Of Blood and Powder: Richard Chase, the Sacramento Vampire
Having spent a great deal of my lifetime in Northern California, I’ve found that amidst the abundant redwood forests and grazing cattle, there was a much deeper underbelly of creepy stories and folklore. From the Golden State Killer to the ghost town of Bodie, there seems to be an inherent isolation that pervades much of California’s northernmost regions – which has consequently lent itself to attracting some questionable characters.
Take, for example, the life and times of Richard Chase.
Originally a native of Santa Clara, Richard Trenton Chase first gained notoriety in the 1970s after his brief but bloody spree in the city of Sacramento (my birthplace). But what undoubtedly caught the attention of many a citizen within the city was his penchant for drinking the blood of his victims, as well as the cannibalization of their ashen remains – henceforth the nickname of ‘The Sacramento Vampire’. But Richard’s acquired tastes dated back far before his 1-month proverbial reign of terror.
Growing up in an abusive environment left an indelible mark on young Richard; it didn’t take very long for the boy to display telltale signs of violence and perversion. By the age of 10, he had already begun torturing animals, committing acts of arson, and persistently wetting the bed. These 3 factors are often linked to the Macdonald triad – a theory that is often thought to draw accurate predictions to future violent tendencies in people.
In Richard’s case, this rang exceedingly true. He had also developed a chronic addiction to drugs and alcohol from a very early age, which permeated the remainder of his life from that point onward.
Richard had become an enormous hypochondriac as he came into adulthood, albeit in the most abnormal sense imaginable. Such intense concerns that took hold of his diluted psyche included his utter conviction that someone had, in fact, “stolen” his pulmonary artery, and that his heart had a tendency to stop beating completely. He was also convinced that his skull had somehow separated; thus, he proceeded to shave off all of his hair in order to watch the presumed bits of cranial bone move around beneath his skin.
It was around this time that Richard left his mother, who he believed was attempting to poison him; it should be noted that this is not the only time Richard feared people were out to do him harm, but we’ll get to that later. After a brief period in which he shared an apartment with other living humans, he was eventually left entirely to his own devices after driving those people out of the apartment. It was around this time where he began to slaughter animals that he managed to trap, culminating in him mixing the various animal bits with Coca-Cola into a blender and drinking it.
A true culinary trailblazer, he was indeed. If only he pursued it more…
After a period in which he was committed to a mental asylum for injecting the blood of a rabbit into his veins (and where his seemingly vampiric proclivities earned him a feared reputation amongst the staff and patients of the asylum), Richard was nevertheless deemed sane enough to be sent on his way with a medical prescription, and to the care of his mother – who decided to find him an apartment, pay his rent, and ween him off of his medications.
Motherly altruism aside…as if it weren’t plain as day, Richard Chase was quite clearly NOT sane. After all, this was the same person who was found drenched in cow’s blood near Reno – not long after being released from the asylum.
But he had never committed murder up until that point. It wasn’t until late 1977 – two days shy of New Year’s Eve – when Richard claimed his first known victim.
Ambrose Griffin, a father and engineer, was killed by Richard Chase in a drive-by shooting with a .22 caliber handgun. He was 51.
After that came Teresa Wallin, a soon-to-be mother. He shot her three times with the same handgun used to kill Griffin, and proceeded to perform various acts of necrophilia before cutting off one of her nipples, removing her organs, and drinking her blood.
The last victims were Evelyn Miroth, her son Jason, her nephew David, and her friend Danny. In a horrific explosion of violence, Chase fatally shot all 4 of them, stole Danny’s wallet and keys, and again performed acts of cannibalism and necrophilia with the body of Evelyn. David’s body was later found in a box in a nearby lot.
Fortunately, it was quite easy for law enforcement to catch Richard, since he left perfect handprints and shoeprints in the house after fleeing. Shortly after he was arrested, his apartment was searched by police, who found that quite literally his ENTIRE apartment was covered in blood.
Whether it was consumption, injection, or concoction with a splash of Coca-Cola, Richard had an intense fixation on blood. Where this fixation was rooted in is uncertain, but what is undeniable was his fear of others, and his downright bizarre desire to preserve his own blood.
In interviews conducted by the late Robert Ressler (as well as an unnamed psychiatrist), Richard’s rationale for the killings ultimately boiled down to an irrational fear of soap dishes, Nazis, and UFOs.
In these interviews, Richard spoke of his alleged Jewish heritage (which he did not have), and how he had been persecuted by Nazi UFOs, who telepathically ordered him to kill others – lest his blood be “turned to powder.” He believed that if the soap dish was dry on the bottom, he was safe. If it had more of a gelatinous texture, he was doomed to a slow death via a kind of…blood-powder disintegration, and the depletion of his body and energy.
Regardless of his rationale (or lack thereof), perhaps what’s most unsettling about this case is the obvious enabling of his delusional behavior that took place, specifically with his mother – who, as previously mentioned, partook in varying degrees of abuse towards Richard from a young age, got him out of a psych ward, found him an apartment, paid rent, and weened him off of his meds. In essence, she completely ignored and ultimately enabled his obvious illnesses. Had this not have occurred, there may very well have been far less lives taken.
Richard Chase was found guilty of six counts of first degree murder, and ultimately sentenced to death via gas chamber – despite attempting to use the insanity defense. He committed suicide via overdose before the sentencing could take place.