Inside the bizarre world of "real vampires".

They drink human blood from ‘donors’, sometimes wear fangs and tend to be nocturnal. Most importantly: they believe they are vampires.

It’s not a phase. It’s their lifestyle. It’s their truth.

Scholars have been studying vampires for decades, but a recent paper by D.J. Williams and Emily E. Prior for Idaho State University has interviewed a number of people who believe they are vampires. Not goths, not people who love to dress up. They studied people who genuinely believe they need to consume blood or human energy to be well.

Vampire woman feature
Image via Flickr

Professor Williams says that he had not been aware of the existence of vampires until he met a woman who identified as a vampire. He told Newsweek, “Up until that point I didn’t know that there was such a community.”

He says that he initially found the vampires to be reluctant to talk to him for his study. “It took a few years. Real vampires are quite distrustful, for good reason.” But they eventually opened up, after he published his preliminary findings and they realised they could trust him.

In Williams and Prior’s study, the researchers are clear that they are not talking about “lifestyle” vampires – people who like to dress up and just enjoy drinking blood. They focussed on ‘real vampires’ and the study explains the distinction between the two:


In contrast to the tremendous diversity of various lifestyle vampires, the essential feature of real vampirism is their belief in the need to take in “subtle energy” (called feeding) from time to time from a willing “donor”… Many real vampires report feeding on psychic or pranic energy… Some vampires, called “sanguinarians”, seem to prefer feeding by consuming small amounts of human blood (or animal blood), which can be easily obtained, among other ways, by making a tiny incision (ie., with a razor or scalpel) on the upper part of the donor’s chest and is then licked or sucked by the vampire. “Hybrid” vampires report feeding from more than one form (ie., psychically or from blood). It is generally expected within the community that vampires should act ethically and responsibly in feeding practices.

The study is surprisingly sympathetic to this condition, dealing at length with the fear that ‘real’ vampires experience over whether to disclose their identity to family, colleagues or clinical practitioners. A number are afraid of losing their jobs, and one participant in the study was concerned about losing their children if their identity as a vampire was revealed.

Williams says that the biggest misconception is that real vampires are dangerous or delusional. They are apparently just regular people, with a non-traditional eating pattern.

Clearly a challenging existence, the study explains some finer points of the ‘real’ vampire experience and how they cope in contemporary society.

Do real-life vampires actually drink blood?

Yes. People who believe they are vampires will drink blood – either from animals or from willing humans who act as ‘donors’ – but it’s not to survive. It’s to maintain their health. Vampires believe they need blood or human energy to feel healthy.

If they don’t drink blood, they’re known as psychic vampires. These vampires take energy from humans through the mind or the hand. One commenter on an article about these vampires said after speaking to a psychic vampire, he felt like something in his mind was missing.

“Some years back, my then wife and I met a friend in the street. We chatted for 5 minutes and went our ways. I then said, ‘Have you noticed that, after talking to (…n…), you know less than you did before?’ My wife responded immediately in the affirmative – but then (as she thought about it) froze and said, ‘What?’ Intellectually, she rejected the idea, but her first, intuitive response told the truth; we had been talking to a psychic vampire.”

are vampires real
They drink blood for energy, not to live. Image via The CW.

Are these people just expressing a preference for blood? Is it just a ‘lifestyle’ choice?

Williams and Prior believe real vampires are born. They aren’t people who develop a fetish after binge-watching True Blood – they believe it’s a condition within themselves that they cannot change.


These ‘real’ vampires differ to those who suffer from clinical vampirism, which is a mental illness where a person is obsessed with drinking blood, has an interest in the ‘undead’ and some identity issues. The vampires profiled in this Williams and Prior study know exactly who they are and believe that they need blood or energy to be healthy.

Is the vampire community just made up of ‘Dracula’-type males?

Nope. Men, women, ranging in ages make up the real-life vampire population. There are gay, straight and bisexual vampires. Married, single, divorced. Vampirism, it seems, does not discriminate. Williams and Prior’s findings suggested that the vampire community in the US state of Georgia is made up of mostly women, however other areas of America seem to have a more equal gender distribution.

You can watch a video about ‘real vampires’ from an investigation done by National Geographic below. Post continues after video.

Video via Taboo USA

Can they actually eat ‘human’ food?

Yes. They’re just like non-vampires in that they enjoy Big Macs as much as the rest of us. The only difference is, they feel like they need blood or energy to maintain their health. Otherwise they feel sluggish and tired.

So what about fangs and coffins and all that stuff?

All just myths – mostly. Some real vampires like to adopt certain practices, like shaving their teeth or wearing fangs. Many even prefer to live as nocturnally. But they don’t get burned by the sun or live forever.

are vampires real
Some might have fangs. But they aren’t a prerequisite. Image via The CW.

How do you know if you’re a vampire?

According to the study, real-life vampires know they are vampires from birth. They might not adopt the practices of feeding on donors or ingesting energy from others from birth – apparently these practices are developed during or after puberty. There are support groups and websites out there that help people who believe they are manifesting vampiric urges. There’s a website run by a self-identified vampire who claims you can tell if you’re a vampire if you answer ‘yes’ to a very long list of questions, found here.  That list includes having unusually pale skin, surviving an accident with only minor scrapes, rarely getting sick and having night vision.

Another website says that you can identify a vampire by looking out for shallow breathing, mood changes, fingernails that are as clear as glass, a cold bedroom and charisma.

Click through the gallery below for Hollywood’s idea of vampires. Post continues after gallery.

The Williams and Prior study concluded that vampires have the same stresses and worries as everyone else:  “[They] seem to be ordinary human beings with common, everyday human issues, such as trying to be successful in relationships and careers, managing stress, coping with daily living tasks, and adjustments to transitions.”

The most well-known of all self-identified vampire, known only as Merticus, told The Atlanta Journal‘s Christopher Quinn that he doesn’t expect people to understand his life or his experience.

“The only thing I would ask [for] is tolerance.”

Do you believe in vampires?

For more on things that people don’t necessarily believe in… 

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