Mythology and Fiction
A vampire is a creature from folklore that feeds on the vital essence (generally in the form of blood) of the living. European folklore states that vampires are creatures of the undead that often visit loved ones and cause mischief or deaths in the neighbourhoods they inhabit while they are alive. They wore shrouds and were often described as ‘bloated’ and of ‘ruddy’ or ‘dark countenance’, in contrast to today’s gaunt, pale vampire which dates from the early nineteenth century. Vampire entities have been recorded in most cultures and the term ‘vampire’ was made popular in Western Europe after reports of eighteenth-century mass hysteria of a pre-existing folk belief in the Balkans and Eastern Europeans that in some cases resulted in corpses being staked and people being accused of vampirism. However, early folk belief noted the ignorance of the body’s process of decomposition after death and how people in pre-industrial societies tried to rationalise this, creating the figure of the vampire to explain the mysteries of death. Ultimately, they used it to rationalise what happens after death which in turn, contributed to the myth of the vampire.
The Urban dictionary states that vampirism is a disease. The main concept for those who have vampirism is someone who drinks the blood of humans or animals. It can also be someone who drains the psychic energies of another person. Many sources note the stereotypical image of the vampire such as fangs, pale skin, mild to a severe allergy to sunlight, silver and garlic. They also have the ability to fly, shapeshift, and use coffins. They are immortal and are considered to be the living dead. Many of these beliefs are myth or fiction. Vampires are turned by other vampires meaning that someone shows the symptoms of being sensitive to sunlight, preferring to be awake during the night, having very acute senses, and instincts, and is somewhat resistant to common illness. As well as having a thirst/ hunger and an easily triggered ‘secondary personality’ called the beast, who is violent and very temperamental.
Clinical Vampirism, otherwise known as Renfield’s syndrome (a prominent character featured in Dracula (1897), Dracula’s human zoophagous follower, R.M. Renfield) is an obsession with drinking blood and feeling like you need it in order to survive. The earliest case of clinical vampirism appeared within psychiatric literature with the psychoanalytic interpretation of two cases contributed by Richard L. Vanden Bergh and John F. Kelly. The authors state that in 2010, over 50,000 people have become addicted to drinking blood and have appeared in the psychiatric literature at least since 1892 with the work of Austrian forensic psychiatrist Richard Von Krafft Ebing. According to case history reports in the older psychiatric literature that formed the basis of Noll’s parody, the condition starts with a key event in childhood that causes the experience of bloody injury or the ingestion of blood to be exciting. After puberty, the excitement is experienced as sexual arousal. Throughout adolescence and adulthood, blood, its presence, and its consumption can also stimulate a sense of power and control. This is interesting as the concept of vampirism is present within many cases of murder suggesting that they take pleasure from the amount of control they have, something that may have been present during their earliest childhood memory. For example Richard Trenton Chase who was an American serial killer who was known for drinking his victim’s blood and was nicknamed ‘The Vampire of Sacramento’, ‘The Dracula killer’ and ‘The Vampire Killer’. Another example is Peter Kurten who was a German serial killer and was known as ‘The Vampire of Dusseldorf’.
During present day vampires have been considered to be a fictitious entity, although belief in similar vampiric creatures such as the chupacabra (a legendary creature in the folklore parts of the Americas with its first sightings in Puerto Rico) still persist in some cultures. Within modern beliefs, the vampire tends to be depicted as a suave, charismatic villain. Despite the general disbelief in vampiric entities, occasional sightings of vampires are reported. Vampire hunting societies still exist, but they are largely formed for social reasons. Allegations of vampire attacks were present through Malawi during late 2002 and early 2003, with mobs stoning one person to death and attacking at least four others, including Governor Eric Chiwaya, based on the belief that the government was colluding with vampires. There is also a modern day community who describe themselves as vampires. They describe themselves as being fairly ordinary people who have full time jobs, are married, and have kids. While this may be surprising it certainly challenges the idea of the stereotypical vampire. They get their sustenance from inch long incisions made a by a sterilised scalpel on a fleshy part of the body that doesn’t scar, Though the vampire may suck it up directly from the source, medically trained personnel usually perform the procedure for sanitary, as well as health reasons.