Not All Vampires Wear Capes
Some of history’s most depraved murderers have had a vampire-like fascination with blood. Some even believed they were an immortal bloodsucker. These killers include Friedrich Heinrich Karl “Fritz” Haarmann the “Vampire of Hanover,” Richard Trenton Chase the “Vampire of Sacramento,” and Marcelo Costa De Andrade the “Vampire of Niteroi.”
One of history’s most infamous real-life vampires was Peter Kürten, known as the “Vampire of Düsseldorf” due to the brutality of his crimes and his obsession with blood. Kürten was executed on July 2, 1931 for the murder of nine people, and the attempted murder of seven others. Before he walked to guillotine, he reportedly asked the prison psychiatrist “after my head has been chopped off, will I still be able to hear, at least for a moment, the sound of my own blood gushing from the stump of my neck? That would be the pleasure to end all pleasures.”1
This literal blood lust displayed by Kürten and other killers is known as clinical vampirism or Renfield’s Syndrome. Although psychiatrists have written about the behaviors associated with clinical vampirism since the 19th century, the disorder received notoriety in 1992 after the publication of Richard Noll’s Vampires, Werewolves, and Demons: Twentieth Century Reports in the Psychiatric Literature. As Noll was writing this book, the clinical psychologist realized that patients with clinical vampirism acted in ways similar to R.M. Renfield. Renfield was a character in Bram Stoker’s Dracula who is a patient at a lunatic asylum and under the influence of the famous vampire. He jokingly renamed the disorder Renfield’s Syndrome as a play on ‘DSM-speak.” The term soon went viral as it was popularized by news articles and documentaries.2,3
One of my favorite, real-life “vampire” murders is the Atlas Vampire. This killer struck Stockholm more 85 years ago and the case is still unsolved.
The Death of Lilly Lindeström
n May 4, 1932 a woman named Minnie went to the Stockholm police because she had not heard from her friend, Lilly Lindeström, for four days. This was unusual because the friends lived in the same building, in the Atlas neighborhood of Stockholm, and looked after each other.4,5
When police went to Lilly’s apartment for a welfare check, they found she had been dead for a few days. The body of the 32-year-old was laying on her left side on top of an ottoman, her head rested on her left arm. Blood dripped onto the floor from a large wound on the right side of her head.5,6
In the days after the discovery of Lilly’s body, investigators questioned her friends and neighbors in order to piece together her movements and (hopefully) identify a suspect.
What We Know
On the evening of April 30, 1932 Lilly paid her rent then went to her apartment to meet a client. Lilly was a sex worker who frequently met her clients in her home. Unfortunately, police never found out who this person was.4,5,6
Minnie told investigators that Lilly knocked on her door that night to borrow a condom, then returned short while later for a second one when the first condom broke. This was the last time Lilly was seen alive.4,5
Minnie checked on her friend the next day but she did not answer the door. She just assumed Lilly was out celebrating Walpurgis Night, a sort of spring celebration observed on May 1st and known for its “carnival-like” atmosphere. She decided to go to the cops when she did not heard from Lilly the next few days.5,6
The Crime Scene
Because Lilly’s death was considered suspicious, investigators called on a physician to do an autopsy. The physician determined that the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head. The fatal wound was on the right side of her head that extended from her temple to her neck. It was thought that the killer struck her from behind with a heavy, round object, like a pipe. It was during this examination that the physician found one of the borrowed condoms between her legs.4,5,6
Police assumed the killer tasted some of Lilly’s blood because there was a blood-covered ladle in the kitchen sink, because of this the murderer became known as the Atlas Vampire. The suspect was named for the neighborhood in which the attacked occurred and the murderer’s suspected sanguine compulsion.5,6
I’ve read some articles and heard some podcasts report that the Atlas Vampire drained Lilly’s body of most or all of her blood. But I have not been able to verify that detail in the few English articles I read. I also did not find evidence of blood draining in the Swedish articles. However, I relied on Google Translate for this portion of my research, which is probably not the most reliable method of translation.
I reached out to the Stockholm Police Museum, which stores the evidence for this case, and asked them if the killer drained the blood from Lilly’s body. As of publication of this blog post, I have not heard back.
The Stockholm police searched Lilly’s apartment and the area surrounding the building. Her second-floor apartment was neat and showed no signs of a struggle. The clothes she wore the night of her murder were neatly folded on a chair.5,6
Alvar Zetterquist, an investigator who worked on the case, wrote a few years afterward that the murderer left no evidence behind, “no fingerprints, emptied glass, no hairs or cigarettes.” They believed the killer brought the murder weapon with him and took it when he left.6
Investigators collected evidence from Lilly’s body, including hair and nail clippings. The Stockholm Police Museum has these samples, along with the wrappers from the condoms she borrowed from her friend, and crime scene drawings.7
Police never charged anyone for the murder of Lilly Lindestrom and the case eventually went cold.
- Jenkins, M. (2010). Vampire Forensics: Uncovering the origins of an enduring legend. Washington, D.C.: The National Geographic Society.
- Santa Maria, C. (2012). Renfield’s Syndrome: A mysterious case of real-life vampirism. Retrieved on 10/23/2019: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/renfields-syndrome-vampirism_n_1765799?guccounter=1
- Ramsland, K. (2012). Vampire Personality Disorder. Retrieved on 10/23/2019: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shadow-boxing/201211/vampire-personality-disorder
- Eddy, C. (2015). Sweden’s most bizarre unsolved murder was (maybe) committed by a vampire. Retrieved on 10/23/2019: https://gizmodo.com/swedens-most-bizarre-unsolved-murder-was-maybe-commit-1706115395
- Ohyggligt morddrama i Stockholm. 32-årig frånskild fru dödad i sin bostad. (1932). Svenska Dagbladet. Retrieved from: https://stockholmskallan.stockholm.se/post/24874
- Drack han hennes blod? Retrieved in 2019: http://www.pressreader.com/sweden/solo/20150714/283317521076207
- Atlas Vampire. Retrieved 10/23/2019: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlas_Vampire