Bela Lugosi's portrayal of Dracula has influenced how many people picture vampires.
Depending on which version of “history” you subscribe to, vampires originated in Egypt, China or, most infamously, Romania, where the real Romanian prince Vlad Tepes (1431-1476) is thought to have been at least a partial model for the decidedly fictional Dracula of Bram Stoker's imagination.
Or, if you’re to believe officials in the village of Zarozje, Dracula is alive and well in Serbia. Yes, fear is said to be spreading.
The fears revolve around Serbian vampire Sava Savanovic who is, it should be noted, acknowledged locally to be a fairy tale character. Still, villagers are packing around hawthorn stakes and garlic and putting holy crosses up over doorways.
"People are very worried. Everybody knows the legend of this vampire and the thought that he is now homeless and looking for somewhere else and possibly other victims is terrifying people," Miodrag Vujetic, local municipal assembly member, told ABC News. "We are all frightened."
Might it all be just a ploy to generate tourism? Maybe, or maybe not, ABC reports. Many people in the region “still believe in vampires and take them quite seriously," said Balkan historian James Lyon.
In general, belief in vampires is rooted in the human propensity for superstition and false assumptions in olden times about what happens to buried bodies, writes LiveScience columnist Benjamin Radford, author of "Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries." For example, if a grave were dug up, people might’ve mistaken ordinary decomposition processes — such as a body being surprisingly preserved for long periods if buried in winter — for supernatural phenomena.