Long fingernails, a pale complexion, a bloody mouth. These are all physical characteristics of vampires. And corpses. Michael Sims, who edited an anthology of Victorian vampire stories, points out that bloodsuckers share a number of qualities with dead bodies, especially dead bodies from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when the vampire was reinvented as a sexy creature of the night. Here’s a list of the similarities.
Long nails: “Like hair, fingernails don’t actually continue to grow after death, but as fingers decompose, the skin shrinks, making the nails look abnormally long and clawlike. You begin to look as if you’re turning into a predatory animal.”
Flushed skin: “Dead skin, after sloughing off its top layer, can look flushed and alive as if with fresh blood. “
Pale skin: “Damp soil’s chemicals can produce in the skin a waxy secretion, sometimes brownish or even white, from fat and protein—adipocere, ‘grave wax.’”
A reputation for virility: “The genitals often inflate during the process of decomposition.’
Bloody mouths: “Without the heart as a pump to keep it circulating, blood follows the path of least resistance. Many bodies were buried face down, resulting in blood pooling in the face and leaving it looking flushed. Sometimes blood also gets lifted mouthward by gases from decomposition.”
Still find Edward Cullen attractive?
All the Dead Are Vampires [Chronicle]