What is the Vampire Subculture?

Instructor: Karin Gonzalez

Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.

In this lesson, you will learn about the little studied but nonetheless real subculture of the modern vampire. Read about some of the defining characteristics of this group of people, then take a short quiz.

What Is a Vampire?

When you think of a vampire, you might imagine Count Dracula or the characters in The Twilight Saga, True Blood, or The Vampire Diaries.

A vampire, in a fictional or mythical sense, is a corpse and immortal being that leaves his or her grave at night to suck the blood of living beings. The literal version of this mythical creature does not exist of course; this is not to say that there are not real vampires living amongst us. In fact, there is an entire subculture of people who identify as vampires.

Vampires are mythical beings that have been in literature for centuries.
Vampires are mythical beings that have been in literature for centuries.

The Vampire Subculture: Real Vampires?

The vampire subculture is made up of individuals who strongly identify with the mythical and fictional vampire and choose to live an alternative lifestyle as a vampire. This is a largely misunderstood and stereotyped group of people that is just beginning to be studied by academics, though it's believed that some version of a vampire subculture has existed since the 1970s. Those who have begun studying this subculture have found vampires as far away as South Africa and Russia, in addition to the U.S. and U.K.; one researcher estimated there were more than 15,000 vampires in the UK in 2015.

Researchers have come across commonalities in this subculture having to do with what makes a vampire a vampire. One general consensus is that vampires lack certain subtle energies that other people have, so they need to 'feed' on others' energy or, sometimes (with permission), blood. This condition generally comes on around puberty and is seemingly beyond the person's control; some vampires even believe this lack of energy is genetic.

Many vampires are otherwise normal members of society - lawyers, teachers, parents with kids - who live an alternative lifestyle engaging in vampire-related activities. Within the vampire subculture there is a rich diversity of class, race, age, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education level, and other categories.

Types of Vampires

Sanguinarians are blood-sucking vampires. They feel like they need the blood of others to feel healthy and strong. But most sanguinarians are not the blood-sucking monsters that you may think of when you think of a vampire. They are usually civilized and non-violent and only suck the blood of donors, people willing to have their blood sucked. Donors are sometimes considered masochists; they gain pleasure from their own pain.

Psychic vampires feed on people's energy instead of blood. They feel like they have an energy imbalance or deficiency and need to feed on other people's energy to feel lively again. They can do this by touching another person or not. Typically, they try to suck the energy from a crowd rather than an individual, as they find that to be more moral.

A vampire woman
A beautiful vampire woman

Activities and Lifestyle

Vampires, in the mythical sense, are seen as compelling, mystifying, seductive, and captivating, and those in the vampire subculture typically want to emulate these qualities. But for most, it is more about a desire or need to live the lifestyle of a vampire and suck blood or energy from others, rather than a love for vampire popular culture. In fact, many vampires in this subculture don't know as much about vampires in popular culture as one might think they would.

Many vampires live by a strict code of ethics and laws within their own subculture. They are usually moral and giving individuals. A researcher who studied tribes of vampires in New Orleans, Louisiana, one of the places known to have a high population of vampires, noted a tendency to organize community charity events, like feeding the homeless, though they don't always publicize themselves as vampires at these public events.

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