Through mere glimpses of him, however, demonic accuracy is achieved: Dracula is an Antichrist. He cannot attack unless willingly engaged. He baptizes his victims in his blood even as he drinks theirs in a sacrifice that gives eternal “life” in animated death. He unites captive souls to his existence, thriving on the unhallowed. He twists scripture to his purpose, lusts for worship … and fears Christ. Crisis Magazine, Oct 2013

Over at Father Z’s blog, he made a (joking) post about how sad he was that he didn’t get a vampire hunting kit for Christmas. One comment pointed out that we can’t sell blessed objects. (Technically false; blessed objects can be sold for their intrinsic value, without added price for the blessing, but accurate enough in terms of buying a Vampire hunting kit which would be pretty worthless without blessing.) This got me thinking about the various legends related to vampires, and Catholicism, especially how often they are portrayed wrongly.

The most famous example of bad (horrifying, really) Catholic theology that involves vampires and popular culture is probably the Dracula story. At one point, Van Helsing makes a putty out of consecrated Hosts, and uses it to vampire-proof a room. It’s supposed to be alright, because he has a dispensation. (No, they don’t work that way.)

Needless to say, this isn’t respectful of the Body of Christ, and if the vampire is reacting to the Body of Christ then it isn’t effective, either.

With respect to the presence of Christ, most theologians hold that, although the host externally remains intact for several days, the real presence ceases as soon as the host is fully soaked with water as from that moment the species is no longer exclusively that of bread.

That aside, Dracula is rather well researched in regards to the folklore of vampires. For example, the crucifix has power in and of itself, since it has a representation of Christ on it, while crosses depend more on the person holding the cross invoking God directly. In various times and places, the formally-blessed cross (or other objects, such as holy medals) was thought to be enough to invoke God. Those objects are called sacramentals, things that recall the sacraments. (Dracula’s mistaken abuse of the Host is indicative of someone who didn’t recognize Transubstantiation, but viewed it as a sort of super-strong symbol.) The most obvious sacramental, which is also used in popular pieties and commonly available for the asking, is holy water– many parishes even have dispensers. It should be kept in mind that the people who really believed in vampires weren’t trying to use holy water or any other sacramental for some kind of a magical effect, but to invoke God’s protection from forces of evil.

Some of the things vampires fear are symbolic, instead of sacramental. Running water calls to mind baptism and the washing away of sins, silver is “white” metal and thus pure, garlic and various plants were believed to be medicines against corruption. Even salt, because of its powers of preservation, was thought in some places to ward off evil, including vampires.

Vampires lack of reflection probably grew out of the folklore of the soulless not having a shadow, and the way that mirrors were once backed with silver. Some more folklore savvy stories had digital cameras work to record vampires, but not silver-based movie cameras, and at least one used silver nitrate in the blood to kill a vampire.

Speaking of souls, this is probably the biggest problem with vampire stories: all too often, authors write “vampires” that by all evidence possess rational souls. To shamelessly steal–er, borrow– from Jimmy Akin’s highly enjoyable Theology of the Living Dead, there are four basic options for any flavor of living dead:

  1. Animal soul – this is the most traditional, but has more in common with modern zombies as far as behavior goes; modern vampires are generally more intelligent than the average human.
  2. Non-human rational soulBuffy the Vampire Slayer’s vampires– they are evil, but the “demons” animating vampires aren’t Satanic, and a lot of the “demons” are just multidimensional travelers. The theology of that television show makes my head hurt….
  3. Human souls – the ‘vampire’ subculture would be an example of this, or if a story had vampirism as a sort of disease.
  4. No soul – the body is remote-controlled, either by technology (nanobot vampires) or perhaps demonic possession. (As I understand it, demons are spirits, rather than souls, and couldn’t inhabit a body the way a human soul would. I’d highly advise a lot of mythology research before anybody tried to write this!)

Most vampire stories these days are either humans with a disease or non-human souls animating a body; some of them aren’t even “allergic” to blessed objects. Obviously, if they have rational souls, we have to treat them as people rather than monsters, but then it doesn’t make any sense why holy objects would harm them.

On a practical level, I’d say that anything that smokes on contact with a holy object is to be avoided.

For Halloween, I’m cross-posting slightly edited versions of my C&C monster series from Catholic Stand, one a week. Hope that you folks enjoy them.

More to explorer


  1. “On a practical level, I’d say that anything that smokes on contact with a holy object is to be avoided.”

    Brilliant Foxfier! That goes in my little black book of quotations that I steal borrow!

  2. I’ve always considered the traditional vampire legend to be a metaphor for the carnal (corrupt) as opposed to the spiritual (perfect) and as such was used initially as an anecdotal teaching tool. When instruction in metaphysics and theology were more familiar, a good instrument to initiate the young or help inform the less-erudite would be “what to not be and how to avoid it” as illustrative models.
    In that vein (pun intended) it is easy to see how the vampire pathos has been made more approachable as the carnal has become elevated to equality with the spiritual in popular culture. Religious teaching is virtually non-existent in the main, so how can the denouement of carnal deterrent by application of the sacred make any sense?

  3. If one wants a fun read on vampires, the Rev. Montague Summers is the man. This somewhat controversial priest actually believed in the existence of vampires and other revenants. However, his books on the subject are chock full of stories of the living dead from ancient times to now. So, if you want to read books with a lot of folklore about these critters, you can’t go wrong with Monty.

  4. I think zombies are the “larger” post-modern bogey-man. The proliferation of zombie-themed movies and TV series is proof.

    When the zombie apocalypse (trope for societal collapse?) falls, I’ll be head-shooting Z’s and gut-shooting liberalss.

    Need to increase my supplies of ammunition.

  5. I was kinda proud of it, Donald. 😀

    WK- there’s so many possible metaphors, and it mines so many things we fear, that it’s hard to pick “the” thing that it’s about.
    There’s a writer named Mary C that points out modern vampires fill the role of the “fairy lover” in classic stories, and the modern zombie is more like the classic vampires.

  6. At the risk of coming off as completely self-serving and stealing Foxfier’s thunder, here is a link to a short story that I wrote and published on Amazon about Dracula and friends. It’s available on Kindle for the low low price of 99 cents, and is more of a spoof of modern vampire literature. I have what might be considered a unique interpretation of why Vampires fear crucifixes, and of their entire back-story for that matter.

  7. Vampires, werewolves, zombies and ghouls are devoid of self-sacrifice.This is why remembrances of self-sacrifice disturb them. Once they were human beings. Now, they are trapped in a dimension of the living dead, which they chose for themselves, thinking it better than to be a Christian. They must be ex-patriots from hell operating on the forbearance of God, which is to warn sinners to behave. They may be the rich man allowed to return to earth to warn his brothers of the hell awaiting them.
    Remember too, it was not the state, nor the mad scientist who gave Frankenstein life. It was the lightening of God.
    Let me be the first to wish you all a HAPPY HALLOWEEN, a HOLY ALL SAINTS’ DAY and a memorable ALL SOULS DAY, Nov. 2nd.

  8. Mary Dear,

    Not sure the melting temperature of silver. It’s likely much higher than lead. That makes loading my own more difficult.

    I’m piling up Scotch whisky. Might as well go out on a spree.

  9. The Lone Ranger also used silver bullets.

    According to wikipedia, “The masked man decided to use bullets forged from the precious metal as a symbol of justice, law and order, and to remind himself and others that life, like silver, has value and is not to be wasted or thrown away.”

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