With its dramatic volcanic landscape and pastel-toned architecture, Santorini is one of the most picturesque places on earth—a magnet for honeymooners and indeed tourists of all stripes. But it was the rumour of vampires that attracted me to this fiercely sunny Aegean island some years ago.
Before leaving on a four-month European trip, I’d read Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu’s In Search of Dracula, which examined the historical and folkloric origins of Bram Stoker’s creation. According to this comprehensive text, vampire folklore was particularly strong in modern Greece, with Santorini being infamous for its vampires. The book quoted an ‘old Greek saying’: bringing vampires to Santorini, which had the same meaning as coals to Newcastle—a redundant act. If a suspected vampire was uncovered on mainland Greece, the book went on to say, the body was customarily shipped off to Santorini, because the people there had a “long history and vast experience in dealing with vampires.” From memory, the authors speculated that the association with vampires stemmed from the island’s volcanic history (a cataclysmic eruption buried it c. 1500 B.C., possibly giving rise to the Atlantis myth) and the fact that as a result the locals were used to dealing with death on a large scale.
Needless to say, I encountered no vampires during my week on this singular island. Occasionally though, when I passed some of the derelict mansions that had been deserted by the wealthy during the mass exodus following a devastating 1956 earthquake, I could imagine a few denizens of the night inhabiting these strangely silent dwellings.
My Greek father laughed when I asked him about Greece’s vampire folklore, and failed to provide me with a single local vampire story.