Fans of Twilight, Dracula and Blade may be interested to know that there are real life vampires. Strange as it may sound, there are people who drink blood. However, these vampires are nothing like legend and defy all the rules and conventions of literature. Before you get out your wooden stake, you should separate fact from fiction with regard to the vampires next door.
Real life vampires can be separated into three categories: Lifestyle vampires, historical vampires and the clinically insane.
The Vampire Lifestyle
An offshoot of the gothic subculture, the vampire lifestylist takes her interest in vampirism to the next level. There is also an overlap with the fetish and sadomasochism subculture. These real life vampires are separated into two different groups:
- Sanguinarians: These are people who literally drink human blood. This can be part of a sexual fetish or just a lifestyle choice. Remember that these vampires are quite human. Further, they generally seek willing donors for their blood-consuming activities. This lifestyle comes with a number of health risks due to blood-borne diseases. These vampires congregate in clubs and chat rooms.
- Psychic Vampires: This subculture doesn't drink blood for sustenance or sexual excitement. Rather, they claim to feed on the life energies of others, such as the prana or aura of mysticism. One group of psychic vampires is known as the Order of the Vampire and is under the jurisdiction of the Temple of Set. Another organization is the Temple of the Vampire.
While there is no definitive documentation of the vampires of legend as near-immortal creatures that required blood for sustenance, there are historical personages upon which vampire legends are based.
- Vlad the Impaler: Perhaps the most famous historical vampire is Vlad the Impaler, the source of the Bram Stoker novel Dracula and countless films. Vlad was a Romanian prince and Voivode (Slavic title for military commander) who resisted Ottoman (Turkish empire) influence in southeastern Europe. He was known for impaling his victims on large stakes. Legend has it that he sometimes consumed the blood of his victims.
- Elizabeth Bathory: Elizabeth Bathory is another historical character who provides a basis for vampires in legend and literature. This Hungarian countess believed that she could maintain eternal youth by bathing in the blood of virgins, and she was involved in the murders of countless young girls. She was put on trial and walled off in an isolated part of her own castle. She has been the subject of dozens of novels, films and songs, including a Hammer Films (British film company) feature Countess Dracula and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Venom's "Countess Bathory".
Some people choose to become vampires as a part of their subcultural interests. Others are driven there by mental illness. Clearly, there appears to be an overlap between historical vampires and insanity. However, clinical vampirism is a distinct disorder also known as Renfield's syndrome, named after the character in the novel Dracula. The sufferers are generally male, with onset occurring sometime after puberty. The disorder typically begins with the person drinking his own blood, and then moving on to others who are not necessarily willing donors. The serial killers Peter Kürten and Richard Chase are well-known examples of people suffering from clinical vampirism.
Real Life Vampires
Vampires can be very real, even though they differ significantly from those creatures of legend or in your favorite books, comics or movies. Unlike their fictional counterparts, real vampires are not undead creatures that must hide from sunlight. Other than the clinical vampire, real vampires aren't out stalking human prey; they hold down jobs, have homes and even raise families.