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Professor discusses longevity of vampires

Monsters distribute candy for Halloween at the White House in Washington on October 31, 2010. US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will greet trick or treaters at the North Portico of the White House as they celebrate Halloween. UPI/Olivier Douliery/Pool
Monsters distribute candy for Halloween at the White House in Washington on October 31, 2010. US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will greet trick or treaters at the North Portico of the White House as they celebrate Halloween. UPI/Olivier Douliery/Pool | License Photo

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., Oct. 30 (UPI) -- A professor at Purdue University in Indiana says psychology is behind the longevity of vampire myths, the university said.

"Vampire stories have been around for thousands of years. Even before biblical times there was evidence that people believed in vampire-like creatures," says James Nairne, a professor of psychological sciences at Purdue.

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Nairne, who has twice traveled to the home of Dracula in Transylvania, Romania, says a combination of fear and fascination is the reason why the myths won't die, a university release issued Thursday said.

"In order for a supernatural concept to last, it must be a member of a natural category," he says. "Vampires are like people. This permits humans to draw inferences about how vampires might think and act. At the same time, supernatural concepts violate features of their natural category. Vampires are like humans, but unlike humans, they are dead and drink blood. If too many of these features are violated, the supernatural concept will not be believable and will not last."

The professor went on to say that humans have a natural aversion to things that are dead because dead bodies carry disease.

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"Death is very difficult for us because we cannot easily process the idea that a person no longer exists," Nairne says. "Vampires activate disgust in our minds because we are afraid they may contaminate us, yet we are drawn to them because they embody the idea that the soul can continue to exist after death."

Humans are also attracted to supernatural powers that vampires are said to have, Nairne said.

"We find this attractive because then vampires appear to have a power over us. These special abilities simultaneously create worry and fascination. We are drawn to them much in the same way we might be drawn to celebrities.

"Because of this, it is likely that vampires will continue to live on for years to come."

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