For the past three years, as Elizabeth Holmes’ startling fall from grace has accelerated, we’ve all asked a single question: why?
Holmes lied, for years, to millions of vulnerable patients, about having invented revolutionary blood-testing technology that might save their lives. She stole billions of dollars from investors, knowing full well that she had no capacity to pay them back. She retained the most prestigious law firms in the country to cow whistleblowers and journalists into silence. What drives a bright young woman to drop out of Stanford and mount a criminal enterprise? Why did she do it?
I’ve seen the explanations on offer. I don’t find them convincing.
Was she a sociopath? Almost definitely, but it takes a very special kind of sociopath to devise a scheme of this specificity, and in such a highly regulated field.
Was she doing it for the money? Doubtful. If she’d only wanted to generate vast personal wealth through nefarious means, she would have taken a job as an investment advisor on Wall Street, and we wouldn’t even know her name.
So it must have been fame, then? She just wanted to lap up with presidents and rock stars, travel the world in private jets, land on the cover of magazines? This comes closest to the truth, but it doesn’t explain everything. For one, Elizabeth Holmes lived like a hermit, residing in a modest, barely furnished house, racking up sleep debt, and spurning all food except juiced kale. She didn’t take vacations. She didn’t date, although she maintained a clandestine relationship with her COO for a time. She wore the same dowdy clothes at every public appearance. Why go to all that length, why make all that money, why accumulate all that prestige, if you’re not going to derive any pleasure whatsoever from the grift?
I have an alternate hypothesis, and it goes like this:
Elizabeth Holmes is a vampire.
I don’t mean this in the metaphorical sense. I mean that Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and CEO of Theranos, is an actual, literal vampire who subsists on human blood. She founded a blood-testing company, mounted an aggressive P.R. campaign to reach as many customers as possible, and aimed to put her clinics on every corner in America. Patients were lured in by the promise that they’d only have to give a single drop of blood — but when they arrived at Theranos clinics, they were forced to submit to traditional venous draws and give much higher volumes of blood. Patients’ blood samples were FedExed to Elizabeth Holmes’ headquarters in the Silicon Valley, and allegedly “tested,” although the majority of test results bore no resemblance whatsoever to the make-up of patients’ blood.
All of this information points to one conclusion. The entire Theranos project was an elaborate scheme to procure human blood for Elizabeth Holmes’ insatiable vampiric appetite.
You may not believe me. You may think it sounds outlandish. But consider the following: in the 2014 Fortune cover story that established her reputation, Elizabeth Holmes briefly discussed her dietary habits. “After a meal, she sometimes examines a drop of her own or others’ blood on a slide,” wrote the reporter. “She says she can observe the difference between when someone has eaten something healthy, like broccoli, and when he’s splurged on a cheeseburger.”
Elizabeth Holmes never went outside in direct sunlight. Her skin was pale, bordering on translucent. She wore solid black at all times. She could identify, on a molecular level, by sight, the nutritional content of human blood. And she spent over a decade enveloped in secrecy and surrounded by armed security, wrapped up in a criminal scheme to overthrow all existing blood-test companies, construct her own clinics on every street corner in America, and rake in vast quantities of human blood. There was no moral boundary that she wouldn’t cross in pursuit of this goal, no law she wouldn’t break.
Elizabeth Holmes was motivated not by fame, not by fortune, and not, certainly, for the welfare of mankind. She was motivated by one thing, and one thing alone: her ravenous lust for human blood. Elizabeth Holmes is a vampire.