Countless killers during the 20th century have been inspired by the predatory and seductive manner of the most famous vampire in fiction and film, Count Dracula. Published in 1897 in England, the novel Dracula has never been out of print. According to vampire scholar Martin V. Riccardo, of the approximately 300 vampire movies made since Bela Lugosi played the bloodsucker on the silver screen in 1931, a third have been about the character of Dracula.

In Stoker's novel, Count Dracula comes to England from Transylvania in 1893 to enslave the country by creating an army of vampires. He starts with a young woman named Lucy, but when Professor Van Helsing, a scholar, recognizes the mark of the vampire bite on her neck, he destroys her after her death with certain rituals.

By that time, Dracula has already targeted his next victim, Mina Harker. He forces her to drink blood from him, while he also takes it from her. This connection with her is the start of his downfall. Van Helsing rallies a team of vampire hunters and uses trance induction with Mina to track Dracula's retreat back to Transylvania. The vampire hunters destroy the Count, along with the vampire women who reside in his castle.

The first major motion picture based on the novel 1931's Dracula presented the vampire as a charming, well-dressed man who captivates women and then gains entrance to their bedrooms at night to suck on their necks and kill them. He's also reputed to have the strength of 20 men and to be skilled in the occult. He can change his form at will to escape and he can see in the dark. The character of Dracula must be a powerful image for unstable minds that derive a certain violent sexual excitement from blood.

In fact, more than one killer has been nicknamed Dracula.

Richard Trenton ChaseRichard Trenton Chase is a case in point. He drank other people's blood, he claimed, because he was afraid of disintegrating. He was institutionalized several times, as documented by former FBI agent Robert Ressler, who interviewed Chase, and by authors Ray Biondi and Walt Hecox in The Dracula Killer. He was preoccupied with any sign that something was wrong with him, and he once entered an emergency room looking for the person who had stolen his pulmonary artery. He also complained that the bones were coming out through the back of his head, his stomach was backwards, and his heart often stopped beating.

Finally he was committed as a schizophrenic suffering from somatic delusions. It was here that he earned the nickname, "Dracula," when nurses discovered him one day with blood around his mouth. Two dead birds, their necks broken, lay outside his window.

Eventually he was released and deemed no longer a danger. Chase moved into another apartment and began to catch and torture cats, dogs, and rabbits. He killed them to drink their blood.

Early in 1978, after he'd shot a man just to see what it was like, he walked into the home of Teresa Wallin, 22, and three months pregnant. He shot her twice and when she fell, he dragged her body to the bedroom. With a knife, he carved off her left nipple, cut open her torso, and stabbed her repeatedly. He also cut out her kidneys and severed her pancreas in two. He placed the kidneys together back inside her. Then he got a yogurt container from the trash and used it to drink her blood.

On January 27th Chase entered another home and killed Evelyn Miroth, 38, a male friend who was visiting her, and her six-year-old son, Jason. He also grabbed her infant son from his cradle, smashed the boy's head, and took the body with him when he left. Back at home, he removed the head and consumed several of the organs.

The police closed in and arrested him as he was leaving his apartment. In prison, he told another inmate that he needed the blood of his victims because of blood poisoning, and he'd grown tired of hunting for animals. He was convicted of six counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to be executed. Instead he died a few years later in his cell from a drug overdose.



Written by Katherine Ramsland.
Originally published online at The Crime Library.
Reproduced with the permission of the author.



Fanged Films

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

Drawn to Vamps?

Vol. 1 No. 600
The Dark Where Madness Lies
Vol. 2 No. 4
Weird V.2 N.4 October 1967