The arrest of a 19-year-old Texas man claiming to be a 500-year-old vampire from hell has raised chilling questions about pop culture's influence on human behavior.
Lyle Monroe Bensley is being held in Galveston County Jail after allegedly breaking into a woman's apartment and biting her on the neck, police said. The woman, whose name has not been released, broke free and fled the apartment, speeding to safety in a neighbor's car early Saturday.
When police arrived on the scene, they found Bensley, wearing only boxer shorts, hissing and growling in the parking lot. He quickly scaled two fences before he was captured, yelling all the while that he "didn't want to have to feed on humans," Capt. Jeff Heyse of the Galveston County Police Department told ABCNews.com.
"I've dealt with some really strange people," said Heyse. "You know, guys who think they're Jesus and that. But I've never seen anything like this."
Even in jail, Bensley warned guards to restrain him for their own protection, gnashing his teeth with a "need to feed," police said. It's unclear whether Bensley was intoxicated or on drugs at the time of the attack, but police said a psychiatric evaluation is pending.
Bensley's alleged vampire-inspired attack and apparent lament for his superhuman needs brings to mind movies from the "Twilight" Saga and the HBO series "True Blood," both of which have a devoted following. That culture, some experts said, could serve as inspiration for people who suffer from mental illness.
"The content of a psychotic episode very often draws from the real world," said Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health. "Vampires are very prominent in our society right now from a pop culture standpoint. And that information can feed into hallucinations."
Hallucinations -- multisensory experiences not based in reality -- can stem from substance abuse, mania brought on by bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. And vampires, Klapow said, are good fodder.
"If you look at the content of these sorts of hallucinations, even though the characters are slightly different, the themes tend to be similar," he said, describing the commonly reported illusions of being a powerful religious figure, like Jesus, or a supernatural being. "The richer the content, the more prevalent it is, and the more nuances there are to it, the easier it becomes to run with."
For the victim of the alleged attack who, after hearing a noise in her apartment, was punched in her bed, dragged into a hallway, pinned against a wall and bitten, the ordeal was horrific. She had never met Bensley and didn't know why he attacked her, police said.
Bensley was charged with burglary with intent to commit assault. His bond is set at $40,000.