Are Vampires Real?

Vampire
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The enormous interest in these creatures prompts the question: Are vampires real?

Interest in the vampire mythos is at an all-time high. The recent enthusiasm for this blood-sucking immortal began perhaps with the highly popular Anne Rice novel, Interview with the Vampire published in 1976, and which she followed up with several more books about the vampire world she created. Movies and television capitalized on this popularity with such offerings as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Lost Boys, Francis Ford Coppola's film version of Dracula, Underworld, and the Tom Cruise-Brad Pitt film adaptation of Interview with the Vampire.

The genre is more popular than ever thanks to TV's True Blood and Vampire Diaries, and especially the enormous success of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series of novels, which also are getting the Hollywood treatment.

When a phenomenon like this creeps into our mass consciousness - you can barely turn around without bumping into vampire-related media - some people begin to think it's real. Or they want it to be real because they so enjoy the fantasy. So what about it? Are there real vampires?

The Supernatural Vampire

The question of whether vampires are real or not depends on the definition. If by vampire we mean the supernatural creature who is practically immortal, has fangs through which he or she can suck blood, has an aversion to sunlight, can shapeshift into other creatures, fears garlic and crosses, and can even fly... then we have to say no, such a creature does not exist. At least there's no good evidence that it exists.

Such a creature is a fabrication of novels, TV shows, and movies.

If we dispense with the supernatural attributes, however, there are people who call themselves vampires of one kind or another.

Lifestyle Vampires

Largely due to the influence of vampires in the media, there is now a subculture of vampirism, the members of which seek to mimic the lifestyle of their fictional heroes (or antiheroes).

There is some overlap with the Goth community, both of which seem to seek empowerment in the dark, mysterious side of things. The lifestyle vampires typically dress in black and other accouterments of the "vampire aesthetic" and favor a goth music genre. According to one website, these lifestylers take this on "not just as something to do at clubs, but as part of their total lifestyle, and who form alternative extended families modeled on the covens, clans, etc. found in some vampire fiction and role-playing games."

Lifestyle vampires make no claims of supernatural powers. And it would be unfair to dismiss them as people who just like to play at Halloween year-round. They take their lifestyle quite seriously as it fulfills for them some inner, even spiritual need.

SANGUINE VAMPIRES

The sanguine (meaning bloody or blood-red) vampires may belong to the lifestyle groups mentioned above but take the fantasy one step further by actually drinking human blood. They typically will not drink a glass of the stuff as one would a glass of wine, for example, but usually will add a few drops to some other liquid for drinking. On occasion, a sanguine vampire will feed directly from a volunteer or "donor" by making a small cut and sucking up a small trickle of blood.

Some of these sanguine vampires claim an actual need to ingest human blood. The human body does not digest blood very well, and there seems to be no physiological condition that would account for such a need. If the craving is present, then, it is almost certainly psychological in nature or simply a choice.

Psychic Vampires

Psychic vampires, some of whom might also adopt the vampire lifestyle described above, claim that they have a need to feed off the energy of other people. According to The Psychic Vampire Resource and Support Pages, pranic vampires, as they are sometimes called, are people "who by reason of a condition of their spirit, need to obtain vital energy from outside sources. They are unable to generate their own energy, and often times don't have the best capacity to store the energy they do have." The website even has a section of psychic "feeding techniques."

Again, in the spirit of "keeping it real," we have to question whether this is a genuine phenomenon. By the same token, we've all been around people who seem to drain the energy from a room when they enter, and they get off on it. It could be argued that the effect is strictly psychological... but then that's why they call it psychic vampirism.

The Psychopathic Vampire

If drinking human blood qualifies one as being a vampire, then several serial killers deserve the label. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Peter Kürten, known as "The Vampire of Düsseldorf," committed as many as nine murders and seven attempted murders. He achieved sexual arousal with the sight of his victims' blood and was said to have even ingested it. Richard Trenton Chase was dubbed "The Vampire of Sacramento" after he murdered six people and drank their blood.

Obviously, these "vampires" are criminally insane. Ironically, however, their murderous compulsions and ghoulish practices make them more like the demonic vampires of literary tradition than the other "vampires" described here.

CALLING ALL VAMPIRES

So, are vampires real? For supernatural beings like Nosferatu, Dracula, Lestat and Twilight's Edward Cullen, we'd have to say no. But the lifestyle, sanguine, psychic and psychopathic vampires certainly are out there.