It’s Halloween, you are on patrol, and the kids are out in droves. Typically you spend your time extra-patrolling to protect and serve youngsters, respond to routine dispatch calls, and arrest drunken idiots. Some new costumes this year, but a lot of the scary classics: mummies, skeletons, the zombies, Frankenstein, werewolves, witches and, of course, vampires. Later you respond to a loud party call, and Count Dracula answers the door. Just one of the many treats you are bound to encounter on this popular holiday. There is bound to be a couple bar brawls. Vampires and werewolves never get along; especially on Halloween. Hopefully no one will vandalize the cemetery this year… But what do you do tomorrow when there is no reason for someone to be impersonating a vampire, has committed a heinous crime, and insists that he “must feed” on human blood as he snarls at you bearing teeth? Everyone knows vampires aren’t real. Well, actually, that is not true… an individual with Renfield’s Syndrome, also known as clinical vampirism, truly believes he or she is a vampire.
There has been a lot of media coverage pertaining to a possible zombie apocalypse recently. However, according to myth, zombies and vampires are quite different. Although they are both monsters of the night, vampires are certainly much more attractive. Vampires feed on human blood while zombies feed on human brains. Reportedly, vampires can be killed, but zombies cannot. By the way, the difference between zombies and your run of the mill cannibals is that although they both eat human flesh, "zombies" are no longer considered human. I’m still not sure what that makes NYPD Officer Gilberto Valle (charged last week with plotting to torture women and then cook and eat their body parts). And yes, in case you were wondering, there is a mental disorder related to individuals who believe they are werewolves, it is called lycanthropy.
Self-identified vampires exist in a variety of forms. However, there is a definite distinction between “lifestyle” and “real” vampires. “Lifestyle” vampires identify with a vampire subculture. They may participate in rituals including bloodletting and consumption. However, they do not believe that they must consume blood in order to maintain their well-being. On the other hand, “real” vampires believe they have a need to feed on human blood in order to maintain their physical, mental, and spiritual health. They have a compulsion to drink blood. “Real” vampires also ascertain that they have paranormal abilities. These “real vampires” are considered to suffer from a rare mental health disorder called Renfield’s Syndrome. The disorder was named after the character Renfield in Bram Stoker's 1887 novel “Dracula”. Renfield was a mental patient who consumes flies in the belief that he will absorb their life force.
Renfield’s Syndrome (RS) AKA Clinical Vampirism
Clinical vampirism has not been officially recognized by the DSM (the bible for mental health diagnoses). This is an extremely rare disorder, and most individuals with this syndrome are male. An individual with RS has a delusion that he is indeed a vampire and believes that blood gives him certain powers. Delusions are deeply fixed beliefs, which can be either false or fanciful. These beliefs are maintained by an individual despite contradictory information or evidence. In extreme forms, delusions are symptoms of psychosis. Delusional individuals cannot clearly distinguish what is real from what is not. Schizophrenics are particularly susceptible to the development of delusions.
Clinical vampirism appears in three stages. The syndrome is described as having three stages:
- Autovampirism: the individual drinks his own blood, often by biting or cutting himself, or picking scabs
- Zoophagia: the individual eats live animals or drinks their blood
- True Vampirism: the individual solely focuses on the blood of other humans and may resort to crime to obtain the blood. The sources of blood may be stolen from blood banks or hospitals or may be direct from other people. In the most extreme cases clinical vampires may commit violent crimes including murder to feed their craving.
“True vampires” believe that blood is a life force they need and through its ingestion they will gain immortality. Additionally, individuals with Renfield’s Syndrome often associate blood with sexual excitement and fantasies. A sexual fetish for licking or drinking blood through bloodletting or biting is called hematolagnia. The disorder is typically sparked by an event in childhood in which the sufferer associates the sight or taste of blood with excitement. It is during puberty that the feelings of attraction to blood become sexual in nature.
In order for a crime to be considered a vampire crime, the drinking of blood or the desire to drink blood must be the major motive. There are four known reasons while self proclaimed vampires commit crime: the sexual pleasure derived from drinking blood; involvement in a vampire cult ritual; mental illness (Renfield’s Syndrome); or under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs (bath salts). Vampire crimes are obviously very rare, but there have been some notable cases. Take the case of Richard Case, dubbed "The Vampire of Sacramento". In 1977 Chase murdered six people in a span of one month. After shooting his victims he drank their blood and cannibalized their remains. Two years earlier he had been hospitalized after injecting rabbit and dog blood into his veins. Chase was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and committed suicide in prison. Just last year, Lyle Monroe Bensley, a 19 year-old Texas man, was arrested after breaking into a woman's apartment and biting her neck. Once in custody, he told police that he was a 500 year-old vampire who needed to be restrained because he “needed to feed” but didn't want to hurt anybody. Look at this way; vampirism represents just another in the line of duty occupational hazard for law enforcement!
So What Happens if You Drink Human Blood?
In case you need some more reasons why drinking blood is not good a good idea…
First of all, if you drink the blood of a person who is infected with HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or other blood borne diseases you will be at significant risk for acquiring the same. And while a “little taste” of blood won’t hurt you, heavy consumption can lead to heart disease, liver failure, and even cancer. Blood is rich in iron, and in high doses is toxic. Untreated hemochromatos (iron overload) can be fatal. Chances are pretty high that you will not achieve immortality by drinking anyone’s blood (or eating anyone’s organs).
So back to the first question, what do you do with a vampire. Obviously, protecting yourself, the public, and the purported vampire from harm, injury or death is your primary responsibility. You are not going to be able to convince a delusional vampire of anything. Don’t even try; you will probably just agitate him/her further, potentially escalate the situation, and increase the risk for violence. Nobody wants to deal with an aggressive vampire! Contrary to vampiric folklore, clinical vampires do respond to pepper spray, tasers, and “lead” bullets. There is absolutely no need for your department to supply you with wooden stakes, silver bullets, holy water, mirrors, or garlic as part of your protective gear. I am not sure if spit socks are of any use or not. There are certainly some vampires who need emergency medical treatment. Others will fare just fine in jail or prison, but should perhaps be housed alone.
Trick or Treat?