porphyria was not so named until the 1960’s, and as cecil has told us was not likely to be the source of the vampire legends, but history records several notable persons who appear to have suffered from porphyria and its sequellae, including king george III of england. georges family also manifest symptoms, both males and females, for several generations prior to and after george III’s reign.
court physicians record king george’s suffering from
‘Cramp, constipation, insomnia, a fast pulse, nausea, colic, muscular pain and weakness, and a feverish sweating led to acute delirium culminating in coma.’ also noted was red wine-colored urine, which is pathognomonic for the disease. in addition to frank delirium are periods of mental unbalance, manifest in george by the extreme policies of discipline he exercised on his children and his colonies. where prudent policy wouldve counseled, if not laxity, then at least some concilliation, george was truculent and punitive…thus his children hated him, and some of us live in the USA.
as my medical school professor, dr sam turco has said, ‘thats bichemistry in action!’
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I just read Cecil’s essay on porphyria and vampirism. The hype about porhyria and vampirism never sounded credible to me, for reasons that Cecil discussed.
One of my patients who was being treated for TB mentioned another possible disease-vampirism connection that seemed more plausible.
He suggested that people with TB were observed to cough up blood (this happens–I’ve seen it enough myself). These unfortunates were often pale and wasted looking. The townsfolk imagined that they were drinking blood to survive. Since TB is an infectious disease, previously healthy members of the community would come down with it…and soon be seen to be spitting up blood. With a little bit of unenlightened paranoia folk woul soon be putting two and two together to come up with the idea that these tubercular folk were sucking the blood of healthy people, and turning them into bloodsuckers.
Frankly, my patient’s idea is a lot more plausible than the porphyria hypothesis. Porphyria is a genetic and non-contagious disease. A key element of the TB myth is that vampirism is transmissable.
I wish I could take credit for this idea, but I can’t.
I understand there are certain graveyards in New England where the bones of tuberculars were dug up and mixed with the bones of other dead…to prevent the vampires from reanimating.