Outside their community, real-life vampires exist mostly in secret. And once or twice a week, they drink human blood.
“Merticus” is an Atlanta-native, husband, and dog owner. The 37-year-old listens to Radiohead, watches The Shawshank Redemption, and sells antiques. He’s a world-traveler, voracious reader, and occasional poet.
Once a week, he drinks human blood.
Experts estimate there are thousands of people like him worldwide—working professionals, friends, and neighbors, who, publicly or not, identify as “real life vampires.” It wasn’t until 1997 that Merticus (a name he adopted three years earlier) “came out of the coffin” and began identifying as “vampiric.” It’s a “loosely defined” identity, he says, that includes anyone from the donors (those who offer up their blood) to role players.
To be sure, there is no scientific evidence that vampirism is a real condition, nor proof that Merticus’ symptoms aren’t simply a product of his imagination. Science and medicine reject the concept of vampirism, and its not difficult to see why. Feeding off another human’s blood for “survival” is, quite literally, the stuff of horror fantasy.
A small pocket of scientists—intrigued by how vehemently vampires defend their condition as authentic—have begun exploring the potential that it’s a mental disorder. Dr. Katherine Ramsland, a professor of forensic psychology at DeSales University coined the term “Vampire Personality Disorder” several years ago. She hypothesizes that those who believe themselves to be “real life vampires” are actually suffering from a delusion-based mental illness.
For Merticus, distinguishing vampirism from mythology is just as important as defining it. “[It] is not a cult, a religion, a dangerous practice, a paraphilia, an offshoot of the BDSM community, a community composed exclusively of disillusioned teenagers, and it’s definitely not what’s depicted in fictional books, movies, or television,” he says.
Coming out of the coffin took years of research and self-reflection, a difficult path to embark on in a society that considers vampires to be blood-hungry villains. In his mind, it was less about choice than acceptance—an “awakening” to his true self. “My identity as a real vampire represents a lifelong association—not a phase or temporary affinity,” he tells me.
Despite being “fiercely private,” Merticus is open to sharing to his story. Once acquainted, he sends eloquent, novel-like emails, sharing intimate details of every aspect of his life—from weekly feedings to physical symptoms. It’s no surprise to learn that he acts as a liaison between law enforcement and academia, on top of the media.
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