28 July 2009

Vampires: The Reality

It's finally happened. Someone has challenged us on our blog. To that unnamed guest: Thank you for raising this topic.

So, now is the time to speak about vampires: their reality and their depiction in fiction & folklore. I could fill books with this subject, but others have done this before me. So, I will pose generalities here and point you to sources for further research.

Vampires in Folklore:
In folkore "we find many kinds of 'vampires.' We might limit the discussion to a particular type of Slavic revenant...but there are similar creatures in Europe". "European scholars have commonly referred to these, and to the undead" in non-European cultures"--for example China, Indonesia, the Philippines--as 'vampires' as well. There are such creatures everywhere in the world, it seems, in a variety of disparate cultures: dead people who, having died before their time, not only refuse to remain dead but return to bring death to their friends and neighbors...They bear a surprising resemblance to the European vampire" (Barber 2).

"Many cultures...have folklore about vampires of one kind or another." It is difficult to assign a particular taxonomy for these creatures, so often they are lumped together under the term "vampire". However, in folklore "not all vampires drank blood...Some ate flesh either from the living or from the dead. Some took in a kind of spiritual essence or energy--whatever that meant. All took something from their subjects, usually not caring how they injured the subject" (Butler 43).

Though it varies by region and time period, "vampire lore proves to be, in large part, an elaborate folk-hypothesis designed to account for seemingly inexplicable events associated with death and decomposition" (Barber 3). Folkloric vampires may have been based on real individuals, although some claim that they are completely fabricated. Most importantly, "vampires in folklore were feared, hated, and hunted" (Butler 43).

Vampires in Fiction:
"The vampire of fiction," is "a figure derived from the vampires of folklore but now bearing precious little resemblance to them." When thinking of a vampire, most people envision "a tall, elegant gentleman in a black cloak." The classic example is Count Dracula. But, this individual "was not Slavic: he lived in Transylvania and was based, more or less, on Vlad Tepes, a figure in Romanian history who was a prince, not a count, ruled in Walachia, not Transylvania, and was never viewed by the local populace as a vampire." Unfortunately, we have been saddled "with a burden of false data from the fiction industry" regarding vampire lore, history, and nature(Barber 2).

"Indeed, vampire fiction is peculiar in this sense: although it is flexible in so many other ways, it depends upon the recollection and acting out of certain quite specific 'lores' for its resolution--that vampires must be invited into the house before they can enter, that they are repelled by garlic, that they cannot cross rivers, that they need their own earth to sleep on and so on. Some recent vampire fiction, of course, depends on the frustrating of the kinds of 'lore' one assumed would work against them: modern vampires can thus themselves have a disillusionary function, moving around in the daylight and not fearing crucifixes any more. The fiction now uses 'lore' as a point of reference, trading on the reader's familiarity with it--taking 'seriously', even exaggerating its use and effects" (Gelder 35).

Of course, this evolution of the fictional vampire is natural. Humans are inclined to beautify, romanticize, and adulterate the myths of old. The vampire is not the only ancient concept to befall such a fate. The mermaid of ancient myth was a vicious and meddlesome siren who drowned sailors by squeezing them into an inexorable grip and dragging them into the ocean [See Note]. Thankfully, "the vampires of folklore, novel, and film reside in an area of the imagination largely dissociated from rationality and objective, cause-effect logic" and are therefore, permitted to change with time and popular demand (Heldreth 188).

Real-'life' vampires:
Vampires are not limited to folklore and fiction. At least "27% of the US population thinks vampires live, move, breathe and suck their victims dry" (Russo 22). It is very tedious to argue the point of existence with non-believers. I refuse to do it, but I will point to some dates of interest in modern vampire history, explain "types" of vampires, and provide links to community sites.

Interesting dates:
1985 Folklorist Norine Dresser encounters "a private group of practicing vampires. Small, isolated groups are springing up around the country at this time, primarily on the East and West Coasts. The vampire community begins to develop as a distinct movement within the Gothic subculture and is especially concentrated in New York City and Los Angeles" (Belanger 261)

1992 "700 Americans claimed to be real vampires and in Los Angeles alone there were 36 registered human blood drinkers" (Russo 22)

2004 SciFi channel (now ScyFy) features Don Henrie "as one of its alternative lifestylers in the reality TV show Mad, Mad House. As a result of unprecedented cooperation among disparate groups within the community, the largest gathering to date of elders, organizers, and community leaders is planned for the annual Endless Night festival" (Belanger 263).

Types of Vampires:
"For centuries, an underground society of vampires has thrived in darkness, hidden from the public gaze and forever shrouded in secrecy" (Russo prologue). Vampires that are separate from any group or community also exist, but unaffiliated vampires are difficult to discuss. So, we will dwell on the major subcultures that survive within modern society.

"The Sanguinarium is a network of individuals, organisations and nightclubs who share a like-minded approach to the vampire aesthetic and scene, and claim: 'The goal of the Sanguinarium is to bring to life the vision of the Vampire Connection as found in Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles, which is a network of 'vampire bars' and 'safe-houses' in which vampires can be open about who they are'" (Russo 22). Pandora (Winnipeg, Canada) explains that blood drinkers were forced to "hide in fear of being locked in the asylum at the first mention of being a vampire" (Russo 28). Vampires can now emerge safely and find like-minded individuals who share their 'lifestyle'. "The vampire communities are in a way very tolerant...other scenes like the Gothic scene, the S&M scene and others can come into very close contact with the vampire community, and frequently they intermix" (Russo 25).

However, there is a rather strict (and sometimes contentious) division between blood-drinking vampires [sanguinarians] and psychic vampires. "A psychic vampire is unable to produce the energy needed to survive for themselves. This life energy, also known as pranic energy, is naturally created by the body, and so psychic vampires have to feed off others to keep their levels of pranic energy stable. Although this energy exists in its highest form in blood, psychic vampires prefer to feed from non-blood sources" (Russo 88). Katharina Katt has said: "Psychic vampires do not feed on blood for the same reason that sanguinarians do not feed on energy. Basically they can't! Psi vampires feed on energy. They have no 'blood lust' or craving for blood...Now there ARE some mixed vampires who are partly psi and partly sanguinarian, but they are usually separate" (88).

"Some view psychic vampires and blood vampires as two different races. Just as a sanguinarian vampire does not usually have psychic abilities, a psychic vampire naturally possesses psychic abilities and feeds psychically because it feels natural to do so. There are often arguments between both categories of vampires, one category believing itself to be superior over the other" (88-89). Here, I will cease my descriptions of modern vampire societies, least my own opinions taint this article. Please, visit the web sites of vampire communities and explore the sources listed below for more information.

With respect,

Links to vampire societies where you can gather your own information (alphabetical order). Links to other communities are welcome [Please post in comments, I will review for validity then post to this list].
The Atlanta Vampire Alliance: http://atlantavampirealliance.com/
Psychic Vampire Resource: http://psychicvampire.org/
Sanguinarian / Strigoi Vii: http://www.sanguinarium.net/
Silken Shadows Vampire Community: http://vampirecommunity.com/
Vampire Voices: http://www.veritasvosliberabit.com/

[Some of these books have been written by self-proclaimed vampires]
Barber, Paul. Vampires, Burial, and Death.
Belanger, Michelle A. The Psychic Vampire Codex.
Butler, Octavia E. Fledgling.
Gelder, Ken. Reading the Vampire.
Heldreth, Leonard G. The Blood is the Life.
Konstantinos. Vampires.
Russo, Arlene. Vampire Nation.

[Note: I will never address the existence of mermaids in this blog. I have no authority or education on that subject.]


  1. Years and years ago (8-11) there was an expose in, I think, the San Francisco Chronicle, about an underground society of people that called themselves (and acted like) vampires here (in SF). I remember that it was quite an interesting read for a vampire lover like myself but I cannot remember when it was printed exactly. And if I recall correctly, the writer either disappeared, or had problems or something later. Wish I could remember more about it. But might be searchable?

  2. San Francisco has an active vampire population. In general, vampires in SF are well-tolerated. I do not know of that particular article, but perhaps someone else will know.

    I only know of one instance where a vampire reporter went missing, and that was in New York (I believe it was 1996). I do not think that a definitive link between her work with vampires and her disappearance was proved. She was also struggling with personal problems at the time. Vampires are often unfortunate scapegoats for social ills. However, I would be interested in more information about the article you mention. If I ever come across it, I will let you know.

  3. you are certainly well versed in this subject. a pleasure to read.

    as to the article SyFy channel made a movie with lucy lu as the vampire that was loosely based on that story.

  4. I would like to add one other kind of vampire that most miss or simply write off completely, and that is the kind that can only feed on sexual energy. the incubus or succubus. are you familiar?

  5. Thank you Vodalok for adding your source from the SyFy channel.

    So far, we have only touched on the subject of vampires and sexual energy. In the blog article on Reproduction we mention the Empusa of Greece, which lure men to their death with sexual charm. We have also mentioned the succubus once, but only in passing.

    Thank you for your suggestion. There as so many topics we have yet to address.


  6. There is a large study currently being done on vampirism by the Atlanta Vampire Alliance in Atlanta, GA. More info can be found here. http://atlantavampirealliance.com/researchstudy.html They cover a lot of useful information and have a lot of data on real vampires.

  7. To our anonymous guest:
    Thank you for sharing this link. I've also added it in the blog post above.

  8. I've participated in said survey, its massive to say the least. at last count over 1000+ questions. you might want to check it out Ana.

  9. It's already past the deadline to participate in the VEWRS/AVEWRS (the study done by the AVA).

    Ana, don't you think you mixed up the Sanguinarium (an organisation) with sanguinarians (blood drinkers)? The Sanguinarium has strict guidelines against consuming blood... which wouldn't make it very appealing to a blood drinker.

    Just for your consideration.

  10. Hello Shar, and thank you for your comment. And, you are correct about the study's deadline.

    I think I made the distinction between the -Sanguinarium- and the sanguinarians (in general) clear with the following quote: "The Sanguinarium is a network of individuals, organisations and nightclubs who share a like-minded approach to the vampire aesthetic and scene". If you think otherwise, I will be glad to specify more directly. I do not divide sanguinarians and psi vampires until the next paragraph, but perhaps the preceding sentence is confusing. I reworded that sentence in an effort to clarify; I hope that it helps.

    I appreciate your input, Ciao.