A vampire hunter or vampire slayer is a character in folklore and fiction who specializes in finding and destroying vampires, and sometimes other supernatural creatures. A vampire hunter is usually described as having extensive knowledge of vampires and other monstrous creatures, including their powers and weaknesses, and uses this knowledge to effectively combat them. In many works, vampire hunters are simply humans with more than average knowledge about the occult, while in others they are themselves supernatural beings, having superhuman abilities. A well known and influential vampire hunter is Professor Abraham Van Helsing, a character in Bram Stoker's 1897 horror novel, Dracula.
"Professional" or semi-professional vampire hunters played some part in the vampire beliefs of the Balkans (especially in Bulgarian, Serbian, and Romani folk beliefs). In Bulgarian, the terms used to designate them included glog (lit. "hawthorn", the species of wood used for the stake), vampirdzhiya, vampirar, dzhadazhiya, svetocher.
They were usually either born on Saturday (then called Sabbatarians, Bulgarian sâbotnichav, Greek sabbatianoí) or the offspring of a vampire and a woman (typically his widow), called a dhampir in Romani or a vampirović in Serbian. It was also believed that someone born on a Saturday could see a vampire when it was otherwise invisible (and sometimes other supernatural entities as well); similarly for the dhampir. In the case of the Sabbatarians, it was believed in some places that they needed to be fed meat from a sheep killed by a wolf (Bulgarian vâlkoedene); this would enable them not to fear the things that only they were able to see. In Croatian and Slovenian legends, the villages had their own vampire hunters that were called kresniks, whose spirits were able to turn into animals at night to fight off the vampire or kudlak.
Some carried a kit that used mallet, stake, crucifix. If part of a church it included holy water, holy oil, etc. However the most important things it carried were items such as rope, crowbars, or even pistol.
The vampire hunter has found new popularity in modern fiction and popular culture.
The most widely known example of a vampire hunter is Abraham Van Helsing of the novel Dracula and in other works of fiction adapting or modifying that work. Other more recent figures include Buffy "the Vampire Slayer" Summers from the television show and film of the same name. Buffy's spin-off series Angel is also focused on a vampire hunter, the titular star, Angel "the World's Champion," a vampire himself, is often portrayed battling vampires. Vampire hunters have also appeared in video games, such as Castlevania.
As well as being knowledgeable about vampire lore, vampire hunters in fiction are often armed with an eclectic mix of items and weapons which are designed to take maximum advantage of the monster's traditional weaknesses. These have included firearms with silver ammunition, appropriate religious symbols, crossbows that fire all wood bolts and even waterguns filled with blessed holy water in the movies The Lost Boys and From Dusk Till Dawn.
The organizational strength of depicted vampire hunters can vary wildly. Most hunter characters are in small groups working alone and in secret. By contrast, the Hellsing Organization in the anime television series, Hellsing is a British government paramilitary strike force with access to troops, heavy combat vehicles and weapons and even allied vampires.
While predominantly depicted as human, examples of other types of vampire hunters also exist. Dhampiric figures, having a mix of human and vampire blood, are a popular form. Alucard from the Castlevania series, and the eponymous hero of the Blade series of comic books, movies, television series, and anime, are both examples of dhampir vampire-hunters. Even rarer are vampire hunters that are vampires themselves. Two examples of this type can be found in Morbius from Ultimate Spider-Man, and Zero Kiryuu in the manga and anime series Vampire Knight.
The image of the vampire hunter is often a mysterious and dramatic avenging hero, an eccentric extremist, a Mad scientist or sometimes a mix of both. A hunter may be a heroic figure, a villain (from the perspective of the vampire), a lonesome avenger, or sometimes, although not usually, a bounty hunter-style character, hunting Vampires for profit. Vampire hunters have also popularly been depicted as hunting various creatures such as werewolves, demons, and other forms of undead as well. Others have been depicted as mages and cyborgs. Vampire hunters are often associated with and/or members of the clergy, holy orders, or other religious organizations which may be dedicated to fighting vampires, demons, and other supernatural forces. Vampire hunting as a family tradition or birthright is a popular use of the archetype in fiction, such as the Belmont family from the Castlevania series. Some Hunters devote their entire lives to the eradication of vampires, for others it is just a strange hobby.
Of course with the job for human hunter, comes the risk of getting bitten and turned into vampires themselves. More often than not fellow hunters usually do mercy killing to prevent them from becoming monsters, though in some fiction it may be possible for a hunter to purify and/or cure themselves (and/or others) of vampirism, especially if the person in question was recently turned into a vampire. Another common trope is hunters being forced to slay their loved ones and/or allies who have been turned into vampires. Alternatively, after becoming a vampire, sometimes hunters will continue to fight and hunt vampires using their newly acquired vampire powers/abilities (sometimes being hunted by their former allies and other human vampire hunters). In addition to human hunters, dhampirs, and vampires that hunt other vampires, it is not uncommon for vampire hunters to be other supernatural creatures such as werewolves or witches. Additionally, some human hunters may possess divine/holy powers, superhuman, and/or other supernatural abilities that they can use both to fight and protect themselves from vampires and other supernatural entities they hunt. Some hunters may even resort to using dark powers/weapons (usually dark magic and/or demonic in nature). Some human hunters may even be tempted to become vampires themselves in order to obtain their powers and immortality, either to continue hunting them, due to fear of their own mortality, and/or simply a lust for power.
- Abraham Lincoln from the novel Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith and the film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
- Abraham Van Helsing, Quincey Morris, Jonathan Harker, Mina Harker, Dr. John Seward, and Arthur Holmwood from the novel, Dracula, and some of its adaptations and spin-offs.
- Vampire Hunter D, a half human, half vampire, vampire hunter from the novels, manga and anime Vampire Hunter, Vampire Hunter D, Vampire Hunter D+, and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. He is defined as a solo man who professionally hunts vampires during the year 12,090, a time in which all demonic and mythological terrors run rampant and control the wastelands.
- Alucard (Adrian Fahrenheit Ţepeş) the son of Dracula, one of the protagonists of the Castlevania series. Due to his human mother, Lisa, Alucard is a dhampir, a half-human, half-vampire.
- The Belmont Clan and the Morris family from the Castlevania series of video games. Almost all the main characters of Castlevania could be called vampire hunters.
- Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
- Gabriel Belmont/Dracula an 11th-century holy knight who fights as a member of the Brotherhood of Light. He is manipulated by Lord of the Necromancers, Zobek (the Lord of Shadows series incarnation of Death) to kill his beloved wife and sent on a quest to defeat the other two Lords of Shadow, the Lord of Werewolves, Cornell and Vampire Queen, Carmilla in order to collect the pieces of the God Mask which Zobek claims. It is eventually revealed that Zobek was in turn manipulated by the fallen angel Satan who Gabriel manages to defeat. However Gabriel discovers the God Mask cannot bring Marie back and that it only allows him to see through God's eyes. While trying to stop a powerful ancient demon known as The Forgotten One he is forced to become a vampire in order to enter its prison and eventually takes the demon's power for himself, becoming the immortal Lord of Vampires, Dracula. Surviving to modern times, he is forced to team up with Zobek in order to stop Satan and his acolytes from seek revenge on them both and seeks to end his immortality. However it is later revealed that Dracula and his son Alucard conspired to eliminate both Zobek and Satan, and in the process redeems himself.
- Trevor Belmont/Alucard Gabriel and his wife Marie Belmont's son whose existence was kept from his father by the Brotherhood of Light as they were aware that Gabriel would eventually become the vampire, Dracula. As an adult, Trevor was told the truth of his heritage and Gabriel's role as his mother's murderer. Trevor becomes determined to slay the monster his father has become and faces Dracula in his castle. However he is fatally wounded during their encounter and discovering the truth of his father's past, pity's Dracula revealing his parentage to Gabriel. A horrified Gabriel use his blood in an attempt to revive Trevor and seeks vengeance upon the Brotherhood for its deception. Believing his son to be dead, he places his son in a coffin on the site of their battle. Years later Trevor awakes as the vampire, Alucard and aids his adult son, Simon Belmont in defeating Dracula. After Dracula's defeat, Alucard seeks to find a way to free his father from his cursed existence and as well as aiding his father in defeating his old enemies Zobek and Satan. Unlike in original Castlevania series, Alucard is a full vampire instead of a Dhampir.
- Lucy Coe, a popular character on General Hospital since 1986, was revealed to be descended from a long line of vampire slayers on the spinoff Port Charles. This included her undead cousin 'Rafe Kovich'. All supernatural elements were never mentioned on the mother series until 2013. While originally explaining that the supernatural events on the spinoff were all in Lucy's mind, it has since been strongly implied that they did indeed occur but were erased from the town's collective memory.
- John Constantine, a magician, con man, and occult detective who occasionally fights vampires in stories from the Hellblazer and I...Vampire.
- Alucard (Dracula backwards) is a vampire from the Hellsing Organization, who, along with his master Integra Hellsing; servant/daughter/offspring, Seras Victoria; (retired) old friend, Walter C. Dornez; and Wild Geese captain, Pip Bernadotte hunt other vampires.
- Alexander Anderson works for the Vatican's secret Iscariot Organization (Section XIII), who act like the Hellsing Organization, but are more fundamental, and serve to fight for Catholicism, as opposed to Hellsing protecting the Protestantism. Iscariot is more radical and fundamental exterminating any humans who ally themselves with the undead. Other members include their leader, Bishop (later Archbishop) Enrico Maxwell, his adviser Renaldo and other assassins, Heinkel Wolfe and Yumie Takagi.
- Django from the Boktai game series is a Vampire Hunter who seeks revenge over Count of Groundsoaking Blood (known as Count Hakushaku in Japan) for killing his father, Red Ringo. The sequel series of Boktai, Lunar Knights, known in Japan as Bokura no Taiyou DS: Django & Sabata (ボクらの太陽DS: Django & Sabata lit. "Our Sun DS: Django & Sabata"), also feature another vampire hunter named Lucian, known as Sabata in the Japanese release, who seeks revenge upon Duke Dumas for kidnapping and killing his beloved Ellen.
- Nick, Sean, and Megan from the film The Forsaken race against time to hunt down one of the first Vampires in existence.
- Dr. Hesselius, from J. Sheridan Le Fanu collection of supernatural tales In a Glass Darkly.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Marley Davidson from the comic book series Marley Davidson, an exorcist and monster hunter.
- Father Callahan from the Stephen King novels 'Salem's Lot and the Dark Tower series.
- Solomon Kane, a character appearing in many works by Robert E. Howard.
- Blade, a vampire hunter featured by Marvel Comics and a trilogy of films of the same name, as well a television series and an anime. In his original comic appearances, Blade is a highly skilled human with immunity to vampirism. In later appearances as well as in the films, he is a dhampir, a half-vampire.
- Abraham Whistler, Abigail Whistler and Hannibal King from the third film of the Blade series, Blade: Trinity. Hannibal takes the form of an ex-vampire who was subsequently cured of his affliction and took up hunting out of a desire for revenge.
- Karl Vincent. Karl Vincent is the chief protagonist from the novel Last Rites: The Return of Sebastian Vasilis and is featured in the comic book Karl Vincent: Vampire Hunter.
- The Sinclair Family from the anime version of Karin is sworn to hunt down the vampires of the Marker Clan.
- The Sarafan knights from the Legacy of Kain series of video games. Also, the non-Sarafan vampire slayers, from the first game in the series (Blood Omen 1).
- Donovan Baine, of the Darkstalkers series of video games and animated series, also a dhampir.
- Rayne from the video game series and movies BloodRayne is a vampire hunter and also a dhampir. Also, most of the Spookhouse members, from Nocturne (BloodRayne is a spin-off of Nocturne).
- Jack Crow, and his "Team Crow" from the book Vampire$ by John Steakly, later adapted by John Carpenter for his movie Vampires.
- Derek Bliss, from the movie Vampires: Los Muertos, also presented by John Carpenter as a pseudo sequel to the first movie.
- Anita Blake from Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series of novels.
- Gabriel Van Helsing from the movie Van Helsing. Van Helsing is a member of a large organization called the Knights of the Holy Order who protect mankind from an evil they 'have no idea even exists'.
- Edgar Frog, Alan Frog, and Sam Emerson from The Lost Boys movie.
- Harry Keogh and others with E-Branch in Brian Lumley's Necroscope series.
- Victoria Gardella from the series of historical novels The Gardella Vampire Chronicles beginning with The Rest Falls Away.
- Steve "Leopard" Leonard, from the Cirque Du Freak books by Darren Shan.
- Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter, from the 1974 film of the same name.
- Peter Vincent and Charley Brewster from the film Fright Night and its sequel Fright Night Part II.
- Hoss Delgado of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy is a spectral exterminator who claims to have confronted vampires, among other paranormal entities.
- Dr. Von Goosewing, an inept German goose that claims to be an expert, "greatest wampire hunter in ze vorld" in the Cosgrove Hall show Count Duckula.
- Carlisle Cullen, in the novel Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, Carlisle hunted vampires with his father, a local priest, before becoming one himself.
- Rashel Jordan, from the book The Chosen in the Night World series by L.J. Smith. Rashel killed her first vampire when she was 9, some years after the same vampire killed her mother and aunt. She later falls in love with a vampire.
- Magiere and Leesil, the former a dhampir and the latter half-elven hunt vampires with fey-dog, Chap. From Dhampir by Barb and J.C. Hendee.
- Adrian Kane, a vampire hunter trying to find the vampire who has his brother's soul from Teresa Medeiros's After Midnight.
- Robert Neville in Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend, kills vampires while they sleep during the day.
- Gregory Salazar in Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, a play by Charles Busch. Salazar disguises himself in drag as a gossip columnist to get close to the two titular vampires who are 1930s movie stars.
- Mercedes "Mercy" Thompson, a character created by Patricia Briggs, a Native American coyote shape-shifter who can see ghosts and is a Volkswagen mechanic of Tri-cities, WA. Slew two vampires in the book, Blood Bound the second book of the Mercy Thompson novels. Additionally she killed two rogue werewolves in the first book in the series Moon Called, a human rapist in Iron Kissed (third in the series), and another vampire in the fourth book Bone Crossed.
- Sam and Dean Winchester, from the US drama and horror television cult series Supernatural. The two brothers were trained by their father to be hunters of supernatural creatures, some of which happen to be vampires. Although vampires are just one of the many creatures on the show, they are one of the most recurring. Episodes containing vampires and/or vampire-like creatures include: 1.20 Dead Man's Blood, 2.03 Blood Lust, 3.07 Fresh Blood, 6.05 Live Free or Twihard, 6.07 Family Matters, 7.22 There Will Be Blood, 8.05 Blood Brother, 8.09 Citizen Fang, 8.18 Freaks and Geeks, 8.19 Taxi Driver, 9.16 Blade Runners, 9.19 Alex Annie Alexis Ann, 10.08 Hibbing 911 and 11.12 Don't You Forget About Me.
- Kuroe Kurose from the manga Blood Alone. He is immune to vampire's hypnosis.
- Michael Colefield and the covert paramilitary forces of Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith from the 1998 British television serial Ultraviolet.
- Jesus Christ, as depicted in the Canadian cult film Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter.
- Touga Yagari and Zero Kiryu from the manga and anime Vampire Knight.
- Damali Richards and The Guardians Team from the Leslie Esdaile Banks books The Vampire Huntress Legend Series.
- Christiano Pena from the Brazilian soap-opera Os Mutantes - Caminhos do Coração. He is a mutant with vast psychokinetic abilities such telekinesis, pyrokinesis, hydrokinesis and atmokinesis, and he is fanatical vampire slayer. He desires to destroy the series' one protagonist, the benevelont female vampire Natália.
- Saya, a dhampir from the Blood: The Last Vampire films.
- Special Deputy Jameson Arkeley, A Special Deputy U.S. Marshal tasked with hunting down the last remaining vampires in David Wellington's Thirteen Bullets.
- In Tsukihime, Arcueid is a True Ancestor, a variation of a vampire, tasked with eliminating Dead Apostles, another variation of vampires. Ciel is a member of the Burial Agency, an organization within the Vatican, that specializes in hunting vampires and other supernatural beings.
- Joss Mcmillian, became a vampire slayer after his sister was killed by one. From the Chronicles of Vladimir Tod by Heather Brewer.
- The Soldiers of the Sun, a militia run by the Fellowship of the Sun, a Christian anti-vampire group from the television series True Blood. Members include Jason Stackhouse and Luke McDonald.
- Sonja Blue from Nancy A. Collins's novel Sunglasses After Dark and its sequels is an almost-vampire who hunts other vampires, along with other supernatural monsters.
- "Mister" from the film Stake Land who trains young Martin as a hunter while attempting to reach New Eden, a purported Vampire free zone. Martin returns as a hunter tracking down the killer of his family in the sequel The Stakelander.
- Harry Dresden from Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series, has on several occasions encountered and killed Vampires.
- In the video game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard, the player is introduced to a group of vampire hunters called the Dawnguard.
- The Vampire Diaries – Jeremy Gilbert comes from a line of Vampire Hunters and takes up his birthright after becoming a member of The Five, an elite group of Vampire Hunters. He stakes the original vampire, Kol, in an attempt to discover the cure for vampirism (revealed on his Hunter Mark after killing vampires.) Alaric Saltzman is another prominent vampire hunter who is eventually killed after becoming an Original himself. There are many more, these two being the main hunter characters.
- Professor Timothy Eliot Stokes from the 1960s gothic television series Dark Shadows is an erudite scholar and professor of the occult. He battles a variety of supernatural beings over the course of the series, and is often instrumental in helping to resolve supernatural happenings at Collinwood. Stokes is the principal vampire hunter in the film House of Dark Shadows.
- Carl Kolchak – as seen in the 1970s TV movie and television series Kolchak: The Night Stalker – Newspaper reporter Carl Kolchak has been described as "the everyman's Van Helsing." In his first outing, he tracks down and hunts the vampire Janos Skorzeny. Throughout the series, Kolchak investigates sundry cases, often dealing with supernatural creatures in the process.
- Night World – In the tome 5, Rachel is a vampire hunter, along with some of her friends, as they track down Quinn, a vampire that sells humans. In the tome 7, Jez, half-human half-vampire, becomes a vampire hunter, when she remembers her mother is a human.
- Eric Van Helsing, his son Jonathan, and his wife Mina, from the British teenage horror television series Young Dracula. Eric Van Helsing is a certified, but incompetent Vampire Slayer who spends the majority of the series exposing and killing the Dracula family. His son initially does not believe in vampires, but later discovers the truth and joins his father. After Eric's death, his wife Mina becomes the main Vampire Slayer in the series.
Nick Knight (Geraint Wyn Davies) in the Canadian television show "Forever Knight" is an 800-year-old vampire working as a police detective in modern-day Toronto, Ontario. Wracked with guilt for centuries of killing others, he seeks redemption by working as a homicide detective on the night shift while hunting wayward vampires and struggling to find a way to become human again.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard's main quest features a faction of vampire hunters called the Dawnguard who attempt to stop a powerful vampire clan. The player may choose to join them, or alternatively to side with the vampires.
- Abbott, George F. (1903). Macedonian Folklore. pp. 221–222.. Cited in Summers, Montague (2008) . The Vampire: His Kith and Kin. Forgotten Books. p. 36.
- Димитрова, Иваничка. 1983. Българска народна митология. Online article (Bulgarian)
- McClelland, Bruce A. (2006). Slayers and Their Vampires: A Cultural History of Killing the Dead. University of Michigan. pp. 62–79. ISBN 978-0-472-06923-1.
- Маринов, Димитър. 1994 (first edition 1914) Народна вяра и религиозни обичаи. Online excerpt (Bulgarian)
- Петровић, Сретен. 2000. Основи демонологије. In: Систем српске митологије. Просвета, Ниш 2000. Online (Serbian)
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- Time Magazine
- The New York Times
- McClelland, Bruce (2006). Slayers and their Vampires: A Cultural History of Killing the Dead. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0472069233.
- Perkowski, Jan (2006). Vampire Lore. Slavica.