A burial ground in London going back to Roman times grew to become the sprawling, Gothic, Highgate Cemetery. In the late 1960s, Satanic rituals and sightings of ghosts were reported. It was suggested that a vampire was buried there, and the Satanic rituals had revived it.
In the 1970s this myth was reinforced with reports of dead foxes found within the cemetery that had no obvious sign of death. A ghostly figure and sightings of a man with waxen features occurred near the Egyptian Avenue entrance at dusk.
A major clue to debunking the legend was provided by Spanish neurologist, Juan Gomez-Alonso, when he stated that the symptoms of vampirism bore a striking resemblance to rabies. Many of the famous vampire panics of the 17th-century coincided with rabies outbreaks. Sufferers are hypersensitive to light, water and strong odours such as garlic. The disease attacks the central nervous system often leading to the victim becoming demented, nocturnal, and even hypersexual – all qualities which are associated with vampires.
The myth of the vampire began in 15th century Eastern Europe with Vlad Tepes, prince of a province in Romania. He was an unforgiving bloodthirsty ruler who routinely tortured people in the name of Christianity. His favourite method of punishment was impaling his enemies on giant wooden spears initiating the rumour that he drank their blood.
It is believed that after capture during a battle that he was ransomed to his daughter who lived in Italy. A tomb within a Naples church is engraved with symbols of a dragon, flanked by sphinxes which represent the city of Tepes. It is alleged to be Dracula’s tomb. (Vlad was the son of Dracul, meaning dragon or devil, and the name Dracula means the son of Dracul.)