Real-Life Vampires: Who Are They?

For some, "vampirism" is more than a one-day affair.

ByABC News
October 31, 2008, 8:35 AM

Oct. 31, 2008— -- With their cloaks aflutter and their fangs flickering in the moonlight, thousands of vampires will take to the streets tonight.

Along with masquerading witches and warlocks, they'll knock on doors, nosh away at bite-size candy bars or guzzle a beer or two at a friend's party.

But Anshar Seraphim, 28, doesn't have any special Halloween plans and has no intention of throwing on a plastic Dracula suit.

Maybe it's because dressing like a vampire one day a year isn't anything special when it's who you believe you are for all 365 of them.

"My personal belief: Vampirism is an inexplicable part of science that we don't understand yet," Seraphim said. "I don't know if the things that cause it to exist are chemical. When we associate ourselves with the word 'vampire,' we're describing the relationship that we have with the people around us."

As fictional or mythological characters -- from Bram Stoker's count "Dracula" to Anne Rice's Louis to HBO's new cast of bewitching "True Blood" suckers -- society accepts and sometimes celebrates the vampire. But for many people, such as Seraphim, vampirism isn't just a literary genre. It's an identity and a lifestyle. Yes, blood-drinking and all.

And though it may sound incredulous, some experts say that there's a little bit of a vampire in all of us.

The Vampire Metaphor

"The vampire image is sexy because it's a trespass," said Katherine Ramsland, a forensic psychologist and author of "Science of Vampires."

"It's not just kissing, it's biting ... the vampire has the ability to make you want it, even though you're frightened of it."

Cultures all over the world, she said, in some way or another, recognize the life force-sucking character. The "vampire metaphor" most common in the United States is derived from the Romanian Dracula, she said. But in other cultures, vampires are only female or only go after children. Others emerge only after a suicide, rather than after a vampire's bite.

Despite the different ways the metaphor is manifested, certain elements undergird it, regardless of where it appears, she said.

"Whatever comes and depletes you is a vampiric image," Ramsland said. "It's not always blood. It's a human metaphor, a representation of a human dread that's both frightening and exciting."

Attracted to this powerful and sexy image, she said, legions of people around the world have formed subcultures that reflect various parts of the vampire identity.

But there is a continuum of responses to the vampire metaphor that draws in members of this subculture, she said.

For some, it's merely an outlet for creativity and having fun. For others, it seeds a belief that they need the blood or energy of another person or animal to subsist. Unfortunately, in very rare cases, she said, it gives structure to paranoia and delusion.

Regardless of how it's manifested, however, it's a very powerful metaphor, she said.

"People can participate in whatever way they want to," Ramsland said. "Some of us are more the blood drinkers or the victim or the hunter. All of us participate in the metaphor in some manner. ... It allows for so much elasticity."