DJ Williams

Idaho State University professor DJ Williams talks about his research on self-identifying vampires.

Forget everything you thought you knew about vampires — not all of them drink blood, wear black or bear fangs.

But most self-proclaimed vampires are reluctant to share their secret lives — or come out of the coffin, so to speak.

Most people have experienced periods of lethargy, some have felt disconnected and others feel like they just don’t fit in.

But Idaho State University sociology professor DJ Williams said that for people who identify themselves as real vampires, those symptoms are so severe that they believe they require extra energy in the form of blood or psychic energy.

Williams studied 11 people who identify themselves as vampires and had lived as vampires for some time.

His research was published in the latest Journal of Critical Social Work.

Along with co-author Emily Prior of the Center for Positive Sexuality in Los Angeles, Williams said his paper, “Do We Always Practice What We Preach? Real Vampires’ Fears of Coming out of the Coffin to Social Workers and Helping Professionals,” is aimed at making clinicians more aware of the growing vampire community.

“We live in an age of technology and live in a time when people can select new, alternate identities to fit how they understand themselves better,” Williams said. “We really need to understand some of these new identities and new ways to identify ourselves, and some of these new identities do not fit into stereotypes. Helping professionals of all varieties need more education on these kinds of topics. ”

Williams said all the vampires that took part in the study reported that they would be uncomfortable sharing their identity with a professional out of fear of being stereotyped and judged.

Real vampires are not the pale, nocturnal, dressed-all-in-black individuals who have their incisors carved into fangs after reading “Interview with a Vampire,” or the teen Dracula obsessed with the “Twilight” series, Williams said. Those are lifestyle vampires.

Vampires cross all religious and socio-economic boundaries, and while many real vampires do dress in black and only come out at night, they are not likely to divulge their secret outside of the vampire community.

“It’s not a religion. It’s akin to our sexual orientation,” Williams said. “It’s their identity, and it’s an important part of who they are.”

Williams said real vampires who drink blood represent a small percentage of vampires.

“It’s not uncommon to make a small incision on chest. Usually the blood is from a donor or their partner,” Williams said. “In the vampire community, there is a focus on safety, and vampires who drink blood need to be tested regularly from blood-borne disease.

Vampires who crave psychic energy might go a concert or another large gathering to absorb it.

Williams said he is not a vampire, and there aren’t any vampire communities in Southeast Idaho. But he said self-identified vampires’ fear of being judged keeps them from seeking help.

“People with alternative identities have the same set of issues that everybody has,” Williams said. “People of all kinds sometimes struggles with relationship issues or have a death in family or struggles with career and job-type issues. Some of these people with alternate identities may come to a therapist with these issues, and if clinicians are open and educated about this group, they should be able to help the individual much better.”

Williams hopes his research helps to shine light on the issue of alternate identities and the need to be sensitive and aware.

“In our codes of ethics — and this is true of social work, counseling, psychology and medicine — we talk about being open and non-judgmental to try to understand a client’s world and context,” Williams said. “This study explored the world and context of self-proclaimed vampires. A lot of clinicians are still not willing to accept these types of studies or are not aware of them.”

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