Vampires have captured the public’s imagination, evolving from horrifying living corpses to elegant romanticized creatures that haunt modern literature. Yet vampires don’t exist in just folk stories and the romance section of the book store. Throughout history, real people have been called vampires, from ancient kings and countesses, to modern day serial killers.
King of Vampires
Everyone knows about Vlad Tepes III, though you might not know him as that. Better known as Vlad Dracula or Vlad the Impaler, Vlad was the king of Walachia, where modern day Romania now is. As a young boy, Vlad was held prisoner in the Turkish empire to make sure his father complied with their rule. When his father eventually passed away, Vlad was released and he made his way back to his kingdom and throne. While it took him a couple years to gain the kingdom back from the Turks, eventually he was able to claim his rightful spot as king. The first thing he did upon becoming king was to invite to surrounding nobility to a feat. Normally this would be a happy time to enjoy dining with the new monarch, but Vlad believed that many of the nobility had betrayed his father to the Turks. He culminated the feast by seizing all the attending nobles, impaling the old and infirmed on stakes, and enslaving the young and stronger ones to build his castles. And this was just the start of his bloody reign.
In a reign filled with war and strife, Vlad sent his armies against the Saxons and the Turks, rumors of his cruelty spreading across Europe. While he executed many people, soldier and civilian alike, his favorite method of execution was impaling his victims on a large wooden stake. One record from the Turkish army records just how cruel Vlad could be. When attempting to invade his kingdom, the Turks came upon a bizarre forest of leafless trees. Upon closer inspection, the Turks realized that it wasn’t a forest at all. Vlad had taken an entire village and impaled them on the large stakes, leaving their corpses as a grim reminder for what happened when someone crossed him. The tactic worked, the Turks retreated to fight another day.
But scare tactics only work for so long and the Ottoman Empire was a skilled war machine. After having to regain his throne a second time, Vlad started another war with his old enemy. This time, however, the Turks would not be scared off by a forest of corpses. In either December 1476 or January 1477, Vlad died fighting the Turks and was dismembered. To this day, no one is sure where he is buried.
Mistress of Blood
While most people know the man behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula, few know the woman who inspired the story. Born in 1560, Elizabeth, or Erzsébet, Bathory, was nobility within the Hungarian kingdom and inspired the blood drinking portion of Dracula’s character. Married to Baron Tamás Nádasdy of Nádasd et Fogarasföld (try saying that three times fast) at age 15, it wasn’t until her husband went away to war that the rumors started.
Legend holds that the first time Elizabeth became fascinated with blood was when her serving maid was brushing her hair. When the maid pulled too hard on her hair, Elizabeth struck the young girl, causing the girl’s blood to splatter on Elizabeth’s hand. When she cleaned it off, it appeared that the skin the blood touched seemed to be younger and brighter. This revelation started Elizabeth’s bloody downward spiral.
Beginning with young village girls, Elizabeth started to hire more and more servants for her castle. But the castle wasn’t a place to simply earn money to care for their families.. Rather, it became a death chamber, a place these girls never returned from. Convinced that she needed their blood to stay youthful, Elizabeth tortured and killed the young women in order to drink and bathe in their blood. It was only when she started going after the daughters of nobility that people started to take notice. No one is quite how many people Elizabeth killed in her quest for youth, some sources saying sixty while other putting the death count closer to two hundred. Elizabeth was put on trial for the murders of the noble women as well as some of the village girls and was quickly found guilty. However, the nobility of the time now had a problem. While they executed Elizabeth’s assistants, Elizabeth herself was high ranking nobility and therefore exempt from execution. So the nobility came up with a different plan to deal with the murderous countess. They locked her in a room within her castle, then walled up the door, leaving only enough space for food to be passed to her. She died four years later on August 21st 1614, though the location of her grave remains unknown to this day.
Terror in Sacramento (GRAPHIC DEPICTION OF MURDER)
Not all real life vampires exist in the ancient past. On January 23rd, 1978, twenty-two year old Terry Wallin was found brutally murdered in her house. The Sacramento woman was three months pregnant and was found dead on her bedroom floor by her twenty-four year old husband, David Wallin. Her abdomen had been slashed and the brutality of the murder shocked the first responders. The deputy sheriff who was the first officer there would later report that he had nightmares for months afterwards. As soon as the Sacramento police realized how bad the crime was they called Russ Vorpagel, an FBI agent, who then called Robert Ressler, a criminal profiler with the FBI (Ressler and Shachtman 1992). The majority of details of the case were kept a secret from the public as the police deemed them too gruesome for general knowledge. Not only was Terry found with her abdomen sliced open, but there were strange circular marks made in the blood around her body. Police would later realize that this was from a yogurt cup that her murderer had used to collect and drink her blood (Ressler and Shachtman 1992).
Due to the violence of the case, both Ressler and Vorpagel knew that it was only a matter of time before the killer struck again. Sexual predators with such a high level of violence are often never satisfied with one or two events. Most continue killing until they are either caught or die. Despite the fact that this was Ressler’s first time giving an on site profile, he was excited and ready to help. Ressler predicted that the killer was a white male between the ages of twenty-five and twenty-seven who mostly likely lived alone and suffered from some form of paranoid psychosis (Ressler and Shachtman 1992). Despite the fact that there was no evidence of a sexual motive, Ressler categorized the slaying as a sexual homicide due to the nature of the violence. The violence and the lack of any attempt to clean up the scene, Ressler also categorized this killer as disorganized.
Less than a week later, the police were called to the scene of three more victims. Within a mile of the first victim’s home, Evelyn Miroth, age thirty-six, Jason Miroth, age six, and Daniel J. Meredith, age fifty-two, were brutally murdered in the Miroth family home. All had been shot and Evelyn had been mutilated in a similar manner to Terry. In addition to the three dead, Michael Ferriera, Evelyn’s twenty-two month old nephew, was missing and police suspected he had been abducted by the killer. Evidence of blood being drunk at the crime scene was also found (Ressler and Shachtman 1992). Despite his horror over the new killings, the additional information allowed Ressler to refine his profile. He predicted that the killer had walked to and from the crime scene, which meant that the murderer lived somewhere within walking distance of the two crime scenes. He also predicted that the killer had a criminal record for committing fetish burglaries, where the only thing stolen where articles of women’s clothes (Ressler and Shachtman 1992).
While canvassing, the police came a witness who stated that shortly after Terry’s murder, she had seen an old classmate walking around in a bloody sweatshirt. The name of this classmate was Richard Chase. Chase lived less than a mile from both crime scenes and and Evelyn’s stolen car had been found near his apartment. Police staked out his apartment and attempted to lure the young man out, but he did not answer any phone calls (Ressler and Shachtman 1992). By late afternoon, the police got tired of waiting and decided to lure Chase out by pretending they were leaving. The moment the police were out of sight, Chase dashed out out of his apartment towards his truck, a box under his arm. The police tackled him, managing to secure a .22 pistol, the same caliber as the murder weapon for the Miroth and Meredith case. Police also found bloody rags in the box Chase was carrying and Meredith’s wallet in his back pocket. When searching his apartment, they found blenders and jaws filled with blood and organs, and a calendar marked for forty-four more murders (Ressler and Shachtman 1992). It was later revealed that Chase believed his own blood was turning to ash and if he drank other people’s he would continue to live. Perhaps the most interesting part , Chase almost perfectly matched Ressler’s profile (Ressler and Shachtman 1992).
- Ressler, R., & Shachtman, T. (1992). Whoever fights monsters. New York: St. Martin’s Press.