Renfield: Human Vampire
or another vampire wannabe?
Over the years, the name Renfield has become attached
to human 'vampire wannabes', who consume human blood or allow theirs to be consumed
(or both), in the sad delusion that this brings them closer to being true vampires.
These people may call themselves 'sanguinarians', describing a compulsion to consume
blood for reasons that may or may not involve eroticism or emotional satisfaction.
It does not take much thought or intelligence to see the irrational nature
of this belief, and it is likely that many 'renfields' have no illusions; they
adopt the vampire culture as a way of covering for their inability to survive
as 'normal' human beings.
Others have taken to self mutilation for reasons
too sad to be explored here, and the renfield front allows them to deflect any
serious questions about their lifestyle and behaviour.
R. M. Renfield is
a character in Bram Stoker's novel Dracula.1
at Dr Seward's asylum, he is thought to suffers from delusions that eating living
creatures will transfer their their life-force himself. In fact, of course, he
is tied to Count Dracula, and has no choice but to be his servant - as it happens,
he both reveres and fears the Count, so he is usually only too happy to oblige
Psychiatrists have described a syndrome
involving the delusion of being a vampire and feeling the need for blood. This
is based on an erotic attraction to blood and the belief that it conveys certain
powers, although the manifestation in an individual may be influenced by vampire
fiction. It develops through fantasies involving sexual excitement.
have accepted this a valid diagnosis; in cases where murderers have offered it
as a defense, the more mundane finding has been premeditated murder lightly dressed
as vampirism; a failed defense.
There is no such thing as a 'human vampire'
or 'living vampire'; there are a few people who wander about in black clothes,
swap a little blood and call themselves vampires. But they are probably one or
- Self-mutilators searching for a reason2
experimenting with their bodies and their relationships3,4
grooming lonely adolescents5
- Severely mentally ill.2,3,6
people are not evil (except the paedophiles), any more than the average vampire
is evil. But they may need help, perhaps urgently. A vampire is not human, by
If it cannot be destroyed by direct sunlight, then it wasn't
a vampire in the first place - maybe it thought it was, maybe it was simply confused,
maybe it knew, really.
Whatever the detail of the
individual concerned, renfields have no more hope of achieving vampire status
than the original Renfield; if they truly believe that imbibing blood is anything
more than a high-risk alternative to spinach, then they are to be pitied,
and hopefully treated.
If they do not have such delusions, but claim to,
then they are best ignored; an insult to vampires and human beings alike.
Bram, Dracula. Doubleday & McClure, New York, 1899.
- Hemphill R.E.,
Zabow T., (1983) Clinical vampirism. A presentation of 3 cases and a re-evaluation
of Haigh, the 'acid-bath murderer'. South African Medical Journal 19, 63, 8, 278-81.
N., (2000) A psychoanalytic contribution to psychic vampirism: a case vignette.
American Journal of Psychoanalysis 60, 2, 177-86.
- Miller T.W., Veltkamp
L.J., Kraus R.F., Lane T., Heister T.,(1999) An adolescent vampire cult in rural
America: clinical issues and case study. Child Psychiatry and Human Development
29, 3, 209-19.
- Butz MR.(1993) The vampire as a metaphor for working with
childhood abuse. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.63, 3, 426-31.
P.D., DiCataldo F., (1994) Clinical vampirism: blending myth and reality. Bulletin
of the American Academy of Psychiatry Law. 22(4):533-44