Buffy: Oh, it's more effective than it sounds.
The favorite weapon of the Vampire Hunter, and frequently the only thing capable of finishing them off for good, is a wooden stake through the heart. And yes, it has to be wood; only wood can kill a vampire when it comes to piercing their heart.
This may be because the wooden stake was a once living plant, much like the vampire was a once living human, unlike the sword which was never alive. Yes, this occasionally means that someone can be killed via pencil to the heart, or that a bow and arrow can be more effective than a gun.
Slavic versions of folklore specify that it has to be not just any wood, but specifically quaking aspen, generally a bane to all creatures of the dark; some trace it back to Bible, stating that aspen was the tree Judas Iscariot hanged himself on.
In early vampire fiction, stakes were simply used to pin a "vampire" into its coffin while it slept, keeping it from waking back up and causing trouble; some old graves had several stakes in it, as wood eventually rots and has to be replaced. It was also a lot harder to get the stake in than it is in modern fiction — you had to hammer the stake in with a mallet or a gravedigger's shovel to get through the vampire's ribcage (and in some regions, through the dirt and coffin itself, to avoid digging). This went along with such nice methods of preventing vampire from rising up as placing a sickle on their neck (so the vampire would sever its own head if it moved) or putting vampire-repelling plants such as garlic in the coffin.
When the stake became an all-purpose vampire-killing weapon is unclear. Different authors disagree on whether a wooden stake can be used as a spear (or an arrow) against a vampire when not in the coffin.
Subtrope of Attack on the Heart.
- It's mentioned in Karin that this will kill a vampire, though it doesn't really qualify as a weakness since "A stake through the heart would kill anybody!"
- In My Monster Secret, most of the traditional vampire weaknesses are Played for Laughs, even with a full-blooded vampire like Youko's father Genjirou. It's even suggested that a wooden stake to the heart isn't fatal, since Genjirou's wife Touko has brandished a stake and mallet in order to make him calm down and stop harassing Asahi.
- In Shiki, a stake to the heart is one of the preferred methods in dealing with the many vampires running around. It does however not need to be a wooden stake, any kind of stake will do as long as it pierces the heart and keeps it from repairing itself in a timely fashion.
- Hyo from Ushio and Tora finally kills for good a classical Vampire by ramming a massive wooden stake in his chest while he was lunging at him. This proves the only way to kill him for real.
- Zigzagged in Alan Ford: Vampires can be killed with a stake through the heart, but also by being submerged in water, and both methods are employed.
- Played straight in Astro City, in the "Confessions" arc. A gun that fires wooden stakes is used to kill a vampire.
- Batman Vampire: The traditional method of killing vampires is via stabbing (and thus immobilizing) them with wooden stakes, followed by beheading to kill them permanently. Batman winds up killing Dracula via impaling him on a splintered utility pole (and then he's hit by lightning, dusting him), and utilizes special wooden throwing knives against his vampire enemies. Later, Batman himself is immobilized with a wooden stake, leaving him in a dormant state of And I Must Scream until it's removed. Unfortunately, by that point he's been driven quite mad and goes on a killing spree.
- Parodied in Cattivik: a crowd of angry peasants surrounds the vampire's castle... and proceed to blow the entire castle up with dynamite.
First Peasant: "Tsk, that dumbass thought we were still using the whole stake-in-the-heart thing."Second Peasant: "Yeah, and the castle was declared unfit too"
- Fray is informed of this crucial weakness of vampires, only to point out the difficulties of getting real wood in her future world.
- Parodied in Sturmtruppen: when the living lunch goes on a soldier-eating rampage, one of the soldiers tries to kill him with a stake through the heart. It doesn't work, and comes back with the stake in his stomach, complaining that it always worked with Dracula.
- Peculia and the Goon Grove Vampires: Peculia manages to kill the grandmother of the vampire family by holding out a piece of the broken chair just as said grandmother was about to pounce on her, causing her to fly into the makeshift stake. The vampirized babysitters are killed when a gypsy woman fires out stakes from her musket at them (yes, really). And the eldest daughter of the vampire family meets her end when she tries to jump at Peculia over a cliff and is pushed into a hawthorne tree, which are deadly to vampires, causing it to impale her with one of its thorns.
- Scary Gary: As a vampire, Gary sometimes has to deal with people (including Leopold) trying to off him with wooden stakes.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Supergirl crossover The Vampire of Steel, Supergirl, Buffy and the Gang face a Kryptonian vampire. Regular wooden stakes can't pierce his skin, not even being magically-enhanced. Kara gets stakes carved of Kandorian trees since anything from Krypton becomes indestructible on Earth.
- Hotel Transylvania: Stakes are briefly discussed between Johnny and Dracula when the former inquires about vampire myths. Dracula balks at it, claiming "Who wouldn't that kill?".
- Blood Red Sky. Eightball sharpens the handle of a wooden hockey stick into a spear to use against Nadja. It's shown that a knife to the heart works just as well, as when Nadja uses one to put down Berg as he turns, but Eightball had likely seen too many vampire movies. Or a knife works as long as you kill the person before they fully turn.
- Bram Stoker's Dracula: After Helsing forces Lucy back into her coffin. He has Holmwood stake her followed by Helsing immediately cutting off her head with a machete.
- Count Yorga: Surprisingly only used once in between the two movies and only in the first film. Micheal and Hayes do try to gear up by using makeshift stakes from wooden chairs. The vampires are scared enough of them to stay back when threaten. In the climax, Yorga sacrifices one of his brides when Micheal threatens them by pushing her into it and fleeing. However Michael breaks off a smaller piece from the initial stake and uses that to kill Yorga, which only happened because Yorga foolishly ran into it while trying to ambush Micheal at the door of the room he was coming out of.
- In The Crime Doctor's Courage, the killer plans to murder Miguel Bragga by driving a wooden stake through his heart; making it look like Jeff had actually believed he was a vampire.
- The only certain way to kill a vampire according to the information available to Preacher Dan in Curse of the Undead. Drago's father stabbed his son's corpse through the heart with a silver dagger, only to be told afterwards by the village priest that it needed to be a wooden stake. By the time he returned to his son's coffin, the body was gone.
- Deadtime Stories: Volume 1: The doctor drives a wooden stake through the heart of the vampire at the end of "House Call".
- Dracula A.D. 1972 opens with Lawrence van Helsing's 1872 confrontation with Dracula, which ends with a carriage crash that leaves a shattered wheel lodged through Dracula's chest. After a bit more struggling, Dracula turns into a skeleton with one broken-off spoke sticking out of its chest.
- Played for Laughs in Dracula: Dead and Loving It, where staking Lucy makes her spew out blood like a geyser. Repeatedly.
- Dr. Terror's House of Horrors: In the "Vampire" segment, Dr. Blake convinces Dr. Caroll that his wife is a vampire, and that the only way to kill her is to drive a stake through her heart. Dr. Caroll does so. Afterwards, the police arrive and arrest him for murder. He screams for Dr. Blake to back up his story, but Blake denies any knowledge of what he is talking about. After the police drag Caroll away, Blake turns into a bat, announcing that this town isn't big enough for two doctors, or two vampires.
- Fright Night 2: New Blood: One of the vampire weaknesses, but it's not as easy as it looks. When Peter tries to kill Gerri with a stake, he misses her heart by several inches.
Gerri: [after Licking the Blade] ...missed!
- From Dusk Till Dawn: The protagonists have to use whatever wood is laying around as stakes during the initial onslaught of vampires, most from the chairs or pool cues. Amusingly one them, Frost, uses a move that rips the heart out of one of the vampire residents. Only for the heart to still be beating and the vampire shown to still be alive. Least until another hero, Sex Machine, comes over with a pencil and stabs it into the heart. The vampire promptly dies once he does.
- Firebase. Sergeant Hines is introduced with this as his sole weapon, either due to the mythological aspects of killing the undead or because it's the only weapon that will reliably function given the River God's reality-warping powers. At the end of the movie he's given more advanced weaponry, but we're not shown if it's any more effective.
- Lifeforce: Played with. The space vampires are vulnerable to iron stakes, and they have to be stabbed a few inches below the heart to actually kill them.
- In The Monster Club, the Vampire Hunters carry their wooden stakes and mallets concealed inside violin cases.
- In My Best Friend is a Vampire, Professor McCarthy is trying to "prove" that Ralph is a vampire, even after Ralph shows no ill effects from garlic or crosses, and claims that if he dies of being staked, that's proof. Jeremy points out that a stake through the heart will kill anything.The actual vampire is Jeremy. Ralph's as normal a human being as a hormone-overloaded teenage boy gets.
- In Vampires vs. Zombies, driving a wooden stake through the heart of a vampire will paralyze it.
- In Vampyr, the title vampire is weak not to the traditional wooden stake, but to an iron one.
- In Van Helsinki, the eponymous character as well as Van and Fay Løren carry these. Van uses his on his Arch-Nemesis the vampire Geoff, to fatal effect.
- In Zoltan, Hound of Dracula, the Soviet soldier left to guard the tomb finds a body in a coffin containing a body with a wooden stake driven through it, and decides to pull the stake out without even bothering to check what is beneath the shroud.
- Various Fighting Fantasy books have vampire enemies, and usually you can collect wooden stakes prior to the encounter. It starts off from the very first book, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (in a mild case of Early-Installment Weirdness; the stake can kill the vampire, but if you don't have one it is still vulnerable to your sword), and can be seen in other entries like Moonrunner, Caverns of the Snow Witch and evidently, in Vault of the Vampire and the sequel Revenge of the Vampire.
- Bunnicula: In book 1, Chester reads that one way to dispose of a vampire is to pound a sharp stake through their heart. Fortunately for Bunnicula, the cat misunderstands and winds up trying to pound a sirloin steak through his heart instead (and Harold offers to taste it and see if it's sharp). Later, in book 3, Chester and the dogs use toothpicks and twigs to impale the vegetables that Bunnicula had drained during his nightly wanderings.
- Figures in Dracula, naturally, but surprisingly averted at the end: Dracula himself is killed by Quincy's Bowie knife in his heart (and Harker's kukri taking off his head). Also Unbuilt: staking Lucy is difficult and messy, requiring several squirming hammer blows. It's not even the killing blow. It's specifically meant to hold Lucy in place so she can have her head cut off.
- In The Gardella Vampire Chronicles, Victoria hides her wooden stake in her hair when she goes to fancy events.
- Subverted in I Am Legend: Neville originally believes that a wooden stake is the weakness of vampires because that's what he's seen in movies. Upon doing some investigation, however, he realises that actually these vampires are weak to oxygen entering their bloodstream. Staking a vampire in the heart just creates a large wound which can't close up instantly, like it would if the vampire was shot. Presumably a spike made of metal or another material would still be effective.
- Masquerade of the Red Death: Dire McCann crosses this trope with Improbable Aiming Skills. One of his special anti-vampire weapons is a set of sharp, thin wooden rods. He immobilizes several vampires by throwing one of those rods into the vamp's heart. note
- Justified in-universe in The Vampire Combat Manual, in which it is stated that vampires are allergic to the 'natural resins' in wood; stabbing a vampire in the heart causes a fatal chain reaction.
- The Vampire Diaries: This is one of the weakness of the protagonist, Stefan Salvatore. If he's wounded by wood it will cause the vampire to become severely weak. However, if a wooden stake is penetrated through Stefan's heart, it will result in instant death.
- Weird Tales: Averted in "The Man Who Cast No Shadow" by Seabury Quinn. On the other hand, "Restless Souls" goes with more traditional vampirism (must be invited in, fears holy relics, etc.).
- The weapon of choice on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Kendra had a favourite stake she dubbed "Mr. Pointy". Buffy "adopted" Mr. Pointy after Kendra was killed. Various Improvised Weapons are also used at a pinch, from broken bits of wooden furniture to a magically-levitated pencil.
Walsh: We use the latest in scientific technology and state-of-the-art weaponry and you, if I understand correctly, poke them with a sharp stick.
Buffy: Well, it's more effective than it sounds.
- Forever Knight had this as one of the ways a vampire could be killed, but if the injury was not immediately fatal, the vampire could survive if the stake was removed. In addition, the Enforcers (the vampire "Secret Police") carry guns with wooden bullets.
- Highlander had an episode called "The Vampire" which dealt with an Immortal who killed mortal victims by making it look like a vampire did it (his walking stick was essentially a giant double-pronged syringe with which he would siphon their blood out). A Vampire Hunter shows up and hammers a wooden stake through his heart. The Immortal then got up and killed him.
- House of Frankenstein (1997): Plenty of makeshift stakes are used against vampires in the mini-series. On common ones, they work as intended. But for the head vampire, Crispian, it's just a minor annoyance and will only keep him down for a few moments before he revives. The only way to truly kill him is with fire.
- Moonlight stays true to the original version: stakes to the heart only immobilize rather than kill.
- Sliders had an episode where the gang come to a world where vampires are real. The Vampire Hunter who appears in the episode (played by Tommy Chong) had a crossbow that fired wooden stakes. He said staking a vampire through the heart frees their soul, allowing them to die.
- The pagan gods can be killed with evergreen stakes.
- A Trickster like Loki can supposedly be killed if impaled with a wooden stake, but it doesn't work. Unsurprising, as Loki turns out to be the Archangel Gabriel.
- When vampires in True Blood are staked, they dissolve in a puddle of blood.
- Ultraviolet (1998): Vampires are particularly susceptible to wounds inflicted with pointy bits of wood, which messes with their Healing Factor somehow. The team has moved on from stakes, however, and use guns loaded with carbon-compound "dum-dum" bullets — though one still needs to aim for the heart. Vaughn also has, as his personal signature weapon, a device like a spring-loaded ice-pick with a spike made from the same compound.
- Discussed in an episode of British horror anthology Urban Gothic by vampire Rex.
"Stake through the heart? I don't know anyone that wouldn't kill."
- The X-Files: Mulder uses one to kill a vampire in "Bad Blood", but he turns out to be Not Quite Dead. However in "3" a vampire dies on being Car Fu-ed into a wooden peg board. Mulder points out there are many differing legends about vampires, so it appears only some subspecies have this Fatal Flaw.
- While vampire lore varies hugely from country to country even in the same region, stakes are one of the few consistent weaknesses of Slavic vampires aside from Kill It with Fire. Variants about staking include the stake being made of hawthorn in Poland and Slovakia or being made of aspen in Russia. For some Russian vampires, the stake has to be driven in in a single blow, which is damn near impossible due to the ribcage.
- Despite the page snarking about modern vampires being Made of Plasticine due to how the stake effortlessly goes through the ribcage, vampires from Bavaria and parts of the Balkans were said to lack a skeleton.
- Zigzagged in the Balkans, where severing the tendons was just as common as staking.
- Since Jiangshi are harmed and repelled by anything made of peachwood, this would presumably work on them.
- The Dracula Dossier:
- Telluric Vampires have several similarities to supernatural ones, but also have some important differences. Notably, wooden stakes have no effect, but stakes made from conductive materials ground out a vampire's telluric energies and paralyze it.
- That said, Edom is prepared for a GM who is using the default vampire build instead. The agency's standard-issue crossbow is designed to fire heavier-than-normal wooden quarrels, which can stake a vampire with a really good shot. They also provide a Stake Tube for those times when a vampire is caught sleeping in its coffin; instead of several hammer blows, a pneumatic piston drives the stake into place with a single shot.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- Truer to form, a wooden stake through the heart won't destroy a vampire, but it will turn it into an immobile corpse and makes destruction of the body easy, usually by cutting of the head and filling it with holy wafers. Don't expect this to work during a fight, however; at best it can be done if you catch the vampire resting in its coffin.
- Ravenloft added several vampire variants with their own stats in 2nd edition, including elf vampires, dwarf vampires, halfling vampires, etc. The wooden stake vulnerability was often changed to something else for each of them; for example, a dwarf vampire wouldn't be stopped by wood, but by a naturally formed stalactite through the heart. And what effect using the correct kind of stake will have on the vampire also varies, as it will destroy some vampires immediately while for others the stake will only incapacitate them.
- Magic: The Gathering features a Wooden Stake card, an artifact that kills vampires automatically.
- In Paranoia the adventure Creatures Of The Nightcycle (a parody of Vampire: The Masquerade) has the player characters turn into vampires, which results in a number of thematically fitting strengths and weaknesses. One of these is, as the game spells out, that getting a stake through your heart will kill you. It helpfully continues that before you became a vampclone, a stake through the heart would also have killed you.
- Vampire: The Requiem: Piercing a vampire's heart with wood forces it into a comatose state of "torpor" for as long as the wood is there. This tends to be very unpleasant for the vampire, akin to being trapped in a violent nightmare. To work, a single piece of wood needs to go completely through the heart — shotgun shells filled with toothpicks are explicitly disallowed.
- Same thing in the predecessor game, Vampire: The Masquerade. Like in Requiem, staking is hard to do unless the vampire is restrained or has already been beaten up. Some blood sorcerers get around this difficulty through a ritual that creates a Stake of Belated Quiescence, where a splinter eventually works its way to the heart and induces torpor.
- A possible way for Lucy to deal with the titular vampire in 16 Ways to Kill a Vampire at McDonalds. Maggie, one of her teammates, is said to use one alongside a machete as her primary means of killing vampires.
- In Baldur's Gate II, following D&D rules, vampires need to be staked in their coffins after being defeated. Consequently, wooden stakes are an item you need to find/carry.
- Baldur's Gate III: Following the reveal that Astarion is a vampire, the player character immediately picks up a stick and breaks it in two to form a stake. Astarion will initially knock it out of your hand, but you have several opportunities during the ensuing conversation to use the stake, killing him if you do.
- In Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Simon needs to toss oak stakes at the orbs hidden at the end of each dungeon to retrieve Dracula's body parts.
- Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: A stake extension is one of the upgrades of Gabriel Belmont's Swiss-Army Weapon, the Combat Cross. It is used both as a weapon to kill vampires, and as a tool to get extra leverage for operating broken portcullis winches.
- Dicey Dungeons: One of the final bosses, Drake, is a vampire and his HP can't be brought below 1 normally. You're given a Wooden Stake equipment before fighting him, which is the only way to deal lethal damage to him.
- Enter the Matrix: The Merovingian's vampires and werewolves derive from a very, very old iteration of the Matrix, and a wooden stake through the heart is said to "disrupt their code."
- In Infamous 2, after losing his Amp, Cole makes a makeshift wooden stake out of a large cross with a pointy bit of wood on the end from a broken coffin lid.
- Metaspace: The Mage Hunter Mooks can fire wooden stakes at high speed. Burning ones.
- Monster Hunter (PC) has a variety of monsters, each requiring a different weapon to kill. Naturally, the vampire mooks are vulnerable only to the stake.
- In RuneScape, one quest involves using a stake to slay a weakened vampyre. Somewhat notable in that the player needs to use a stake hammer to drive it in.
- Another version shows up in the vampyre quests from "The Branches of Darkmeyer", where the player gains the ability to make weapons out of blisterwood, a rare tree that vampyres are deathly allergic to. Nearly nothing else can even injure them aside from silver weapons which aren't as effective. One of the weapons you can make are blisterwood stakes that are used as throwing weapons. During the next quest in the series "The Lord of Vampyrium", the player learns how to make even more blisterwood weapons including a crossbow that uses blisterwood stakes as ammo.
- In Terraria, the stake launcher fires, guess what. As one might expect, it has a huge damage bonus against vampires.
- An inversion in Timeslaughter, where it is Vlad the Impaler himself who uses a wooden stake in his Slaughter Move.
- In Town of Salem, this is the weapon of choice of the Vampire Hunters (at least until all the Vampire are dead and they pick up a gun). A cross-shaped stake is featured in their avatar, and they use it to kill vampires in their kill messages.
- Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption: Available as a weapon, it works like a dagger, deals pitiful damage but has a chance of impaling a vampire enemy in the heart, rendering him helpless for a while as you whale on him. Oddly enough, the same effect can be achieved with arrows and bolts (though it's rarer). Finally, the modern age brings up the Stake Gun, which is a stake-shooting gun.
- Vampyr: Stakes are secondary weapons. They're fast to come out, and while they do negligible damage to health, they do spectacular damage to enemy Super Armor, opening them up for a grapple.
- When facing off against Vilbert the Vampire in 8-Bit Theater Fighter gets the wrong idea about what's needed to kill a vampire and clubs Vilbert with a cow impaled on a two by four. In other words, Wood in steak.
- The traditional vampires in Charby the Vampirate can be killed this way which is why Victor carries a bow and a quiver of arrows. "Pureblood" vampires appear to have an additional weakness to silver and both can be taken out by decapitation or a well placed messy shot to the head.
- As it takes place in the same city as Charby Here There Be Monsters vampires can presumably be killed by a stake through the heart but have thus far only been seen killed via headshots and decapitation.
- Belkar from The Order of the Stick gets himself one of these to kill vampirized Durkon after misunderstanding what a "stake" referred to. Later, he delivers a One-Hit Kill to a vampire via a stake to the heart.
- Zig-zagged in Sluggy Freelance. Weaker vampires will croak from a stake. Stronger ones like those of the Lysinda clan can be withered and left immobile and powerless, but it can't kill them.
- Mr. Welch has been known to modernize this trope. Regrettably, his GMs tend to be less than open to this kind of thinking...
109. Not allowed to kill a vampire with any part from a DC-10 larger than my car.
217. If the weapon is capable of staking vampires hiding behind engine blocks, I can't have it.
454. No staking a vampire with anything larger than his chest cavity.
1851. Can't use woodchippers as shotguns against vampires.
- This trope is given a futuristic spin in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. Savy SL-R has a device that can drain robots of their energy and plans to use it to kill the energy vampire NOS-4-A2. But because he has special shielding, she has to plug it directly into him. Seeing that the port on his chest isn't compatible with her device, Savy uses a rock to hammer it in like a stake.
NOS-4-A2: [roars in pain] You could have at least used an adaptor.
- Castlevania (2017): Wooden stakes prove to be fatal not only to vampires, but night creatures as well. Trevor Belmont demonstrates it by taking the staff weapon of one night creature then, after it breaks, driving it through the creature's chest. Alucard finally kills Dracula by breaking a bedpost from his childhood bed and stabbing his accepting father.
- Count Duckula: in "Dear Diary," Goosewing loads a camera with a wooden stake propelled with gunpowder and poses as a photographer taking Duckula's picture. It winds up blowing up in his face instead. (The idea stemmed from an entry in his great great grandfather's diary where a similar camera was used to unsuccessfully dispose of an earlier Duckula.)
- Futurama. The crew land on a planet of robots and see a B-Movie where humans are demonized as monsters. In a reference to the Immune to Bullets trope, the actors express amazement that the deadly Human was immune to their magnetic rays, yet fell victim to a simple sharpened stick.
- In ''Garfield and Friends" segment "Count Lasagna", Dracula (played by Jon) tells his cat, Count Lasagna (played by Garfield) that villagers are coming with a stake. At first, Count Lasagna thought he meant a "steak".
- Played for laughs in Milo Murphy's Law where Cavendish and Dakota end up with a bag of wooden stakes at a party and get mistaken for vampire hunters. Melissa points out that if they are here for the ambiguously vampiric shop teacher it doesn't matter whether he really is a vampire or not, a stake through the chest will still be lethal.
- The Simpsons: In the "Treehouse of Horror IV" segment Bart Simpson's Dracula Lisa tells Homer that the only way to save Bart is to kill the head vampire, Mr. Burns. Homer hammers in the stake, but not before driving it through Mr. Burns' crotch on the first attempt.