Modern-day Dracula: The tale of Richard Chase

Though their actions may suggest otherwise, serial killers and cannibal killers often do not murder out of malice. The habits of serial killers are dictated more often out of pleasure they derive from the hunt than out of any animosity towards the prey. Understandably, that explanation is little comfort to those who have had loved ones taken away by their lunacy. But, the tale of Richard Chase and his brief, but horrifying, killing spree suggests that the reasons for their actions are often not obvious. The absurd tale Richard Chase wove that drove him to commit six murders- and subsequently be characterized as the Vampire of Sacramento – combines many mundane elements of serial killers profile with their most sensationalist.

Richard Chase, much like many serial killers and cannibal killers before and after him, claims to have suffered from abuse as a child. As childhood became adulthood, the antisocial characteristics prevalent in many would-be killers began to show – from massive drug and alcohol abuse as a teenager to claims by friends of self-imposed isolation. In perhaps a foreshadowing into his psychological descent, he even injected himself with rabbit blood. His parents sent Richard Chase to a clinic where he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Richard Chase

Richard Chase

During his stay in the clinic, tales of zoosadism were linked to his increasing schizophrenia. His obsession with the blood of animals and their organs as a means to preserve his own body, as he would explain in later testimony, was a neon sign of his worsening mental health. Still, denial leaves room for excuses. His mother sought to take him off anti schizophrenia medications, and Richard Chase was deemed sane enough to leave the clinic in 1976. As is characteristic of serial killers, their urges often escalate if left unchecked. Removed from medication and an increased distrust of others made for a terrible combination.

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Thus, Richard Chase began his random murder spree. In December 1977, he shot 51 year-old Ambrose Griffin dead in a drive-by shooting. The murder of three-month pregnant Teresa Wallin weeks later was more calculating. After shooting Teresa Wallin dead, he engaged in perverse behavior, notably involving scenes of blood soaked cups from which Chase was said to have drunk her blood from. Days later, three dead bodies of his victims were discovered at a scene where Evelyn Miroth was, alongside friend Dan Meredith, minding her son and baby niece. The baby’s body was discovered dead elsewhere days later, while the others were discovered on the scene. Evelyn’s body was disemboweled with similar blood marks as Teresa Wallin. Richard Chase was soon captured as evidence from the scenes, combined with descriptions provided by those who knew him, cornered him. Vampire of Sacramento was sentenced to death in a gas chamber for 6 murders but he was found dead in his prison cell overdosed with antidepressants.

His testimony and beliefs made his murders more chilling. Blood lust Richard Chase justified his cannibalistic urges by explaining that his blood was turning into powder and that a Nazi crime syndicate and his mother were out to murder him for being Jewish – which he was not. Thus, killing and consuming blood were the only way to replenish his blood. Richard Chase was not overtly calculating as a serial killer, but in other ways he was. He was disorganized and did not go out of his way to clean up the messes he created following his murders. His victims, he explained to prosecutors, were chosen if their “door was unlocked because that meant he was welcome.” But, what is important about the aptly-named “Dracula” is that rarely are the actions of serial killers truly systematic or based on revenge. There are serial killers who have been more subtle about their perversions than Chase; there have been killers who have been more conscious about their behavior than Richard Chase. What makes the case of blood lust Richard Chase, his cannibal stories, and his appetite for human and animal flesh the most disturbing is that it could have been prevented. But, it wasn’t.


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