A forensic biologist undertakes a detailed study of the vampire subculture.
Posted Oct 10, 2018
I recently received a copy of the limited edition of a new book about people who identify as vampires, a.k.a., vampyres. It’s called Vampyres among Us, Vol. III. Although I haven’t done much with or about the vampire community since the late-1990s (Piercing the Darkness and The Science of Vampires), I noticed the name of one of the authors: Mark Benecke, a forensic biologist. He’s given some innovative presentations at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, so I was surprised to see him publishing a book about vampires. I was also intrigued.
The vampire subculture has recently garnered some attention. I was just interviewed by a writer for the New York Times about the blood drinking community that I’d studied two decades ago. He’d found some of the people who were in my book and was planning to attend an event they are hosting. He certainly won’t see what I saw, because the enormous popularity of the vampire image during the 1990s has diminished considerably.
What I’d witnessed was a highly creative community of people who enthusiastically embraced the dangerous, immortal creatures of the night who drank blood (or energy) from those they targeted. That image has evolved. And yet, many of the comments that Benecke got for his study do reflect what I’d seen – even using the same terminology and code words. Benecke took a deep dive into statistics, though, to offer a comprehensive overview of the traits and behaviors (and fantasies) of those who claim to lust for blood.
Benecke had worked in the Chief Medical Examiner's Office in Manhattan before he became a forensic consultant and freelance expert witness. He’s also taught at some police academies and universities in countries like Germany, England, and the Philippines. He worked on the identification of the skulls of Adolf and Eva Hitler and claims to be the only forensic scientist to study Colombian serial killer and rapist Luis Garavito. Widely believed to be one of the worst killers in history, "La Bestia" admitted to murdering around 140 children and teenagers in Colombia between 1992 and 1999.
At one forensics presentation, Benecke described meeting Garavito face to face. They were talking and Garavito switched their fresh cups of coffee, lest his contain poison. He seemed unmoved by the fact that if his suspicion proved true, he’d just ensured that Benecke would die. When Benecke pointed this out, Garavito shrugged it off as a predator’s advantage.
Since Benecke has been a scientific advisor to the German skeptic organization, GWUP, this survey seems surprising. Writing with Ines Fischer, he states that he finds the vampire community credible.
The bulk of the book offers the results of responses from 100 subjects to a comprehensive, structured survey. Most are German. Benecke states that “vampirism is indeed a measurable set of characteristics, but also a fact of the social, cultural, and emotional lives of genetic people.” Those he included had to state that they regularly drank blood or experienced blood lust.
Among the data gathered were the following points:
- The proportion of female participants was 59 percent.
- The median age was 25-26 (but a number were over 30).
- 62 percent were heterosexual, with 36 percent bisexual.
- The ages at which participants first thought of themselves as vampires ranged from 5 to 45.
- Almost half rejected the idea that they are part of the BDSM scene (but they did look for "blood donors" at such gatherings or clubs).
- About 1 in 5 think of themselves as blood fetishists.
- Just short of 10 percent also identified with Satanism.
- An interest in role-playing was considered independent of the vampire community.
- 69 percent claimed to suffer from sleep disorders, the same percentage as those who say they are sensitive to light.
- Nearly three out of four believe they look young for their age.
- 83 percent believe they can successfully manipulate others for personal gain.
- Just 40 percent consider themselves to be human (and most of these despise people).
- Nearly half think vampirism is a blessing, while 17 percent view it as a curse.
- 74 percent have had the desire to attack someone to get blood – about the same percentage who believe that blood gives them an altered state of awareness, such as more sensitive vision or more acute hearing.
There’s plenty more in this book about blood rituals, relationships, and vampire experiences. The survey was extensive, showing “how multi-layered” this German vampire society is. The authors even provide a brief glossary for those who want to adopt the language.
I imagine I’ll see this study presented at the next AAFS meeting.
Benecke, M., & Fischer, I. (2018). Vampires among Us, Vol. III. Germany: Roterdrache.