The legend of the vampire merges 15th century history and 18th and 19th century mythology.
At its heart is Vlad 'the Impaler', the Romanian leader who fought Turkish soldiers out of the Danube River Valley in the 15th century. Vlad is an important part of Romanian history for nationalistic reasons, but his cruelty has made him a household name.
Vlad was a bloodthirsty ruler - history suggests he had 20,000 captured Turkish soldiers impaled while he looked on from a banquet table. Other accounts of his cruelty suggest he once invited the poor, sick and elderly to a banquet in his castle and, after feeding them, boarded up the castle and set fire to it. Nobody escaped.
As time passed and the legend of the Impaler spread across Europe, his reputation grew more and more fierce, and his bloodthirstiness became literal.
Diseases such as rabies and porphyria around the late 18th century fuelled the imagination of storytellers who continued the myth of the vampire. Rabies causes aggression, hypersexuality and sensitivity to light and smell. It is spread when the victim is bitten.
Similarly, porphyria causes sensitivity to light and smell and, more graphically, the retraction of the gums. The teeth appear longer and hence more fanglike. It also makes urine red - and hence fuelled speculation a person had been drinking blood.
There were outbreaks of both in the 18th and 19th centuries, consolidating the legend of the vampire in folklore across Europe.
Parallels between Dracula and Christ, and vampirism and Christianity are apparent also - motifs of blood and flesh, and their consumption, resurrection and eternal life, for example. "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up in the last day" (John 6:54). Vlad himself was a Christian warrior, fighting off the Islamic Turks.
Vampirism and Dracula represent a dark sexual desire. Today's vampires don't burst into flames in the sunlight, nor are they blessed with immortality. They do drink blood though, and there is a large fetish scene based around blood drinking, blood lust and vampiric BDSM.
Scenes of vampiric sexuality have a history which goes back centuries and moves through to more recent times, including French fantasy films of the 70s and record covers of black metal band Cradle of Filth.
Vampirism appears to be a male-dominated fetish, with women often the vampires' objects of lust. The vampire, in fiction, is often the seducer of women and enslaves them for sex. Drew Sinton suggests that even in the modern age of equal rights, women love to be dominated in the bedroom. Similarly, while a heterosexual male vampire can allow a woman to drink his blood, gay males sometimes engage in it routinely, and women vampires can be lesbians.
Getting blood from flesh is not easy for a naturally-evolved human. A session on the neck can leave the vampire's victim bruised.
"That may explain why you see all those gothic girls with their high collars," laughs Drew Sinton. "Perhaps to hide their love bites."
Needles can be of assistance, but many are going for fangs - a simple dental procedure with practical, as well as aesthetic appeal.
If you are wondering if you have haematodipsia, a sexual thirst for blood, but are yet to try it, you may like to know how it tastes.
Not all forms of vampirism involve the drinking of blood. The transfer of energy blood-drinking produces can be gained through other, non-physical means. Think psychic vampirism. Like those who crave the blood of another, psychic vampires need to feed on the soul and energy of others to replenish and feed themselves, and they leave their victims drained and lifeless and in need of rest.