Count von Count Suffers From Real Arithmomania

“One friend from Sesame Street, plus one friend from Sesame Street, equals two friends from Sesame Street! Ah, ha, ha!” —Count von Count

In A Nutshell

As one of the stars of Sesame Street, jolly vampire Count von Count has been teaching children how to count for over 40 years. His obsession with counting harks back to traditional legends which state that vampires suffer from Arithmomania, a variant of OCD which causes sufferers to fixate on numbers.

The Whole Bushel

Of all the characters to appear on Sesame Street, one of the most famous is undoubtedly Count von Count. With his Bela Lugosi-esque looks, foreboding castle (complete with squeaky door), and pet bats, he’s been teaching kids to calculate responsibly ever since his first appearance on the show in 1972.

However, the Count’s love of counting isn’t just an invention of the show: It’s a key aspect of classical vampire folklore. In pre-modern times, when vampires were commonly believed to exist, it was commonplace for people to scatter poppy seeds and other types of grains (such as rice or wheat) on the floor of their houses in order to prevent themselves from becoming prey to these nightmarish bloodsuckers. This was because on entering the abode, the vampire would be compelled to count the grains, allowing time for either the occupants to escape or the sun to rise and kill the creature. As a way of pre-emptively thwarting any deceased relatives from rising from the grave, family members would sprinkle their corpses with seeds.

Count von Count’s trademark habit of counting everything that he encounters in Sesame Street—including bats, ducks, and apples—is simply a nod back to these legends, albeit one in a more child-friendly form.

Even more surprisingly, this obsession to count is a real disorder. Known as arithmomania, it’s closely associated with sufferers of obsessive compulsive disorder. According to the (surprisingly) sparse amount of research into this condition, it causes sufferers who are faced with a set of numbers or objects to endlessly add, subtract, multiply, and divide them. How little research? One paper, two papers, three papers . . . was that thunder and lightning we just heard?

Show Me The Proof

Encyclopedia of the Vampire: The Living Dead in Myth, Legend, and Popular Culture, S.T. Joshi
Telegraph: Quite interesting facts about vampires
Obsessive-compulsive Disorder Spectrum: Pathogenesis, Diagnosis, and Treatment, Jose A. Yaryura-Tobias, Fugen A. Neziroglu