First written in 2001
[If you are Goth or are in a vampyre lifestyle, I would appreciate your thoughts on this article. Please email me. Thank you in advance for your feedback.]
There is a lot of history, myth, and folklore surrounding vampires, from the Bram Stoker novel Dracula and the 1922 silent film, “Nosferatu,” to the 1985 movie “Fright Night” and Anne Rice’s 1976 novel, Interview With A Vampire. What many are unaware of is that today there are those who consider themselves vampires, and there is a real vampire underground in this country and in Europe. But these vampires are not turning into bats. These present-day vampires are people who may not consider themselves totally human, believing that they were born a vampire, or that they became one through some kind of initiation involving blood-drinking and/or sex. The vampire persona may be also taken on as a form of personal expression, or to indicate feeling set apart from society. What is true is that this subculture is totally outside mainstream culture, and is more a rejection of that culture’s values than a rebellion against it.
Vampires sometimes prefer the spelling, “vampyre,” to distinguish it from fictional and stereotyped vampires. Sometimes they are referred to as the Kindred. There are those who do not like the vampire term, and may prefer a name like Dark Angel.
The vampire subculture covers a range of beliefs and practices. Those involved may:
-Limit their involvement to role-playing games and to fantasy
-Gather at Goth or similar clubs on the weekends
-Be attracted to and involved in erotic practices associated with some forms of vampirism
-Be drawn to the occultic, dark side of vampirism
-Believe they can gain special powers through blood-drinking
-Be in a group or “clan” with others
-Identify themselves as a vampire based on their own personal criteria
Since the movement is (sub)culture-driven and leaderless, there is no set of consistent beliefs; there is dispute as to what a vampire really is. The vampire is revered by various people as a romantic hero, as a rebel, as a master of dark powers, as a predator, as an outcast, or as an immortal. Some claim blood-drinking must be a part of it, while others assert that drinking blood is the province of vampire wannabes, and that the true vampire does not need blood but instead feeds off the psychic energy of others. Others may believe that being a vampire is the ultimate in individuality and can do what they want. Those seriously involved may practice one or more of the following: blood-drinking, sleeping in coffins, avoiding daylight, performing occult rituals, taking drugs, wearing fangs or having incisors sharpened, and engaging in unusual sexual practices.
Roots and Influences
The Goth Culture: Many consider contemporary vampire subculture to be a subset of the Goth culture, a movement embracing the romanticism of darkness and the outcast persona, for the vampire sees himself as the outcast of an uncaring society as well as its reflection. Most Goths, it is important to note, are NOT in the vampire subculture. The Goth movement arose out of the punk subculture in the late 1970’s, mainly through music, and as a statement against what was seen as the oppressive, materialistic, and superficial values of mainstream society. Those who identify with the Goth movement wear almost exclusively black clothing; sometimes dye their hair black; may enjoy ‘dark’ literature such as Lovecraft, Stephen King, Anne Rice, and others; may wear silver chains or have several body piercings; and may paint their fingernails black. [Note: There are those who dress like this who are not Goth or vampiric]. Often creative people, they enjoy intellectual discussions and may not identify with any particular religious belief system, sometimes presenting themselves as agnostics.1 Teen Goths are more likely to be into the occult, Wicca, or some other form of alternative spirituality. Many Goths feel that they do not fit into mainstream society and may have experienced some form of social or familial isolation or rejection. Despite their dark fashion, Goths are usually gentle people with artistic and literary tastes. Sometimes their deliberate off-putting look is either a test to see who will accept them for who they really are, or is a way to continue an isolation they are used to. Violence is not a mark of this culture.
The vampire underground reflects many of these traits of Goth culture. Those taking on the vampire persona may not only wear black, but sometimes wear jewelry with symbols such as the ankh,2 long capes with hoods, and make their faces pale with white make-up. As a social movement connected to Goth worldviews, the vampire subculture is believed to mirror the predatory nature of a society whose technology and corporate power have eroded intimacy and cast out those who do not submit to its dehumanization. In this sense, society’s dehumanization is mocked by the figure of the vampire, who himself is not considered human.
Vampire: The Masquerade: One of the influences on the vampire underground, aside from Anne Rice’s novels, is the vampire game, Vampire: The Masquerade,3 a live action role-playing game (LARP) which allows individuals to act out the role of a vampire within the context of a complex strategy game. Players choose to belong to one of seven clans with names such as Nosferatu, Tremere, Gangrel, and others, each with their own characteristics. Each player chooses certain traits and attributes, some of which include occult powers.4 In the game’s introduction, it describes a world where predators, both human and vampire, rule: “Your characters do not exist in a vacuum. Rather, they reside in a world that exists in our imaginations, a place known as the World of Darkness. It is the proverbial Hell in which your character lives and suffers. Your vampiric character lives to hunting and feed. Never again will she see the light of day. The world is a Gothic-Punk nightmare, a frightening, surreal version of our own world….Packs of street thugs prowl urban jungles. Bureaucratic sharks stalk the oceans of politics and business…..ancient vampires vie for control of mortals and immortals.”5
In its fantasy aspect, the vampire scene offers intimate connections to those alienated from society or family, providing a deep social and emotional bond through the games and role-playing.6
[If you are Goth or are in a vampyre lifestyle, I would appreciate your thoughts on this article. Please email me. Thank you in advance for your feedback.]
Who is a Vampire?
Many who consider themselves vampires think there is something in their blood that makes them a vampire, a non-human. They believe they have been born a vampire, or they are initiated as one. They may or may not be involved in occult practices. They often gather in Goth clubs or other clubs catering to those in the vampire underground. A psychologist researching the vampire scene stated that such clubs attract “Goths, psychics, pagans, role-players, witches, real vampyres, fetish vamps, wizards, werewolves,” and those associated with vampires, “shifters,” [shapeshifters].7 Some claim the vampire is solitary;8 others claim they work in clans.9 One vampire states that vampires are “beyond the law. Human, but not human…..a powerful being that understands human realities, but lives in a place beyond human limitation. The vampire actualizes the so-called dark half.”10
There is disagreement as to who is a vampire, since the culture attracts diverse types: those who are into cutting themselves or into drinking blood for some kind of sexual or addictive satisfaction; the mentally confused; those with clinical vampirism marked by a compulsion for blood-drinking; those who dislike the sun; and those who believe they are born a vampire.11 As in the modern Neopagan movements, there is no authority to decide the standards or definitions. One researcher offered his definition of a vampire as someone who has a physical need for blood.12 Another researcher found vampirism connected to Satanism or perverse sexual appetites, but also stated that he found that many self-professed vampires had been physically abused as children or horribly neglected.13 Vampirism can also be about breaking the taboos of society, sexual and otherwise.14
Additionally, many vampires and vampire groups are secretive and are difficult, if not impossible, to investigate. In this respect, it is not unlike Satanism, whose high degree of secrecy prevents a clear or consistent understanding of its practices and practitioners.
The Vampire As Outcast: Anne Rice’s novels romanticized the vampire as a sort of existential anti-hero. No longer an evil creature, the vampire became the misunderstood victim caught in circumstances beyond his control, a slave to his passions and to his need for human blood. The best thing about the film, “Interview with a Vampire,” based on Anne Rice’s novel, opines one vampire, is that “the lifestyle of the vampire is not presented as a facet of evil, but rather as an inevitable quirk of nature….A vampire feeds because it’s hungry.” 15 The vampire’s need to maintain immortality through drinking blood, his inability to be in the sun, his strange eroticism, his life on the outskirts of society as the outsider, all became a symbol for those who see themselves as the outsiders or social outcasts of society.
As technology increased, it gave rise to a nostalgia for feelings and intimate contact. According to the author of one fictional account of a vampire, tellingly named Nothing, vampires reflect the Goths who feel they are nothing, “just society’s cast-off trash.”16
The Vampire As Predator: In The Masquerade, the vampire is not so much romantic as a beast, perhaps representing the bestial elements of humanity: “What does it mean to be a vampire?….Vampires are not humans with fangs, they are monsters masquerading as humans. Just as a vampire stalks humans, a vampire lives in fear of the Beast within himself.”17
Although these descriptions are within the context of a fantasy game, in some case fantasy spills over into reality. In one of the more horrific crimes committed by those claiming to be vampires, two murders were committed by a teen vampire group, led by a 17-year-old boy, himself the son of a woman who considered herself a vampire.18 Before the murders, some of the teens drank each other’s blood.19 Roderick Ferrell, the group’s leader, was sentenced to death in February, 1998, warning teens not to follow “his path,” and telling reporters after his sentencing that he still considered himself a vampire, but no longer believed he was immortal or gets “special powers” from drinking blood.20
The criminal vampire, however, is the exception. Although there are violent strains amongst some vampire groups, this is not the norm.
Sometimes, those who wield power at the top are considered the true vampires. The director of the Vampire Research Institute in Seattle, a one-woman operation, told the author of one book that society has the corporate vampire, such as Bill Gates, who “feeds off the work of others.”21 This view of society as the true vampire was expressed in the title of the Smashing Pumpkins’ popular 1990’s rock song, “Bullets With Butterfly Wings.”
Psychic Vampires: Many believe that there are those who can extract or weaken the “psychic energy” of a person. Those who hold to this view believe that the person who does this is a vampire because he/she is draining another of their aura, vitality, or emotional, physical or psychological energy. The psychic vampire may do this with psychic powers, by going out-of-body, or by sending an attacking thought-form to the victim.22 Some in the vampire subculture think that drinking blood is done only by vampire wannabes, that true vampires “feed from a soul.”23
Vampire Theology: Steve Jackson Games was given the rights to two books adapting White Wolf’s Vampire: The Masquerade and produced the book and guide to a game, Vampire, The Masquerade Companion.24 Throughout the book, the vampires are referred to as the “Children of Caine” or as “Cainites,” in the belief that vampires are descendants of the Biblical Caine, and cursed with a blood thirst.25 One clan, the Followers of Set, is described as having begun “seven thousand years ago, when the children of Caine first began to allow their herds to form civilizations,” and an elder of this group named Sutekh came to be worshipped as “a god of night and darkness,” eventually calling himself Set.26 The mission of this clan is corruption, to “subvert and destroy whatever is good, noble, safe or beautiful within both Kindred and mortal society.”27 One group of vampires described in the game, the Sabbat, the archenemies of Masquerade’s Camarilla clan, may follow different “Paths of Enlightenment,” which may include hedonism, bloody rituals, serving demons, or survival of the fittest.28
An organization called The Temple, in Lacey, Washington, published the Vampire Bible which includes “The Vampire Creed.”29 Part of this creed states, “I am a vampire. I worship my ego and I worship my life, for I am the only God that is. I exalt my rational mind and hold no belief that is in defiance of reason. I realize there is no heaven as there is no hell, and I view death as the destroyer of life. I am a vampire. Bow down before me.”30 One true-life vampire claimed that his clan goes back to a time “near Genesis,” and that “to sin is to forgive, forgiveness is salvation, therefore salvation is the ultimate sin.”31 It should be recognized that these ideas are not universally held among vampires.
There is no coherent or consistent ideology in this subculture. One may find vampires who practice or believe in agnosticism, sorcery, various occult beliefs, reincarnation, or a mixture of these.32 Most vampires reflect the same attitude as Goths, that everyone has a right to their own beliefs.33
To Christians: A Response to Goths and Vampires
The Christian should first have an emotional and compassionate response. Since many in the Goth culture and vampire underground are seeking community and emotional bonding due to past abuse or alienation, our first response should be care and concern. We should keep in mind the words of one researcher who said the traits he found in those attracted to Vampirism were “listlessness, malaise, confusion, feelings of abandonment, loneliness, attention deficits, lack of healthy self-esteem, desire for control or power over their otherwise powerless circumstances, hopelessness, and the need to ‘be somebody.'”34 This should cause us to ponder Christ’s words in Matthew 9:9-13, specifically verse 13, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
On the other hand, we should not assume all in the Goth/Vampire subcultures are somehow damaged. A large number are bright, creative, and intellectually curious. Seeking to dialogue with these people is one way to understand where they are coming from. They search for the authentic, not the plastic; intimacy, not the grandiose. They are sensitive to artificial and superficial social behaviors.
To dismiss such people, to recoil from them, or to laugh at them because of how they dress or look, or because of what seems to be a bizarre lifestyle, is to forget that they are made in the image of God, as all of us are. Before you dialogue with a Goth or someone into a vampiric lifestyle, be sure that you are concerned for them as a person and respect them as such.
Those seriously into vampirism may be seeking to save themselves through some kind of immortality, whether through reincarnation or blood-drinking. Some vampires romanticize blood and its supposed power, but it is only the blood of Christ that can redeem us from our fallen nature: Luke. 22:20; Romans 3:25a, 5:9; Ephesians. 1:7, 2:13; Colossians 1:20; Hebrews. 9:12-14, 22, 26-28, 10:19, 12:24; I Peter 1: 18, 19; I John 1:7; Revelation 5:9. It is trusting the saving efficacy of Christ’s blood, willingly shed on the cross for our sins, that gives us the eternal life vampires seek through a mythical immortality.
To Goths or Vampires: The Place of the Skull
The darkest day in history was a day when the sun was blacked out, the earth shook, and lightning ripped through the sky. This was a day 2,000 years ago on Golgotha, the Place of the Skull. Jesus had journeyed in pain to this lonely place outside Jerusalem, his body scarred and torn from fierce beatings. He was placed between two thieves on the cross, an execution reserved for criminals. Jesus, born in a shelter for animals, had spent many of his days on earth with the lowly and the outcasts of that culture — prostitutes, tax collectors, fisherman, the poor. He touched the unclean lepers and healed them. Why did he come? Why was he doing these things? He consistently told his disciples that he would be given over to men who would execute him, and that it was for that purpose he had come. Man had sinned since the Garden, and God’s holy justice demanded an atonement of blood. But the blood had to come from the perfect man. There weren’t any such men until Jesus, God the Son, took human form. As the perfect Lamb of God, Jesus was slain, shedding his blood to atone for men’s sins. That was the payment for the penalty of our sins. When he died on the cross, that penalty was paid. Jesus said, “It is finished.” The atonement was complete. Three days later, he conquered death itself, and bodily rose from the grave. Jesus had seen and been with it all: the unclean rejects, the immoral, masters and slaves, the mocking cruelty of the soldiers who beat him and spit on him, the isolation of being deserted by his disciples at his arrest, the lonely place of the Skull, the blackness of death; and this was endured out of great love for us. His shed blood has power, not because it is magical, but because it is the blood of a perfect God-man, and thereby redeems you from sin and makes you righteous before God when you put your trust in what Christ did on that cross.
Jesus ascended from earth to the place of God’s throne where there will be no sorrow for anyone who follows him there. It is there that you can go, an eternal home with Christ. If you know you have sinned, and you believe that Christ paid for those sins with his blood, you can lean on Christ and on what he did. You can be reconciled with God no matter what you’ve done. You can tell God that you are trusting in Christ, asking forgiveness for your sins, and trust him as the one who saves. It is so simple, yet it is the most profound thing that could happen to you.
Jesus Said He Came to Die:
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Matthew 16:21
The Blood of Christ:
In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Hebrews 9:22
In the same way, after the supper, he took the cup saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” Luke 22:20
He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:12
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14, 15
In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. Ephesians 1:7
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. Romans 3:22-25a
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou are worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. Revelation 5:9
Jesus Quenches All Thirst
In that last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. John 7:37, 38
Katherine Ramsland, Piercing the Darkness: Undercover with Vampires in America Today: An in-depth psychological and sociological look at and analysis of the vampire underground. Ramsland, a psychologist, went undercover into the vampire underground, interviewed those in the vampire culture and reports on what she saw firsthand, as well as giving numerous evaluations of the culture by other researchers, artists, and psychologists who have studied this subculture. Her book also devotes a chapter to the vampire role-playing games.
Jeff Guinn, Something in the Blood: Guinn, an author and associate book editor, traveled around the country with Andy Greiser, a newspaper editorial assistant, and they report on their one-on-one interviews with various people who research or are active in the vampire underground. There is not a lot of analysis, but there is good observation and objective presentation of the people they interviewed, as well as a look at vampire folklore and the vampire in literature and movies.
Rosemary Guiley, Vampires Among Us: Guiley, a researcher and author who has written several books on occult and paranormal topics, presents a more personal but insightful approach, describing stories of vampires and her encounters with people who consider themselves vampires. Guiley also considers the history and folklore of vampires and their differences with today?s vampire scene.
1 This information is based mainly on talking to individuals who identify themselves as Goths. These discussions took place in Goth clubs, on the Internet, and with those contacted in the course of ministry. There is very little written information on the Goth culture since it is a loosely knit social movement, and there are various theories on what Goth represents.
2 An ankh is a cross topped by an oval-shaped loop, representing the masculine (cross) and feminine (loop) energies. The ankh is a symbol from Egyptian religion and was used in connection with Isis and other deities to represent their immortality and power over death.
3 Mark Rein-Hagen, et al., The Masquerade, 2d edition (Stone Mtn., GA: White Wolf, Inc.), 1994.
4 Ibid., 20, 52; see also Katherine Ramsland, Piercing the Darkness: Undercover with Vampires in America Today, Advance Reader’s Edition, (NY, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc, 1998), Chapter Thirteen, 209-19.
5 Rein-Hagen, 13.
6 Ramsland, 242-3.
7 Ibid., 148.
8 Jeff Guinn with Andy Grieser, Something in the Blood (Arlington, TX: The Summit Publishing Group, 1996), 38.
9 All sources cited, including the game books, discuss vampires in clans as well as solitary vampires. Information is also from personal conversations this writer had with someone who was involved in the vampire underground.
10 Ramsland, 81.
11 Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Vampires Among Us (NY, NY: Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster Inc., 1991), 74-102; Ramsland, 135-6..
12 Guiley, 85.
13 Ibid., 93.
14 Ramsland, 95, 168.
15 Guinn, 29.
16 Ramsland, 85.
17 Rein-Hagen, 15; this is also echoed in Ramsland, 92.
18 “The Washington Post,” 2-28-98, A3.
19 “USA Today,” 12-9-96, 3A; “The Washington Post,” 11-30-96, A2; 12-5-96, A26.
20 “The Washington Post,” 2-28-98, A3.
21 Guinn, 19.
22 Guiley, Chapter Eight, “Psychic Vampires,” 190-226; Guinn, 181.
23 Guinn,, 38, 39.
24 Chris W. McCubbin, Vampire, The Masquerade Companion, (Steve Jackson Games Incorporated, 1994), 11.
25 Ibid., 47; also Ramsland, 210-11.
26 McCubbin, 47.
28 Ibid., 80-84.
29 Guinn, 54-5.
30 Ibid., Appendix B.
31 Ibid., 35-6.
32 Ibid., 97, 143, 150.
33 Ibid., 97.
34 Ramsland, 248.