)
and excessive amounts of porphyrins are excreted in the stool and urine, giving it a dark red, bloodish color.
If you look at all the symptoms of porphyria, you can begin to see how it could start looking like what we know as a
vampire. Mentally unstable people, perhaps snarling, flashing their teeth. Perhaps biting others. Some people report
that porphyria is helped by giving blood, IV. Back before such things, you might find people suffering of the disease
drinking blood to help them feel better. They are photosensitive, their skin, in extreme cases, prone to blistering and
burning in the sunlight, so they would have a preference to avoid it. Discoloration of the skin or loss of pigmentation,
coupled with a low amount of blood, would give suffers a very pale appearance indeed. But before you say "Aha!" and
pronounce this as the truth behind the vampire scares, be advised, this is a very rare disease. There are several
classifications of it as well, not all of them having all of the symptoms. Those symptoms closest to being "vampire
related" appear only in a handful of cases. As of 1991, there were only 60 reported cases of the form of porphyria, CEP,
that has symptoms most commonly linked with vampirism.1
This is "a condition of diminished responsiveness usually characterized by a trance-like state and constantly maintained
immobility. The patient with catalepsy may remain in one position for minutes, days and even longer."
Back before there were laws governing certificates of death and coroners who made sure you were dead, the science of
declaring someone dead was not very precise, to say the least. It's not that catalepsy was so common as comas and near
death phases were. After a traumatic accident, one may be breathing shallowly and the heart slowed. The person could go
into a catatonic state, but not be dead. With monitors and such now, that's just part of being in critical condition; we
know the person is alive. but in rural areas, miles and miles from medical help, often the person diagnosing death was a
family member, friend, stranger, but too often not a doctor. Sometimes people knew how to check a pulse, which is your
heart was still beating pretty well and they could take a good pulse, you were okay. But sometimes people couldn't take
a pulse at all. The best you got was an ear pressed to the chest or close to the nose for sounds of a beating heart or
breathing. Either of those too shallow for detection and you were pronounced dead. While wakes gave you roughly 24 hours
to improve or die, you usually didn't have longer. Sometimes less, seeing how people did not have embalming and/or
funeral homes with an air conditioner cold enough to frost the windows back in those days, funerals held in the heat of
summer were often very, very quick. they wouldn't leave a body out long enough to see if it started to smell and was
truly dead. Needless to say, many comatose people were buried alive in this fashion.
When you have people buried alive, you can easily see where vampire myths came from. "Partially eaten shroud" was often
a sign of vampires. More often than not, it probably came, if not from bugs or natural deterioration, from people buried
alive and hungry. Muffled sounds from graves and scratching in coffins on dark nights could have been those people
wanting out, audible in the quietness of evening. Fresh bodies and blood and even screams as the heart of an unearthed
vampire were staked can all be explained as comatose victims still alive in the grave, not undead. Because the fear of
being buried alive was so great, some people went to great lengths to avoid it, stipulating in their wills to be laid
out for three days to make sure they were really dead, not be buried until pronounced dead by a certified physician, to
be exhumed three days after burial to make sure the body was dead, or some even had elaborate bell systems devised to
ring on the surface if they moved their hand below.2
Well, enough proving vampires non-existent. Let's just say they do exist. Let's say you'd like to get bitten. But, oh,
what to offer? Or if you're a writer, like me, where to have your vampire bite? Since we're already on the medical
topic, let's go on and include this next section in it:
So many veins, where to begin?
Starting with the head down, I'll cover all the best places to "get a bite."
The external carotid artery-- This is the most common place of all to have a vampire bite. This is the artery in the
side of your neck where you take your pulse, closest to the surface between the jaw, slightly under the earlobe and
forward, and the collarbone.
The jugular vein-- This vein is a big no-no to bite. Extending on either side of the trachea (the throat), following
down the neck from the chin to the collarbone, this vein is very dangerous to pierce. The jugular leads directly down
into the heart and carries all the blood from the brain. The jugular vein is much larger than the carotid artery, and so
carries much more blood. Very few people in the world have survived a severed jugular vein (we're talking single
digits). So, unless your vampire has... um... fangs of steel and a very still victim, a jugular bite could be
potentially deadly. The obverse side to that is it is very easy and quick to kill someone that way. Ripping out the
throat, by either severing the jugular vein, puncturing the trachea (the windpipe), or both, causes a very quick death.
The median cubital vein-- This vein is the one in the elbow where, if you've ever had blood drawn, that is where they
stick you. Hey, if a hospital can use it, so can a vampire.
The ulner artery-- This is the artery in the wrist. After the neck it seems to be the second favorite place for vampires
to bite. Remember this though, the vein lies under some tendons (unlike the medial cubital which is right under the skin
in the elbow), so that could pose a problem with biting.
The greater saphenous vein-- This vein runs along the inside of either thigh. The vein is large and deep; it would take
a big bite to get down into it, but its location makes it a nice... foreplay move, if you have such an amorous vampire.
The femoral vein-- This vein is the one at the back of the knee. Like the median cubital in the elbow, this vein lies
close to the skin and is an easy bite if you have a victim face down and willing to not kick or unable to kick.