For centuries there have been tales of the bloodsucking fiends known as vampires. Such stories have been the staple of horror stories, films, and fiction for ages, and there has always been talk of whether such entities might be real or not. It is unknown whether this might be the case, but there have certainly been those deranged individuals who have acted very much like the vampires of lore, who just might represent the types of people who launched the whole thing to begin with.
One early and rather infamous example of a vampire-like killer is the case of Fritz Haarmann, born in 1879 in Hanover, Germany. From a young age he was displaying rather disturbing behavior, jailed at just 17 years old for child molestation and in and out of jail constantly for various crimes ranging from pickpocketing to flat out robbery and burglary. In his adult years he would try to go straight, getting a job at a cigar factory, getting married, and ending his life of crime, but this wouldn’t stick. He would abandon his wife, join the army, and be discharged for predatory behavior, serving some time in a sanatorium in Switzerland before returning to Germany to take up a life of crime once again, becoming involved in smuggling operations in the post-war era, but it was his meeting with a man by the name of Hans Grans in 1919 that his life would truly spiral into the deranged and the depraved.
Haarman began prowling the back streets of Hanover, looking to prey on young refugees flocking into the city. Under the depraved tutelage of Grans, who seemed to have been always present during all of this, Haarman began to get a hunger for death and blood, luring young boys to his room where he would brutally murder them and dispose of the bodies through a mysterious third accomplice, who would sell the clothes and peddle the meat as “black market beef.” It is the method by which he would kill his victims that earns him a place among the “real vampires.” Haarman would typically overpower the victim and bite at the throat, gnawing through flesh to drink the blood, sometimes to the point that the victim was nearly decapitated by the vicious, relentless attack. Police at the time were searching all over for the killer as the death toll mounted and more bodies were found practically drained of blood, and Haarman would eventually be caught, ultimately charged with 27 killings but thought to have been responsible for more like 50. By this time, he was being called the “Vampire of Hanover,” in the end found guilty in 1924 and put to death by decapitation by a sword, a method of execution he himself requested. What drove him to do what he did? No one knows.
For our next case we move forward in years, and move to the region of the village of Lucena, in the Philippines. On November 27, 1952, elderly 80-year-old Maria Sobremisana was brutally attacked and had a part of her arm completely bitten off. Not long after this, a young boy playing at a railway station was approached by a mysterious woman, who picked him up and dashed his head against the concrete. She then picked the boy up and began hungrily licking and sucking at the blood from his wounds, even as a horrified crowd began to gather around them. Some brave onlookers stepped forward to overpower the obviously mad and depraved woman to hold her until police arrived. Even as the authorities gathered, the woman allegedly took a piece of flesh out of her pocket, presumably from the old woman’s arm, and took a bite of it like an apple, proclaiming it to be “delicious” before being apprehended.
The perpetrator of this string of bizarre, cannibalistic attacks was found to be 27-year-old Estelita Florencio, who told police that she was a vampire and was at times held in thrall by her uncontrollable urges for blood. She also admitted that she had attacked other people in a similar fashion throughout the region. While incarcerated, she apparently went into some kind of mad withdrawal from a lack of blood, screaming and begging for it, to the point that a guard allegedly actually took pity on her, pricking his flesh and letting her suck from the wound. It is not clear what happened to her after this, but it is certainly a rather sinister and grim case.
Next we have the case of Tracey Wigginton, who was born the northern Australian coastal city of Rockhampton in 1965. Since a young age she had been fascinated with drinking blood, often killing animals to drink from them, but this would turn out in later years to not have been near enough to satisfy her. In 1989, she felt the calling to drink real human blood, and she would conspire with her lover, Lisa Ptaschinski, and two other accomplices Kim Jervis and Tracy Waugh to go hunt down a victim. They found him in 47-year-old Edward Baldock, who at the time was a father of four and had been out drinking with friends. It was as he waited for a taxi on a street corner that he would encounter Wigginton and her friends.
Jervis would apparently pose as a prostitute and lure him into their car, after which he was stabbed 27 times to open up a hole “the size of a "bread and butter plate,” nearly severing his head in the process, the wound from which Wiggington hungrily slurped up his blood. An investigator would later say, “She just got in her head she was a vampire. She had a need for drinking human blood and she needed to find a victim.” Wigginton's ATM card was found in Baldock's shoe, which quickly led to her arrest, although she was the only one of the four co-accused who pleaded guilty to the charge of murder. All of her accomplices would state that Wiggington had vampiric tendencies, and that she had shown little remorse in the aftermath of the dead, even sitting back to have a cigarette as the man died. Wiggington would be brought to trial and convicted of murder in 1991, sentenced to life in prison, while Ptaschinski was also convicted of murder, Jervis of manslaughter, and Waugh cleared of all charges. The case was notorious in Australia at the time, known as one of the most brutal murders the country had ever seen, and Wigginton would continue her onslaught when she assaulted a prison guard and fellow inmate in 2006. She would finally be released from prison in 2012, and not much is known about what has happened to her since.
Even more recent still we have the case of a Nicolas Claux, who on November 15, 1994 was arrested by police in Paris, France on suspicion of murder. It had begun when various people in the city’s homosexual community had started turning up dead, and not only dead, but butchered and feasted upon. The victims were found to have been shot with a .22 caliber pistol that was eventually found in Claux’s possession, but police were not fully mentally prepared for the house of horrors that awaited them there. Claux himself would explain of the scene:
Following my arrest, I was taken back to the Parisian Crime Department for questioning. Unbeknownst to me, crime scene investigators were already in the process of exercising a search warrant on my apartment at 9 Rue Coustou. Inside they found a .22-caliber handgun under my bed, which they immediately sent off for ballistics tests. While they were probably not surprised to have found the pistol, they were almost certainly not prepared for the grisly scene that welcomed them.
Throughout my apartment, bone fragments and human teeth were scattered about like loose change; vertebras and leg bones hung from the ceiling like morbid mobiles, and hundreds of videocassettes, mostly slasher and hardcore S&M flicks, filled my shelves. One can only imagine what went through the minds of the investigators as they looked around my living quarters. On one wall hung a bullet-riddled target, while across the room sat a TV set with jars of human ashes resting on top of it. Several bondage magazines were piled in a far corner, and nearby my backpack was found, which contained handcuffs, surgical instruments and duct tape. In addition to my tastes and choice of decor, investigators also discovered several stolen blood bags inside of my refrigerator.
With little hesitation on my part, I informed them that I had been robbing the graves of several Parisian gothic graveyards and mutilating the mummified remains. When asked the reason why I was storing stolen blood bags inside my refrigerator, I simply answered that I drank the blood on a regular basis. Working as a mortuary assistant for 10 months, I had been using my position as a means to fulfill a lifelong fantasy of mine revolving around cannibalism. When left alone to stitch the bodies after the autopsies, I would cut strips of meat from the ribs and eat them. On some occasions, I would bring pieces of flesh back to my place, where I would cook and eat those pieces as well.
He would admit that from a very young age he had been obsessed with vampires, werewolves, demons, and the occult, and that as he had grown older, he had taken to spending much of his time at graveyards, sometimes stealing corpses, and he began to act like a vampire, locking himself away within mausoleums during the day, only to come out and prowl around at night, and he would say:
As far back as I can remember I have been obsessed by graveyards. Before long I knew every single cemetery in Paris like the back of my hand. Between 1990 and 1993, I spent the majority of my free time in graveyards. As a botanist studies plants and flowers, I would examine rusty locks and evaluate the weight of cement lids. My favorite things were mausoleums. The most impressive ones can be found at Pere-Lachaise, Montmartre, or Passy cemeteries. I would peek through their windows to see the inside. Some were decorated with furniture, paintings, or statues. It was not long before I began working on a plan to get a much closer view.
He would often find corpses to mutilate them and desecrate their graves, and this was just in his teen years. When he was 20, he had joined the military, but was unable to focus, as his thoughts often wandered to fantasies of corpses, murder and drinking human blood. He moved back to Paris and tried to become a mortician, but was declined, although he did manage to become a morgue attendant in 1993, with his various duties including helping with autopsies, cleaning up the morgue slabs, and prepping the bodies for wakes. It was during this time that he had truly developed a taste for human flesh, saying:
I would be left alone with the body after the autopsy to do the stitches, which were my specialty. This is when I began eating strips of muscles from the bodies. I always checked out their medical files first. I talked with a butcher once who told me that meat is better three or four days after death. This was something I had always dreamed of doing, and it was the opportunity to do it on a regular basis. Sometimes I brought select meats home with me to be cooked, but my preference was to eat them raw. It tasted like tartar steak, or carpaccio. The big muscles of the thighs and back were good, but there was no good meat in the breasts, only fats. People often ask me what went through my mind the first time I indulged my cannibalistic fantasy. Well, to be honest, I said to myself: "Wow! Now I'm a cannibal. Cool!"
He would graduate to stealing blood bags from the surgery unit, taking them home to drink the contents. After this, he had gone on to searching for actual victims to kill and satiate his growing bloodlust. He began prowling the homosexual districts trying to lure people in and finding his first victim in a man named Thierry Bissonnier, who he shot to death with his pistol. Unfortunately for him, this death would end with his arrest, when he had forged the dead man’s driver’s license and had then tried to forge one of his bank checks. He would say of his arrest:
On Nov. 15, 1994, I was arrested in front of the Moulin Rouge cabaret following an altercation with a woman. The police had recognized me from the photograph on Bissonnier's forged driving license and while under custody I confessed to the murder when I was shown the ballistic evidence. Further investigation showed I had been robbing the graves of several Parisian gothic graveyards, stealing the bones, and mutilating the mummified remains. When asked the reason why I was storing stolen blood bags inside my refrigerator, I simply answered that I drank it on a regular basis. I also confessed to being on a very special diet and went on to describe my mortuary job and the cannibalism.
He was soon labelled “The Vampire of Paris” by the media, and during the circus of a trial he was able to convince psychiatrists and psychologists that he was eligible for diminished responsibility due to his deviance and borderline psychotic personality disorder. However, he was eventually found guilty of premeditated murder and armed robbery, sentenced to 12 years in prison, although he was never convicted of grave robbery or for the stealing of bags of blood. He would be released in 2002, after serving 7 years, leaving us to wonder what drove him or what dark forces lurked under his surface. Here we have looked at cases that serve to shock and repulse, and which may very well serve, with others like them, as the origins of the vampire legend. Have such individuals throughout time been taken to be larger than life and propelled into legend? What drives them and what made them do what they do? The questions remain unanswered mysteries.