Vampira was born as Maila Elizabeth Syrjäniemi in 1922 in Petsamo, Finland. She immigrated to the United States with her family in 1924 and eventually made her way to Los Angeles, California by the 1940s. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, she supported herself as a model for various men’s magazines and as a burlesque dancer.
In 1953, Maila attended a masquerade party dressed as a vampire character that she dubbed “Vampira.” This character was loosely based on “Morticia Addams” from Charles Addams’ comic strip in The New Yorker. She caught the attention of a television producer who was also attending the party. He offered her the opportunity to appear on television. As a side note, Vampira won first prize for best costume at the party…She received a radio.
Vampira made her television debut on The Vampira Show which aired on KABC-TV in Los Angeles, California from 1954-1955. After the show was canceled, she went to rival station, KHJ-TV, where she continued portraying her Vampira role.
In 1955, a man broke into Vampira’s Los Angeles apartment and held her hostage for four hours, during which time he tried to kill her. She escaped from the apartment and contacted the police with help from a local business owner.
After leaving television, Vampira went on to appear in a string of low budget films, her most famous being the 1959 ultra low budget Ed Wood film, Plan 9 From Outer Space. She made her last film appearance in 1962.
By the mid 1960s, Vampira’s film and television career dried up. She supported herself by doing light carpentry work, laying linoleum flooring, and selling handmade jewelry.
Vampira died in 2008 in Los Angeles, California at the age of 85 and was buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood. She was married three times but never had any children.
These fabulous photos that captured portrait of horror icon Vampira, Maila Nurmi in the 1950s.