Vampires on Parade
Written by: Michelle Belanger
With the huge fan-base developed by shows like Buffy and its sexy spin-off Angel, vampires are a hot topic these days. SciFi's Mad, Mad House features its own resident vampire, Don Henrie. Even CSI: Vegas is jumping on the vampire bandwagon (or would that be a hearse?) with 'Suckers' -- an episode which delves into the real vampire underground. What? Real vampires, you say? Aren't vampires just creatures of fiction and film? Although for years they've kept to the shadows, real vampires walk among us, and they are beginning to make their presence known ...
It sounds like the plot of a new television series, but it's the truth: Lurking just beneath the normal veneer of mainstream society is another, shadowy world. It is the underground world of the real vampire. In North and South America, throughout Europe, Australia and even Japan, a hidden network of clubs, havens, houses, and secret qabals cater to the vampire community. In back rooms and private VIP lounges, real vampires gather, enjoy one another's company, celebrate their culture, and feed.
CSI: Vegas's recent 'Suckers' episode and SciFi's reality TV show Mad, Mad House have brought the reality of the vampire to living rooms across America. And Americans, enthralled by these dark and sexy people, want to know more.
For years, the real vampire community has existed in the shadows, following The Black Veil or similar codes of conduct that stress secrecy and discretion. Advances in technology like the Internet, an increasingly tolerant (and curious) culture, and increased cooperation among the vampires themselves have all combined in recent years to 'out' this fascinating community to the mainstream.
There is a definite Gothic element to the most visible portion of the subculture, but don't let this retro aesthetic fool you. The eighties and nineties saw the vampire subculture make huge strides in becoming a community as independent groups started reaching out and communicating with one another. However, real vampires were alive and well long before that.
Vampire groups were active in New York City as early as the sixties, often interwoven throughout that era's thriving fetish underground. Further, occultist Aleister Crowley, who lived from 1875 to 1947, practiced a form of psi and sang vampirism almost identical to that taught in the vampires' most-read instructional tome, The Vampire Codex. According to material compiled by occult researcher Francis King, Crowley had added these methods to the tractates of the Ordo Templi Orientis prior to the First World War.
Meet the Vampire
So real, live vampires, in and of themselves, are nothing new. But the fact that many of them are now willing to come forward and explain what they are is a very recent phenomenon.
One vampire in particular who has placed himself in the spotlight is the vampire Don Henrie. Don is the resident vampire on SciFi's Mad, Mad House, and throughout the course of that show, he reveals many truths about his nature.
Don is a blood-drinker, but he is also a psi-vampire -- meaning he feeds upon the vital energy of people through psychic and metaphyiscal means. Don is also extremely psychic and practices astral projection on an almost nightly basis. Other techniques he uses that draw upon his vampire nature such as 'augmentation' and 'manifesting' are taught in the previously mentioned Codex.
Don acknowledges and respects codes like the Black Veil that caution discretion in revealing one's nature. Yet Don is not one to hide in the shadows, and he would like to see a day where other vampires like himself could feel comfortable letting the world know they exist and are not likely to go away.
Lost in the Shadows
Many traditionalists within the vampire community are resistant to such a policy of openness. Some fear for their personal privacy, as many have jobs, friendships, or family connections that might suffer if their nature were to be revealed. Others are afraid that there could be much deeper and far-reaching repercussions if the community went public.
They have some valid concerns. People have lost jobs, had their children taken away, and even been brutally attacked just because of their vampirism. When so little information is widely available on the reality of vampires, it is easy for people outside of the community to pass judgment and lash out toward that which they do not understand.
And yet Don Henrie, and others like him, have a salient point to make. The fear and hatred experienced by mainstream society toward real vampires typically arise from ignorance of what vampires really are. And by lurking in the shadows, real vampires are not likely to help make such ignorance disappear. It is only by making the public aware of the vampire community that any manner of constructive dialogue can begin.
Don Henrie has taken the initiative to start that dialogue. For good or for ill, thanks to him, a spotlight now shines on the real vampire community. That spotlight makes it almost impossible to slip back into the shadows again. Even for those who will stubbornly remain in the underground, the public is now aware that such an underground exists. Joe Average might not understand vampires completely, but he will be looking over his shoulder the next time he's at a club or local bar wondering, 'Is he one of them? Is she?' Eventually, there will be no hiding anymore.
Out of the Coffin
The vampire community is vast and extensively diverse. Don Henrie, by his own admission, represents just one portion of that community, and when it comes down to it, he can really only share his own perceptions on what being a vampire really means. But for other voices and points of view to be heard, others within the vampire subculture have to step forward.
There was a time when you couldn't be gay and be open about. There was a time when you couldn't be a witch and be open about. Maybe the time has come that you can be a vampire and be open about it.
Don Henrie seems to think that time is now. And only time will tell if others share enough conviction to add their voices to his own.