Dr. Miller tells us what gives a killer a taste for blood
Is vampirism and cannibalism common among killers?
A significant number of serial killers engage in some form of post- mortem manipulation, mutilation and/ or cannibalism of their victims, drinking the blood or eating parts of victims at the crime scene or later – a practice called anthropophagy. Albert Fish made stew from at least one of his victims. Jeffrey Dahmer cannibalised several of his victims, storing the remains in his freezer… He described the experience of eating his victims as sexually exhilarating. In Renfield’s syndrome, also known as clinical vampirism, the killer feels a compulsion to drink the victim’s blood.
What about outside Western society?
A number of researchers have commented on the similarity of these behaviours to the activities of predatory animals, including the common house cat, as well as to the customs of warrior societies, where drinking the blood or eating a body part of a slain adversary is believed to convey the dead foe’s power to the victor and to protect the warrior from vengeance by the victim’s spirit. Examples include Maori warriors, who taste the blood of their slaughtered enemies, or executioners in Niger who lick the blood of their victims from the knife. Modern examples include torture, murder, mutilation, and consumption of adversaries by soldiers or lynch mobs.
Where does the urge to drink, kill and cannibalise originate in humans?
Humans evolved as a tribal hunting species – of both animals for food and other humans for power. In this sense, serial killing is a variation that under other circumstances would be adaptive to the survival of the small, tribalistically loyal, predatory hunting groups in which most of human evolution occurred. The difference is that the individual serial killer violates the rules of the tribe and kills non- sanctioned victims. Although these behaviours may be associated with particular psychiatric diagnoses, they are not ‘ diseases’ in the usual sense, but exaggerated expressions of innate traits that at one time allowed our species to survive and that we now may wish to repudiate in our ‘ civilised’ conceptualisation of ourselves. The serial killer frightens us because he strips away the veneer of civilised behaviour and illustrates the dark places our human natures can go.