07 January 2010

Stake your life on it

In this exposition, I generally steer clear of certain topics. Chief among the taboo subjects is: How to kill a vampire. Having said that, I would like to discuss the stake.

"What brought about this change of heart?" you may ask. Others among you may be angered that I am exposing such a delicate subject. Let's face it: the idea that staking a vampire will kill him (permanently) is not a hidden secret. "The most well-known way to kill a vampire" is to stake "it in the heart", so we're all familiar with this morbid practice (Melton 645).

However, you may not know the history or extent of staking. "The idea of staking the corpse of a suspected vampire or revenant was quite an ancient practice. It was found across Europe and originated in an era prior to the widespread use of coffins" (Melton 645). Presumably, these ancient people had trouble keeping track of their corpses. Vacant tombs were attributed to vile, demonic forces because it was more reasonable that an unseen evil had kidnapped a body than that wild animals had eaten someone's beloved. The practice of staking the bodies of "persons suspected of returning from their graves" was developed "as a means of keeping them attached to the ground" (Melton 645). You might note that in the ancient legends, the stake did not destroy the vampire, it simply restrained it.

"Once coffins were in popular use, the purpose of staking changed somewhat. Where previously the object of the staking was to fix the body to the ground, the purpose of the staking became a frontal assault upon the corpse itself." Instead of restraining the vampire to his grave, the goal become to rid the world of the vampire. In Bram Stoker's famous story, Dracula, the idea of staking a vampire to terminate its existence is seen in the destruction of Lucy. "Lucy's three suitors and Van Helsing enter the undead Lucy's tomb and truly kill her, driving a stake through her heart..."(Dracula xvi). Eventually, the practice was prescribed as a preemptive strike against a possible revenant. "By attacking the heart, the organ that pumped the blood, the bloodsucking vampire could be killed" (Melton 645).

So, does it work? I won't say.
But, I will warn you of this:
While you may not land a lucky strike with a pointed stick, a vampire can quite easily slay you with the same weapon you drive against him.

Melton, J. The Vampire Book
Stoker, Bram. Dracula.


  1. Did you scan that image from the Melton book or find it somewhere else? (I'd like a bigger version.)

  2. That image is public domain. You can download a version of it from Wikipedia (it's okay to roll your eyes). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Moraine_le_vampire.jpg