Vampires have been hitting the mainstream in a big way for decades now, securing themselves a position in our hearts and our minds. But while the vampires of yore share very little in common with the pop culture representations of a few of the more contemporary franchises, one city is having trouble with a disturbing new breed of vampire that locals say are stalking their streets. As a result, local politicians are offering a $2,000 reward for anyone who can capture one of the creatures.
The offer is partially intended to quell the vampire fever striking the city of Dharampuri in Tamil Nadu where villagers are refusing to go out after dark. The blood suckers have been reported terrorizing local cattle and draining them of blood in a way very similar to the legendary Chupacabra of western lore.
Are there creatures stalking the dead of night draining cattle of blood? Villagers have started adorning their homes with religious symbols, painted large motifs intended to warn away the creatures, and locked their homes out of fear. But these aren’t exactly the same vampires we’ve heard about in the west, and they certainly don’t sparkle in sunlight.
The Ratha Kaatteri, as they are known are only one of several vampire-like creatures to exist in India. The monsters, which are said to possess an incredible amount of strength and prey on the blood of the living. The creatures are said to be more like werewolves that instead of being half-wolf and half-human are half-bat. The creatures come from evil spirits that afflict the dead, giving the corpses an unnatural thirst for the blood of the living to keep them moving. But a few politicians say there is something else going on here – and that the real culprits are using stories of vampires to hide their own nefarious activities.
Bootleg rum runners from the area have also been reported being seen locally – and O. Jayaraman says he believes this to be setting off mass hysteria that directly benefits only the rum runners. The reward is intended to encourage locals to challenge the story the bootleggers are using and help quell the interest many have shown in the creatures. The actual reward is approximately 100,000 rupies.
The region of India where the creatures have been spotted has a diverse and rich folklore including many stories of vampires and vampire-like creatures. Some of these accounts suggest the mythology can be traced all the way back to Kali, the goddess of the cycle of rebirth and destruction. Kali is described as having a thirst for blood – which is why followers of the Thuggee cult were never allowed to spill it, though their various sects did kill thousands. She also shares another thing with vampires – much preferring to operate under the cover of darkness.
Some historical accounts suggest that with the Indian trade routes came a great many stories of unexplained creatures haunting the east. As these stories migrated and entered the vocabulary of the west, many writers including Bram Stoker may have picked them up, adding to the mythology of his own vampire along with a few historical figures, including Vlad Tepes – or as he became known Dracula.