A vampire is a human being who has died and been resurrected by certain supernatural means and endowed with certain supernatural abilities and limitations, most notably a need to drink blood in order to sustain his or her existence. Vampires are also called the "undead," inasmuch as, even when active, they are not truly alive in the same sense that ordinary human beings are; indeed, they can be described as being technically dead.
Vampires were first created about 15 thousand years ago when a small band of pre-Cataclysmic Atlantean sorcerers discovered the Darkhold, a collection of arcane knowledge scribed by the primevil demon Chthon, and used one of the spells contained therein to cause their enemies to return from the dead in vampiric form. The vampires were more powerful than the sorcerers predicted. Slaying their creators, they escaped from Atlantis before the continent sank. The first vampire may have been Varnae, formerly an Atlantean sorcerer, who ruled Earth's other vampires until ceding his position to Vlad Dracula, who remained the lord of Earth's vampires in a nearly unbroken reign from that time until the vampires of Earth were finally destroyed by the sorcerer Doctor Stephen Strange.
Vampires required the fresh blood of living beings, preferably human beings, in order to sustain their existence, and usually procured it through biting their victims, usually on the neck, and draining their blood. The vampire's bite deposited an enzyme found in the vampire's saliva into the bloodstream of the victim. If the vampire drew enough blood to cause the victim to die, the enzyme triggered a metabolic change in the dead victim's body, beginning with the production of a green liquid called ichor in the bloodstream. In approximately three days there was sufficient ichor to nourish the victim's body in the same way that blood once did. The victim then returned to "life" as a vampire, capable of all the basic functions of life (except for procreation) plus a number of supernatural feats such as transforming into a bat. If the victim's blood loss was not severe enough to cause death, the victim would show signs of anemia because of the effects of the enzyme in his or her bloodstream (as well as the debilitating effects of blood loss), but will not die. Until the enzyme was fully metabolized (a process that could take anywhere from two weeks to several months), the victim would be weak and sickly as well as susceptible to hypnotic commands, conveyed verbally or through long-range mental contact, by the vampire who attacked him or her. The victim would also develop a perverse erotic attraction to that vampire. Most vampires preferred to attack victims of the opposite sex, since the vampire's own sexual drives were linked to his or her lust for consuming blood.
Most vampires possessed superhuman strength anywhere from ten to twenty times as great as the strength they had in mortal life.
The extent of the supernatural abilities of vampires depended on the strength of the vampire's will. Particularly strong-willed vampires such as Dracula, for instance, could summon thunderstorms, although the mystical concentration needed to do so left them quite weakened for a time. The vampire's strength of will also determined the extent to which he could master his craving for blood and maintain the same personality he or she had in life. No vampire could prevent himself from giving in to his craving for blood for more than a week, but Dracula and Hannibal King maintained their normal personalities even in vampiric form. On the other hand, most people who became vampires found themselves so unable to resist their new cravings for blood that they became cruel and even animalistic hunters of normal human beings, even if these new vampires had been kindly, sensitive individuals in their mortal lives.
Vampires could summon and control certain creatures such as bats, wolves, and rats. Vampires could also transform themselves into bats, and in the case of some vampires, wolves, while retaining their human intelligence in these forms. Some vampires could even become human-sized bats. Vampires could also transform themselves into mist at will, while still retaining their normal consciousnesses in that form.
A vampire could make any human being into his or her temporary slave if he or she could catch their gaze for a sufficient amount of time, usually only a matter of seconds. The exact length of time needed to mesmerize the victim depended on the strength of will of the vampire and that of his or hey victim.
Vampires had several limitations upon their supernatural powers and existence. The first was their all-consuming craving for blood, Unless a vampire drank approximately one quart of fresh blood every other night, it would weaken and either fall comatose or perish. Some vampires of great power, like Dracula, were able to resist their bloodlust for up to a week before their hunger became unbearable.
Vampires were also limited by their supernatural dependence upon the soil of the land of their birth. Vampires could not travel for more than one hundred miles from the place where they were born unless they had taken along at least a pound of their native soil with which to line their coffin or sleeping area. Vampires fell into a comatose state during daylight hours and could only spend them safely when in contact with their native soil. Otherwise, the vampire would be endangered by another weakness; vampires were unable to withstand the direct rays of the sun. Due to the vampire's altered metabolism, sunlight caused the ichor to congeal in the vampire's veins and the skin to decay rapidly. Direct exposure caused a vampire to dehydrate completely and turn to powder. (Through scientific means, the body of the vampire Baron Blood was made capable of resisting these harmful effects of sunlight for limited periods, and he did not necessarily fall comatose during the daylight hours.)
Vampires had a mystical aversion to garlic plants. The wearing of at least one clove around one's neck was sufficient to ward off a vampire. Furthermore, a vampire could not use his or her shapechanging abilities while within about twenty feet of a garlic clove. Vampires also had an aversion to any religious symbol (such as a crucifix, cross, Star of David, or holy water) wielded or placed by anyone who believes in the religious significance of the symbol. The size of the symbol was not a consideration on its ability to repel vampires, only the strength of belief: for example, a believing Christian wielding a small cross could hold a vampire at bay with it and even sear the vampire's flesh simply by touching him or her with it. Vampires also had a mystical aversion to entering any human dwelling place to which they were not verbally invited. Once invited, they could enter the place at any time thereafter. Vampires cast no reflections, and their images could not be captured on film.
Vampires did not age, except on some but not all occasions when they had been deprived of blood for lengthy periods of time. Then a vampire might develop some signs of age (for example, his or her hair might turn white), but upon ingesting fresh blood he or she will revert to the age ha or she was at when he or she died as a human being.
In the case of some vampires, minor injuries they received would heal within moments. However, a vampire could not grow back a severed portion of his or her body. Apart from periodic inconveniences, injuries like these would not critically impair a vampire's "life" or effectiveness. Because the vampires' ichor was similar in function to blood, poisons and other toxic substances that were circulated in its bloodstream would adversely affect a vampire, although no dosage was large enough to cause death.
The only substances which could cause a vampire pain were silver and, to a lesser extent, unless it penetrated the vampire's heart, wood. The surest way to kill a vampire was to drive a wooden stake or a silver blade through his or her heart. The stake or blade prevented the heart from supplying ichor to the rest of the body. If the stake or blade was removed, however, even if the vampire's body had crumbled to dust, the vampire's mystical vitality would restore his or her body to the condition it had before the vampire was slain, and return him or her to vampiric "life." Beheading a vampire would also kill him or her. However, there were only three methods of making sure of destroying a vampire permanently. One was to expose the vampire to direct sunlight and then to scatter the ashes. Another was to pierce the vampire's heart with wood or silver, sever his or her head, burn the head and body in separate places and scatter the two resulting piles of ashes in separate locations.