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In most cases, vampires are revenants of evil beings, suicide victims, or witches, but they can also be created by a malevolent spirit possessing a corpse or by being bitten by a vampire.
Belief in such legends became so pervasive that in some areas it caused mass hysteria and even public executions of people believed to be vampires.
Early folk belief in vampires has sometimes been ascribed to the ignorance of the body's process of decomposition after death and how people in pre-industrial societies tried to rationalise this, creating the figure of the vampire to explain the mysteries of death.
Porphyria was linked with legends of vampirism in 1985 and received much media exposure, but has since been largely discredited.
Local variants in Eastern Europe were also known by different names, such as shtriga in Albania, vrykolakas in Greece and strigoi in Romania.
In modern times, the vampire is generally held to be a fictitious entity, although belief in similar vampiric creatures such as the chupacabra still persists in some cultures.
In Albanian folklore, the dhampir is the hybrid child of the karkanxholl (a werewolf-like creature with an iron mail shirt) or the lugat (a water-dwelling ghost or monster).
The dhampir sprung of a karkanxholl has the unique ability to discern the karkanxholl; from this derives the expression the dhampir knows the lugat.
The vampire has since become a dominant figure in the horror genre.
The charismatic and sophisticated vampire of modern fiction was born in 1819 with the publication of The Vampyre by John Polidori; the story was highly successful and arguably the most influential vampire work of the early 19th century.
Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula is remembered as the quintessential vampire novel and provided the basis of the modern vampire legend.
Burying a corpse upside-down was widespread, as was placing earthly objects, such as scythes or sickles, near the grave to satisfy any demons entering the body or to appease the dead so that it would not wish to arise from its coffin.
This method resembles the ancient Greek practice of placing an obolus in the corpse's mouth to pay the toll to cross the River Styx in the underworld.