The human mind is a fascinating thing. After all, it’s consciousness and the capacity for critical thought that sets us apart from animals, and every bit of fear and dream and self-awareness we have is produced by a little pink lump located at the top of our body. With our brain’s complexity, of course, comes a downside in the form of an equally impressive number of ways for the human brain to go horribly wrong. Even with the horror of mental illness, it still presents a grim fascination, especially when it comes to people that seem to go against all rules of modern humanity: serial killers.

Even the FBI began to look into the exact brain chemistry and trauma that would cause someone to commit serial murder in the 70s with their Behavioral Sciences Unit, the inspiration for the excellent (so obviously cancelled) Netflix show Mindhunter. However, there’s one American serial killer that was never covered in Mindhunter, perhaps because the sheer scale of his particular mental illness almost demands a detour. I’m talking about Richard Trenton Chase, the “Vampire of Sacramento,” and one of the most deeply mentally ill serial killers of all time.

Chase combined the grisly details of a Jeffrey Dahmer or an Ed Gein with the disorganized, gory chaos of a Richard Speck. Yet, when you find out the exact depths of his delusional paranoid schizophrenia, you can see no other path but tragedy. Here are 5 facts about the so-named “Vampire Killer.”

He Thought His Blood Was Turning To Powder

Public Domain

Richard Chase’s most defining and devastating delusions came from what seems to be a combination of his paranoid schizophrenia and extreme hypochondria. Throughout his life, Chase was constantly convinced he was dying of myriad imagined ailments. At one point, Chase was convinced that his skull had split apart and the pieces were shifting within his head. He shaved his hair in order to monitor these imagined movements. He even possibly exhibited a condition known as “Cotard’s Delusion” for a period of time, a condition in which the afflicted believes themselves to be dead, also known as “walking corpse syndrome.”

However, his most persistent fear, one that would follow him throughout his life and surface in the details of his killings, was a belief that his blood and/or organs were slowly turning to powder.

He Was Not The “Quiet Boy Next Door”

Public Domain

A prevalent trope amongst serial killers is the idea of the “quiet boy next door,” where interviews with people who were familiar with the murderer remember him as quiet and normal. In cases like Ted Bundy, they even remember them as charming and personable. Richard Trenton Chase was not any of these things. From a young age, his mental illness displayed outwardly in erratic behavior and numerous deficiencies in his own basic care.

His hygiene was reportedly horrible for much of his life, partly owing the fact that for a while, he believed he was dead. Not much point in cleaning up a walking corpse, I suppose. His constant drug abuse and habit of walking around nude resulted in his roommates kicking him out of an apartment in San Francisco, and his mother witnessed all sorts of strange and violent behavior. 

He Was Institutionalized After Injecting Himself With Rabbit’s Blood

Public Domain

Adding to the timeline of a life that makes it seem outlandish that Chase was allowed to devolve to the point that ended in such tragedy, he had actually been institutionalized long before the murders. This was a result of his hospitalization after he had injected himself with rabbit’s blood. When even human blood transfusions require specific typing to not be rejected, you can imagine how the body reacts to a big ol’ pour of rabbit blood: not well.

His obsession with blood that would lead to such a drastic amateur medical procedure was connected to the delusion mentioned above, of his blood and organs disintegrating. As such, it only made sense to him that he’d need to constantly ingest blood and organs in order to replace the ones that were crumbling away. With a belief that strong, containment within a mental health facility takes second stage: even with his limited freedom and surveillance, while in the institution he would continue to catch and kill small birds to drink their blood and eat their organs. This would continue until he was… released. Hm. Killing birds and sucking them dry seems like a “further observation” sorta thing to me, but OK!

He Believed Unlocked Doors Were An “Invitation”

Public Domain

When Chase finally began to pursue humans and not animals, one of the ways he would choose his victims, though “choose” is still a generous description, was something straight out of a story designed to scare irresponsible children. He reportedly said that he considered unlocked doors to be an “invitation” to enter the home. When encountering a locked door, he wouldn’t make attempts to break in, but simply continue until finding a home into which he was “invited”. It feels likely this had less to do with a genuine belief and more with a last-ditch effort by his psyche to justify his compulsions, but it’s terrifying all the same.

He Drank The Blood Of His Victims

Public Domain

A blood-stained blender from Chase's kitchen when arrested.

His delusions and his deteriorating mental state all came together to create the appalling details of the murders he committed and how he got his grisly nickname, which was the consumption of his victim’s blood and in some case, organs. At one crime scene, an empty yogurt cup was found next to the body which had apparently been used to collect and drink their blood.

Richard Chase was arrested in 1978. After being surprised at a crime scene, he fled, but he had left prints in blood everywhere, which brought police to his apartment. When they entered, no search was necessary: reportedly the walls, floor, refrigerator, and all of Chase’s silverware and cups were covered in blood. Though his lawyers pled insanity, Chase was sentenced to death one year later. He’d never make it to the gas chamber, committing suicide while in prison, where even the other inmates were terrified of him.

Top Image: Public Domain

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