Vampires Are Real
from the book, "Our Fascinating Earth"

Book: 
Our Fascinating Earth

Vampires Are Real

The movie and television industry has thoroughly exploited the legend of the vampire, which was made famous by Bram Stoker with the novel Dracula in 1897. Strangely enough, vampires do exist.

When vampire bats were first discovered by Spanish explorers in the jungles of Central and South America, they immediately became associated with the medieval legends of the undead, such as vampires and werewolves. The vampire bat of modern fiction is always associated with the undead, and this has become its trademark. The vampire bat of real life is totally different except for one major feature; it does feed on blood. In fact blood appears to be its sole diet.

These flying animals are very abundant and relatively small. The largest has a twelve—inch wingspan and a four—inch—long body, but most vampire bats are much smaller. During the day they roost in caves, old mines, hollow trees, crevices in rocks, and old buildings.

Colonies of vampires may include as many as 2,000 bats, but the average colony has close to one hundred. The sexes roost together, and they may even share a cave with bats of other species. Shortly after dark the vampire bats leave their roosts in slow, noiseless flight, usually only one to three feet above the ground because they are seeking a victim who is sound asleep.

When a victim is found, the bat alights alongside, noiselessly crawls up to it looking like a large, weird spider, and with its sharp incisors makes a quick, shallow bite in a place where there is neither hair nor feathers. Without a sound the bat then laps up the blood. Its victim nearly always sleeps through the entire event. So light is the attack that even a man will sleep through the bat's entire dinner. The common vampire can drink such relatively large quantities of blood that it is barely able to fly for some time afterward.

Despite the bat's gruesome feeding habits, its size guarantees that the actual amount of blood loss sustained by the victim is very slight. The chief danger to the victim lies in infection or the possibility that the bat may be rabid.

Vampire bats seem to exhibit a preference for certain individuals, animal or human, that they have attacked previously. Some scientists believe they develop a taste for that particular brand of blood. They seem to follow the habits of Bram Stoker's Dracula in their search for a human victim, because they seek out the same victim night after night. But they depart from the Dracula syndrome in where they bite: they never attack the throat of a sleeping human; instead it's the individual's big toe that they go after. One would think the harassed person would start wearing shoes to bed!