The legend didn't come from Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula" like so many people believe. Stoker wrote "Dracula" in London, but he never even visited Romania. If he had, he'd discover that vampires have no foundation in that county's culture.
The vampire legend actually came from the country on the other side of the Danube River -- Serbia.
The first recorded vampire is buried in a secluded cemetery just outside a village called Kisiljevo. In an overgrown corner of the cemetery, there are a dozen gravestones with no writing. Few people know about them.
Under one of them is a man named Petar Blagojevic. In 1725, it was written he would rise from the grave and hunt villagers. I actually tracked down the five times great grandson of Blagojevic and talked to him about being a descendent of the first vampire.
"They never talked about Petar," he said, adding that being descendents of the first reputed vampire was simply not discussed.
An Austrian surgeon is credited (or blamed) with creating the world's first vampire craze. In 1732, he rode out into the Serbian countryside with a unit of soldiers to find proof of vampires. In his report, he says he witnessed the excavation of a suspected grave where the corpse was staked.
He says he saw these creature scream and bleed. It was in his report that the term "vampire" was first used. From then on, vampires would be part of Serbian culture.
In fact, just this past winter, there was a modern day vampire scare in an isolated, mountainous community barely touched by the modern world called Zarozje. The roof of a centuries-old watermill caved in. It's a seemingly insignificant event to us, but to villagers there, it meant a vampire could be wandering the Earth at night.
In their ancient beliefs, vampires live in watermills. When this one caved in, the villagers feared the vampire would be searching the village for a new place to live. The story shed light on a little known fact: There are still places in the world where people believe in vampires.
So, while you enjoy the latest blood-sucking flick, and Hollywood makes billions on vampire adaptations, keep in mind, vampires are based on real cultural traditions.
In one corner of the world, vampires are real.