The subculture today has shifted its emphasis but still honors community ties.
Posted Dec 16, 2019
It’s been two decades since I published Piercing the Darkness, which covered my two-year investigation of what was then called the vampire subculture. In response to news about a missing journalist named Susan Walsh, I went to vampire clubs, exhibits, restaurants, homes and parties in numerous states and countries to learn more about the people she'd been researching. Having been a fan of vampire fiction for decades, I was surprised to find that the vampire image had been embraced but also changed by role-players, vampire fans and those who called themselves Real Vampires (or vampyres or sanguines).
To capture more changes, I interviewed a few practitioners three years later for The Science of Vampires, and they said that more vampires now identified as “psi vamps” (sucking energy, not blood) and tended toward pagan rituals. Then recently, “Derek Lestat” contacted me to ask for yet another update. I’m not writing books like that now, but I offered him a forum on this blog. Here’s what he had to say as an elder of the Greater Chicagoland Vampire Coalition (GCVC) (which can be found on Facebook):
“The point of view I'm most inclined to speak from is that of those of us who identify as Real Vampires. We are the ones who feed off of life energy, be it blood, psi, or both.
“Those of us with this ‘affliction’ are much more organized now, compared to 20 years ago. While we still have regional Houses, Clans, and Covens, the rise of the Internet has brought us much closer together. Some of us have grown closer in positive ways, forming friendships and alliances between groups, and, of course, conversely, there is also an increase in drama. This includes everything from the simple keyboard warriors to much larger and more dangerous incidents.
“As of this past summer, a number of Elders from across the US gathered together to lead by example, put aside petty differences, and work towards resolving issues and solving problems. We've become more organized, in that it's that much easier for us to meet each other, become acquainted, and stay in touch almost constantly, with the Internet becoming a more integral part of everyday life. Whereas 30 years ago, the relatively fewer of us who knew of each other had to take pen to paper and be pen-pals via ground mail, now we're simply a few taps and swipes away from instant communication. I initially made contacts and met a good number of my friends (via the Internet) on the old message board forums. Now, of course, there's Facebook.
“Much of what the media currently portrays under the sensationalist moniker of ‘vampire’ includes either murderers or serial killers who are (unfortunately for my Community) labeled as 'vampires,' or a select few from our actual Community who seem to love the spotlight and media attention.
“Compared to the Community scene (as described in your book) from 20 years ago, I would say we've grown closer and more cohesive. We are much more than a ‘spin-off’ of the old Goth community. We're much more than a fashion aesthetic in underground clubs (although many of us do still enjoy and partake in that). We have many individual Houses and Courts across the continent and overseas. Most of these are allied with other Houses and Courts, with a great Communal network. Some of the more prominent Houses/Courts host balls and events each year, and many Houses/Courts from across the US attend and represent there.
“Like any community, of course there are the ‘bad apples.’ A number of leaders have recently come together as a coalition of equals to find solutions to these problems. This is a milestone in the Community, as there is great potential for significant positive changes for the Greater Vampire Community.
“Most Houses/Courts meet monthly, as does my own Chicago Coalition. In my own group, we try to vary the events and locations, so as to not only cover a greater expanse of Chicago but to keep things new, fresh, and interesting. We (the GCVC) have held Meet-Ups at Hearse Shows & Oddities Markets, the Bristol Renaissance Faire, 'dive' bars, karaoke, and nightclubs. We've recently been involved in the first annual Chicago Vampire Ball (with bigger and better plans for next year), hosted our own Halloween party, and a rites ceremony for our first anniversary.
"'Secret code words' are looked upon on the same par as ‘secret handshakes’ and ‘super-secret spy decoder rings.’ I do have something along those lines in place, however, when applicable, we have an image of our GCVC flag posted in sight, so attendees know they've come to the right place and are welcome.
"Screening is individual for each group, House, Court, etc. To join our group page on Facebook, we have a few preliminary questions for would-be members. From there, we get to know them and allow them to come to our public meet-ups where we can get a better feel for them, and leadership can compare notes on them. We are open to accepting more than just vampires into our group; we have therians, wolves, fae, witches, non-Kin 'regular' people. We are a very open and accepting group.
“We've much work ahead of us, but we're all quite passionate about trying to maintain a Community where newly-awakening generations of vampires can come learn about themselves, feel welcomed and accepted for who they are; where those of us who've gone through it ourselves can help them with our years of experience.”