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Suspense-and-thriller

There are the classic vampires, from Dracula and Nosferatu through Lestat, who have long been the staple villain of the horror genre. Psychopaths, from Tom Ripley and Hannibal Lector to Amy Elliot Dunn, are the go-to baddies of the contemporary take on horror – the thriller movie genre. 

A psychopath looking at himself in the mirror

But beyond the fictional gore of Hollywood, real-life psychopaths and psychic or energy-sucking vampires walk among us. In the same way a vampire drains prey of blood, a psychic vampire is an energy sucker. And in the same way that a fictional psychopath may attack prey, she also feeds on a victim’s self-esteem. 

These five commonalities of the real-life psychopaths and psychic vampires are in fact, the basis of my own work. As a psychologist I studied psychopathy assessment, using the gold standard tool developed by Dr. Robert Hare.  The reigning guru of psychopathy, Hare is to psychopaths what Van Helsing is to vampires – their nemesis. I conducted an informal factor analysis and compared the Vampire Characteristics with Hare’s Checklist of Psychopathy Symptoms and bingo, mortals!  We have a match.  Just in time for Halloween and beyond.

As a thriller writer, I pondered the possible parallels between today’s energy-sucking vampires and real-life psychopaths that we’ve perhaps come into contact.  As writer/editor Shawn Coyne has observed, “The villain in a thriller is a human monster.” 

  1. Both real-life psychopaths and psychic vampires survive on the blood of others. They pursue a parasitic lifestyle, an intentional, manipulative, selfish, and exploitative dependence on others.  Meeting either one is a highly draining experience. Beneath their frequently charming exteriors, they are devoid of empathy and remorse.  Their behavior is manipulative, sometimes violent, often criminal.

Be very afraid.

2. The energy-sucking vampire is a shapeshifter, who can assume the form of a wolf or bat, mist, or dust.  Similarly, a psychopath exhibits what’s called “criminal versatility.”  He often has a resume of many and varied offenses, taking pride in getting away with them.  Both the energy-sucking vampire and the psychopath are tough to recognize, usually until it’s too late. 

3. Both energy-sucking vampires and real-life psychopaths know how to get into your head and under your skin. The vampire has a hypnotic power over victims.  Similarly, the psychopath is glib and superficially charming, slick, smooth, never tongue-tied.  He is a master manipulator. 

4) Neither the energy-sucking vampire nor the real-life psychopaths among us have real substance. The vampire casts no reflection in the mirror, nor shadow on the ground.  The psychopath has what’s known as “shallow effect.”  Behind his superficial warmth lies emotional poverty, a limited range, and depth of feeling.

5)The psychopath lacks realistic, long-term goals.  He lives a nomadic existence, aimless and without direction.  So, too, the vampire roves the world in search of his victims.

So what are we to make of these two psychological psychopathic profiles?  Perhaps our energy-sucking vampire is a powerful metaphor for the real-life psychopaths who have always walked among us.  At least, let’s hope so.  The psychopaths are trouble enough.

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