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Ask Dr. Pecos

Archives Part VIII

Photo: Stu Spivack
I have a question for you. Don't know if you've ever seen the ABC Family show, "The Middleman," but they had an episode called "The Vampiric Puppet Lamentation." During one scene, The Middleman is reading a guide on Vampire Lore and one question is, "If a vampire offers you soup, what does this mean?" Unfortunately they didn't offer the multiple choice answers and I wondered if you might know the answer.
Chris M., Mesa, Arizona

Answer: I haven't seen the show you're referring to, but I can offer a theoretical answer to the question posed by it.

Vampires have trouble digesting solid food, and soup is one of the few forms of sustenance that they can hold down. During the Middle Ages, vampires in urban areas often opened secret restaurants called potages, after the French word for "soup." These restaurants became their de facto meeting places, as well as shelters where they could hide out from hunters. As a result, soup became a symbol of brotherhood among the vampiric race, and only the most trusted civilians were invited into their potages.

If a vampire offers you soup, it means that it is considering taking you on as a pack member. Needless to say, it's an offer I would turn down.

I've been thinking about it and I've finally decided I do want to become a vampire. You should consider finding me one so I can.
VM, Tennessee

The epicenter of
vampire mythmaking
Answer: I've received an increasing number of e-mails like this from people wanting to become vampires. I'm tempted to call this "Twilight Syndrome," after the successful books and movie that depict vampires as an attactive, charismatic, improved version of the human race, but it's unfair to blame Twilight exclusively. For years now, various entertainment vehicles have been partaking in this unfortunate mythologizing. These entertainments are primarily responsible for today's three leading myths about vampires: one, that they are physically attractive; two, that they can control their bloodlust; and three, that they can survive off blood from blood banks.

None of these things are true. None.

Here's some of what you can expect if you become a vampire:

  • You will live like an animal, hiding out in caves, sewers and abandoned structures with the rats and cockroaches.
  • You will move from place to place, always on the run, never able to settle down.
  • Your life's pleasures will boil down to one thing: hunting and drinking the blood of human beings.
  • You will never see the sunlight again.
  • Your hair will fall out, your eyes will turn black as coal, and you will become gaunt and ghastly.

These are just some of the scourges that await you if you turn. And remember, you cannot have a "do over." Once you've turned, there's no going back.

Trust me: you do not want to become a vampire. Try instead to enjoy and appreciate the pleasures of being human. That's far, far preferable to being a vampire.

Dear Dr. Pecos, My name is Vaanessa, and I've been thinking of becoming a vampire hunter. I'm wondering what your opinion on my situation is. Will I actually be able to kill some of the stinking vamps, or will it be a waste of my time? I have been doing a lot of research on the FVZA, and I was wondering if you know if they are accepting any new recruits this year, or if the academy is even in business anymore? I would be grateful if you could answer this e-mail as soon as possible. Thanks.
Vaanessa, Somervile, Massachusetts

Cadets practice assault maneuvers at the FVZA
Academy's training center,"Fangtown."
Answer: Unfortunately, Vaanessa, the FVZA is no longer operational and the Academy has been bulldozed. All the instructional materials now reside in a vault in the National Archives in Washington.

I have been pestering government officials for years to reopen the Academy so that we could have a class of trained agents available in the event of an outbreak, but so far, my requests have met with a mix of contempt and condescension. Whenever a politician or appointed official says to me, "there are no such things as vampires and zombies," I'm always tempted to respond with, "you're welcome." There is no such thing in part due to the hard work of the FVZA. But a vampire or zombie revival is always possible. Recent intelligence from contacts here in the USA and overseas suggest that an outbreak is highly likely in the next year or two.

It would be foolish to wait until the first signs outbreak to restart the agency, because in today's world, even a small outbreak can spread quickly. A truck driver, bitten by a vampire at a truck stop outside of San Antonio, could be in New Orleans or Tallahassee by the time he turns. Panic would spread even faster than the virus. If you think the media went overboard with the swine flu coverage, wait until they get hold of a vampire or zombie outbreak.

The Academy should be reopened, sooner rather than later. We'll all be sorry if it isn't.

Vaanessa, my advice to you and anyone else who wants to be prepared is to train in martial arts, swords and firearms. Stay fit and focused. Find others who share your interests. Develop the ability to live "off the grid." You should be able to survive indefinitely without electricity, running water and easily obtainable food.

Keep me posted on your progress. If the Academy ever opens again, I'll be happy to write a letter of recommendation for you.

Los Angeles River, 1953: An FVZA lieutenant confers
with a couple of LAPD officers over the body
of a recently exterminated zombie.
How intact does the human body need to be in order for that person to become a zombie? Lets say a pack of the undead devours most of their kill, but leaves the brain and the upper body intact. Will that person be able to come back to life? Also would the same results happen to somebody who was killed by a pack of vampires?
J-Dawg, Chamblee, Georgia

Answer: Excellent question. Caution: the answer is not for the faint of heart.

In order for a person to "reawaken" as a zombie, their brain must be intact, along with a significant portion of their upper body. If zombies crack open a victim's skull and devour the brain, that person is dead; as in, no longer alive. They will not come back to life as a zombie. Also, victims who lose a significant amount of internal organs, like the liver, heart and lungs, will not come back to life.

The condition of a victim's extremities are not as important with respect to transformation. For instance, I remember one particular case when I was an agent in the Los Angeles bureau. On a rainy winter's day, I traveled with an Assault Team to exterminate a small pack of zombies living in a drainage tunnel along the Los Angeles River. As usual, we cordoned off the area and moved in on the suspected location. The zombies promptly emerged from the tunnel, groaning, and I noticed among them a female using its arms to drag itself along. A shock when through me when I saw that this zombie had no legs: just a couple of broken stubs of femur stripped off all flesh. I also noticed that the zombie had a butterfly pin in its hair. Details like that always stayed with me, long after the assault was over. A wedding ring, a locket: things that made you realize that the ghastly thing before you was once a person. It was always heart-wrenching to see a once vibrant human reduced to such a pathetic state.

But of course, I couldn't let me emotions get in the way of my job. I raised my shotgun and put the legless zombie out of its misery.

Zombies desperate with hunger will consume virtually every part of their victims. They even crack open bones to get at the marrow. Zombies that are well fed will still attack and bite, but out of aggression rather than hunger. They appear to have no interest in increasing their pack size by transforming others.

Vampire attacks, on the other hand, involve more calculation, because a vampire must decide if it wants its victim to come back to life after the attack. Vampires even have elaborate rituals based around transforming supportive civilians into one of their kind.

The key variable to whether or not a person reawakens as a vampire is the amount of blood that remains in the victim's body after an attack. An adult human body normally carries about six quarts of blood. If a vampire drains every last drop, then that that person will die and will not come back to life as a vampire. If a vampire leaves roughly a quart or more of blood in the victim, then that victim will reawaken as a vampire.

An established, successful pack generally will drain all the blood from a victim and then take great pains to hide the remains. A lone or recently transformed vampire is more likely to leave some blood in its victims to ensure they come back as vampires. It is rough out there for a new vampire and they tend to prefer help and company.

Do you know what is the estimated number of vampires in the world in 2009 and around which areas they are found the most? And what about werewolves?
Mary, Montreal, Canada

Worldwide vampire distribution (red) and werewolf habitat (green).

Answer: I would estimate the worldwide vampire population today to be approximately 5,000.

My estimate includes dormant vampires. As I've mentioned before on the site, vampires are capable of entering a dormant phase wherein their bodily functions slow to a level just enough to sustain them. There is virtually no limit to a vampire's dormant phase. In 1964, a construction crew in London uncovered a vampire that had been dormant since 1688—almost 300 years!

As the FVZA and other organizations around the world made significant progress in vampire abatement during the 1950s and 1960s, many vampires went into hiding, hoping to reawaken at a more hospitable time. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them start to emerge soon. After all, the FVZA has been out of commission for more than 30 years, .

Vampire population distribution largely mirrors that of humans, so vampires are most likely found in and around large cities. That does not mean the country is completely safe; in fact, many vampires find areas in the countryside—caves, cemetery crypts, abandoned mines—more suitable for a safe dormancy.

The number of werewolves in existence worldwide is probably less than 1,000. Development has encroached significantly on their habitat.

Werewolf distribution is closely linked with that of their wolf cousins. They are found across North America, Europe and Asia. Canada is likely to be home to the largest number of werewolves, so be careful Mary when traveling through wooded areas!

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