Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Vampire Killers

Renfield's Syndrome

Psychiatrists are aware that there exists a behavior known as "clinical vampirism," which is a syndrome involving the delusion of actually being a vampire and feeling the need for blood. This arises not from fiction and film but from the erotic attraction to blood and the idea that it conveys certain powers, although the actual manifestation of the fantasy may be influenced by fiction.  It develops through fantasies involving sexual excitement.

Psychologist Richard Noll, author of Bizarre Diseases of the Mind, says that the clinical cases have a lot in common with the behavior of a character from Dracula named Renfield.  He's a mental patient who eats spiders and flies because he craves their life force.  He suggests the clinical vampirism be renamed Renfield's Syndrome.  Noting that people who suffer from this condition are primarily male, he identifies a specific set of stages. 

"The first stage," Noll explains, "is some event that happens before puberty where the child is excited in a sexual way by some event that involves blood injury or the ingestion of blood.  At puberty it becomes fused with sexual fantasies, and the typical person with Renfield Syndrome begins with autovampirism.  That is, they begin to drink their own blood and then move on to other living creatures. That's what we know from the few cases we have on record.  It has fetishistic and compulsive components."

Neville Heath
Neville Heath
Someone who seemed to have this syndrome was Neville Heath, 29, England's "Gentleman Vampire." During the 1940s, he would pose as an army officer to lure women to hotel rooms.  On June 20, 1946, a cabdriver saw Heath in the company of Margery Gardner, 33, who was found murdered the next day.  She'd been suffocated and whipped unmercifully by something with a metal tip.  Her nipples were bitten off and she'd been brutally raped with a blunt instrument. While her body was covered in blood, her face was clean, although blood was in her nostrils.

Since Heath had signed his name to the hotel register for that room, the police went right away to question him.  But he was already on the run.

He checked into another hotel at a seaside town and hung out there for two weeks, posing as a war hero.  He met Doreen Marshall, 21, and escorted her for an evening stroll on July 4.  She then turned up missing.  Five days later, her nude body was found in some bushes.  She'd been cut up with a knife and sexually violated.

Oddly enough, Heath went to the police to offer his help.  He feigned innocence in the case of Doreen Marshall and said that his name was not Neville Heath, but the police detained him so they could search some of his belongings.  They found a braided whip that matched the patterns found on the first murdered woman.  Heath also had in his possession a blood-soaked scarf that matched her blood type.  Another one turned up in his drawer at the seaside hotel and that was matched to Doreen Marshall's blood type.

Further investigation into his military record and personal history indicated that he'd participated in several incidents of sadistic behavior with women, although he was ever the gentleman with his naïve fiancé.

Arrested and tried for murder, Heath wanted to mount an insanity defense, but while the psychiatrists believed he was sadistic and perverted, they could not say that he was legally insane. Found guilty, he was sentenced to be executed.

While Heath may not have actually drunk blood from his victims (although there's speculation that he licked it off Margery Gardner's face), his possession of the blood-soaked handkerchiefs, along with the predatory and compulsive nature of his crimes, would qualify him for consideration as a clinical vampire.

 

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