Three weeks ago, 16 year old Shelby Ellis of Atlanta, Georgia went missing. Shelby had become part of an underground cult movement related to the Goth lifestyle, and she recently disappeared, as did two of her friends. All three teens went to school at McEachern High School and shared a common obsession with the vampire underground.
PLEASE NOTE – there is an update to this story posted at the bottom of this article – SCROLL DOWN TO READ.
On October 11th, Shelby got on the bus to school and then never returned home. A week later, a 15-year-old freshman friend of Shelby’s also went missing. The following week, another girl disappeared. All signs point to the three girls running away from home.
According to CBS reporter Wendy Saltzman, the parents, Rich and Wendy Ellis, noticed marked changes in Shelby’s behavior, her obsession with goth and the vampire underground, and the fact that her last Internet activity on her computer was logging into the popular goth underground website known as “Vampire Freaks,” and that on that website she “led a double life.”
Private Investigation is Under Way
While police are not talking to news reporters, the parents have hired local private investigator Phillip Hambrick to track down their daughter. Phillip told CBS news that, "A lot of things point to that they are in some kind of pact. We don't know if she has been coerced to go out somewhere, if she has been kidnapped."
Over the past weekend, police discovered the other two teens and brought them back home involuntarily. However, according to CBS News they are unwilling to provide the whereabouts of Shelby Ellis - all signs that this is a cult-related runaway and that Shelby does not want to return home as well.
Both the family and the investigator suspect that the cause of the disappearance is an underground cult. For some reason, McEachern High School principle Regina Montgomery refused to talk to reporters about the three missing teens and any signs or behaviors that took place within the school that could provide a clue as to the whereabouts of Shelby Ellis.
Considering the fact that the school failed to return a student home safely from school may be one indication as to why Principle Montgomery is avoiding discussing the case - the school could very well be facing a lawsuit from the parents of the three teens that went missing during the school day.
The Danger of Vampire Cults
People tend to forget the past, if enough time goes by. However, in 1996, the vampire cult scene reared its ugly head when cult leader Rod Ferrell (a 16 year old high school dropout, at the time) and his cult followers met up with 15 year old Heather Wendorf. Ferrell took on the role of the "maker" or leader of the group, which proceeded to take part in daily blood-drinking (of each other's blood).
The same sort of anti-establishment and anti-authority teenage mentality that led to the formation of so many "hippy" cults in the 1960s is the same mentality behind the teen vampire cults of today. In the case of Rod Ferrell and his group, they eventually murdered Richard and Ruth Wendorf - Heather's parents.
Ferrell eventually pleaded guilty and sentenced to death, however his sentence was reduced to life. Three other cult followers were also sent to prison. Heather avoided any charges because she wasn't present at the murder.
Vampire Cults Today
It is important for parents to be aware that this particular cult movement is more dangerous for young and impressionable teenage girls looking for independence from parental authority. Many of the cult leaders, like Ferrell, are mentally disturbed men that use these Internet networks as a predatory tool to identify, locate and meet up with under-aged girls - many of whom willingly post inappropriate images of themselves on their own profiles.
The case of Shelby Ellis may be similar to the many other cases throughout history where a teenage girl runs away from home, looking for freedom and independence. Hopefully her case does not end in the same manner that Heather Wendorf's ended.
**UPDATE** TrueCrimeReport.com reported the following update late on November 3rd:
"The good news is that police have found her alive and safe in Lakewood, Washington today. She'd apparently taken a bus to Washington, where she was voluntarily staying with someone who we're guessing she met online. There's no word on why she left or what she was doing out west, but we'll keep you posted."
This is a fascinating story - a quick blurb pulled from a mainstream media source, that prompted a far wider response than expected, primarily from the "vampire community."
While I often cover real-world cults here at TopSecretWriters, I should note that the members of this particular community are not "cultists." Cults are sects - extremist branches - of larger organizations that usually create a dogma that is dangerous and hurtful to its members.
If the article above implied that the entire group of folks that consider themselves part of this community are part of a "cult" - I apologize for the implication.
It will be interesting to learn what the cause of the runaway was (if we ever do learn) - but one thing that I think everyone can agree on is that any time any missing child is found alive, that's always a very good thing.
Thanks to all readers for all of your responses, both public and private.