Non-Criminal and Criminal Vampirism by Sherrie D. Larch

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Writer’s note: This was a term paper I did in a criminal justice class. I picked this subject because subcultures have always interested me and this was no different. Though, I will not be giving up being human the vampire life is not for me but I do love the Gothic fashions.

Introduction

Mythologies, legends, narratives, and factual accounts of vampirism and the consumption of human and animal blood have been around for thousands of years. Those with diseases, conditions and disorders that had vampire like side effects and those with different lifestyles have all helped to keep the vampire legend alive. The thought of blood drinking and its symbolism has both fascinated and repulsed humankind throughout antiquity. Certain religious and cultural systems have created secular and spiritual laws that have declared it legally wrong and morally reprehensible; these cultures have classified blood drinking as a depravity and a sin towards humanity. In other religious and cultural systems the consumption of animal blood is a societally recognized and excepted tradition that symbolizes strength, existence, and a source of nutrition. In some indigenous traditions human blood consumption is perceived as appropriate in both sacrifice and ceremony.

The vampire’s narrative continues through literature and Hollywood’s movies and television shows. Sometimes the vampire is the malevolent blood sucking monster and sometimes they are the benevolent mysterious hero that liberates the innocent from danger. Today, vampire subcultures can be found in every country and in almost every major city around the world. Most of the individuals that participate in blood drinking and or are active in the subcultural of vampirism are harmless, only feeding off willing participants or pretending too. But there are those that suffer from mental illnesses or other behavioral disorders that become the stereotypical malevolent vampire, stalking their prey because of bloodlust and the need to kill. So what are the differences between non-criminal vampirism and criminal vampirism? And which has humanity throughout time focused more on, the malevolent vampire or benevolent vampire?

Vampirism and Blood Drinking: Legend, Folklore, Myth

Legends of vampirism and blood consumption can be found in practically every civilization on earth, past and present. Melton (1999) explains: “Belief in vampire-like creatures probably goes back in human experience long before written record. Both a respectful fear of the dead and a belief in the magical qualities of blood may be found in cultures around the world” (Forward ix.) Overtime the legendary vampire myth changed from blood drinking gods, goddesses, demons, and revenge seeking spirits to the walking undead that were cursed for eternity. The legend and folklore of the vampire both symbolize trepidation and fascination with a creature that is both mysterious and terrifying. The mortal human being, that is just flesh and bone, transformed into a soulless monster through the brutality of exsanguination. The monstrosity that is produced slumbers in its own grave awaiting the time to prey on its innocent neighbors. Or a supernatural creature that has circumvented the authority of death itself, arising again, becoming an immortal. Both these variations of the vampire mythology caption the believer’s imagination and morbid curiosities.

Those that believed in vampires were terrified of their physical and paranormal powers. Tales of vampires utilizing supernatural physical strength, telepathic manipulation, extrasensory intuition, and animalistic hunting skills to deceive and apprehend their victims can be found throughout legend, folklore, and myths. Vampires were also thought to have the ability to shape-shift and turn into wolves and bats to pursue their victims. In some myths the vampire could astral project and materialize into an individual’s home through the walls like smoke; in this scenario there was nowhere to hide. The legend of the vampire was also fascinating because they were mysterious beings that were immortal with the ability to turn others into immortals if they chose too. A vampire was a symbol of surviving what humanity has always feared and seen as an unanswerable mystery, death and the afterlife that may or may exist.

In these legends, folklore, and myths victims had a few weapons they could employ to either weaken or annihilate the vampire. In some tales the vampire could only proceed into an individual’s residency if they were invited inside. In some myths wolfsbane, garlic, and religious symbols, including the crucifix and holy water, would repel and weaken a vampire so the victim could make their escape. Fire, sometimes sunlight, decapitation, cutting out the heart, or a stake through the heart would kill a vampire. Steiger (2010) states: “If a village was under attack by a creature of the undead that was driven to leave his or her grave by a craving for human blood, the village priest and a few stalwart men would dig through the rot of the grave, drive a wooden stake through the predator’s heart, and decapitate the vampire” (Pg. 173.) It was the responsibility of the religious leader and the men of a village to keep the women, children, and elderly from both the spiritual damnation and the physical harm that the mythical vampire represented. The appearance of a corpse’s natural decaying processes and the graves of deceased villagers, being mysteriously opened and some of their bodies disappearing because of grave robbers, wild animals, and premature burials (which were quite common before modern medicine), could all symbolize a vampire afoot. These strange events that could not be explained could all send a peaceful but superstitious village into a vampire hunting frenzy. These hunts could endanger any one that was perceived to be a vampire in the country side.

Vampirism and Blood Drinking: Religious and Cultural Views

Ramsland (1998) states: “People have always had an attraction for blood. The blood is the life, and for some it has a magical, spiritual element. In some cultures, warriors used to drink the blood of their enemies to gain their vitality” (Pg. 219.) The symbolism of vampirism and blood consumption can be found in the religious systems of the ancient cultures of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and India. Egyptians worshiped the blood drinking goddess Sekhmet. Steiger (2010) states: “The great Hindu goddess Kali is herself a vampire, and it is said that her image manifests over battlefields, her long tongue lapping up the blood of the fallen” (Pg. 6.) Vampires in Mesopotamia were identified as the Ekimmu and were believed to be individuals that had not been buried appropriately or had perished with unfinished responsibilities in the physical world. Numerous religions and cultures, both ancient and contemporary, have either adjudicated the consumption of human or animal blood as a sin and a depravity or an important component of their spiritual and tribal ceremonies and traditions. Judaism recognizes both the sacredness and unsanitariness of blood. Ancient Jews believed that an individual’s soul energy flowed in their bloodstream. Consumption of animal or human blood was considered a sin and not Kosher. Livestock was to be slaughtered so there was the maximum quantity of blood flow out of the body and then the carcass was hung up to bleed for a period of time. Christianity symbolizes the consumption of Christ’s blood and flesh during communion. But the ingestion of actual animal blood is considered unacceptable and human blood consumption is deemed a sin. Historically, Christianity has categorized vampirism in with witchcraft, demon worship, and cannibalism. Certain cannibal tribes, past and present, around the world participate in drinking the blood of their victims for different ceremonial and religious purposes. There are other indigenous people that use animal blood for religious, ceremonial, and dietary practices. On the continent of Africa the Maasai tribe of Kenya drinks cow’s blood for various reasons. The Maasai Association states: “Traditionally, the Maasai rely on meat, milk and blood from cattle for protein and caloric needs. People drink blood on special occasions. It is given to a circumcised person (o/esipolioi), a woman who has given birth (entomononi) and the sick (oltamueyiai). Also, on a regular basis drunk elders, ilamerak, use the blood to alleviate intoxication and hangovers.” In the past the Plains Indians of North America would use every part or the buffalo, including drinking its blood for nutrients and hydration.

Vampirism: Physical and Mental Illnesses

Historically, a corpse that appeared bloated and dark purple was seen as a potential vampire. A living vampire was described as appearing anemic and incredibly undernourished, which described countless individuals suffering from illnesses, diseases, and dietary problems including iron deficiency and other vitamin deficiencies. These conditions were fairly common throughout Europe and the rest of the world because of food shortages, poverty, and various viruses and bacterial outbreaks throughout history. Viral and bacterial outbreaks would cause mass hysteria and those that had superstitious beliefs would try to explain why people were sick or dying. Those that had rabies or another disease that could not be explained were sometimes listed as a victim of a vampire or vampirism. The side effects and behaviors of certain physical conditions and mental illnesses have been historically accredited to the legend of the vampire. This included sun sensitivity caused by an allergy to sunlight or illnesses like Porphyria, which is also called “The Vampire Disease”. Dr. Peter W. Kujtan explains porphyria: “There exists a fairly rare group of genetic disorders that have unfairly branded many sufferers with the term “vampire”. These poor souls are extremely sensitive to sunlight that can easily result in burns and abrasions, and so they prefer darkness. They suffer from acute attacks of abdominal pains, vomiting and loose stools. Their urine may have a purplish-red color leading some to wrongly believe that it results from drinking blood. Those afflicted may have increased hair growth, and with repeated damage, their skin tightens and shrinks. When this occurs around the mouth, the canine teeth appear to be more prominent, and suggestive of fangs. At other times, it causes depression and affects the brain to produce peculiar behavior. It is probably no surprise that garlic makes all the symptoms worse.” People with other conditions that appeared to be vampire-like or seemed to have the same sensitivities of a vampire were also looked at with superstition. Albinism a genetic condition that effects the body’s pigmentation, giving the sufferer extremely pale skin, light blonde or white hair, and pale blue or red eyes. And the condition Hemeralopia (daylight blinds), which is caused by various reasons including a genetic disorder of the eye, a side effect of an illness or side effect of a deficiency of vitamin A. Both of these physical conditions could be mistaken for vampirism. Those that suffered with mental illnesses that made them believe they were a vampire or needed blood for nourishment and energy, including what is called Rienfeld’s syndrome today. Were both a danger to themselves and others and kept the legend of the vampire alive. The sufferers of these disorder and conditions were at times ostracized or worse throughout human history. They were seen as being cursed and a spiritual and physical danger to others. People on the fringes of society like prostitutes, adulators, and homosexuals were all deemed part of the vampire legend.

The Vampire in Literature and Hollywood

In literature, historical and contemporary, vampires are depicted both as being the monster and the lover, being romanticized and demonized. Melton (1998) states:“Count Dracula is unquestionably the most influential vampire of the twentieth century, perhaps of all-time. His debut came as the title character in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel…There had been a variety of vampires prior to Dracula…but none caught the public imagination like the infamous Count from Transylvania did”(Pg. 1.) Vampires have been authored as frightening beast of prey, sleeping by day in their coffin and hunting innocent victims by night. In Stephen King’s book Salem’s Lot, the malevolent vampire is visualized as a miscreation that originated from the shadowy side of both the physical world and the afterlife to hypnotize or physically force others into death or the miserable life of vampirism. Vampires have also been depicted in literature as sensuous, romantic, and even heroic beings that come to save their victims from harm or the darkness of death to cross them over to everlasting life and sometimes even immortal love. The benevolent vampire is fashioned as being extremely handsome or beautiful and instead of forcing or hypnotizing a victim, they use charm to seduce the willing individual. Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula is a combination of both the benevolent and malevolent vampire, having both a charm and a darker side that follows an evil nature. Melton (1998) states: “He effectively combined the elements of power, sexuality, and sensuality that lifted the vampire head and shoulders above other literary monsters and helped to make vampires the rich subject of modern horror fantasy that they are today” (Pg. 1.) Anne Rice’s vampire Lestat is both charming and dangerous, following in the tradition of Dracula.

Today, Hollywood movie and television producers keep the fictional benevolent and malevolent vampire alive on the screen. Vampires are featured in horror, science fiction, and fantasy films and television shows, having a large fan base. Television shows including Angel and Moonlight have the main characters as reluctant vampires that hate being vampires, saving innocence people from the bad guys or other vampires and monsters. Movies portray the vampire as good trying to live with humanity or evil wanting to feed and kill humanity. Sony Pictures’ movie 30 Days of Night (2007) defines what the true malevolent vampire is “In a small Alaskan town, thirty days of night is natural phenomena. Very few outsiders visit, until a band of bloodthirsty, deathly pale vampires mark their arrival by savagely attacking sled dogs. But soon they find there are much more satisfying thirst-quenchers about: human beings.” The question here is which factual vampire do modern society and the criminal justice system interpret as the real vampire? The legendary malevolent vampire that kills for nourishment and pleasure or the benevolent vampire that is reluctant to kill. In the real world there is both criminal and non-criminal vampirism; that either follows a lifestyle of fantasy and role-play or a behavior that endangers both the sufferer and the victim.

Non-criminal and Non-violent Vampirism and Vampyrism

Throughout history there have been individuals that pursued a lifestyle of vampirism, both desiring and consuming blood for various reasons including sexual desire. Some contemporary vampires do consume blood, which can be either animal or human. And there are also individuals that have a blood fetish and drink blood but do not call themselves vampires. There are those in the vampire and blood fetish communities that suffer from a paraphilia called a partialism. Hickey (2006) states: “A partialism is an arousal or attraction to a body part or product from the body” (Pg. 83.) This type of consensual sexual vampire and those individuals that identify themselves as blood fetishists concentrate on blood sexually; its texture, taste, smell, and color. The sexual partialism towards blood may have come from a childhood experience or an adult interaction that has somehow connected blood psychological to arousal and the act of sex. The blood fetishist may not be able to come to an orgasm without the presents and/or the consumption of blood. There are also consensual vampires that do not have a partialism towards blood but do participate in blood drinking for sexual enjoyment occasionally. These vampires do not depend on blood as their only sexual outlet and most do not connect it psychological only to sex, drinking blood for other reasons including ceremony or special occasion. Most that participate in this sexual behavior are not suffering from a mental illness and they are not dangerous.

In the vampire community a donor and vampire follow strict and specific rules that protect and benefit both. Belanger (2007) explains: “Feeding should occur between consenting adults. Allow donors to make an informed decision before they give of themselves to you. Do not take rapaciously from others, but seek to have an exchange that is pleasant and beneficial for all. Respect the life that you feed upon and do not abuse those who provide for you” (Pg. 138.) Though, modern vampires do buy animal blood from slaughterhouses and butchers shops, most consensual vampires look for consenting human donor partners that are willing to allow them to drink their blood. The donor may be paid for this service or may donate their blood to the vampire partner. The health and safety of the donor and vampire is important in both the hygienic process of the blood transaction and the health and safety of those participating. A vampire and a donor must find a mentally and physically healthy partner without blood diseases including hepatitis and HIV/AIDS. Most do some kind of health screening system to connect with a healthy vampire or donor. Georges (2009) states: “A vampire would be smart to ask for a blood and lab workup for poisons, viruses, and other pollutants in the blood. We know just how much HIV from blood can kill which makes this even more important to the vampire. Then there is the questionnaire about diet, drinking habits, drug use and history. A diet high in fat can add lipid pollutants to the blood. Alcohol is also a pollutant that lowers the quality of the blood energy by adding high amounts of triglcerides. Drug use can really lower the quality of blood, whether it be from illegal drugs or prescription drug use. These substances can stay in the blood for some time and pass with the blood.”

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Today, there are those that participate in the contemporary vampire subculture. Contemporary vampirism, also identified as vampyrism, is a subculture that expresses a world that is more fantasy than reality. The majority of the vampyre community does not suffer from a partialism to blood or any mental illnesses. Some in the vampyre community drink small amounts of blood but most in this subculture participate in role-playing. Living and dressing like the legendary vampire to enjoying the fantasy of this gothic lifestyle, without actually participating in blood consumption. This allows them to participate in the lifestyle without crossing any moral lines or risking their health. Hickey (2006) states: “In this alternative lifestyle, vampirism is seen as a way to express oneself sexually. Actual blood ingestion in this group is not common, and many people who participate in the vampire culture do not drink blood, many even find the notion unappealing, if not altogether unsafe” (Pg. 112.) Those that role-play as vampires do not need blood for sexual interaction; they just express their sexuality through costume, makeup, customized fang implants, and a dark Gothic atmosphere. There are individuals that do not participate in this subculture fully but still live a lifestyle as a solitary vampyre, rarely interacting with other vampyres outside their small group. Many of the heroic vampires in contemporary literature, movies, and television shows have influenced the vampyre subculture, making the vampire a romantic character to illustrate through an alternative lifestyle of fantasy and play.

Criminal and Clinical Vampirism and Blood Drinking

Throughout history there have been individuals that participated in violent behavior involving the consumption and/or interaction with blood. The individuals that committed these acts became obsessed with blood because of mental illnesses or personality disorders. In the sixteenth century Countess Elizabeth Bathory of Hungary, was both a necrophilist and a sadist, she was also known for her obsession for blood. Copper (1993) states: “The Countess, who was born in 1560, was brought to trial in 1611 after authorities had raided her castle during an orgy. Girls were found tortured, and chained in dungeons and apparently used as living cows, being “milked” of their blood as needed. The Countess’s blood-lust was said to have been aroused when she scratched her maid with a comb in a fit of temper and found blood on her hands. She had the impression it did her skin good and actually bathed in it” (Pg. 151.) The Countess believed that bathing in blood could stop her aging process and there were rumors that she may have even consumed the blood of her victims, though there is no tangible proof of this charge. The Countess was responsible for the torture and deaths of hundreds of young woman and girls.

The partialism towards human and animal blood can become an obsession that is far from a simple physical or sexual fetish for individuals that suffer from different behavioral disorders. Individuals that suffer from a violent sexual or personality disorder may be driven by their need for blood when committing a violent criminal activity. Those suffering from childhood and adult paraphilia involving the sexualization of blood and its consumption and those suffering from mental illnesses including schizophrenia may develop clinical vampirism, also called Renfield’s syndrome. Schizophrenia is a mental illness that causes visual and auditory hallucinations and delusional thought processes. Individuals that suffer from schizophrenia can develop vampiric behavioral symptoms; the individual may drink their own blood or the blood of others. Richard Trenton Chase, a paranoid schizophrenic nicknamed the “Vampire of Sacramento”, believed that consuming the blood of humans and animals would keep him alive. He gradually became controlled by his paranoid delusions. Bovsun (2010) states: “Everybody was after him – Nazis, the FBI, space aliens – and their weapon was an innocent-looking item in his bathroom: the soap dish. It was there that those who wanted to do him in had hidden a secret poison that was slowly turning his blood to powder. Chase knew only fresh blood could save him and he didn’t care where it came from or how he got it.” An individual suffering from a mental illness or behavioral disorder may have hallucinations, delusional thoughts, a sexual compulsion for blood, and other deviant behaviors. These conditions over time creates a belief that blood is needed to survive or exist. The individual may become obsessed with the consumption of blood and the mythologies of the magical qualities of blood. The individual may believe that it will keep them youthful or even give them immortality. Other Individuals may belief that blood consumption gives them energy and nourishment and without it, they would die. These vampiric dilutions and thought processes can create an alternative reality, where the sufferer truly believes they are a vampire. This is what is called clinical vampirism.

Clinical vampirism is also known as Renfield’s syndrome, named after a lunatic asylum patient in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Those that have the condition believe they need to drink blood to stay alive and some truly believe they are a vampire. Renfield’s syndrome develops over time, usually in four stages. Hickey (2006) states: “The stages in this syndrome include the following. A pivotal event leads to some form of blood drinking for the first time (usually in childhood), and the experience of bleeding or tasting blood is found exciting…Then, auto-vampiric activities occur {drinking one’s own blood}…Zoophagous activity comes next (the drinking of the blood of animal)…Finally true vampirism results as sufferers begin to procure and ingest the blood of humans…”(Pg. 115.) The consumption of human blood may come from donors like in consensual vampirism, but unlike consensual vampirism, the individual suffering from Renfield’s syndrome truly believes that they are like the legendary vampire. Their delusions and hallucinations make them believe that without proper feeding they will grow weaker and could possibly die. An individual may feel that animal blood is not enough, if the sufferer cannot find a willing human participate to feed from, an unwilling victim may be needed. This is when non-criminal vampirism turns into criminal vampirism.

The clinical vampire may have sadistic and ritualistic fantasies that drive them to horrific acts. In 1996 sixteen year old Roderick Ferrell killed the parents of Heather Wendorf, a member of his “Vampire Clan” and his second girlfriend in the vampire cult. He brutally beat Richard and Naoma Ruth Wendorf, bludgeoning them to death with a crowbar. Before the murders, Ferrell’s clan of vampires had been ostracized from the local vampire subculture and had been involved in sadistic and ritualistic torture and mutilation of dogs at a shelter and ritually killing two puppies. Ferrell believed that he was a vampire that had lived for centuries. Jones (1999) states: “Roderick said he had been asleep for five centuries, that he had been tired of the great adventure called life, but, cursed with immortality, he had grown restless” (Pg. 13.) Ferrell believed that blood consumption and killing, increased his dominance over others telepathically. He also wanted to open the “Gates of Hell” which require even more victims and blood. Individuals like Roderick Ferrell that suffer from clinical vampirism gradually become so delusional that they suffer from not just a partialsm for blood but go into a full bloodlust. The act of consuming blood is not enough to satisfy the need for blood and killing is the only way to stop this craving.

The paraphilia of vampirism alone is not considered a dangerous behavior and psychological or psychiatric treatment is only proscribed for those that feel they need help. Renfield’s syndrome is very different from basic vampirism and is so complex in most patients it may be hard to treat or even find the root cause or causes. O’Neal (2009) states: “Clinical vampirism groups some of the most shocking pathological behaviors observed. It is one of the few pathological manifestations that blends myth and reality in dramatic fashion and contains many possible elements including schizophrenia, psychopathic and perverse features.” An individual that suffers from clinical vampirism may be treated for the underlying mental illness or violent personality or sexual disorder, including any other paraphilia that have violent overtones. The treatment of these disorders may include psychological therapy, psychopharmacological treatment, hospitalization, and if the behavior becomes violent towards others prison.

Conclusion

Throughout legend and myth the vampire has been portrayed as demons, spirits, gods and goddesses, and the undead. The act of blood drinking has been seen as repulsive or a magical exchange of immortally. Blood drinking in some subcultures have been considered a tribal or spiritual tradition. Those with illnesses, diseases, physical disorders, and psychological conditions have been ostracized or worse because they had qualities that the legendary vampire was thought to have. The buried dead could not even escape the paranoia that vampirism could inspire. Today, modern novelists and screenwriters keep the vampire legend alive, creating new forms of both the malevolent and benevolent vampire. The modern vampyre subculture captures the vampire legend and makes it their own. Vampirism and blood drinking also has a darker violent history of those that believed they had to have blood to stay young or live forever. Some did not see themselves as a vampire; others believed that they were a true vampire. Individuals that followed a vampiric lifestyle sometimes chose to injure, mutilate, torture, and even murder their victims in sadistic and ritualistic fantasies. Today the malevolent and benevolent vampire can be found in the real world and the world of legend and fiction.

References:

Belanger, M (2007). Vampires in Their Own Words: An Anthology of Vampire Voices. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Worldwide.

Bovsun, M (2010). Just crazy for blood: Richard Trenton Chase, a.k.a. the Vampire of Sacramento. Retrieved at: http://articles.nydailynews.com/2010-01- 03/news/17944752_1_blood-fbi-space-aliens

Copper, B (1993). The Vampire: In Legend and Fact. New York, NY: Carol Publishing Group Citadel Press.

Georges, D (2009). Sanguine Vampirism and It’s Problems. Vampire Church. Retrieved at: http://www.vampire-church.com/cms/articles/37-prana-blood-vampirism/96-sanguine-vampirism-and-its-problems

Hickey, E. W. (2006). Sex crimes and paraphilia. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Jones, A (1999). The Embrace: A True Vampire Story. New York, NY: Pocket Books: A Division of Simon & Schuster Inc.

Kujtan, P (2005). Porphyria: The Vampire Disease. Retrieved at: http://www.bydewey.com/drkporphyria.html

The Maasai Association. THE MAASAI PEOPLE. Retrieved at: http://www.maasaiassociation.org/maasai.html

Melton, J.G (1998).The Vampire Gallery: A Who’s Who of the Undead. Farmington, MI: Visible Ink Press.

Melton, J.G (1999). The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead. Canton, MI: Visible Ink Press.

O’Neal, B.J. (2009). Human Living Vampires – What Investigators Need to Know. Retrieved at: http://thevampireproject.blogspot.com/2009/01/human-living-vampires-what.html

Ramsland, K (1998). Piercing the Darkness: Undercover with Vampires in America Today. New York, NY: Harper Paperbacks: A Division of HarperCollins Publishers.

Sony Pictures (2007), Synopsis of the Movie 30 Days of Night. Retrieved at: http://www.sonypictures.com/homevideo/30daysofnight/

Steiger, B (2010). Real Vampires, Night Stalker, and Creatures from the Darkside. Canton, MI: Visible Ink Press

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