Could Schizophrenia be the Answer to the Mysterious Vampire Legend? The vampire legend and many behaviors and experiences of schizophrenics seem to share many common traits. The traits that are most recognizable are ‘fears of being enclosed, periods of semi starvation or complete starvation, which can be associated with periodic gorging, reversal of the day-night cycle, and a preoccupation with or dread of mirrors’ (Kayton 304).
Though the term ‘schizophrenia’ or ‘defence ‘ was only introduced in 1852 (Boyle 43), behaviors of people affected by this illness have been documented much earlier. The concept of a dead person returning in his living physical form and feeding on the living is considered a vampire. The vampire is believed to also be capable of transmitting his vampirism to those he infect or bite. Kayton recognizes that though this belief has been found in early writings of the Babylonians, Semites, and Egyptians, the most famous vampire scare swept Europe in 1730.
This vampire epidemic lasted approximately five years (305).
The legend consistency continues with adolescent and young adult schizophrenia. It is presented to us that young suicide victims were most likely believed to become vampires and attack members of their families (Kayton 304-05).
Suicide was not an uncommon event among schizophrenic patients (Boyle 255).
Suicide patients are a very important part of this equation because according to the legend in England suicides were buried with a stake pierced in or near the heart. This was to ensure that that the ghost of the person would not come back and haunt the living, to prevent the suicide victim from becoming a vampire (Kayton 305).
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In Dracula, Lucy was killed after she had already started to haunt the living. She was killed after with a stake driven through her heart as a ‘duty to others’ and to the dead, so that she may truly be ‘passed away’, as ‘God’s true dead’ (266, 277-279).
Some documented cases of vampirism indicate that sometimes the psychodynamics’ of vampires can erupt into materialized behavioral psychopathology (Kayton 304).
For example, Vincent Verzeni an Italian in 1872, a Frenchman named Leger in 1827, and a German Fritz Haarman demonstrate to the rare appearance of clinical vampirism (Kayton 306).
Haarman himself killed approximately 24 adolescent males. This is interesting since many believe that vampires only attack those of the opposite sex.
Even Bram Stoker’s Dracula disproves this belief when the Count (Dracula) informs the three vampire women that Jonathan belongs to him (55).
Psychoanalyst, Karl Abraham, had an advanced early psychoanalytic theory, which examined the beginning of these characteristics. He claimed that early libidinal (sexual desire/ sex drive) stages had a lot to do with later character development. He divided the oral phase into sucking and biting stages. He goes on to discuss that the nursing infant is first a passive recipient of the nutrients that is placed in his mouth. The infant then learns that his teeth are a tool he can use for revenge when they become frustrated (Kayton 309).
Later, Melanie Klein, Abraham’s analyst, moved away from oral libido as the main focus in early infant development and focused more on the early mother-child interactions. She stated that it was through these early interactions that the child developed internal psychological structure by the internalization of introject. With this child analysis, she developed her concepts of the paranoid-schizoid position and the depressive position in early infant development (309).
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Fairbairn, took intensive case material of schizoid-schizophrenic persons, and theorized that intense oral sadistic libidinal need form in response to actual maternal deprivation. He states that eventually the child splits off part of his ego (Kayton 309), not to be mistaken with multiple personalities (McMahon 203).
This regressed part of the ego is called ‘the schizoid citadel’. In here is where the love needs grow (Kayton 310).
Here is where an important part of the legend draws reference.
According to Kayton, the vampire (young suicide) was known to either devour or steal the hearts of his victims. When the heart was stolen, it was placed over a fire to create an intense unfulfilled love in the bosom of the person it was taken from (307).
In Dracula we sort of get that sense the three vampire women wanted this from Jonathan. Because when the Count told them that they could not have him, one of them boldly told him: ‘You yourself never loved’ (55).
Also, according to schizophrenic suicide history the family members who were often attacked were mainly members who showed their guilt over the oral deprivation onto the fantasized vampire (patient) with a feared oral attack (Kayton 311).
That would be the logic of why the victims of the vampire are usually family members or persons they love; as we witness this with Lucy as she tried to kiss Arthur a two different occasions when she became a vampire.
This theory also suggests that the parent’s role is very important and their actions with the child of either showing affection or rejection when the child attempts to become close to them (McMahon 212).
Besides the removal of the heart, unmistakably, the most important part of the legend is that the vampire attacks his victims by sucking out their blood. There are claims that the attack of the vampire shows consistency with some of the unconscious fantasies of schizophrenic persons. First, there is a taking of life by the oral route by the vicious attack with the use of teeth. Second, the victim is held and controlled while the vampire feeds (Kayton 310).
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Though in Dracula, it is Mina who feeds, we see the same sort of control displayed.
And finally, after feeding the victim also becomes a vampire, indicating a union between the feeder and the victim (Kayton 310), which Mina becomes. A case in recent studies gives us an example of what a schizophrenic might have on his mind. This is a white male, Lenny, who suffered from severe paranoid schizophrenic psychosis. The overview of his inner fears states: He also had cannibalistic fears that he would be orally devoured by the other male patients. Intermittently during the early phases of his psychosis, he would hold his breath for periods of time, for he felt his inspiring air would deprive his father of needed air, and his father would die. Lenny also had recollections of maternal rejection, with images of his mother as hostile and cruel.
He therefore turned to his father for maternal nurturing and received some of this from his father. All thwarted needs to be mothered were focused on his father, which made him fear for his father’s life lest his neediness deprive his father of life. (Kayton 310) Another known fact of the legend is that the vampire roams by night and sleeps during the day. Kayton reveals that the vampire’s sleeping in a coffin by the day and looking for food at night is very similar to the schizophrenic’s time spent in the regressed ego (‘schizoid citadel’) during the day. The schizophrenic sleeps during this time or becomes very motionless because it presents him with the escape he needs to let all his cannibalistic fears and needs surface (312).
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Two patients emulate these traits: … Ronald would lie beneath his bed during the day with sheets and blankets covering the opening from view. Another deeply regressive enclosure need was expressed by a very interesting behavioral display. He would take his clothing locker, lay it upon the floor and sleep within it during the day. His psychological tests were consistent with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.
(Kayton 312) Another patient Penny would sit quietly and motionless with little expression on her face, during the day. She produced no logical thoughts and hardly ever spoke (313).
Interesting enough the vampire has been nicknamed ‘the living dead’, which basically tells us that the vampire is trapped between the two worlds. Penny showed this attribute because, afraid of reality, she retreated into a fantasy world, yet this still made her fearful of ‘stepping through the looking glass.’ Therefore, this made her stuck between two worlds (Kayton 313).
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According to Fairbairn and Gun trip, this also goes back to the relationship between child and mother. When not having ‘good enough mothering’, these desires and needs builds up in the regressed ego.
It is this part of the ego that ‘splits off’ from the rest of the ego that holds the person in reality. Because so much emotional feelings is held within the regressed ego, it is not experienced as being a part of the body, therefore it creates the feeling of not being part of the external world by the schizophrenic (qt d. in Kayton 311-312).
One last thing is that the vampire’s inability to cast a reflection in the mirror is consistent to the schizophrenic fears or feelings of being invisible or reduce visibility in the eyes of others (McMahon 215; Kayton 312).
As you can see that there are many coincidences and aspects of the vampire legend and schizophrenia that are very similar. The vampire legend can be viewed as either ‘visual portrayal of the world of the schizophrenic’ or ‘an empathic bridge to the understanding of certain aspects of schizophrenic’ (Kayton 313).
The most vital and striking aspect of everything is that both vampire and schizophrenic are just longing to be loved and to love. As the Count said, ‘I too can love’ (Stoker, 55).
Works Cited Boyle, Mary.
SCHIZOPHRENIA A scientific delusion? London: Routledge, 1990. Kayton, Lawrence. The Relationship of the Vampire Legend to Schizophrenia. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Vol. 1, No.
4. New York: Plenum, 1972, 303-313. McMahon, Frank B. Abnormal Behavior. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 198-237, 255. Stoker, Bram.
Dracula. Ed. Maurice Handle. New York: Penguin Books, 1993.