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Vampyres: What can be said of them? It is said that those who know say nothing, or that which they might say is disinformation - intended to mislead. Perhaps little is known - if indeed there are vampyres, they might well be expected to guard their secrets well, and if they have grown old, they would well understand the value of misdirection.
It is also said that while those who might know say nothing, those who know nothing say much. I believe this to be a reasonable statement. I must say that one should take what I may say with the proverbial grain of salt - most of this is unsupported speculation. It's not as if I actually know much about them firsthand, for which I guess I should be thankful.
Vampyres are the subjects of widely-varying legends, which are nonetheless repeated worldwide, most of those legends antedating contacts between the various cultures which have formulated and continue to express these legends. We might try to establish concordance between widely-scattered legends devolving from widely-scattered cultures, in search of commonlity of theme or import.
Universally, at the lowest common denominator, vampyres are very manlike beings, perhaps a cult, perhaps a separate species of hominids or manlike apes, or they might be the result of infection with some sort of DNA-altering retrovirus. Whatever their origins, or their reality, vampyres are reputed to be occasionally subtle, occasionally fierce, yet universally predatory within a scale ranging from a sort of gentle nibbling harvest of the unwary to harsh apolitical murders of the cream of society. In some cultures, vampyres are universally reviled as the exterminators of entire families, which legend has often been attributed to interpretations of the Black Death or a regional plague of human rabies. In some cultures, vampyres are fanciful demonic creatures endowed with the ability to separate their heads from their bodies, thenceforth to fly by night around the community sucking the blood of misbehaving children. This can clearly be viewed as a mere remonstrative legend, designed to promote socialization of errant youth. Yet the legend seems to be, no matter the origin, archetypal: There is no culture on this planet which has no legend of nocturnal intelligent manlike predators upon unwary or venturesome Men.
The most probable assessment of vampyres would be of a deviant cult of purely human beings.
They might or might not have access to some sort of drug, or other regimen, which allows them to accelerate their reflexes, or they might be, more probably, well-schooled in a particularly-powerful martial art, and acculturated into a mindset similar to the mindset taught to station chiefs within intelligence services, a sort of tradecraft inculcated from an extremely young age. There may or may not be some evidence of vampyre cultists being afflicted with some sort of Dissociative Identity Disorder, or Multiphasic Personality Disorder. Certainly, vampirism is one of the criteria by which investigative agencies categorize persons as serial-killers. Serial-killers are generally categorized into two sets, the Disorganized serial-killer, or the Organized serial-killer. Generally the first type, the Disorganized serial-killer, is a schizophrenic who has internalized some odd idea which leads them to kill. Occasionally this type collects parts, and occasionally devours these parts as some sort of trophy; this is the result of some sort of internally-generated or culturally-supplied symbolism equating consumption of the victim as a specie of their own power. The Organized serial-killer who engages in acts of cannibalism or vampirism, on the other hand, tends to act upon their own belief of total superiority, and quite often while the disorganized serial-killer is quickly caught and brought to justice, the Organized serial-killer may never be caught, or be caught only after an extremely long trail of violence and horror in which they may murder many dozens of victims. Ted Bundy is a classic example of this type. Please see also the strange case of John Brennan Crutchley, the "Florida Vampire Rapist".
There have been some modern cases in which it appears that serial-killers of the Organized type have acted in concert with others of their ilk. One can presume that these groups of organized serial-killers might exchange ideation, and become more confirmed in their sociopathic mindset, assuming an ideology where before there had only been pathology. What if they were to marry and raise children in these ways of thought, until a shared delusional supremacist ideological system, possibly genetically linked (sociopathy may have a genetic component) became a family theme? From this supposition, one might extrapolate to the development of a subculture of organized serial-killing, and given enough time, one would see the development of a crypto-culture of well-trained and devoted killers. They might perpetuate their kind throughout history thenceforth unless caught and brought to justice as a group, and certainly such individuals or groups could easily give rise to legends regarding vampires, or ninja for that matter.
It is easy to hypothesize that in mankind's distant past, when society had not yet developed past the hunter-gatherer stage, that some social groups tended to hunt more, and it is similarly easy to hypothesize that one or more groups specialized in hunting human beings. If this truly occurred and did so in the very remote past, it might be that sufficient natural or artificial selection had occurred to create a new breed of human, which was adapted to prey upon men. It can be argued, however, that war in and of itself would bring similar evolutionary pressures to bear on even those societies which were exclusively farmers or nomadic pastorals, leaving the hunters of men with no real "advantage" in the hunts other than an "advantage" of cultural precepts, a sort of predisposition to unscrupulousness and skulduggery.
If one will credit the hypothesis that certain ancient cultures, far back at the time of the emergence of homo sapiens, might have assumed a lifestyle based upon the hunting of men, one can easily bridge to the idea that at some even-more remote time, one branch of our predecessor race, homo habilis, had followed the same path. Given enough time, sufficient divergences within gene pools kept apart by a genocidal enmity might diverge sufficiently as to produce, if not a completely new species, a new race of hominid. Present evolutionary theory tends towards the idea that homo habilis evolved into modern mankind through a widely-distributed parallel convergent evolutionary process facilitated by interchange between boundary zones of isolated gene-pools. (There may in fact be no clear species division between h. habilis and h. sapiens.) Some gene-pools may have been more isolated than were others, and evolutionary pressures might have created a race of men adapted to nocturnal predation on other men. Certainly that's an evolutionary niche that was wide-open to exploitation after the last Ice Age, when the niches which had been filled by the Neandertal opened up after that race's disappearance, absorption, or demise, and the sudden greening of the former wastelands. Evolution and adaptation to a new niche can occur rapidly. Perhaps it did, and as some branches of mankind began to explore the the emerging fringe niches left behind by the retreating glacial ice, they might have often found themselves feeding populations which had preceded them to the bleaknesses and had there devoured all other food. At the fringes the forces of desperation may have forged a new being, the night hunters, the vampyres. Having lived primarily on human flesh, they might well have become dependent upon it, and thus even should they relocate to greener pastures, the bleak wasteland heritage would always travel within them.
There is some possibility that some fluke of nature has allowed some virus to jump species, afflicting human victims with some sort of nutritional disorder following a period of coma. This might or might not be heritable, and thus passed on to offspring. It is much more likely that the "infectious vampyre" legend results from distorted tales of localized plagues of rabies. Were one to for the moment presuppose the possiblity of some sort of retroviral infection that could so greatly modify a human as to be practically pre-programmed for an eternity of weeding out humankind, one must either wonder at the possible evolutionary paths of such a viral-human symbiosis or parasitism, or one must wonder at the technology that would be required to create such a virus in the absence of such an evolutionary path to symbiosis.
In any of these cases, one can only hope that vampyres are, with the exception of deranged humans on killing sprees (or lifelong careers of serial killing), to be consigned to the realm of the purely literary, a mere bold fiction of mass-entertainment.
Coming soon, analyses of the vampyre in popular literature and film, from an anthropological and scientific-deconstructionist viewpoint.
No discussion of the modern perception of the Vampyre could possibly be complete without a deconstruction of Dracula. This is a "Dracula97" site - celebrating 100 years of terror delivered by Bram Stoker's eponymous novel of the Count.
There are several discussion groups on the UseNet which discuss the topic of vampires.
For an excellent example of older vampyric literature, please see the classic Carmilla by Le Fanu.
We are finding that a book called "Piercing the Darkness: Undercover with Vampires in America Today" by Katherine Ramsland is being rated as excellent by most readers, including many who are active in the vampyric lifestyles. We found it to be very even-handed, and replete with interviews with both those who practice vampyric lifestyles, and their critics, including psychiatrists and criminologists.