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Book Sections Year : 2012

Vampires as Creatures of the Imagination

Koen Vermeir


Vampires already existed in the seventeenth century. Or at least seventeenth century peasants and scholars believed in their existence. In the first section of this article, I show the origin of early modern vampire beliefs, and I delineate the criteria for defining a 'vampire' before the works of Bram Stoker or John Polidori. The core of the article will be about the diverse ways in which the powers of the imagination were evoked as an explanatory category for understanding the phenomenon of vampirism. Some scholars believed that vampires did not really exist, but they admitted that the overheated imagination of the alleged victims could have very real effects and could even be so strong that many died as a result. Other scholars believed in vampires: they argued that the imagination of the corpse, still active because of the continuing operation of the vital powers, sent out noxious vapours or even a semi-corporeal avatar that could kill specific surviving relatives. It was only in the middle of the eighteenth century, as I will show, that the perception of vampirism shifted from a 'disease of the imagination' to an 'imaginary disease'.
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halshs-00609387 , version 1 (18-07-2011)


  • HAL Id : halshs-00609387 , version 1


Koen Vermeir. Vampires as Creatures of the Imagination: Theories of Body, Soul and Imagination in Early Modern Vampire Tracts (1659-1755). Diseases of the Imagination and Imaginary Disease in the Early Modern Period., Brepols Publishers, pp.341-373, 2012. ⟨halshs-00609387⟩
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