Vampires in the Buffyverse

| Origins | Vampire dual nature |
"Pure" vampires | The Turok-han ("Uber-vamp") |
The sire-ing (creation of) vampires | Vampire birth |
Hierarchical group structures |
Vampires and... Invitations, Reflections, Mystical nights, Metal, Consecrated ground, Spells | Vampire stereotypes |
Vampire Physiology: Age, Strength, Senses, Procreation, Love, Breathing, Eating and drinking, Drugs, Illness and injury |
Vampires and evil | Things that kill vamps |
| Vox on Vampires and marriage |

Warning: this page contains info about episodes up through season 6 BtVS/season 3 AtS. If you're in danger of being spoiled, proceed with caution.
Vampire dual nature

"So vampires are demons?" --Xander (The Harvest).

(1) The original story about Buffyverse vampires (The Harvest, Lie to Me, Disharmony) was that they are human bodies possessed by a demon spirit. The human soul is gone, banished to the ether, and replaced by the demon, who often walks, talks, and acts like the human soul who is gone, but is not that soul. This implies that the soul is "the person"--their personality, conscience, etc.

We feel like there's a ghost of the person you once were inside them -- a philosophical ghost, not an actual spirit. It is, in fact, a demon, but the demon is infused with some of the characteristics of the people that they possess (David Fury,, Feb 9, 2001).

(2) Alternative theory: The soul as conscience only

In this theory, vampires are human bodies transformed by a demon physiology. The human conscience (soul) is gone, banished to the ether, and what remains is the personality of the original human unchecked by conscience and driven by blood lust.

Someone asked [Joss] Whedon how he defined "a soul" and how Angel (a vampire with a soul) differed from the soulless vampires (like Spike). Whedon posited that soulless creatures can do good and souled creatures can do evil, but that the soul-free are instinctually drawn toward doing evil while those with souls tend to instinctually want to do good (Hercules, Aint' It Cool News, March 4, 2001).

Even without human souls, Joss's vampires are all too human. While they are strong and immortal and "dead", they have very familiar weaknesses and urges.

How much of the human personality is left over upon vamping?

"What we once were will inform all that we have become."
                               --Darla, The Prodigal

Vampires we knew (or knew something about) as humans: just the old self with a predatory twist?

VampJesse | VampSheila (School Hard) | VampFord (LTM) | VampTheresa (Phases) | Angelus | Drusilla | VampXander | VampBlair (Helpless) | VampWillow | VampEddie (The Freshman) | VampHarmony | Penn | VampAlonna | Spike/William | Darla | Anne and VampAnne |

Alternative theories:

I think that Joss, despite his declaration that the demon and the mortal are completely separate, has grown enamoured of the idea of a relationship between the mortal and the corresponding vampire. This is most evident in Dopplegangland where, in typical Joss throw-away style, Angel starts to refute the accepted line before realising the implication for the traumatised Willow and hastily back-tracking.... When a person is vamped the nature of the evil of the demon possessing them is fixed by their original defining personality trait (Vox, Nov 3, 1999).

Mortal vs. vampire self: Vox on Angel and Power, Drusilla and Love, Spike and Insecurity, Willow and Curiosity, Xander and Submission

See also Angel vs. Angelus debate, and the moral ambiguity of Angel

While the demon may use the original personality as a base, there's more to it than that. So I think that the demons who inhabit the bodies of those they killed not only take on their personas, amplifying the negative traits, but they also take a special delight in perverting the positive traits. Evil is not merely happy with causing mayhem; evil loves to corrupt. The purer and holier the evil's object, the more delight evil gains from the corruption of said object. (See CS Lewis' "Screwtape Letters" for further edification.) For example: I think that before she was vamped, Drusilla was a chaste girl who was pious, loved small children, plants and animals. She also had ESP powers which tormented her, as she regarded them as evil. Now, she is apparently far from chaste, enjoys killing small animals and children, and delights in her ESP powers. Her character has been copied and perverted (Pippin, Jun 10 18:00 1998).

An extension of Pippin's theory by Vox

On becoming an evil thing: the psychology of transformations:

After a bit of disorientation, a newly sired vampire soon grasps its place in the world on an intrinsic level. ...He also retains the memories and personal quirks or habits of the human counterpart, but added to this are the vampire strengths and weaknesses. ...This could lead to a complex sense of self-identity, and even bouts with madness as Drusilla illustrated. For Holden, he accepted his new orientation on the scales of good & evil without question (ZachsMind, 11/15/02 14:21).

The sire-ing (creation of) vampires

Buffy explains the process like this: "To make you a vampire they have to suck your blood. And then you have to suck their blood. It's like a whole big sucking thing." This exchange-of-bodily-fluids process can be witnessed in B1 (Darla's vamping of Liam/Angelus) and "The Trial" (Drusilla's re-vamping of Darla). The vampire who turns a human being into a vampire is known as the "sire" (e.g., Darla is Angelus' sire). It is not quite as simple as Buffy puts it, however. The exchange only turns a human into a vampire if they are near death from the vampire bite. The sire must stop drinking when they feel the human's heart start to slow, and then feed the human their own blood.

...bit-but-alive include but are NOT limited to:

What happens when a person is vamped?

Free will and becoming a vampire

Vampire birth

Vampire/sire relations

"Some vampires choose a mortal, someone they can sire, someone who... can walk those lonely nights, hunting with them, feeding with them... joining with them... It's mythic!" --Darla

Lindsey: "Angel. He's here in town. You can feel him."
Darla: "Always could."

Vampires and human procreation

Unanswered questions about sire-ing: Are vampires conscious before they wake up a new vampire?

Hierarchical group structures

There are distinctly different types of vampires. Some are very "drone-like" with little personality (the ones that are just there to carry out tasks for others) and some are major players (Angleus, Spike, Dru, etc) (Sententia, Jan 21 15:23 2000).

Buffyverse vampires are social creatures, living in hierarchies like pack animals. The leader is often called "the master", and those who follow him or her are called "minions". The master's status is often due to being the others' sire and/or perhaps in virtue of his/her age or personality. Vampires do not always subordinate themselves to other vampires. They have also been known to follow non-vampire demons and evil humans.

Penance: Vampire minions pay a heavy price for messing up on the job, e.g., The Three giving their lives for failing to kill the slayer, fork-guy cutting off his hand after displeasing the Master, Dalton and Ryan getting walloped after pissing off Spike.

Vampire masters and minions

The Order of Aurelius: The Master (Luke, Darla, Thomas, Fork-guy, Andrew Borba?, The Three, Absalom), The Anointed One and his minions | Darla and her progeny: Angelus, Drusilla, Spike | Angelus and his apt pupils pre-1898 | Spike and Drusilla and their minions (e.g., Dalton) | Angelus and his "boys", 1998 | the vamps that lived and died for Kakistos | VampWillow and VampXander, minions of the Master | Lothos and his minions | el Eliminati, acolytes of the demon Balthazar (e.g., Vincent) | the Mayor's minions (Mr. Trick and Lenny, ex-Spike minion) | Zachary Kralik and vamp-Blair | VampWillow and the Mayor's ex-minions | Sunday and her lacking lackeys | Russell Winters and his human minions | Skin-head and his nest o' street vamps | Dracula, Renfield, and the three sisters | VampHarmony and her minionators | Deevak the demon and his vamp thugs | Doug Sanders and his vampire pyramid | The rebel vampire posse | The loan shark and his boys | Ul-thar and the vampire cult |

Other Buffyverse vampires: | Angel | The Gorch family: Lyle, Tector, and Candy | Stephen Korshak, Andrew the gymnast and other stake-fodder graveyard vamps |

Vampires and...

The invitation to vampires

1. A vampire can enter a public building--i.e., library, hospital, school, office building, retail store--no invitation necessary.

2. Vampires can only come into private residences if they are invited. Examples:

3. In addition, the inviter does not have to know they are giving an invitation to a vampire e.g.,

4. The inviter must be a resident, but not necessarily the owner.

5. Once the invitation occurs, the vampire is always welcome (assuming he or she can unlock or break down the door), unless a specific ritual is followed.

6. If they try to enter a residence uninvited, a mystical invisible barrier prevents this, e.g.:

7. The necessity of an invitation does not hold for frat houses (Angel in Reptile Boy), dorm rooms (Sunday's gang), or hotel rooms, e.g.,

This might have something to do with the occupants' privacy and proprietary rights relative to these different kinds of residences. In The Trial, Angel explains that hotels are not invite-protected because they are public accommodations.

8. It also does not hold for private clubs (e.g., as far as we know, Angel entered the gun club in Expecting without an invitation)

The necessity of an invitation also does not hold for the Turok-han or "ubervamp"

9. Invitations only seem to work with living humans. In Lonely Hearts, Doyle says that vampires can enter the private residence of someone who's died, e.g.,

10. Angel tells Wesley entering into residences belonging to another vampire isn't a problem in Somnambulist. Other examples:

11. Likewise, "Demon lairs. No invitation necessary," he tells Merle in Blood Money (other examples: Spike in Doc's apartment in Forever, Billy's home in Billy).

12. Problematic cases:


Angel: Why would a woman I've never met even talk to me?
Doyle: Have you looked in the mirror lately? Oh, I guess you really haven't, no.

Vampires cannot be seen on reflective surfaces:

  • Angel: the glass doors of Giles' bookcase (Out of Mind, Out of Sight), the glass window of Giles' office (Reptile Boy), Buffy's compact mirror (Earshot), mortalAngel can see himself in the glass of his office wall (IWRY), but Cordelia can't see vampAngel in the same glass (Expecting), Rebecca's living room mirror (Eternity), the gym mirror (Judgment), the boutique mirror (Reunion), restaurant mirror (Belonging).
  • Buffy can see Lyle Gorch on the escalator, but not in the mirror (Bad Eggs).
  • The vamps in the Initiative's demon zoo cast no reflection on the glass of their cells, but the walls behind them do.

Theories about reflections:

The origin of the lack of image in mirrors is traced back to the legendary ability of silver to combat evil. Way back when, mirrors were backed with silver to provide the reflection. ...Nowadays, I'm pretty certain they come backed with aluminium or something.... So, it's not the fact that vampires wouldn't show up due to some strange light-trick, it's the fact that mirrors contained silver, their most feared and hated element (Kenickie. Jun 17 09:07 1999).

I've always thought that mirrors didn't reflect vamps because they had no soul... but that doesn't explain Angel (MeeB, Jun 17 10:52 1999).

I prefer the Jossian philosophy to these questions involving divergent theories and mythologies on such vampire lore: "research is for wimps." He just makes it up as he goes (Closet Buffyholic, Jun 17 10:24 1999).

It's not physics, it's metaphysics (Joss, March 15, 2000)

Masquerade's response: duh, Joss. We're just trying to figure out the metaphysics.

They can be seen in photographs (Drusilla in LTM?, Zachary Kralik in Helpless, Angel in AYNOHYEB) and on video tape (a Spike minion in Halloween, Mr. Trick in Homecoming, Angel in S&S)

"It's not that vampires don't photograph, it's just that they don't photograph well" --Cordelia, AYNOHYEB

Video recorders don't rely on mirrors like standard cameras do. They utilize rapid line-by-line scanning on the field of view, convert that into an electromagnetic signal, and record it on whatever media you're using. Basically, it works for the same reason you can see a vampire directly with your eyes, but not a reflection of it (Shalazar, Oct 6 10:37 1999).

Telepathy: If a vampire's mind casts no reflection, then there is nothing to read, not by humans, not by demons, not by anybody (Earshot).

Problematic cases:

Consecrated Ground

We have seen Angel/Angelus entering churches and Spike and Drusilla carried out their ritual in WML in a church. Whereas the church in WML may well have been deconsecrated, the church in Becoming certainly wasn't. Are vampires free to enter places of worship in Joss's version of vampire lore...? (17 Feb 2000 19:04 A. Bewley)

It seems so. In IGYUMS, Angel enters a church with Wesley. He seems nervous, but unless he touches a sacred object like a cross or holy water, he won't be harmed (the vampires in "WSWB" got ouchies on consecrated ground because the Anointed One forced them to dig up the Master's grave with their bare hands. Angel has on clothes and shoes). The vampires in "Who Are You" are likewise impressed with the lack of consequences when they take a church full of parishioners hostage. God does not smite them down, but a vampire slayer does.

Spells: Vampires are vulnerable to magic spells, e.g.,

Vampire Physiology

Dawn: "I didn't know he was dead!"
Justin: "Living dead."

Are vampires really dead?

The dialogue on the show confuses this issue. Vampires are called "dead", but they must also be "killed". We are obviously dealing with two different definitions of the word "dead" here. Xander makes this distinction in the Zeppo:

"...walking around and drinking with your buddies dead", vs. "little bits being swept up by a janitor dead."

Vampires may be "dead" if one's definition is "without living human physiological function". But vampires walk, talk, think, and feel, no matter what's going on in the bodies they inhabit.

What is going on in vamp bodies? When someone in the Buffyverse is vamped, they die of blood loss and their human soul leaves the body. So in that sense, the person is dead. However, since they drank from the blood of the attacking vampire before their death, the body develops a demon physiology shortly after death (Becoming, pt. 1, Helpless, The Freshman). With this new physiology, the body is essentially alive again--it doesn't rot like a dead body does; it takes on most of the normal physiological characteristics of a human, with some differences:

Vampires obviously have some kind of blood flow... oxygenating their tissues, just like in a human body (though the quantity is obviously far less). ...When Angel was shot in "I Only Have Eyes for You", he bled from the wound, as he did when he cut his hand in "Becoming pt.2". ...This explains why the blood [they consume] must be whole and fresh (sigiil, 29 Feb 2000 12:04).

Anyone who is looking for a completely physical explanation of vampires is slipping out of the Buffyverse. Vampires, like slayers and witches are partly physical and partly supernatural creatures. Many aspects of their undead physiology are explained by the laws of the mystical, not the laws of the physical.

Short version: Vampire bodies aren't dead, their physiology has been altered. That is no doubt why they are called "the undead".

Vox on Are vampires dead?

Strength: Vampires are intrinsically stronger than their human predecessors. Examples:

Senses: Vampire senses are keener than human senses:

There is evidence that some vamps retain flaws in their senses from their mortal lives, e.g., both Dalton and Penn wore reading glasses.

Can vampires breath?

when Spike wrapped his arm around Dru's neck, [in B2] he was not constricting her non-existent breathing, but cutting off the blood flow to her brain, and thus she fell unconscious (sigiil, 29 Feb 2000 12:04).

Problematic Cases: heavy breathing in The Prodigal.

In the Buffyverse, vampires can indeed eat and drink

For nutrition and enjoyment, vampires need blood. The blood of any mammal will do (it's been implied that Angel has drank rats' blood (B1), cows' blood (The Prom), pigs' blood (City of...), and human blood). When vampires don't feed on blood for a prolonged period of time, they become "living skeletons" (Spike, Pangs), although long before that, they suffer damage to the higher brain functions (Wesley, Deep Down)--vampires don't die of starvation.

How vamps imbibe blood: neck-sucking, usually. The thigh is nice (Angelus, 5x5). It's less fun from a mug or straw (Spike, Something Blue, Hush) or a glass (Angel, AYNOHYEB).

Since they can eat and drink normal human food, they must also have some way to excrete it afterwards. But we'll skip that part.

Drugs: With nearly human bodies, Buffyverse vampires can be influenced by mind-altering chemicals:

How can drugs effect vampires if they don't have a functioning circulatory system?

Many drugs, including the ones loaded into tranquilizer darts, are designed for intramuscular (IM) or subcutaneous (SC) injection, rather than venous injection. ('Cause what are the odds that you'll hit a major blood vessel with a tranq dart?) These drugs diffuse through the interstitial fluid -- the fluid between the individual cells -- rather than through the blood. Presumably, they could also diffuse through blood that isn't flowing.

Also, vamps would still have some blood flow from muscle movement, like humans do (which is why blood doesn't pool in your legs unless you're forced to keep your legs immobile for a while, like on an airplane) (Gyrus, 1/30/04 9:11).

Illness and injury: Vampires can get injured and need long rehabilitation

Vampires and love

In Dear Boy, Angel tells Darla " never made me happy... I couldn't feel that with you, because I didn't have a soul." This seems like an odd claim--we've seen vampires display what looks very much like love. Can vampires love?

"Oh, we can, you know. We can love quite well. If not wisely." --Drusilla, Crush

Demons have been depicted on the shows as being everything from irredeemably evil to heroically good. Although it's a safe generalization that most demons are evil, this "evil" is better interpreted as a lack of empathy towards humans than an inability to feel empathy at all. Demons are quite capable of having feelings towards their own kind, which makes sense when you realize that many demon species form groups for support, protection, and procreation.

They believe in evil, they believe in causing it, they like it. They believe it in the way that people believe in good. ...[But] I believe [good and evil is] kind of like a spectrum ...they're all sort of somewhere in the middle... So they can love someone, they can attach to someone, they can actually want to do things that will make that person happy in the way they know they would (Joss Whedon, 3/30/01 The 18th Annual William S. Paley Television Festival)

Vampire feelings are even more complex because of their dual nature. They band together with other vampires instinctively, but a Master vampire is usually a Master because s/he has no compunction about killing one of his/her minions. Vampires often have mixed feelings about humans as well. Humans are their natural prey, but humans are also the raw materials from which they create more of their kind.

Vampires can love, I definitely do think so. Spike and Dru have shared 100 years together. I do feel there's this sweet, caring, loving side as well as the evil, terrible side that we have (Juliet Landau [Drusilla], Feb 9, 2001).

What a vampire is capable of feeling is a function of the individual vampire's personality. Hence, we get both the mooney doting yet soul-less Spike and the cold and heartless Angelus who was incapable of any tender feeling without Liam's human soul.

...Darla clearly had feelings of love and or devotion to her Angel ...As we have seen before and as we saw last night, [Angelus feelings for Darla] existed before he had a soul. ...Even the Master, one of the vilest creatures that has ever lived, cared deeply for Darla. Remember his reaction when he found out that Angel had killed her? Thus it is easy for a vampire to care for another. That's just a short step from love. ...[Spike's] dreams, etc. seem to show that the feelings run deeper than just obsession. The scene [in FFL] where he was crying in the money, and the last scene where he was trying to comfort Buffy are totally within the range of feelings and emotions of which we have seen vampires capable (valMichael, Nov 15 14:20 2000).

More on Spike and love

James and Elisabeth:

There was interesting comparisons between James and Elizabeth and Darla and Angelus. The main thing of note was that the vampire can love in the exact porportion that the human was capable of loving. Darla and Angelus were both troubled and self-centered people before they became vampires so it's no surprise that their self-centered behavior would continue on in unlife (Rufus, 13:45 9/25/01).

Things that kill vampires

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