This Irish Vampire Was the Devil Himself

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Horror movies aside, leprechauns are said to be fun, whimsical and just a little bit mischievous. Capture one and you win the gold at the end of the rainbow.

But there’s a darker tale straight out of Ireland that’s so evil, it may even have been the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula: the legend of Abhartach.

Eerily, this ancient Celtic character was after much more than gold. In fact, according to legend, this once-human creature demanded no less than blood…poured into a golden bowl directly from its victims’ own wrists.

Abhartach: Ireland’s First Vampire

There’s really no mistaking the similarities between the legend of Abhartach and later myths about vampires.

According to the story, Abhartach, which may mean “short stature” (the murderous mite is sometimes called the Dwarf King), was a chieftan in Ireland.

The king was so fierce that neighboring clans feared him. But Abhartach had one weakness: jealousy.

One evening, King Abhartach was watching out of a window, trying to spy upon his wife, whom he was certain was having an affair. But horribly, he leaned too far forward and fell to his death.

The King Rises…Again

Abhartach’s people gave him a respectable burial. So they were understandably shocked when the evening after the funeral, none other but the dead king himself showed up in the village.

Going door to door, the newly-risen Dwarf King held out a golden bowl, demanding that it be filled with human blood.

In terror, the people complied, slitting their wrists to deliver the required gift. The next night and the next and the next, the undead king returned, hungry for more.

Not knowing what else to do, Abhartach’s people went to a neighboring clan and begged Cathan, the king who ruled there, for aid. Cathan complied, capturing the undead Abhartach and burying him standing up. But the next night Abhartach returned, holding out his bowl as before and demanding precious blood.

Cathan tried the next night, and the next, to slay Abhartach. Again and again he was unsuccessful. After all, how do you kill the undead?

The Undead King is Defeated

Frustrated by his inability to conquer the blood-drinking monster, Cathan consulted a local mage for advice. The mage told Cathan that he must pierce Abhartach’s heart with a tree branch, then bury the risen creature upside-down. Last of all, ash bark must be sprinkled over the grave.

This magic worked, and the people never heard from the creepy king again…until 1897, when his familiar story was moved east of its original lands, to mesh with another infamous personality, Count Dracula of Transylvania.

Inspiration (But Not the Whole Story)

While there are very Abhartach-like elements to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the author added details that don’t appear in the original Celtic tale. Likewise, some ideas were removed, such as putting ash chips over an undead corpse to keep it from rising again.

Stoker never revealed whether the legend of Abhartach was his inspiration, but the similarities are there. And of course, Stoker himself was Irish.

Whatever inspired the original Dracula, Abhartach’s legend reaches back centuries and remains a deliciously dark idea. Like other Celtic myths, the legend of the Dwarf King hearkens to a time when the world was more mysterious and inscrutible than it seems today. Dark though it may be, the legend of the vampire – and stories like Abhartach that inspired it – will (pardon us) live on…and on. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to You will see this in links typed in orange text which link you back to products available for purchase through

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