Table of contents
II. Factors Bearing on the Problem
Vampire Cults have been an issue in the United States for well over a decade. These cults have similar structures to that of other present-day cults and pose a hazard to society. With the rising popularity of supernatural beings in the media, dangerous fanatics have also risen in numbers over the years. Yet, occult crime scenes are not as understood or thought of as an internal threat.
II. Factors Bearing on the Problem
Vampire cults develop quickly, and are fueled by fanaticism and mental illness. When faced with vampire cults crime scene investigators working in local departments are ill equipped to handle investigations of occult crimes.
- Vampire fanaticism and Cult TV: This factor will explore how fanaticism has increased over the years in association with media vampires and supernatural creatures to such an extensive number within Western culture.
- Clinical vampirism in relation to Mental Illness: Individuals today who are diagnosed with auto-vampirism are more likely to also be diagnosed with schizophrenia and/or psychopathy as well. There is a link between specific mental illnesses and auto-vampirism that are further explored and how they can lead to clinical vampirism or Renfield’s syndrome.
- Vampire cults and Occult crimes: What occult crimes are will be defined and examined within this section. There will also be an in depth look into how vampire cults are formed as well as the threats which they pose to society as a whole.
- Gothic Criminology: Gothic criminology is a criminological theory which focuses on the primordial origins of deviant behavior as it pertains to todays’ occult or ritualistic crimes. How to better understand and work a forensic occult crimes scene will be explored.
It is assumed that if more crime scene investigators are taught gothic criminology there would be more of an understanding of occult crimes today.
The new millennium has become a visceral hunting ground for things that go bump in the night (Pate, 2010). Zombie novels have not only risen to the New York Times bestseller list, werewolves and mummies have also been recreated again to retell the age-old story of good vs. evil. Even infamous slashers of the past like Michael Myers have been resurrected in all their glory to terrorize the newer generation Z. But, not a single one of those monsters can hold a candle to that of Vampires (Pate, 2010). Vampires first appeared in folklore based on sexual taboos. They were meant to be warnings to others to cast away one's own sexual desires as well as a way to transcend death. This gave vampires both a sexual and spiritual significance within the known lore today. Vampires were thought to be the physical embodiment of death; minor Gods who controlled the cycle of both life and death within the folklore pantheon (Pate, 2010).
This is why vampires have invaded popular literature since the end of the eighteenth century, though, vampire folklore can be found worldwide throughout different cultures (Lin & Tan, 2018). Out of all the literary monsters’, vampires have gained the most popularity throughout the ages. Images in early texts and literature portray vampires as powerful beastly savages who preyed on human beings with no morals or conscience. Much like with Dracula, his affliction being stated in the novel as a curse versus a gift; they are literary creatures who were far from humankind’s sphere of consciousness. These early literature interpretations of vampires provoked disgust in its readers. With a focus on the perspective of a vampire being undead and that these creatures would forsake any beauty or pleasure, instead focusing on the ideology of what evil would look like in the badly placed guise of a human (Lin & Tan, 2018).
Due to this, the majority of the reading public would visualize a parasite or reptile when envisioning a vampire and almost no one related to it or had pity towards the undead creature (Lin & Tan, 2018). Those who pitied the literary monster for the torture or pain inflicted on them would be sympathetic, not because of what the creatures are, but because of their denial of what they were. All this changed, however, with Anne Rice’s book Interview with the Vampire in 1976 (Lin & Tan, 2018). Interview with the Vampire gave the perspective of the vampire, which in turn showed the struggle of an immortal being fighting with his mortal memories. The idea that vampires could be beautiful creatures which indulged in all of life’s pleasures with little to no consequences appealed to many audiences. So much so that it has had an undeniable impact on our culture today (Lin & Tan, 2018).
This impact was greatly seen through the multiple visual media adaptations of stories as well as television shows of vampires which created popular culture (Amy-Chin & Williamson, 2005). Cultural theory focuses on the heuristic concept or the ability of one to find a medium within a culture without outside influences (Amy-Chin & Williamson, 2005). Media that creates large fan bases and cult following fall under the cultural theorists’ quantifiable data and one of the media influences that have had the greatest impact and cult followings is that of Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer show. Buffy showed a different side of vampires to that of most literary creatures of darkness. The vampires in the show were sympathetic while still maintaining the erotic repulsion and attraction of their literary counterparts (Amy-Chin & Williamson, 2005). Though vampires are not real they represent several relatable issues that go to the heart of what it meant to be human (Colmenares, 2013). The duality of their ontology of being both alive and dead fascinated and captured their audience (Amy-Chin & Williamson, 2005). This blurred the boundaries of what made a monster and what made a man; raising an ambiguous new vampire within American culture with a very relatable Manichean struggle (Amy-Chin & Williamson, 2005).
Due to this very sympathetic view public pedagogy or the educational push in popular media has been leaning more toward cult television than ever before (Wright & Sandlin, 2009). Cultural studies have proven that popular culture has a tremendous effect on individual belief systems. This is due to the pleasure derived from the created cultural identity which is received through the manufacturing and consumption of popular culture. Scholars have opined that popular culture is so effective in changing belief systems that it resembles an ideological machine that creates what is known as the dominant ideology (Wright & Sandlin, 2009). A part of that dominant ideology today is vampires (Pate, 2010). Today vampire merchandise can be found everywhere from books to t-shirts, lunchboxes and decorative movie posters all having to do with different media influences (Pate, 2010).
Fanatics of vampires follow vampiric based religions, rituals and lifestyles that have formed from these media influences (Lin & Tan, 2018). This quasi-religious phenomenon has two types of followers which include those who focus on the aesthetic or the superficial aspect, and those who engage in acts that vampires would such as blood-drinking whose practice is more complex than those who enjoy the aesthetic. Those who are part of vampire communities are drawn to the ideology which embodies immortality and a life full of pleasures (Lin & Tan, 2018). This gothic fascination is what draws fanatics in (Colmenares, 2013). It is not about the sexual representations or violence, for the most part, instead, it is about the inevitability of death (Pate, 2010). For vampire fanatics, pretending to be immortal justifies the very human awe and fear that death represents in a culture which shrugs such emotions off and sees the fear of death as childish and irrational. There is a focus on being alive, transcending death versus dying. To become the ultimate self who can at times, lead to sacrificing one’s morals (Pate, 2010).
Though the symptoms of clinical vampirism are psychiatric and neurological in nature the etiology of clinical vampirism has yet to be discovered (Olry & Haines, 2011). The aptly named Renfield’s syndrome was coined in 1992 by Philadelphia psychologist Richard Noll. The name was based on one of the characters from Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula. Renfield is a character who suffered from auto-vampirism and zoophagia himself (Olry & Haines, 2011). Traditional psychiatric explanations of clinical vampirism especially the inclination to bite someone are rooted in Freudian theory (Williams, 2017). Though, it wasn’t until the 1980s that Herschel Prins developed the idea of clinical vampirism (Olry & Haines, 2011). Prins hypothesized that a pivotal event takes place to develop these abnormal changes. Scholars believe that an event occurs in childhood which causes the individual to find bleeding or the taste of blood to be stimulating (Olry & Haines, 2011).
After that, the individual experiences puberty, the same stimulation at the sight of blood or drinking blood is then associated with sexual arousal (Olry & Haines, 2011). Due to this development, the compulsion to drink blood is then tied to a sexual component. Blood will be perceived by individuals who are developing clinical vampirism as a symbol of life and power. After drinking blood, individuals with this disease have stated that they feel empowered and better than they had before. It is important to note that most whom have been diagnosed with clinical vampirism are usually males. The defining characteristics of Renfield’s syndrome are distinguished as a blood-drinking compulsion whereas necrophilia and necrophagia are not considered part of this disorder (Olry & Haines, 2011).
The development of Renfield’s syndrome follows three specific stages which include auto-vampirism, zoophagia, and vampirism (Olry & Haines, 2011). Auto-vampirism is usually developed before either zoophagia or vampirism. It starts in childhood with self-harm to produce small cuts to ingest blood; then persons afflicted with this disease will learn how to open veins and arteries so that there can be a steady stream of blood to ingest from which can be kept in jars or containers for later consumption as well. Along with self-harm and ingestion of one’s own blood, masturbation is also linked to this disorder; usually, it follows the drinking of blood (Olry & Haines, 2011). Zoophagia or drinking the blood of living animals follows auto-vampirism. It may precede auto-vampirism but it is unlikely to occur in that order. Individuals afflicted with Renfield’s syndrome will capture cats, dogs, insects, and birds to consume. These individuals may even obtain the blood of other species of animals in slaughterhouses for consumption. Sexual activities such as masturbation may follow the ingestion of blood but not necessarily (Olry & Haines, 2011).
Vampirism is the final stage of Renfield’s syndrome (Olry & Haines, 2011). This stage is when a person afflicted with Renfield’s syndrome drink blood from other human beings. This is done usually by stealing or taking the blood by force; laboratories, blood banks, and hospitals are frequently the victims of theft. The truly horrifying crime, however, is when the mentally ill person/s decides to drink directly from other human beings. Occasionally this can be consensual but it typically leads to nonlethal violent crimes. Within the scope of characterizing crimes committed by those afflicted with clinical vampirism, it has been opinion by scholars that in the lust-murder type cases the sexual activity is generally never consensual similar to the blood-drinking (Olry & Haines, 2011). Due to the consumption of human blood vampirism is listed as a subtype of necrophilia specifically under the ICD 10 as other disorders of sexual preference (Jensen & Poulsen, 2002). There are certain features that this disease seems to present. Most individuals with auto-vampirism are also usually diagnosed with schizophrenia or other schizophrenic disorders; this includes severe psychopathy, mental retardation, depersonalization, discrete thought disorders, split identity, and hysteria. The patients more often than not have a morbid obsession with death as well, specifically a fear of death, which can present as psychotic symptoms (Jensen & Poulsen, 2002).
There seems to be a very real palpable fear of dying if a patient cannot drink blood, even their own blood which is what causes delusions of depersonalization in most cases (Jensen & Poulsen, 2002). Patients would show somatic delusions when it came to blood consumption. This is when the depersonalization in patients diagnosed with schizophrenia who drink their blood will not see the blood as theirs; it is just something that they see as a need so they do not disappear. Within the patient’s psychotic universe the act of drinking blood is as necessary as breathing. Auto-vampirism is categorized by clinicians as both auditory hallucinations as well as bizarre delusions. Patients will at times hear voices telling them to drink their own blood while in the auto-vampirism stage for example (Jensen & Poulsen, 2002).
Though few reports have been published having to do with vampirism there have been several cases of cannibalistic and vampiric symptoms specifically in paranoid schizophrenic patients (Jensen & Poulsen, 2002). The cases in which these patients were studied they tended to present with manipulatory behavior and a lack of any accountability. The patients would continuously make threats that they would self-harm and were clearly emotionally unstable. Though it is highly unlikely that a patient with schizophrenia would also have a personality disorder, studies have shown that is not necessarily the case. Although it is rare to have both it seems that the occurrence of auto-vampirism and vampirism are sometimes not reported by patients due to the socio-dystonia of the acts themselves. Being that auto-vampirism and vampirism are both psychotic disorders, it is no wonder that some patients will not confess to exhuming corpses or killing to fulfill the need to drink blood (Jensen & Poulsen, 2002).
Cults have existed throughout history and are more often than not stigmatized by the majority of culture; yet today’s cults have somehow become tomorrow's culture within Western society (MacHovec, 1992). Cults can be defined as groups that exist on the border of both religion and psychotherapy (Schwartz & Kaslow, 2001); typically they share similar characteristics which include an exclusive group that has separated themselves from society, a charismatic leader, having deviant behavioral differences from societal standards, and isolation from family, friends, school or work (MacHovec, 1992). This may seem frightening to some and it very well can be; yet, if groups such as the Hassidic Jews, Gnostic Christians, Zen Buddhists, and Sufi Moslems are examined a connection then between many of those specifications listed and these groups will form. This is why many scholars believe cults to be the new religious movements (MacHovec, 1992).
But, unlike with the prior religious groups mentioned cults have increased as a danger to society (MacHovec, 1992); there have been modifications in both cults target populations as well as an increase in violence in recent years (Schwartz & Kaslow, 2001). Police officers, clinicians, psychologists, and social workers; all experts throughout the criminal justice field today have warned the public about the dangers of cults (MacHovec, 1992). Some of these experts have even suggested that there may be an underground network of cultists who kidnap, torture, terrorize, abuse drugs, produce snuff films, and kill. Due to the numerous investigations into cult activities based on this fear, cults have been shown to cause the most potential psychological harm than that of other criminal organizations. There have been several cases of reported ritual violence that occurs within cults typically involving youths. This is because youths more often than not volunteer or are recruited easily because of their willingness to partake in cult activities (MacHovec, 1992).
Adolescents are within a transitioning stage in life where they have a stronger need to feel they belong as well as be accepted by their peers more so than their elders (MacHovec, 1992). The horror of solitude can be so strong that it can drive young adults to escape from freedom itself. This entails changing a person’s own beliefs, however absurd, to that of one that will allow them to feel they belong. Focusing on the occult can then provide an escape from a reality that they may view as painful. Performing rituals while in costume satisfies the structural need for acceptance by peers and committing crimes gives a way for youths to strike back at authorities whom they feel have wronged them (MacHovec, 1992).
When viewing the cult phenomenon it seems that some characteristics have stayed the same while others have changed; much like how groups which once had more adolescent recruits are now more careful to recruit more legal adults than under aged juveniles, who, even though they are easier to manipulate, are also an at-risk group to recruit (Schwartz & Kaslow, 2001). The majority of cult members today range between eighteen and twenty-five years of age when recruited (MacHovec, 1992). These individuals usually follow the pattern of someone who is lost. The adult is usually from a dysfunctional family or a bright idealist looking for a simple solution to their problems. They seek to satisfy the need for acceptance, a quest for meaning, support, belonging and sharing in a larger movement or higher ideal. As it pertains to deeper levels of consciousness these adults may very well believe in demons, monsters, extraterrestrials, and Unidentified Flying Objects. Adults and youths are both predisposed to cult-like behavior by cultural, political, and social factors surrounding these imagined beings. These fantasies can take root much like Santa Claus in the mind of children. It is their fascination with symbolism, myth, and fantasy that keeps them within their particular occult ideology (MacHovec, 1992).
Occult ideology includes many factors such as group social cohesiveness, altered consciousness, and shared belief (MacHovec, 1992). Group social cohesiveness can be seen as a way that security and safety are provided to the group. It can also be a tool used to shape the thinking and behavior of members within the group. Altered consciousness occurs frequently through meditation, chanting, and prayer. It is some type of ritualistic behavior that is repeated. This is what forms the shared belief. More often than not it is a shared ideology amongst group members (MacHovec, 1992). These practices of ideology include harsh punishment for those who question rules, strict obedience of the leader or those in leadership positions, and sexual abuse or illicit sexual activities (Schwartz & Kaslow, 2001). Cult unorthodox beliefs are also considered a contributing factor to mental disorders (MacHovec, 1992). Research has shown that cult members are more likely to have an anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, and personality disorder. In extreme cases, these disorders can lead to violence. Ideology such as vampirism, then, becomes all-consuming (MacHovec, 1992).
Vampirism or individuals who are part of vampire cults represent a variety of occupations, ages, education levels, gender identities, and religious beliefs (Williams, 2017). Self-identified vampirism is typically associated with psychopathy, occult religious belief systems, Satanism, and schizophrenia. These vampire cults have an elevated risk for potential violence and are more likely to be involved in violent crimes and ritualistic violence than other cults. Some members may be fans of vampires, blood fetishists, or may just relate to what they see as a vampire persona. A vampire persona is defined as the darker aspects of oneself. They may also enjoy the aesthetic such as sleeping in a coffin or wearing false teeth to make their canines seem longer (Williams, 2017).
Those who are not just into ‘pretending to be a vampire’ distinguish themselves from others by using the term ‘real vampire’ which typically indicates that they ingest blood (Williams, 2017). Clinical vampirism was coined in the 1980s to bring together forensic science and psychology as a way to explore violent crimes that had underlying sexual motivations. Vampirism can be seen as part of an occult religion which has been linked to sadistic occult crimes. There have been several cases in which self-identified real vampires will ingest blood to absorb what they call energy from willing donors. These individuals see themselves as afflicted with a chronic condition that is characterized by the inability to sustain energy, though it is not to be mistaken with anemia and porphyria (Williams, 2017). Blood-drinking is also considered a rite of passage for members of vampire cults as it can create groups through acceptance of shared perverse activities (Miller & Veltkamp & Kraus & Lane & Heister, 1999).
Premeditated vampiric rituals are habitually practiced by self-identified vampire groups and can be extremely violent in nature (Williams, 2017). Vampire cult activities are associated with the murders of both humans and animals (Miller et al., 1999). Large animals are common targets; more than likely they will have lacerations on their throat and be completely drained of blood (Ellis, 1993). Grave robbing is also as common as remains of the dead are at times used in vampiric rituals (Ellis, 1993). Rituals typically include sacrifice, bloodletting, drugs, and group sex; these rituals which are also thought of as games progress through stages from petty crimes to murder (Miller et al., 1999).
One of the most significant rituals is that of crossing over (Miller et al., 1999). Crossing over is when a new member is inducted into the cult. It is a representation of the familial acceptance and what the individual crossing over may have longed for in their family such as recognition, feeling important, feeling powerful, and finding their value within a community. Before they can go through the ritual initiates are sometimes bound and locked into a tight space (Miller et al., 1999). This first step before the ritual is to isolate the new member from all others depriving them of food and sleep. This is so when they are given a reprieve of the small space and can move freely again they are grateful and feel indebted. The final step of the ritual is achieved generally through a ceremony that includes a sacrifice within a cemetery. The initiate is supposed to ingest the blood of the animal which has been killed. This ceremony then indicates that the new vampire is under the control of the leader (Miller et al., 1999). The result is American legends giving way to quasi-improvised rituals such as what some may consider a black mass (Ellis, 1993).
- Quote paper
- Yayza Muniz Sutton (Author), 2020, Vampirism, Vampire Cults and Vampire Fanaticism. A Rising Need for Gothic Criminology, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/902213