Join Date: May 2006
Re: Zombie Vampire
For clarification's sake: The speculation about it being possible is just that: speculation, based on folklore. As for the cases of "zombification" -- those are still very much disputed, but what evidence we have to support them indicates that following: That by use of a mixture of things, including the rather potent neurotoxin tetrodotoxin, certain targeted people (very much like mob contracts) are caused to "die", to be put into such a low metabolic state that it often passes for death. Because of the way funerals were often held in Haiti and other of the islands, the "corpse" would often be left uncovered until very shortly before actual interment, therefore the oxygen deprivation would be of short duration. Once the funeral had been held, the person responsible for administering the toxin would remove the person (who had meantime recovered consciousness, or at least a closer-to-normal metabolic rate, thus requiring more oxygen), but by that time a certain amount of damage to the higher brain functions had set in, and they were thus actually living people, but with very stunted intellect, who could obey simple commands, but seldom showed any volition of their own. That, plus the tendency toward dazed expressions, evident fear of the person responsible (who often beat them to break them in, as well as to punish them for tasks done improperly), and the shuffling, uncertain gait, coupled with the villagers' actually having witnessed a funeral, led to the belief that these people were actually walking dead, rather than unfortunate victims of a particularly nasty form of malice/vengeance.
On vampires -- the theory of porphyria that was in vogue for a while has been seriously questioned as the cause of vampirism, yet still has some adherents. The connection, however, is extremely unlikely, even given a particular type of mental disorder predisposing such a person to "bloodlust" -- so the actual facts behind the origin of a belief in vampires is still unknown, albeit some of the things noted above in religious beliefs are likely to be a part of the more recent views of vampires (the vampire itself actually dates back at least to Babylon). However, there are documented cases of vampirism, including a serious outbreak in Rhode Island in the 1890s -- something Lovecraft, with his knowledge of R.I. history, made use of in both "The Shunned House" and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. (This particular outbreak did indeed result in a corpse being exhumed and a stake driven through its heart and a beheading of the corpse. Anyone interested can look up the facts in microfilms of the newspapers of the time, or by checking out various sources on American -- or New England -- folklore traditions, such as Charles M. Skinner's Myths and Legends of Our Own Land, vol. 1, p. 77.) Were these supernatural beings? There's no evidence to support such, but vampiric attacks are a fact in many regions, throughout many ages, and certainly the belief in such a creature is deep-rooted and of long standing.
The problem is that, with most perceptions of these things being built around a Hollywood version, there is no consistency whatsoever -- which is fine, as far as storytelling goes; a writer should be able to mold them to his or her advantage. But when trying to answer a question like this, it's much more helpful to look at the historical cases rather than Hollywood's thin fictional version, as there is a consistency and logic to the folklore utterly lacking in the more recent views (say, post-1930).