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Vampires proper arise in folklore widely reported from Eastern Europe in the late 17th and 18th centuries. These stories formed the cornerstone of the vampire legend that later entered Germany and England, where they were then popularized and adorned. One of the earliest recordings of vampire activity came from the region of Istria in modern Croatia, in

Vampiric entities have been recorded in most cultures; the term vampire, formerly an arcane subject, was popularised in the West in the early 19th century, following an influx of vampire superstition into Western Europe from regions where vampire legends were ordinary, like the Balkans and Eastern Europe; local variants were also known by different names, such as shtriga in Albania, vrykolakas in Greece and strigoi in Romania. This increased amount of vampire superstition in Europe led to mass hysteria and in some instances led to corpses being staked and people being accused of vampirism.

Throughout the 18th century, there was a frenzy of vampire sightings in Eastern Europe, with regular stakings and grave diggings to identify and kill the prospective revenants. Government officials engaged in the hunting and staking of vampires.

In Europe, where much of the vampire folklore originates, the vampire is usually considered a fictitious being; many communities might have adopted the revenant for economic purposes. Sometimes, especially in smaller localities, vampire superstition is still rampant and sightings or claims of vampire attacks occur often. In Romania during February 2004, several relatives of Toma Petre feared he had become a vampire. They dug up his corpse, tore out his heart, burned it, and mixed the ashes with water so as to drink it.

The notion of vampirism has been around for millennia. Cultures like the Mesopotamians, Hebrews, Ancient Greeks, and Romans had tales of demons and spirits which are considered precursors to modern vampires. Despite the occurrence of vampire-like critters in these early civilizations, the folklore for the entity we know today as the vampire originates almost exclusively from ancient 18th-century southeastern Europe,

The sophisticated vampire of contemporary 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 this early 19th century.Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula is remembered as the quintessential vampire book and provided the basis of the contemporary vampire legend. The success of the book spawned a distinctive vampire genre, still common in the 21st century, with books, films, and television shows. The vampire has since become a dominant figure in the horror genre.

Some traditions also hold that a vampire cannot enter a house unless invited by the proprietor; after the first invitation they could come and go as they please.

The Serbian form has parallels in virtually all Slavic languages: Bulgarian and Macedonian вампир , Bosnian: vampir, Croatian vampir, Czech and Slovak upír, Polish wąpierz, and upiór, Ukrainian упир , Russian упырь , Belarusian упыр , from Old East Slavic упирь
. The specific etymology is unclear.

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