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.
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