Vampires are mutated humans infected with a mutagenic retrovirus named Human Vampiric Virus. Due to neurological modifications, they hunger for the blood of uninfected humans. Vampires mainly bite a victim's neck, extracting the blood from the carotid artery. They are also known for their enhanced physical capabilities, longevity, and averse reaction to bright light Since their first appearance in recorded history, vampires have made a profound impact on our world. From religion to warfare, politics to art, it is difficult to find an aspect of society that hasn't been influenced by the so-called undead. Our dealings with them has always been a reflection of where we are as a people. In 1616, Italian scientist Ludovico Fatinelli published his Treatise on Vampires, in which he speculated that vampirism was caused by a microscopic pathogen. He was burned at the stake for heresy. Fortunately, science plowed ahead, undeterred. The information included in this article is the result of the work of countless dedicated men and women. The information included below is only an overview; for a more detailed account, try two classic texts: Henry Gray's Anatomy of the Vampire and Vesalius'Five Books on the Structure of the Vampire Body.
The source of vampirism is the Human Vampiric Virus, a symbiotic retrovirus which benefits its host in many ways rather than killing it. HVV is not related to any known genus of virus or viroid.
Due to its unique structure and protein-base, it is believed that the virus is of extraterrestrial origin - brought to Earth by either a comet or meteor. The complexity of HVV is staggering. In many ways it resembles a very primitive virus called a prion. Most viruses cause disease by infiltrating the host's systems then attacking specific cells and replacing the DNA of the cell with a copy of their own thus creating more viruses which then attack more cells and so on. The body of the host then recognizes these infected cells as foreign matter and the immune system works to eradicate them. HVV works in much the same way except that the virus attacks nearly all of the hosts systems and works to adapt rather than change the DNA within the cells, adding extra 'mini-chromosomes' called plasmids to the human DNA rather than replacing it completely. This means that the host's immune system is partly fooled into believing that the adapted cells are still normal and are less aggressive in their removal of them, giving the virus more time to spread through out the body's systems. Though technically a retrovirus, the degree to which it rewrites its host's genetic code puts it in a league all its own. Most viruses are highly specific in what type of tissue they target. HVV, however, is capable of infecting virtually every cell in the human body.
While in theory HVV infection is possible through any exchange of bodily fluids, transmission occurs through the bite of an infected person in virtually every case. Although the tiny dose of virus present in the saliva that passes during a feeding is usually insufficient to infect a healthy human, if enough blood is withdrawn to sufficiently deplete a victim's white blood cell level, the immune system will be overcome and they will be infected with HVV. If the victim's blood loss is not severe enough to discernibly compromise the immune response (which is usually the case), the virus is easily dealt with by the immune system and eradicated.
Stages of infection
Within hours of being bitten, the victim develops a headache, fever, chills and other flu-like symptoms as the body tries to fight off the infection. These symptoms can be easily confused with more common viral infections, although the presence of bite marks on the body are usually enough to confirm the diagnosis. This stage generally lasts between six and twelve hours. Within 24 hours of being bitten, the victim will slip into a vampiric coma. During this phase, the pulse slows, breathing is shallow and the pupils are dilated. The large numbers of people mistakenly buried alive while in vampiric comas gave rise to the myth that vampires sleep in coffins. While it is commonly thought that anyone infected with HVV turns into a vampire, in fact
only a small percentage of people survive vampiric comas. Generally, the young, the old and the feeble never come out of their vampiric comas and eventually die. The vast majority of people who survive vampiric comas are males between the ages of 18 to 35. Vampiric comas last about a day; the victim usually comes out of the coma the night after its onset. A bite victim who survives the coma will awaken fully transformed into a vampire. An acclimation period follows, characterized by confusion, despondency and paranoia. Most vampires begin to hunt within 24 hours of transformation. The vaccine is of no use at this point.
During the transition from human to vampire an individual undergoes neurophysical, anatomical and genetic transformations. A person who comes out of a vampiric coma fully transformed will have undergone a number of major physiological changes affecting the various systems of the body. A vampire's nervous system is similar to humans and has proven to be their "achilles heel." Injuries to the spinal cord and brain can be devastating for vampires. While a vampire's spinal cord and nerves work as before transformation, a number of changes take place in the brain, and that altered brain chemistry goes a long way toward understanding vampire behavior. Vampires have much lower levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. In humans, low levels of serotonin trigger aggression and risky behavior. Another neurotransmitter, dopamine induces feelings of well-being. In vampires, it is released during feeding and has a narcotic-like effect. Circadian rhythms chemical changes in the brain that help us "rise and shine" with the morning light are reversed in vampires. Powerful sense organs gave vampires an advantage both in hunting and eluding capture. Sneaking up on them virtually impossible, as they are aware of your presence long before you are aware of theirs. In vampires, the iris in each eye becomes hyperdilated, giving them what appear to be black eyes. While this iris dilation gives vampires excellent night vision, it renders them effectively blind in daylight. Smelling and hearing are extremely acute, as vampires have double the receptor cells in their noses and ears compared to humans. In fact, vampires usually smell or hear a person coming long before they see one. During vampiric coma, the upper and lower canine teeth experience growth. Additional enamel is deposited on the crown of those teeth, turning them into sharp fangs. This is a result of genetic atavism brought on by the HVV's genetic modifications. Vampire fingernails thicken and grow at a rapid rate. A newly-transformed vampire has a sickly, pale skin tone that turns to a blueish hue over the next few days.
The most profound differences between humans and vampires are found in the circulatory system. These differences enable vampires to survive massive trauma that would kill a human being. Vampire blood is pumped via the contraction of skeletal muscle rather than the heart, which eventually atrophies from disuse. Adrenaline, the "emergency hormone," which normally kicks in during "fight or flight" situations, is found in consistently large amounts in vampire blood. The presence of adrenaline, along with changes in muscle, bone and connective tissue, account for vampire's extraordinary strength, speed and aggressiveness. A vampire's core body temperature is only about 60 degrees, compared to over 98 degrees for humans. This marked difference proved to be a great help for modern vampire fighters, as it made vampires easily distinguishable from humans when viewed through heat-sensitive infrared imagery. Adaptations in their skeletal and muscular systems give vampires significant advantages over humans. About 90% of vampire muscles are of the fast-twitch variety (compared to 50% for the average human). Fast-twitch muscles enable short bursts of maximal force, ideal when hunting prey. Also, vampire ligaments and tendons thicken in response to the workload imposed upon them by the muscles. Vampire bones thicken, an adaptation necessary to support their newlypowerful muscles.
A bizarre neurological side effect of HVV's modifications to the sensory system and the brain gives every vampire a psychogenic hunger for human blood. The psychosomatic reaction to the taste of human blood even triggers a cascade of dopamine and other wholly new neurotransmitters in vampires. As a result of certain neural pathway activation during feeding, vampires develop a physical dependence on these neurotransmitters, making the vampire consumption of human blood a physical addiction. By happenstance, HVV causes metabolic functions to be altered and enhanced to such an astonishing degree that vampires require far less nutrients than uninfected humans. As a result, even the minimal amount of iron, calcium, carbohydrates, fats, glucose, amino acids/proteins, and vitamins contained within human blood is actually enough to adequately meet the nutritional needs of a vampire. So a vampire can actually survive solely on a diet of human blood. Because of the sensory system modifications, vampires find the taste of ordinary food (e.g. animal meat and plants) to be foul and because of alterations to the digestive system caused by HVV, a vampire will become incapable of properly digesting solid food after a few weeks on a blood diet. The alterations to the digestive system also includes anticoagulants that happen to
stop blood from curdling in the stomach. That happens to prevent any possible vomiting from ingesting blood, which is what happens when normal humans drink a large amount of blood.
Because they presented such a danger to society, most vampires were destroyed long before the outer limits of their life span were determined. Ancient history offers some clues, however. In Ancient China, there was said to be one vampire in the emperor's court through the entire (eastern) Zhou Dynasty, which would put his age at 550. More accurate modern records have certified vampires of over 200 years old. Vampiric longevity is the result of an ability to ward off both the DNA damage that occurs during cell division in normal humans and the damage caused by ionization. The protective caps on the ends of chromosomes known as telomeres get chewed up over time in humans, but not in vampires. HVV plasmids switch on the gene which controls the production of telomerase (an enzyme that prevents chromosome degeneration) and boosts its effectiveness with a version of its own in the packet of genetic material that fuses with the host's chromosomes. This completely prevents cellular senescence and therefore gives every cell replicative immortality. Genetic alterations also result in a biochemistry that completely protects the cells from free radicals and ambient radiation, preventing any oxidative and ionization damage to the DNA of a vampire. In addition, in vampires the functions of the genetic sequences responsible for the metabolic processes of aging are completely inhibited. So as a vampire lives, cell division can continue indefinitely allowing cell damage to be repaired effectively leading to the cessation of somatic aging during the vampiric coma.
Demographics and life expectancy
The vast majority (about 80 percent) of vampires are males who were between the ages of 18 and 35 upon transformation. Another 10 percent are females between the ages of 15 and 35 upon transformation. The remaining 10 percent are males and females slightly outside the 15 to 35 age range upon transformation. The racial and ethnic makeup of a pack will generally mirror that of the local populace. Despite the fact that they do not age on a cellular level, vampire mortality rates have always been high. In 1850, a newly transformed vampire could expect to live 10 years on average. By 1950, that number had dropped to 5 years. Today that number is only 2 years. The leading causes of death have also changed with the times. In the Middle Ages, vampiricide, or murder by other vampires, was the leading cause of death. By 1930, vampire hunters had become the number one killer.
Vampire behavior resembles our own in more ways than we might imagine. By conducting extensive interviews with vampires, along with observing their behavior in the wild, scientists have been able to arrive to a reasonable understanding of their world. The first few days after coming out of a vampiric coma are especially difficult for a vampire. A newly transformed vampire awakens disoriented, its judgment clouded by competing impulses and memories of its previous life. But all those are drowned out by a fierce, intense desire for blood. This urge for blood eventually snaps a vampire into focus, and it sets about finding a way to fill that urge. Though lone vampires are not uncommon, most vampires find it advantageous to either join an existing hunting pack or create one of their own. Each path has its own advantages. Joining an existing pack offers security, access to blood and protection from other packs. However, new members are low in the pecking order and are often forced to put themselves in dangerous positions, such as on advance scouting missions. In addition, new members of a pack are the last to feed, if they get to feed at all. Vampires possessing natural leadership skills may find it better to hunt on their own and eventually bring some of their victims into the fold. With vampires unable to reproduce, the hunting pack is the family unit of their life. In a successful pack, each vampire has its role, and there is little dissension. A typical pack is made up of four vampires, with one Alpha Vampire and three underlings. Four seems to be the ideal number for a hunting pack: any more than that, not everyone always gets a chance to feed; any less and the hunting becomes appreciably riskier. Of course, in the distant past, when vampire control was in a more primitive state, large vampire armies rose up and spread by overwhelming entire towns. Vampires are capable of developing loyalties and behaving selflessly in the name of the pack. However, the pack is the only area of their lives in which they are not mercenary. Vampires packs are meritocracies, not democracies. There are no elections, no "show of hands" in a vampire pack. The most capable hunter and leader runs the show, and the others follow. The Alpha Vampire coordinates hunting strategy, gives assignments and makes all final decisions. There are perks to the job. During hunting, the Alpha generally hangs back in a less risky position. Yet when a victim is seized, the Alpha drinks first. But the job has its perils too. For one, the Alpha has the difficult task of choosing replacements for fallen pack mates. In this, it must walk a fine line. While the Alpha must be stronger than its fellow pack-mates, it cannot afford to carry weak, ineffectual hunters in the pack. But stronger pack mates can rise up and become a threat to its position.
Like virtually all mammals, vampires assert their dominance through display behavior and fighting. Vampires hiss, bare their teeth and showcase their prodigious leaping ability to try and intimidate rivals. Physical size and power are important but by no means the only determinant of Alpha status. In fact, intellectual capacity is more important than physical prowess in determining success and longevity as a vampire. While Alpha Vampires would seem to be in an enviable position, they actually have a higher mortality rate than non-Alphas. Each new challenge to an Alpha Vampire from within the pack takes its toll. Injuries pile up, including many of the permanently disabling variety. Vampires can lose an eye, have flesh torn off and break bones. Older vampires are far from the dashing, handsome types so often seen in movies. An older vampire is likely to be heavily scarred, with parts of its face missing. The ultimate fate of the Alpha Vampire is a grim one: cast out of the safety of the pack, no longer able to fight, the once powerful vampire is reduced to a solitary existence. Eventually, the Alpha succumbs to malnourishment or the weapons of vampire hunters. When a recently transformed vampire joins a pack, it is usually taken under the wing of an elder, who helps the fledgling learn how to hunt. While some packs have no patience with slow learners, most fledglings are given a little bit of time to get up to speed. However, an unusually quicklearner is perceived as a threat and may be destroyed by the Alpha. Fledglings with ambition learn to keep a low profile and hide their agenda until the time is right. Vampires will utilize all at their disposal to hunt while avoiding detection. They will have female pack members pose as prostitutes to lure male victims. They will haunt the shadows around nightclubs, sporting and concert venues and all-night diners. Prostitutes and homeless always make up a disproportionate number of victims. A given swath of real estate can only support so many vampires. While an urban area may offer more hunting opportunities for vampires, it also increases their chances of running afoul of another pack. The country is safer, but hunting opportunities may be few and far between. Therefore, vampire packs must be ruthless in defending their territory. Battles between vampire packs are almost unimaginably vicious. It is not enough to merely win the confrontation. To have a future, a vampire pack must show their rivals how ruthless they are. Vampire treatment of victims can range from indifferent to barbaric. If a pack finds a suitable new member, it will keep that person in their midst until transformation is complete. Once a pack size is set, vampires will usually tear their victims apart after feeding. Some consider this behavior as proof that vampires are cruel, but in fact it is more a question of pragmatism than cruelty. Left
intact, today's bite victim could become tomorrow's rival. More sophisticated packs hide the corpses of their victims so as to avoid alerting authorities to their presence. Vampire dwellings of the modern era are the very definition of crude and utilitarian. Since vampires spend most of their waking hours out hunting, there is little need for creature comforts at home. A vampire's priorities are avoiding detection and getting out of the sun, and their abodes reflect the transient nature of their lives. If a vampire pack has found a particularly safe, secluded hiding spot, the vampires may make perfunctory efforts to dress it up with furniture and knick knacks. Music is one of their preferred indulgences, one they had to curtail in the face of nosy vampire hunters. Knowing that their lair may be discovered at any time, vampires travel light. In the country, they live in caves, abandoned mines and barns. In the city, they inhabit abandoned buildings and subway stations, or they tunnel under piers along the waterfront. It wasn't always this way. In the Middle Ages, when vampire packs roamed the countryside without fear of extermination, they enjoyed occupying lavish digs. Once set up in these palaces, Alpha Vampires would conspicuously display symbols of their success with all the windy selfimportance of today's ruling classes. A vampire is generally uninterested in personal hygiene. They dislike washing and will wear the same clothes as long as possible. However, because their hunting missions may require them to hide in plain sight, vampires have no choice but to wash themselves and put on new clothes (usually stolen from stores or taken off of victims) from time to time.
Longinus: Vampire Emperor
During the early days of the Roman Empire, vampires were hunted and destroyed by an elite squad of the Legion. The Roman ability to control vampires was widely respected and made it easier for them to colonize farflung nations. Captured vampires were brought to the the Coliseum in Rome, where they fought lions, tigers and Christians in nighttime battles. A frequent spectator at these contests was the young Emperor Longinus, who began his reign in AD 68 at the age of 17. Longinus' favorite was Brittanicus, who was captured in England in AD 65 and had developed a formidable record as a vampire-gladiator. Against the advice of his Praetorian bodyguards, Longinus had Brittanicus installed in a lavish suite inside the palace. One night, Longinus paid his guest a visit and the inevitable happened: Longinus was bitten and became Rome's first vampire emperor. The vampire emperor's short reign over Rome was disastrous. The Praetorian Guards who had defended Longinus were expelled from the Palace, and vampires became protected throughout
the Empire. Longinus and Brittanicus led other vampires on nightly hunting parties through the streets of Rome. Vampirism, which had previously been contained within Rome, exploded. Facing a dire future, the expelled Praetorian Guards took it upon themselves to save the Empire. On a warm summer morning in AD 69, about a dozen Praetorians burst into the palace. The vampires, drowsy and bloated from the previous night's feast, were easy pickings and the Praetorians methodically dispatched them, saving Longinus for last. He was decapitated, and his head was stuck on a pole outside the city gates as a warning to any vampires who might want to venture into Rome.
Rome is Saved
The decline of the Roman Empire left Europe in a turbulent state. In an absence of any central authority, the countryside was overrun by a series of vampire armies, each more terrifying than the last. The armies, generally consisting of between 50 and 100 vampires, would swoop into towns on horseback in the dead of night, howling with bloodlust. The only saving grace for the people of Europe was the limited range of these armies, as it was difficult for them to stray far from their daylight havens. But in the 9th Century, a charismatic leader named Quadilla united a number of vampire armies into a mobile, fearsome fighting force that had many in Europe believing the end of the world was nigh. Quadilla grew up riding horses and tending goats and sheep on a farm near the Po River in northern Italy. His bucolic upbringing came to an abrupt end at age 16, when a corrupt local priest confiscated his family's property. The evicted family had the distinct misfortune of settling in a gypsy camp shortly before it was set upon by a small vampire army. Quadilla's parents were killed; he was bitten, then taken away to join the army. Quadilla quickly distinguished himself as a great horseman and fearless warrior whose ambitions outpaced the limited scope of his precursors. Quadilla envisioned himself as the leader of a vampire empire stretching from Gibraltar to the Danube. With his great skills as an orator, Quadilla was able to convince local vampire armies to join his cause. After winning important victories against the Lombards, the army began a slow, inexorable march down the Italian peninsula toward Quadilla's ultimate goal: the papal leadership in Rome. Quadilla's offensive was greatly aided by the Italian topography. Each night, he would raid a village for blood, then take shelter in the numerous caves of the Apennine Mountains. Remindful of the corrupt priest who took his boyhood home, Quadilla saved special cruelty for houses of worship. He plundered monasteries and left the heads of priests impaled on stakes outside the churches. These horrific displays convinced many that Quadilla was the Devil himself, and that the advances of his army represented the end of the world prophesied in the bible.
In December of 772, Quadilla's army took Siena, leaving it only 150 miles from Rome. As the Italian capital swelled with refugees, the stories of Quadilla took on an outsized, mythological scale. Eyewitnesses told of a ten-foot-tall, fire-breathing man with horns, cloven hoofs and a tail. While none of these stories were true, they surely unnerved Pope Hadrian II. The Pope, facing desertions in his own army, sent envoys to the Frankish Kingdom of the north to ask the young king Charlemagne for help. Though Charlemagne had come to power only two years earlier, at age 29, the six-foot-six-inch King of the Franks already had ambitions to match his towering frame. He wanted nothing less than to rule Europe, and he knew that having the imprimatur of the Pope would help him greatly in his quest. He told the papal envoys that he would take his men into Italy as soon as the snows melted. In the spring of 773, Charlemagne led his army across the Alps into Italy. He followed the coast south and made camp along the Tiber River north of Rome, not far from the site of Quadilla's most recent assault. Charlemagne had planned to use the camp as a base from which to conduct sorties into the mountains, but Quadilla had different ideas. That night, the vampire army attacked the camp and inflicted heavy losses on Charlemagne's army before retreating back to their caves. As the day dawned, Charlemagne surveyed the wreckage of his camp and realized he could not fight the vampires by conventional means. After breaking his army up into smaller groups and setting them in defensive positions in the hills, he sent his most experienced vampire hunters into the mountains to conduct reconnaissance. That night, the men located the vampire cave network, and as soon as the sun came up, Charlemagne led his army there. Rather than send his men stumbling blindly into the dark caves, Charlemagne had them heap timber onto modified horse carts, light the pile on fire and roll the carts into the caves. The plan worked beautifully: vampires were smoked out into the light and beheaded by the hundreds. Working from cave to cave, it took four days for Charlemagne's army to kill the last of the vampires. Quadilla himself fought gallantly; though effectively rendered blind by the bright sun, he killed over 20 soldiers before Charlemagne dispatched him with a blow from his sword. On Christmas Day, 773, a grateful Pope crowned Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor in the city he had saved. During Charlemagne's 47-year reign, Europe enjoyed a relative respite from vampire armies. The fire carts Charlemagne had improvised lasted even longer; they were employed against vampires well into the Eighteenth Century. In 1974, a team of Italian archaeologists discovered a huge cache of artifacts in caves near the Tiber. Among the finds were armor and weapons bearing the broken cross symbol peculiar to
Quadilla's army. A museum was built nearby to house the relics and honor the men who saved the seat of Christianity from a grisly fate.
Simonetta and Giuliano
Simonetta Vespucci was said to be the most beautiful woman in all of Renaissance Florence. Born in 1453, the niece of explorer Amerigo Vespucci seemed to cast a spell on the leading men of Florentine society. After meeting her, the great painter Botticelli painted no one else for the rest of his life (she served as a model for all of his Madonnas and Venuses). Brothers Lorenzo and Giuliano de Medici of the Florentine ruling family fell in love with her and tried to outdo each other in displays of affection. The more practical Lorenzo, occupied with affairs of state, eventually lost Simonetta to his more romantic brother. In celebration, Giuliano held a jousting tournament and dedicated it to his 23-year-old fiance. Shortly thereafter, Simonetta became sick with consumption (tuberculosis) and the prognosis was grim. A distraught Giuliano, unwilling to lose his beloved, decided that keeping Simonetta alive as a vampire was better than letting her die. He summoned Dominic Salcedo, the city's foremost vampire hunter, and gave him a top secret mission: capture a vampire and bring it back to the palace. Salcedo, unwilling to disobey one of the city's most powerful men, complied and, the following night, an unfortunate vampire was brought to the room in the palace where Simonetta lay dying. The vampire bit her and was then destroyed. Within two days, Simonetta herself had turned. Though Giuliano must have been shocked when he first saw Simonetta, with her black eyes and ghastly color, he was pleased to discover that she recognized him and remembered their life together. Like many a hopeless romantic, Giuliano mistakenly decided that the love Simonetta had for him would trump any bloodlust she felt. And so when she beckoned him with kind words, he eagerly went to her, and was bitten. That night, Lorenzo de Medici discovered his brother in the throes of transformation, with telltale wounds on his neck. For a second time, Dominic Salcedo was summoned. Salcedo and his team searched the enormous palace for Simonetta, eventually finding her in the bell tower. Cornered, Simonetta jumped to her death on the plaza below, the same plaza where, only weeks earlier, hundreds had jousted in her honor. Per his request, Giuliano was buried at her feet. A heartbroken Botticelli made one more painting of the ill-fated couple, using their death masks for models. In the picture, Giuliano faces the pale, shadowy Simonetta before an open window, a well-known symbol of death. The dove perched on the dead branch in the lower left of the painting is rich with symbolism. Doves mate for life and, according to Renaissance lore, will perch only on dead branches after their mates have died.
The Trial of Fatinelli
During the Middle Ages, the scientific study of vampirism was tangled up in religious notions of good versus evil. Vampires were the Devil's foot soldiers, and victims of vampirism were thought to have had some sort of moral failing which left them vulnerable to attack. The large number of prostitute-victims was held up as proof of this. The church, at perhaps the zenith of its power, had a vested interest in keeping this notion afloat, as nervous worshipers tended to spend more time in church and give more money. But the dawn of the Renaissance gave rise to a number of visionary scientists who, at their own peril, began to question previous assumptions about vampirism. And one of them, an Italian named Ludovico Fatinelli, paid for it with his life. Fatinelli was a native of Florence whose father was employed in the relatively new profession of making eyeglasses. The young Fatinelli took an interest in his father's trade and made his own magnifying glasses to study the world around him. As his lenses got more sophisticated, he was able to discern a world previously unknown to science. His notes from a look at a sample of water from the Arno River capture the excitement of discovery: "I then saw, with great wonder, that in the water were very many little animalcules, very prettily a-moving. The animalcules were in great number, and oft times spun around like a tail." Fatinelli had taken the first recorded look at bacteria. The young Florentine went on to study medicine at the University of Padua, where one of his teachers was the great scientist and philosopher Galileo Gallilei. While there, Fatinelli, through the use of increasingly more sophisticated microscopes, discovered that "animalcules" also appeared to live in human tissue. From these observations, the young scientist developed the radical theory that it was these microscopic entities, not moral failures, that were the real source of vampirism. Experiments on animals seemed to bolster his hypothesis, and he set to work on a treatise that would summarize his findings and, he hoped, establish his reputation as a great scientist. In Januay, 1616, Fatinelli published his findings under the title, Treatise on Vampires. Alas, his timing couldn't have been worse. Pope Paul V, worried about the rise of Protestantism, had been taking a hard line against any new interpretation of church dogma and decided to make Fatinelli an example. The young man was brought up for the Inquisition, and when he refused to recant the conclusions in his treatise, he was charged with heresy and brought to trial. Though a simple recantation probably could have gotten him off the hook, Fatinelli stood behind his findings. Judgment was swift: the verdict was guilty, the sentence, death. On April 23, 1616, a huge crowd gathered in Florence's Piazza Signoria to witness the execution. Fatinelli was tied to a pole atop a pile of logs, which were then set ablaze. The fire ate through the
rope securing Fatinelli to the pole, and his left arm flew up in the air. A shriek went through the crowd; many fainted, thinking that the Devil was passing a curse from Fatinelli's body onto them. But the man on the pyre was only flesh and blood. Once the spectacle was over, one of the most important scientists of the time was ignominiously heaved into a pauper's grave, where the church hoped he would be forgotten forever. It was not to be. Though Fatinelli was gone, his research lived on. For years after his death, illicit copies of his banned treatise made their way through Europe's scientific communities and helped pave the way for important work by scientists. Fatinelli had indeed been far ahead of his time: too far ahead, for the church's comfort.
The Ship of the Dead
The voyage of the British merchant ship Cormorant from Portsmouth, England, to the Caribbean island of Nevis had special meaning for Andrew Oglethorpe. After ten years as a sailor, Oglethorpe had decided to call it quits and live out his days as a fisherman in the British West Indies. And so, on June 15, 1607, the night before his last voyage, Oglethorpe set up shop in a Portsmouth pub and drank to his good fortune. It wasn't to last. As Oglethorpe staggered toward the docks an hour or so before dawn, a prostitute called to him from the shadows. Inebriated, and facing three months at sea with no female companionship, Oglethorpe eagerly followed her into a dark alley, ignoring the old seafarer's maxim: harlot for hire, might be vampire. No sooner had they found a private spot than the prostitute sunk her fangs into him, and Andrew Oglethorpe's dream of a life of tropical ease was over before it started. Like many victims of vampirism, Oglethorpe chose to deny what had happened. He boarded the Cormorant and assumed his duties as the ship left port under the direction of Captain Horatio Wheeler. By nightfall, Oglethorpe was in sick bay with a fever and chills. As Oglethorpe's wounds were not easily visible, the ship surgeon probably confused his symptoms with one of the more common ailments of the day. Eventually, Oglethorpe slipped into a vampiric coma; he was being prepared for burial at sea when he came back to life. The fate of the crew would have been left to the imagination had Captain Wheeler not been an assiduous journal-keeper. Entries in his log became increasingly ominous as the journey progressed. August 24th: "For the past three days, we have been sailing through a storm, which has prevented us from continuing a sweep of the ship designed to root out any remaining vampires.
Thus far, we have captured and thrown overboard three crew members who were showing signs of the dread disease." September 14th: "The vampires have barricaded themselves in the hold and, despite my entreaties, none of my crew dares go down there to dispatch them. Our nerves are frayed, as none of us have slept for two weeks. Last night, a man leaped off the boat rather than face another night of this torment." September 16th: "They are at my door now. There is no hope. I can only pray that God dash this accursed ship against the rocks, lest it deliver its hellish cargo upon some innocent shores." The captain's wishes would not be met. On the night of September 20th, Cormorant cruised into the harbor of the small Caribbean island of Nevis with Captain Wheeler, now a vampire, at the helm. Native islanders paddled out on canoes to greet the ship, unaware of the awful surprise waiting on board. From this one ship, the vampire virus would spread rapidly across the Caribbean and the New World. The disaster prompted an overhaul of shipping procedures. Henceforth, all sailors were given thorough physical examinations before boarding.
Yo-Ho-Ho and a Bucket of Blood
"The black ship appeared so suddenly beside us, it was as if the fog itself had given it form. Within moments, our deck was swarming with men of the most ghastly countenance. All were gifted swordsmen, impervious to our bullets. In the midst of this maelstrom came the largest man I have ever laid eyes on. I personally saw him cut down three men with one swing of his sword, then reach down, rip the heart from one man's chest and tear his fangs into it with a zeal I can only describe as religious." So wrote Jacob Hensleigh, a sailor discovered by the British Navy clinging to a piece of driftwood in the Mediterranean Sea. As the only survivor of one of the last attacks by the legendary vampire-pirate Redbeard, Hensleigh was indeed a lucky man: between the years 1795 and 1797, Redbeard and his crew killed an estimated 500 sailors and paralyzed shipping on the Mediterranean. Redbeard was born James Wyatt around 1767 in London, England. As a boy, he would spend hours hanging around the docks of east London and dreaming of the day when he would first set sail. That day came for him at age 15, when he joined the crew of a merchant vessel. Always a quick study, Wyatt rose swiftly through the ranks, and by age 25 he was the captain of his own ship, a beat-up sloop he sardonically called the Carcass. When England declared war on France in 1793, Wyatt had the Carcass retooled for battle and
offered his services as a privateer for the Royal Navy. His job was to board and plunder any ships carrying supplies between France and her ally, Spain. The barrel-chested, six-footfive-inch Wyatt proved to be a natural leader and his crew became such efficient plunderers that Napoleon himself put a bounty on their head. But Wyatt's days of service to the English crown came to an end in the summer of 1795, when he was bitten by a vampire outside a waterfront pub in Gibraltar. Wyatt quickly spread the virus to his crew and soon the Carcass was sailing under the direction of about 50 bloodthirsty vampires. Although the transition from sailor to vampire-pirate presented real difficulties for most, James Wyatt was different. Besides possessing an unusually sharp learning curve, Wyatt knew the Mediterranean coast like an old friend. By the fall of 1795, he had set himself up in a ruined castle in the shoulders of a protected harbor along the Algerian coast in north Africa. It was there that he adopted the name Redbeard and set about building an empire of piracy and vampirism. Each night, the Carcass would set sail from the castle flying a blood-red Jolly Roger from its mast. Exploiting their night vision, Redbeard and his crew would identify a ship, slip up alongside it and board while most of the sailors were still sleeping. The crew of a single ship could supply enough blood to feed Redbeard's vampires for a month. Those unfortunate crew members who weren't bitten right away would be taken back to the castle and imprisoned in the dungeon to await a grisly fate. More than his skills as a sailor, it was Redbeard's appreciation for politics that explained his relative longevity. In return for their protection, Redbeard paid off local Algerian caliphs with the booty from the ships he raided. He gradually expanded his force, adding only the strongest, most capable sailors. Within a year, Redbeard's pirate empire had grown to include about 250 vampire-sailors and a fleet of five ships. Throughout 1796, his raids grew more and more devastating, and all of Europe started feeling the effects. Shortages in food were reported as cargo failed to meet its destination, or else arrived late because so many crews refused to sail at night. In early 1797, Redbeard and his men scored their biggest coup yet when they took control of a 74-gun frigate belonging to the British Navy. The firepower of the captured frigate made Redbeard even more dangerous, and King George III of England was forced to take action. He decided to send a fleet of warships to the Mediterranean under the direction of the young commodore Horatio Nelson with instructions to bring back the head of Redbeard. In early June, a dozen warships under the command of Nelson sailed around the head of the Iberian peninsula and into the Mediterranean. For six weeks, the fleet searched in vain
for Redbeard along the north African coast. Finally, on July 12, they plucked the terrified Jacob Hensleigh from the waters and knew they were close. A day later, the fleet boarded a ship and found it littered with bloodless, dismembered body parts. The next night, the fleet came across Redbeard's army in the midst of an attack on a fishing boat. They surrounded the vampire ships and a brutal battle ensued, during which Nelson took a bullet to the arm. The English lost three ships and scores of men in the battle, but they fought on, knowing that time was on their side. With dawn starting to lighten the eastern horizon, Redbeard was forced to pull back and make for safe harbor. The English fleet followed him all the way to the castle and began several hours of relentless bombardment. That afternoon, 500 troops went ashore to finish the job. Redbeard and a few of his closest associates retreated to the dungeon, where, despite being vastly outnumbered, they put up a ferocious fight. In all, it took three days to secure the castle. The troops then freed several dozen prisoners and burned the vampire compound to the ground. When Nelson's men returned with Redbeard's head, Nelson had them hang it from the bowsprit at the front of the ship for the journey back to England. As they triumphantly made their way up the Thames to London, huge crowds gathered along the riverbanks to watch. Nelson presented Redbeard's head to King George III, who had it placed on a stake on London Bridge, not far from where a boy named James Wyatt had first gazed east and dreamed of a life at sea.
The first half of the Nineteenth Century saw a population explosion in European cities. The rural poor and dispossessed flooded urban centers looking for work, and in the process created overcrowded slums rife with disease, crime...and vampirism. All across Europe, vampires found good hunting and ample hiding places in medieval-era neighborhoods, with their tumbledown dwellings, narrow streets and alleyways. Every major European city had a concentration of vampires: the East End of London, Lisbon's Alfama, Warsaw's Old Town. In Paris, so many vampires haunted the neighborhood north of the Louvre that it became known as the Vampire Quarter. European leaders tried a variety of measures to try and control vampire numbers, including hiring more vampire-fighters and instituting strict curfews. But the number of attacks continued to climb. In 1850, Baron Georges Haussman, Paris' top city planner, offered a radical suggestion: instead of trying to kill the vampires, why not eliminate their habitat? Haussman envisioned a radical reconstruction of Paris, with broad boulevards, spacious
squares and a modern sewer system (it was still common belief that poor sanitation contributed to vampirism). Haussman's plan won approval from French Emperor (and Napoleon grandson) Louis Napoleon and, in 1853, work crews began tearing down the Vampire Quarter, building by building. As crowds of onlookers watched, vampires scurried from collapsing buildings, shrieking and shielding their eyes from the sun, only to be methodically destroyed by special legions of the French Army. In one church, more than 50 vampires were flushed from the crypt. While some French, like writer Emile Zola, protested the widespread destruction of architectural treasures and the lack of interim housing for the homeless, the project did seem to be succeeding in slowing the rate of vampire attacks. Within 20 years, Haussman had transformed the the old rabbit warrens of the Vampire Quarter into posh neighborhoods with grand boulevards radiating from large squares like the Place de l'Opera. Haussman was celebrated as a genius and European cities raced to follow his lead. From Lisbon to Prague, broad boulevards and wide squares become de rigeur. However, the canonization of Haussman proved to be premature. After dropping for a short time, vampire attacks in Paris rose to their highest levels ever. To make matters worse, the attacks were no longer confined to Paris' slums. Vampires attacked the well-heeled of the Tuileries, they preyed on students across the river in the Latin Quarter. The great irony of Haussman's work was that, while he had driven vampires from their old haunts, in building Paris' extensive sewer system he had provided them with the perfect place to hide. For the next 50 years, these vampires, known in Paris as "Haussman's Children," made their home in the sewers, emerging at night for hunting. For a short time, the French stationed troops there, but had to pull out due to high rates of desertion. During World War II, French resistance fighters hiding from the Nazis in the sewers encountered vampires in 19th-Century dress. The development of the vampire vaccine, along with more sophisticated vampire-fighting technology, eradicated vampires in Europe by the mid-1960s. However, in 1971, a rash of vampire attacks along the river Seine paralyzed Paris. French authorities tracked a lone vampire into the sewers. The vampire was cornered near the Place des Vosges, and perhaps the last of "Haussman's children" was destroyed.
For about 200 years, the huge swath of land in the western half of Canada was controlled by the fur-trading Hudson's Bay Company. The powerful Company was able to keep any vampire outbreaks in check with their own security force. But when the Canadian
Confederation Act of 1867 brought the western lands under Canada's control, the Hudson's Bay Company pulled out, leaving the region in a state of disorder. A motley crew of outlaws began moving into the region, and in those days, whenever outlaws congregated, vampirism was sure to follow. The opportunistic outlaws were mostly Americans who saw money to be made setting up illegal whiskey-trading camps in the region. These scofflaws would trade whiskey with Indians in return for buffalo furs and horses, and the success of their operations sometimes enabled their crude encampments to grow into rowdy towns rife with gunfights and prostitution. Vampirism inevitably took hold, driving out the transients and leaving the Indians to deal with the problem. There was one whiskey-trading camp that eclipsed all others in debauchery and lawlessness. The camp, which would come to be known as Fort Blood, was the provenance of the Gallatin Gang, a group of low-lifes who had escaped from a Montana prison before making their way to the Great White North and establishing a successful whiskey business. Even by the standards of whiskey camps, Fort Blood was a den of iniquity. With all the prostitutes and transients, it was inevitable that a vampire plague arrived, and when it did, the Gallatin Gang hit upon a novel solution to the problem. Rather than leave town, the Gang struck up an agreement with the vampires in which they would lure Indians to the camp with the promise of whiskey, and then set the vampires on them. In return for providing blood for the vampires, the Fort Blood outlaws were able to keep and sell whatever buffalo hides and horses they took from the Indians. By the early 1870s, Fort Blood had grown into a formidable problem, paralyzing regional trade and settlement and poisoning sensitive relations between the local Indian tribes and the new Canadian government. Now that Canada was responsible for this land, it was clear that Fort Blood had to go. In 1873, a freshly-minted force of 250 Canadian Mounted Police, or Mounties, traveled west with orders to destroy Fort Blood. But the Gallatin Gang received word of the impending attack and was ready when the Mounties arrived. The Gang repulsed the attack and then, as night fell, unleashed the vampires. All 250 Mounties were killed. The defeat was a stinging rebuke to the newly formed government, and proof that Canada needed a specialized force to fight vampirism in the west. In 1874, a bill was passed creating the the North-West Mounted Police, Special Division, or the "Specials," for short. 400 men were recruited and trained in vampire combat, and in July of 1874, they left their compound at Fort Manitoba for the long trek west. With 300 horses,
73 wagons and 142 heads of cattle in tow, the Specials followed the Boundary Trail west and made camp at a bend in the Milk River not far from Fort Blood. Rather than conduct a frontal assault on the fort, the Specials took a more stealthy approach. A small battalion slipped into the fort posing as Indians and, once inside, killed the Gallatin Gang. They then let the rest of the Specials in to finish off the sleeping vampires. By the next morning, Fort Blood was nothing more than a smoldering pile of ash. For the next several years, the Specials marched from outpost to outpost, slaying vampires and restoring order to the region. Trade and settlement gradually returned to normal, and relations with the Indians improved. However, the frontier nature of the west ensured that the Specials remained busy, especially during the periods from 1882 to 1885, when the railroad was under construction, and 1896 to 1899, during the Klondike Gold Rush. The Specials were often pulled away to fight wars on foreign soil, but they still managed to keep a lid on any vampire outbreaks in their homeland. In 1973, the Specials celebrated their centennial with a ceremony during which they received medals from Queen Elizabeth II. Shortly thereafter, they were disbanded.
The Vampire Rights Movement
In the summer of 1891, young painter Lucien Steketee arrived in Paris from a small village in Brittany to find a city energized by bold artists breaking free of the confines of Impressionism. Even in a place crowded with painters, the young Breton quickly stood out. Tall and handsome, student of Monet's, friend to Pissaro and Cezanne, he cut a dashing figure in the City of Light. Like fellow painter Toulouse-Lautrec, Steketee's preferred subject was the nightlife around his atelier in Montmartre. He painted prostitutes, dancing girls, beggars...and vampires. While other artists had painted vampires from memory, Steketee was the first to have them sit for portraits. Despite the danger, Steketee painted over a dozen vampire portraits, and with each one his sense of ease grew. In July of 1892, a vampire suggested to him that Paris' underground catacombs, with their stacks of skulls and bones, would be a more atmospheric backdrop for the portrait; Steketee foolishly followed him there and was set upon by a hunting pack. Two days later, a local vampire patrol discovered Steketee about to sink his teeth into a young woman. He fled to the nearby Moulin Rouge nightclub and barricaded himself on the third floor. A mob formed outside and began chanting for the vampire's head. In desperation, Steketee stepped out onto the balcony and made an impassioned plea for his
life. So persuasive was he that the mob spared him and allowed the gendarmes to take him away to jail. Steketee had found his calling. Writing feverishly in his dim prison cell, he advanced the radical notion that vampires should be treated like the sick people they were, and hospitalized rather than destroyed. Steketee's broadsides were distributed by his artist friends and created a sensation in Paris. Key to his growing support was his claim that he could live without blood. "Controlling bloodlust," he wrote, "is a matter of discipline and faith." He held himself up as proof, and the public bought it. With public sentiment on his side, Steketee was released into the care of Madame Mauriello, a wealthy widower and devoted follower. She set him up in her Tuileries mansion, where he continued his crusade, speaking to huge crowds and winning support from politicians and religious leaders. But away from the spotlight, Steketee was hunting, with the help of Madame Mauriello. Each night, she would prowl the streets of Paris looking for young women to lure back to her mansion under the auspices of posing for a famous artist. Once there, the women would be plied with wine until Steketee emerged, fangs flashing. He kept the "newly converted" in his service as a sort of harem. The arrangement was shortlived. Early on the morning of December 12th, 1892, a terrified girl arrived in the police station claiming that she had narrowly escaped the clutches of a vampire. Police officers followed her back to the Mauriello mansion and discovered the pack. Word spread, and for the second time in his life, Lucien Steketee found himself hiding out from an angry mob. But this time, there was no escape: the mob burned the mansion to the ground, with Steketee, Mme. Mauriello and the young vampires inside. Steketee's body was never found, leading to speculation that he had escaped; a suspicion strengthened during World War II, when several members of the French Resistance reported seeing a man resembling Steketee prowling the sewers. To this day, he is said to emerge from underground on the anniversary of his death to claim a victim. Which is why, before nightfall on December 12th, suspicious Parisians hang garlic and crosses over their doorways.
The Infamous Nephilis
Without question, the most infamous individual vampire in the last four centuries is Nephilis, an Alpha vampire who eluded vampire hunters for well over 300 years.
Nephilis was born in present-day Germany in 1688 and grew up in a world of privilege as Wolrad, Count of Ottweiler. At 6'6" tall, he was a commanding presence and a noted patron of the arts. He also was a notorious womanizer whose exploits earned him the ire of many a cuckolded husband. Fortunately for him, he was an outstanding swordsman and never lost a duel. Wolrad's libidinous pursuits finally landed him in real trouble in 1715, when he was turned by a vampiric prostitute. The former Wolrad embraced the life of a vampire and changed his name to Nephilis, a nod to the race of beasts in the Bible known as the Nephilim. As was customary among vampires at the time, Nephilis "hid in plain sight." He moved easily through the upper crust of society and eventually married a Hapsburg princess named Elzbieta. He turned her on their wedding night and they lived together for more than 150 years. Despite Nephilis' stature in society, his activities inevitably drew unwelcome attention and he had to move his base frequently; he lived, for a time, in Amsterdam, London and Madrid. Nephilis' life in Europe came to an end when the King of Spain put a bounty on his head. He made his way to America in the hold of a clipper ship and resumed his pattern of finding wealthy patrons to harbor him until the scrutiny of law enforcement forced him to move on. In the 20th century, he increasingly associated himself with bars, speakeasies and nightclubs, where his nocturnal lifestyle wouldn't stand out and where he could easily lure fresh blood. Since he had always been astute at moving around his vast fortune to avoid seizure, he never had trouble buying property or bribing the right people. Nephilis saw himself as the Vampire Messiah that Quadilla had written of in the Middle Ages. He spoke 12 languages fluently, was a virtuoso on the piano and was able to attract followers and benefactors with his easy charm. Like a vampiric Forrest Gump, he was allegedly present at many historical events, including the sacking of the Bastille in Paris (1789), the first performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in Vienna (1824), and the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. Law enforcement hounded Nephilis relentlessly through the 1950s and 1960s. Their closest call came almost by accident in 1971, when a team of FBI agents stumbled upon his base during a rescue operation at a New York City nightclub. However, Nephilis killed an agent and escaped by leaping atop a moving subway train. After he fled, agents were shocked to discover a labyrinthine complex under the nightclub, including a chapel decorated with human skulls, a pit for live captives and a laboratory where the legendary vampire appeared to be trying to develop a daywalking serum. Since then, there have been no sightings of him.
Most vampire myths come to us from the Middle Ages, when science was in its infancy and people looked to religion or superstition to explain the world around them. The myth that vampires sleep in coffins arose from gravediggers and others who observed vampires emerging from coffins and crypts. If a vampire did spend the night in a coffin, it probably had nothing to do with sleeping preference. In the old days, many victims of vampire bites were interred while still in a vampiric coma. The truth is, vampires will sleep wherever they feel safe. The myth that garlic repels vampires is most likely based on observation since vampires have sensitive noses and can momentarily be driven off by pungent odors. However, this method of deterrence is unreliable and certainly won't work on an experienced vampire. The extreme reaction of vampires to sunlight is most likely the source of the myth that vampires burst into flames upon exposure to sunlight. Due to modifications to the eye, vampires are so sensitive to sunlight to be effectively blinded by it. It also causes neural pathways to fire randomly in the vampire brain, creating an extreme epileptic reaction. Although it couldn't cause them to burst into flame when struck by the sun's rays, it does create a general aversion to bright light. Many vampire myths are rooted in religious beliefs. Vampires of course reflect in mirrors, crosses have no effect on them and holy water, or any water for that matter, has little effect on vampires (although they can be drowned). It's possible that vampires themselves spread these myths to engender a false sense of security among their prey. A lot of other myths were propagated by literally fiction such as Bram Stoker's Dracula, as well as modern cinema and pop culture. Such modern myths include stories that vampires can fly and shapeshift. (Jan 10 1998)