Friday, December 7, 2012

Vampires, Dragons and Other illusions

Cage (left) and his 1870 counterpart

Actor Nicholas Cage recently had to defend himself against charges he was really an ageless vampire. His response followed discovery of a photograph taken in 1870 of a man who resembles Cage. 

“Personally, I believe it’s him and that he is some sort of walking undead/vampire, et cetera, who quickens/reinvents himself once every 75 years or so,” antiques dealer Jack Mord wrote in the post, which has since been removed. “150 years from now, he might be a politician, the leader of a cult, or a talk show host.”

Cage, who has starred in a movie about vampires, good naturedly dismissed the claim, pointing out that vampires don’t have reflections, and he sees his image every morning in the mirror.  Besides, he said, since vampires can’t be photographed, he can’t be the man in the aged photograph.

Question: how does Cage know vampires don’t have a reflection?

Christopher Lee as Dracula
He based that claim on a book called Dracula that author Abraham “Bram” Stoker (below right) published in 1897.  The book recounts the life of a man who drank blood, lived forever, turned into a bat when necessary and had no reflection.  Stoker created Dracula from legends augmented by visits he made to Eastern Europe.

Does that mean vampires exist?  That they have no reflection?

Obviously not.  Simply because someone writes a fictional account doesn’t make it either accurate or true.  Nevertheless, some people still believe in vampires.  

Fiction simply has become supposed fact.

That’s hardly the first time this week.  Disney World just opened Fantasyland in Orlando and did so with characteristic flair: a dragon (below) breathing fire flew over the iconic Cinderella’s castle.  It was an amazing creature with wings and a long body.

Disney's dragon
Question: how did Disney engineers know what a dragon looks like?

They based their design on what artists through the years have decided a dragon must look like.  Actually, there never has been an animal like that.  No animal can have that giant a body and go airborne on wing-strength alone.  None can breathe fire.

The closest thing would be a pterodactyl , an ancient flying creature.  However, no human has ever seen one alive.   Based on fossils, those creatures were much smaller and by necessity did not weigh very much.  Even a  modern condor, the largest living bird, only weighs around 33 pounds.

Anthropologists suggest humans got the idea of a dragon by watching a comet.  They have long tails and seem to be fiery.  Virtually every ancient society came up with dragon images.  However, that did not make them real.

Once again, fiction had turned into supposed fact.

We’re pretty good at doing that sort of thing.  Take the end of the world supposedly occurring on December 21.  There are people who believe it.  They are actually storing food and water for that terrible day.  They should be able to have a fine picnic on the 22nd.

That’s how propaganda works.  Say it enough times, and someone is bound to believe it.  It works for claims of vampires, invented creatures and apocalypses.  It works in politics, too, where people actually belief the absurd things said about political figures by their opponents.  That’s how we were saddled with eight years of George W. Bush after the “swift boat” assault on John Kerry.

It works with religion, too.

Say something loud enough and long enough, some people will believe it.  Throw in threats of eternal damnation and physical abuse in this life, and a whole lot more will join the bandwagon.

As with Cage and the rest, however, the drumbeat doesn’t turn fiction into fact.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at

No comments:

Post a Comment