In modern tales, found in literature and movies about vampires, the vampires are usually described as seductive aristocrats. Vampirism is described as a disease in for example Bram Stoker’s classical Dracula, which was written in a time when tuberculosis and syphilis were widespread. The traditional folklore explanations for vampires usually include demonic possessions. The approach of describing vampirism as an illness has also been done in books, for example in the Anne Rice chronicles and other books, such as the Charlaine Harris series and the Anita Blake, vampire hunter series by Laurell K Hamilton. Films like the Blade trilogy and the Underworld has also embraced this explanation.
According to different myths and folklore tales, several characteristics defines a vampire.
The most common characteristic that classifies a vampire is that it has to consume blood to sustain its metabolism. A vampire is a dead creature and therefore does not need oxygen to breathe. It also has a pale appearance and is cool to the touch. It is also said that the vampire, since it is not mortal, lacks both reflection and shadow. Furthermore, it is usually afraid, or weakened (and sometimes even destroyed) by sunlight. The vampires also must return to their cemeteries to rest in their native soil or coffins during the day. It is also believed that vampires can shape-shift to animals, such as wolves and bats. According to legend, it is also unable to pass crossing water and cannot enter a house without first being invited.
According to both modern fiction and traditional legends, the best protection against vampires is the use of sacred symbols and holy water. Blessed crucifixes are said to flare to life in the vicinity of a vampire, which will be unable it to approach it further. In eastern vampire myths, the vampires react similarly to holy devices such as Shintō seals. Holy water is believed to bring harm and damage to vampires if it gets in physical contact with it. Other protection includes garlic and wild roses. There are only three commonly described ways to kill a vampire permanently. Capture it and let it burn in the sun, decapitation (i.e. removal of the head) or put a wooden stake through the vampire’s heart.
However, since that probably is easier to say than to do, vampires probably walk away unharmed most of the time…