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