Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

EVIL, PART THREE: DEPRAVED INDIFFERENCE

Children of Darkness

Evil is often associated with Satan and what creature is more evil than a vampirea soulless predator who feeds off the resources of others to benefit itself? While most of the "vampire subculture" these days involves a benign form of role-playing, some people have been inspired by the rapacious image to kill. To their minds, the vampire mythos provides a framework that allows - even encourages - certain types of violent behavior.

Let's take a look at some of these vampire killers:

Portrait of Countess Bathory (Dennis Bathory-Kitsz)
Portrait of Countess Bathory
(Dennis Bathory-Kitsz)

Legend has it that Erzebet Bathory, a Hungarian countess born in 1560, bathed in the blood of virgins to restore her beauty. Whether or not this was really her motive, she certainly used her status to bring about murder and mayhem to untold numbers.

Intelligent and educated, Erzebet experienced seizures and rages that were sometimes out of control. She grew up, married, and learned to manage the affairs of a castle, in particular how to sadistically discipline the peasants who worked the land. For example, her husband taught her how to spread honey over a naked woman and leave her out for the bugs. After he died in 1604, Erzebet moved to Vienna and stepped up her cruel and arbitrary beatings of the lower-class girls. With the lack of accountability afforded to nobility, she continued unabated, assisted by several other women. She might stick pins into sensitive body parts, cut off someone's fingers or beat her about the face until her victim was so misshapen as to be unrecognizable. In the winter, women were dragged outside, wet down with water, and left to freeze to death. When Erzebet was ill, she had girls brought to her bed so that she could bite off their noses or other pieces of their faces and shoulders.

Eventually she turned her bloodthirst against young noblewomen, and after she killed one in 1609 and unsuccessfully tried to stage it as a suicide, she raised the suspicions of the authorities. An inquiry was begun.

In 1610, she was finally arrested and tried. A register found in her home indicated that she'd victimized 650 people. She was imprisoned for life in her own castle, where she died three years later. Only after her death did rumors spring up about how she had actually bathed in the blood of her young victims, making her even more a mythic figure.

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Portrait of Peter Kürten (CORBIS)
Portrait of Peter
Kürten (CORBIS)

Just before his execution in 1931 for 13 confessed murders, the man known as the Monster of Dusseldorf said that if he could hear his blood bubbling forth from his neck stump as he died, he'd die a happy man.

A necrophile, rapist, and killer, Peter Kürten targeted almost any vulnerable person. He got his start when a neighbor taught him how to torture animals, and he learned to stab them to death while he was raping them, which cemented his sexual drive with bloodlust. Then when he was nine, he instigated an "accident" that killed two of his friends. Throughout his life he was jailed for various crimes from theft to non-fatal strangulation, but he upped the stakes in 1929 when he attacked 23 separate people. He stabbed one woman 24 times, bludgeoned others with a hammer or an axe, and he also went after a 5-year-old girl with a knife and sent an arrogant letter directing police to her remains.

When arrested after a failed rape, he confessed to a litany of bizarre crimes. He explained that he'd committed numerous assaults and 13 murders, drinking the blood from some of his victims. He'd once bitten the head off a swan, he stated, and ejaculated as he drank its blood. He claimed he was insane and that his role model was Jack the Ripper.

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On Thanksgiving Day, 1996, 16-year-old Roderick Ferrell led a pack of kids from Kentucky to Eustis, Florida, where he bludgeoned to death the elderly parents of a former girlfriend. He swung a crowbar at a sleeping Richard Wendorf, and then stabbed Ruth Wendorf in the head when she walked into the room. He burned a 'V' into the flesh of his first victim and then got the others to flee the scene with him.

They were soon caught in Louisiana. Initially, Ferrell told reporters from the Orlando Sentinel that a rival vampire clan had done the killings. Then he claimed that he'd been part of a Satanic cult run by his grandfather. What turned out to be true was that Ferrell had gotten involved with a fantasy role-playing game called Vampire: The Masquerade and, to make things edgier, had formed something called The Vampire Clan. According to one member, Ferrell was obsessed with "opening the gates of Hell," which he said would happen if he killed a large number of people and consumed their souls.

Of his vampirism, Ferrell had said that he had no soul and was possessed. He had devised vampire rituals that gave him an adrenaline rush. He liked to threaten others and make them believe that his vampire nature made him all-powerful. In fact, he claimed that vampires really existed, he was one of the "rare ones," and could do anything he pleased. Even upon his arrest, he told the officers that he was a powerful immortal and they would be unable to hold him.

He was wrong. At his trial, he was sentenced to die and now awaits execution on Florida's death row.

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Richard Trenton Chase, mugshot
Richard Trenton Chase,
mugshot

Richard Trenton Chase had a thing for blood. In the late '70s, he was known as "The Vampire of Sacramento." He began by killing a woman, cutting out her entrails and stuffing her mouth with dog feces. Walking through the unlocked door of a house, he encountered 22-year-old Teresa Wallin, who was three months pregnant. He shot her twice and then knelt over her prostrate body, firing another bullet into her temple. His next move was to drag her into the bedroom, leaving a trail of blood behind. He then got a knife from the kitchen and an empty yogurt container. With that he drank her blood and then smeared his face in it. When he was done, he left.

Terry's husband, David, found her. She lay just inside the door, on her back, her clothing in disarray that suggested assault. Her left nipple was carved off, her torso cut open below the sternum, and her spleen and intestines pulled out. Chase had stabbed her repeatedly in the lung, liver, diaphragm, and left breast. He also had cut out her kidneys and severed her pancreas in two. He placed the kidneys together back inside her.

Not long afterward, Evelyn Miroth, 38, received the same treatment. Chase also shot a male friend who was visiting her, and her 6-year-old son, Jason, but a subsequent investigation revealed that her infant nephew was missing from his crib. It later turned out that Chase had drunk Evelyn's blood and had mutilated the baby's body in the bathroom, opening the head and spilling pieces of the brain into the tub. A knock on the door must have interrupted him and he had fled with the baby's body. As police looked for him, he took the baby to his home and severed its head. Then he removed several organs and consumed them.

The police closed in and grabbed him as he was leaving his apartment with a box full of bloody newspapers and rags. Inside they discovered evidence that he seemed to be planning more than 40 more killings that year.

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 also admitted to one of the dozen psychiatrists who examined him that he was disturbed about killing his victims and was afraid they would come for him. He had never felt compelled to kill. He simply thought the blood would help him.

Since it was clear that he had intended to murder his victims and knew it was wrong, he was convicted of six counts of first-degree murder. Chase was sentenced to die, but was found dead in his cell in 1980 after swallowing an overdose of antidepressants. In his case, his vampirism was the result of delusions that provoked him to kill, but there had still been some degree of choice in the matter. At least, as the jury saw it.

Even with these examples, it's not the case that the vampire image has caused people to become violent, but rather that it has provided a way for them to organize their self-impressions and to justify their acts. They have a frame. They are "safe" from the consequences.

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