Having taken a sabbatical, if you like, from involvement in the community of people who self-identify as “real vampires” at the end of 2010 and early 2011 I found that I was able to consider the “big picture” with something akin to detachment, with an objectivity that is elusive when you are immersed in the culture and activities. One can look back over past events and experiences and put together the accumulated knowledge and information to afford some deeper understanding of the whole matter.
I have been involved with the community, both online and off, for some 34 years in total and it is only now that I find I can look back over those years; somewhat dispassionately, and examine the events, reading, studies, interactions and experiences that have shaped my thinking and led to the writing of this article, in 2011, an article that contains my personal conclusions and strongest convictions on the matter of the modern living vampire.
I started out as a practicing Sanguinarian and this continued for around 4 years or so until I, and my contemporaries, became concerned over the rampant spread of blood-borne diseases at which time we changed our ways and found different methods of coping with satisfying, almost, our needs. I was actively involved in the offline community; actually a sub-group within the Goth community, in my old home town from around 1978 until around 1985 when I got my first “professional” job placement. It became necessary to not only change the way I looked but also, in my mind at the time, necessary for me to get back “into the coffin” so to speak. Although I kept in touch with several old friends I was inactive, in a public way, in the community from that point on. I have not been “active” in the offline community since then but I came to be involved in the online vampire community beginning around ten years ago, approximately 2001/2002.
1985 to 2001 is a long time to be “out of the scene”, indeed it is but there’s an old saying about leopards never changing their spots that covered that fairly well. In 2006 I met my wife, also a modern living vampire and in 2007 we were married… it is thought by many that two vampires cannot coexist in a relationship, they’re wrong but that’s a whole other discussion.
The key to understanding a thing is knowledge, not just of that particular thing but a wide range of general knowledge that can be brought to bear on the consideration of a particular topic. Understanding modern vampirism is not as simple as reading the latest Stephanie Meyer book or seeing the latest movie; it’s not a case of simply watching every episode of “True Blood” religiously. The more knowledge that you can use or access when considering a particular subject, and indeed knowledge of cross-disciplinary sources, the better your understanding becomes. In considering the matter of the modern living vampire I have drawn on resources as diverse as ancient historical ritual practice, basic medical knowledge and reading, extensive readings in history, sociology and psychology as well as in magic and religion. I have spent countless hours roaming the OVC and reading thoughts, opinions and reports from as many sources; both credible and not, in the matter of modern vampirism. Putting all of this reading, interaction and knowledge together has enabled me to come to conclusions, draw inferences, and develop my theories. There are, and will be, many who do not agree with my conclusions; that’s perfectly alright, I don’t expect anyone to agree with me since they probably haven’t put in the same research that I have so how would they be expected to come to the same conclusions.
There are, and always have been, many controversial and contradictory claims, statements, publications and resources available to the casual observer that makes the “big picture” seem confused and chaotic, a situation that defies explanation and seems to stand completely apart from solid reason… but does it?
The very term “Real living vampire” is, on the face of it, a contradiction in terms bordering on being oxymoronic but the elements that combine, in modern alternative thinking can be quite simply and clearly understood.
Vampires, per se, are traditionally the stuff of fantasy and myth. They are modern fantasy images that are cropping up in an endless stream of popular entertainment, in fiction books, in movies and in television. The necessary step in understanding the modern phenomena is to divorce ourselves from these time-worn definitions. The concept of the vampire as a “revenant that rises from the grave to prey on living people and consume their blood” must be put completely aside as irrelevant to the study of the modern vampire in all but name. Real Living Vampires refers to REAL people, LIVING people, whom identify with the VAMPIRE in a broad sense of being an entity that requires nourishment to be drawn from sources apart from the norms of food and water, in order to maintain their health and wellbeing. If we consider the vampire from these points of reference we can begin to make sense of some of the things we see and hear.
It is, conceivably, time for a new definition that encompasses the term vampire in a modern sense, in thinking about this, and in consultation with other members of the online community, I came up with the following:
Vampire (also: Vampyre) is a person who requires supplements of energy and/or blood; usually extracted from another source or living being, to maintain their health and wellbeing in some manner.
The Pathology of need
People who identify as Sanguinarian, or blood drinking, vampires will assert that they have a physiological need to consume blood in order to feel healthy and well. While there is no proven physiological benefit at this time to support that theory there is an indication that on some level these people cannot feel well without ingesting blood directly. There are many reports of the “beneficial effects” by individuals but this, in itself anecdotal evidence at best, begs the question, “is it a true physiological need or a psychological need?”
Is it possible that the consumption of blood is actually akin to the well documented placebo effect of medications vs. non-medications? The powerful psychological effects of “believing” that something is going to help you can often override the actual physiological effects of that thing. If, and I stress “if”, this is one of the elusive truths then the case for the existence of “vampires” is still strong. Psychopathology is a relevant and definite discipline in the understanding of the human condition and system and therefore needs to be considered most fully in any thinking about the modern “vampire”.
People who self-identify as Psychic, or Psi, vampires profess a similar need to the Sanguinarian but in their case the need is to substitute for a lack of energy that they feel within themselves. The actual physical lack of energy may well have a pathological cause underpinning it but the psychological effects of the condition, be it low blood iron, low mineral or vitamin counts etc., still equate to a strong belief in the ability to draw energy in from external sources.
No one is going to suggest that “classical literary vampires” such as the fictional Count Dracula, actually exist but the term “vampire” is not used, today, in that classical context. Today it is used to describe a belief of requirements, deficiencies and needs that transcend the experience of the non-vampiric human population.
There is a greater effort being aimed at the understanding of real human vampirism today. Studies such as the Suscitatio Enterprises LLC (http://www.suscitatio.com/) ~ Atlanta Vampire Alliance VEWR’s and AVEWR’s studies that have been ongoing for several years now, documentary presentations with self-identified “real human vampires” and several publications of non-fictional content that seek to present the matter in its modern context and practice. There are also proposed studies in the pipeline, or underway, by members of the academic world  that suggest there is a growing readiness to accept the existence of “vampirism” as measurable and reportable phenomena. As a result of these, and future efforts, perhaps, one day, we will have a clearer understanding of why people self-identify as “vampires”.
Naturally, and unfortunately, there is a large contingent of people who take the concepts to extremes. There are people who have been wheeled out onto talk-show stages lying in coffins  , people who have appeared as guests on television shows dressed in pseudo-gothic clothing openly proclaiming their vampirism and inferring a devotion to drinking blood  and others who are of the firm belief that they are 2, 3 or 400 hundred years old  . Again, profound belief is one of those things that can override rationality and common sense. It has become, and continues to be, virtually impossible to separate the truth from the fiction these days and that is why there has been no real breakthrough in convincing the ordinary, non-vampiric person, of the effect that being a vampire in this day and age can have. We also need to recognize the unfortunate instances of “vampiric crime”, crimes committed where the perpetrator either emulates the commonly expected actions of the “vampire” as in the Bensley  case; perhaps using the existence of modern vampires to attempt to excuse the otherwise inexcusable, or such as this story, “Teen’s Murder Defense: I am a Vampire. And a Werewolf”  , which may be no more than a blatant try for their own “15 minutes of fame”, either way, it remains a dramatically negative news headline that reflects badly on those whom self-identify as vampires.
Such approaches, once finding popular favour, also explain some unhealthy social pathologies amongst those considered “normal”; for example, the common practice of “scape-goating”. Groups can be assigned characteristics of a vampire and treated, in the view of the adherents to this thought process, with rhetoric that condemns them to the realms outside of social communion. The isolationism and ostracizing of those considered different then becomes a second nature; not based upon the act of an individual but rather on a stereotypical image that is reinforced by the base theories of those held to be “experts” in such matters.
Without doubt the vampire myth has repeatedly captured the attention, and fascination, of psychological researchers but in a clinical and sociological way only. There appears to have been no serious attempt made to determine whether or not the psychology behind vampirism actually benefits those whom apply it. Moreover, the widespread image of the vampire in human culture has led some psychologists to label the vampire an “archetype” – an intra-psychic psychological structure grounded in the collective unconsciousness.
“In itself,” Carl Jung explains, “an archetype is neither good nor evil. It is morally neutral, like the gods of antiquity, and becomes good or evil only by contact with the conscious mind, or else a paradoxical mixture of both.”
The base assertion of Jung was that the vampire image could be understood as an expression of that which he named the “shadow” ~ those aspects of the self that the conscious ego was unable to recognize. Some aspects of the shadow were positive but usually the shadow contained repressed wishes, anti-social impulses, morally questionable motives, childish fantasies of a grandiose nature, and other traits considered shameful. The vampire could be seen as a projection of that aspect of the personality, which according to the conscious mind should be dead but lived. In this way Jung interpreted the vampire as an unconscious complex that could gain control over the psyche, taking over the conscious mind like an enchantment or spell.
If then, by association, the word vampire is always linked to heinous activities or abnormal psychological processes, then anyone self-identifying themselves as such becomes, rightly or wrongly, “guilty by association”. Furthermore, attempts to ascribe characteristics to the vampiric that fall outside of these societal associations are, unfortunately, doomed to failure. Given this then perhaps it is time for the “vampire” to be returned to the realms of fiction and mythology from whence it came. Perhaps it is high time that the word “vampire” was dropped from the community vocabulary in favour of something less evocative. The days when we can afford to think of the word vampire as lending some air of mystery, glamour or romance to the reality of the situation of real living vampires is long gone and persisting with the identification will lead nowhere positive no matter how much explaining, writing, scientific respectability or discussion is poured into the matter. The harsh reality of the matter is that if you say, “I am a real living vampire”, in the eyes of society you are a “crackpot”, or worse and that is not going to change any time soon.
The event in a vampire’s life commonly referred to as the “awakening” is probably one of the most integral parts of the life progress of the modern vampire. The variety of reports that accompany the asking of the question, “When did you awaken and what did you experience?” lead us into a huge arena of anecdotal evidences where there is no supporting medical or scientific fact or observation available. The only answers we have are the answers supplied by the individuals concerned. In the main these “awakenings” do not seem to share many characteristics if any, different people experience different things that seem to lead, inevitably to the same conclusion. It is for this very reason that the “awakening” can’t be likened to other changes in the body, such as puberty for example. We know, from irrefutable medical evidence and observations that during puberty there are physical and metabolic changes to the body. Changes in hormone levels, appearance and musculature. The same cannot be said of the “awakening”. We have zero proof that anything physiological occurs and thus we can only infer that it changes the way we think, i.e. it is a psychological change, or realization. Thus, I would suggest, the so-called “awakening” is simply a point in time where modern vampires become able to fully recognize, understand and integrate with their true nature which, in itself, is a natural condition that has been with them from birth.
Within this framework we can also begin to consider the question of “Turning”, to use the most common phrase. “Turning”, or making a non-vampire person into a vampire-person, is something that the majority of the modern community scoff at, and why not? We know that the classical-literary/movie vampire is a figment of the imagination. No one is going to bite you and make you into a vampire. There is absolutely no indication that receiving a blood transfusion from, or ingesting the blood of, someone who claims to be a vampire will make you into anything except a person who has tasted blood or had a medical procedure. An argument has been put up that after certain, prolonged, periods of exposure to a vampire partner the non-vampire partner may begin to exhibit traits and mannerisms of a vampire-like nature. This, again, is most likely grounded in the psychological. In a desire to imitate or emulate a person that you admire or love, someone that you may have a strong desire to impress or please. This psychological influence, coming from a person who is at once both charismatic and possibly dominating to some degree can be likened instead to the effect a cult leader has on the followers of that cult. A psychological change is effected in those being lead, not a physiological change. The longer a person thinks and believes something the more the thought becomes the norm for that person until, eventually, the new thought replaces any previous thinking ~ a truism that has been borne out many times in stories of people who have come under cult influences.
In the preface to his book “Vampires Today: The truth about modern vampirism” author Joseph Laycock writes:
“Vampires arrive at their identities through two collective entities that are here termed “the vampire milieu” and “the vampire community.” The vampire milieu is the sum total of ideas about vampires, real or fictional, that can be found throughout public discourse. The vampire community is an identity group consisting of the sum total of vampire institutions and social networks.” 
I would suggest that rather than “arriving at their identity” by virtue of the vampire milieu and the vampire community that modern living vampires arrive at their “identity” at the time of “awakening”, at the time when the person who feels, and has felt, different comes to the realization of why they feel so. It is following this point that modern vampires become immersed in the milieu and the community. I would go so far as to suggest that in the scenario proposed by Laycock, the people who arrive at their “identity” in the manner he describes are not real, living modern vampires at all, they are simply developing an alter-ego based on available information. This, again, is a purely psychological construct rather than a physiological condition.
Copyright RVL 2011, 2013
1. ISU Assistant Professor of Social Work D.J. Williams vampire study ((http://www.journalnet.com/news/local/article_c6f48666-24b0-11e0-9012-001cc4c002e0.html)
2. A vampire on the Jerry Springer Show
3. Don Henrie on the Tyra Banks Show
4. Shane Chartres-Abbott
5. Life Emulates Art When Texas Teen Vampire Attacks Woman to ‘Feed’
6. “Teen’s Murder Defense: I am a Vampire. And a Werewolf” by Benjamin Radford @ livescience.com (http://www.livescience.com/16332-teen-vampire-werewolf-murder.html )
7. “Vampires today: The truth about modern vampirism.” Joseph Laycock. 2009, Praeger Publishers, Westport, CT.
Jung’s archetypes and their literary applications.
Archetype – Wikipedia
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