contemporary human vampires


I haven’t yet properly read this one either, but again, it looks interesting:

“Abstract. Although stories of mythological vampires in the media (i.e., books, movies, television) have captivated audiences for years, there exist a large number of contemporary human vampires within an active underground subculture sometimes referred to as the Sanguinarium. This paper describes vastly different types of human vampires and includes an autoethnographic approach to help understand complexities of this form of deviance. Although vampirism generally is considered deviant and may be roughly divided into different types, such deviance calls into question what typically is considered “normal” in many ways. Real vampires are often perceived as psychopathological and perhaps criminal compared to normal members of society. Such perceptions and descriptions are not necessarily valid, but remain social constructions that are situated within broader cultural discourses and interpretations. Upon closer examination, many self-identified vampires and their rituals and practices can be understood as artistic, expressive, and rather normal and healthy.” (p.513)

Certainly, Williams begins with a nice, clear summary of ‘vampires’:

“For many, the word “vampire” evokes strong images and emotions. Vampire myths have been present for thousands of years in numerous cultures and geographic locations. For example, the ancient Sumerians and Assyrians believed in ekimmu and utukku vampire beings, and various vampire monsters were present in cultures throughout Europe, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Iceland, Malaysia, Scandinavia, South Africa, and the Philippines (Curran, 2005; Melton, 1999). Vampire lore was present in Ireland when Bram Stoker wrote the classic Dracula (1897) a novel that blended existing folklore with historical reports of Vlad Tepes—a particularly vicious Romanian ruler during the 1400s who tortured and impaled his enemies. Vampires have been both fascinating and frightening for a long portion of our history.

The intrigue of the vampire continues its hold on contemporary culture. Vampire movies, such as the Blade series (Amen Ra Films, 1998, 2002, 2004), The Lost Boys (Warner Bros., 1987) and Underworld (Sony Pictures, 2003, 2006) continue to thrill audiences, along with books, such as Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles (1976-2003) and television’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Warner Bros., 1997-99). A recent study of favourite movie monsters and their psychological appeal found that the vampire easily outdistanced its competitors in popularity (Fischoff, Dimopoulos, Nguyen, & Gordon, 2002/2003). According to this study, across demographics the vampire remains king of monsters. The vampire is intelligent, strong, assertive, mysterious, and seductive; yet it is also abhorrent, frightening, and repellent. It is precisely this curious mix of attributes that is responsible for its appeal. We value the positive traits of the vampire and much energy is spent in an effort to cultivate them. Yet simultaneously, beneath a well-polished socialized exterior, being human includes having various imperfections and character flaws, along with the possibility of committing atrocities under certain circumstances. Indeed, there are those who recognize and embrace this complex interplay of “the bad with the good,” that is inherent to the human condition.” (p.514)

“For some,” Williams continues, “the intrigue of the vampire moves beyond consumption of popular culture and folklore and into the realm of lifestyle, religion and subculture. There exists an active subculture of human vampires sometimes referred to as the Sanguinarium. Human vampires do not believe they are versions of undead monsters that rise from coffins after death and are repelled by crosses and garlic. Rather, they are simply human beings who strongly identify with certain characteristics of vampires; some may have religious beliefs based on interpretations about specific forms of vampires or vampirism. Over the past few decades a significant contemporary vampire subculture has developed, which can be understood as a diverse, socio-religious movement with its own distinct collective community and network of participants who share a similar belief system and lifestyle that reflect their particular conceptualization of the vampire (Keyworth, 2002). The vampire subculture may be referred to as a single entity, but there remains considerable heterogeneity therein, based on how the word vampire is perceived and applied by members. The term vampire (or vampirism) also has been used as a descriptor applied to specific individuals manifesting unusual pathology in psychiatric and criminal contexts. These externally applied designations are very different from self-identified vampires that make up the vampire subculture.” (p.515)

Picart and Greek (2003) observed that within contemporary popular culture, serial killers and vampires are our two primary monstrous figures. These constructed figures blend into each other and reflect our deepest fears and taboos, but also our most repressed fantasies and desires. Picart and Greek (2003) carefully illustrate how vampire fiction and myth have shaped our scholarly understanding of serial killing and vice versa. They wrote: [-p.520]
“The line between fact and fiction is not static or fixed—which does not mean there is no such thing as “fact,” but that “facts” are always complexly imbricated with “fiction,” just as “fiction” in order to appear authentic and narratively compelling, must possess verisimilitude, (p. 62)” (pp.519-520) “Similar to relationships of how mythology may influence understanding of psychiatric disorders,” Williams goes on, “it appears that popular leisure via consumption of cultural myths and stories greatly influence scholarly and scientific understandings of extremely violent crime, such as serial murder.” (p.520)

Williams concludes: “Mythological vampires have been significant players in the long multicultural history of human beings. Vampire monsters are able to transcend death, and are powerful, dark, intelligent, and mysterious. It may be said that human beings are also intelligent creatures, have a dark side (e.g., the shadow self), and seek power and attention. Indeed, myth and reality remain intertwined. Furthermore, consciously and subconsciously, we fear death and often struggle with thoughts of the potential finality of [-p.533] this inevitable personal event. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the mythological vampire is both human and superhuman, a villain and, simultaneously, a hero. Curiously and inconspicuously, the vampire is attractive and repulsive. It represents constructions of both “normal” and “deviant.” The vampire will always be an important part of popular culture and will continue to exert its influence on human experience.” (pp.532-533)

“Vampires remind us of the richness and diversity of human beliefs, experiences, and practices—and our common needs and fears.” (p.535)

Ref: DJ Williams (2008): Contemporary vampires and (blood‐‐red) leisure: Should we be afraid of the dark?, Leisure/Loisir, 32:2, 513-539

Reference is to: Picart, C.J., & Greek, C. (2003). The compulsion of real/reel serial killers and vampires: Toward a gothic criminology. Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 10, 39-68.


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