There is nothing quite like a nerve-jangling vampire movie to rivet our imaginations, send chills down our spines and make us peep from under the duvet with a temptingly irresistible urge. Since the days of silent films in the early twentieth century, vampires have been an inherent part of popular culture. For more than 100 years, Bram Stoker’s great horror masterpiece “Dracula” has thrilled audiences, spawning countless imitation stories in a myriad of languages. For some, however, vampires are not just fictitious villains that are the embodiment of unearthly, fantastic fears, but they believe these creatures actually exist. In western Serbia, for example, sales of garlic are booming after the local council issued a public health warning that a vampire was on the loose. According to a report in the Australian Times, the warning was made after an old ruined mill that is widely believed to be the home of Serbia’s most famous fiend, vampire Sava Savanovic, fell down. The legend goes that the vampire once lived in the watermill in the village of Zarozje, drinking the blood of anyone who came to the mill for grain. (1) The mill was bought by a local family, who realized there was more money using it as a tourist attraction, luring in vampire-fanatical visitors, than there was in using it as a mill. The family was however reluctant to carry out any repairs or maintenance work on the property, believing it would disturb the vampire’s spirit. The watermill fell into disrepair and eventually collapsed, instigating rumors that the vampire has been set free and his wrath unleashed.
This month, author Thomas Winship has released his new book titled “Vaempires: Revolution”. It is a post-apocalyptic story where an evil, mutated species of vampire start a rampaging effort to destroy humanity and take over the world. It is by and large another book that seeks to capitalize upon the booming genre of vampires that teenagers are consuming by the truckload in the form of books, movies and products. Unfortunately, the news of this book’s release, and its focus on making the already evil-tainted image of the vampire even more evil and vile, made me realize just how terrible it must be to live within the world that is currently defined by mainstream society as the “vampire.” The release of this book made me remember my foray into the world of vampirism nearly a year ago.
I spent two years living and working in several regions of Romania, including the beautiful alpine area known as Transylvania. In all that time, I never saw a single vampire. Or did I? The Halloween season has far greater significance to Americans than most Romanians, who might be more concerned this time of year with such things as preparing for the coming winter, having repeated political debates (the joke they’ll tell you about themselves is “two Romanians, three opinions”), or obtaining another portion of delicious placinta cu dovleac pumpkin pastry. Still, there is something unusual about the place. Romania, as another expat there put it, is a frustrating country that somehow continues drawing you back. Supernatural forces at work? Perhaps.
In 1983, an informal coalition comprised of individuals suffering from rare diseases, their families, and leaders of advocacy groups that raise awareness for these rare diseases came together in an effort to lobby for the Orphan Drug Act. The act was written to facilitate the development and production of “orphan drugs,” which are drugs specifically used in the treatment of rare diseases. Even after the act was passed, the coalition remained together. The coalition became known as National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). Today, NORD states that it helps nearly 30 million people suffering from rare diseases, and is “committed to the identification, treatment, and cure of rare disorders through programs of education, advocacy, research, and service.”
If you’ve never heard of the Breaking Dawn scam, it was a con based upon the hit movie franchise, Twilight. Twilight will debut its fourth installment this November. Twilight: Breaking Dawn is based on the final book written by author Stephenie Meyer. The movie franchise and the book series has gained almost a cult-like status among fans. Even though the last book of the series was released nearly two years ago, they are still going strong. According to USA Today’s list of “Top 100 Books Sold in 2010″, all four books made the top 100 list. Breaking Dawn even squeezed in the top 10 by snagging the 10th spot. Unfortunately, when something creates such a stir and generates so much revenue, there is always someone out there to try and scam a buck off of it.
Earlier this month, I had a wonderful chat with Joe Laycock on the subject of real life vampires. I wasn’t sure what to expect before the interview, because up until that point I’d never had any real interactions with vampires and didn’t even know that real life vampires exist in our society in this day and age. I’d only come to that realization a few weeks earlier. What came out of that dialog was a confirmation that not only do vampires exist, but they are vastly misunderstood and their physical afflictions are exaggerated and misinterpreted by and large by most journalists and writers. What makes Joe Laycock different is his credentials in religious studies and his ability to look beyond cultural norms at the larger picture. One particular comment during that interview that had the greatest impact on my own understanding of this subculture/community was the following statement: “Again, if we are going to be critical of self-identified vampires, we must first listen to what they say about themselves.” It was only just a few days later that a vampire that goes by the pseudonym of Wraiths contacted me and invited me to take part in a group discussion in the chat room over at the website of the International Vampyre Alliance (IVA). I wanted to take Joe’s advice and wade deeply into this community – to understand that if vampires exist, what is the real condition and are they really “vampires” – or something else entirely? Wraiths offered the perfect opportunity at the perfect time. I accepted, and at the appointed time we entered our dialog.
For those of you who’ve followed along with Top Secret Writers over the past month or so, you know that I occasionally reproduce press blurbs that I pick up in the morning news wire that have to do with topics of interest here at Top Secret Writers. In the process I occasionally include my own editorializing. One of those blurbs was a news article that I assumed was about real life vampires – it was a blurb about a girl that ran away from home. Her step mother and the family investigator both mentioned she had an interest in vampirism, and I made the mistake of off-handedly commenting that this event shows the dangers represented by “vampire cults.” No more than moments passed before my comment area was inundated with furious, passionate and intelligent posts from a segment of the population that I did not realize existed. My Own “Awakening” About Real Life Vampires I mean – I had the same stereotypical image of “real life vampires” that most Americans probably have – teenagers with painted white skin, black makeup, black clothing and fake fangs. These are the people I thought I was dealing with. I would soon discover that I couldn’t have been more wrong. After the barrage of the first round of comments, I was also contacted by a number of people via email, and I interviewed the first one that sounded the most intelligent and kind. I would soon learn that not only was I unaware of what it really means to be a “vampire”, but I was also grossly unaware of a divide within that underground community. Through my interview with that self-described PSI-Vamp and her comments regarding the Sang practice of blood drinking, I fell into that divide and almost didn’t make it back out. [...]