Generally everyone is familiar with vampires, even though misconception and media have played most parts in this. But in Britain, very little was known of vampires until the events of the 18th century. Vampires were brought to public attention when there was a major vampire scare in the East of Europe. Government officials were frequently dragged into the hunting and staking of vampires. This controversy was the direct source of Great Britain's vampiric legends. In fact, the word Vampire only entered the English language in 1732 via an English translation of a German report of the much-publicized Arnold Paole vampire staking in Serbia.
Western scholars seriously
considered the existence of vampires for the first time rather
than just brushing them off as superstition or folklore as the
Romans did during christianisation. It all started with an
outbreak of vampire attacks in East Prussia in 1721, and the
Austro-Hungarian empire from 1725-1734. Two famous cases involved
Arnold Paole and a Peter Plogojowitz. Plogojowitz died at the age
of 62, but returned a couple of times after his death asking his
son for food. After the son refused, he was found dead the next
day. Soon Plogojowitz returned and attacked some neighbours, who
died from loss of blood.
In the other famous case, Arnold Paole, an ex-soldier turned farmer who had been attacked by a vampire years before, died while haying. After his death, people began to die irregularly and it was believed by everyone that Paole had returned to prey on the neighbours.
These two incidents were extremely well documented. Government officials examined the cases and the bodies, wrote them up in reports, and books were published afterwards of the Paole case and distributed around Europe. The controversy raged for a generation. The problem was exacerbated by rural people having an epidemic of vampire attacks and digging up bodies all over the place. Many scholars said vampires didn't exist - they attributed reports to premature burial, or rabies which causes thirst.
However, Dom Augustine Calmet, a well respected French theologian and scholar, put together a carefully thought out treaty in 1746 stating the true existence of vampires. This had considerable influence on other scholars at the time. Eventually, Austrian Empress Marie Theresa sent her personal physician to investigate. He assured her that vampires did not exist, and the Empress passed laws allowing for the opening of graves and desecration of bodies. This was the end of the vampire epidemics. But by then everyone knew about vampires and it was only a matter of time before authors would preserve and mould the vampire into something new and much more accessible to the general public.
Gypsies and Vampires