By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 24, 2008
The vampire drank cola at the movie because the vampire does not drink blood. She remarked that the giggling teenagers buying popcorn in their capes were "really, really great," but the vampire herself wore jeans and a gray T-shirt, as she breaks out vamparaphernalia only for special occasions. And after the 9:15 showing of the new hit film "Twilight," the vampire went straight home with her teenage son, because the vampire is a doting mom.
The vampire is Linda Rabinowitz, also known as Selket. She's in her thirties, lives in central Virginia and radiates warm approachability. If you needed a quarter to get on the bus, she is the stranger you would ask.
If you maintained eye contact for too long, though, she might be tempted to quietly sip away at your energy, or prana, leaving you a little fatigued, because that is what empathic and psychic vampires feed on, and that is what Rabinowitz says she is. But she would never actually do that, because "good" vampires -- both psychic and blood-consuming sanguinarians -- operate under the Black Veil, a strict code of ethics that stipulates feeding only off willing donors.
What did you expect, some kind of monster?
Every time Hollywood comes out with an undead movie -- pale skin, exposed throats, eternal lust -- everyone wants to talk to real vampires. "Twilight" -- which made $70.6 million over the weekend and recounts the love story of human teen Bella and vampire teen Edward -- is no exception. (Hey! Tyra just had one on her show -- some woman called Vampyra who lights her son on fire and says he likes the rush!)
Vampyra is exactly what the vampire community does not need right now.
Because frankly, they are sooo over the negative exposure. Over explaining that many of them really like sunlight, over teaching that vampires are born and not made, over answering such questions as: Do you really sleep in coffins and never die? Please, people. Please.
Vampires, depressingly, are Just Like Us.
* * *
"I really look at my condition as more of an energy deficiency," says one 27-year-old Washingtonian, whose condition, she says, is vampirism. She goes by Scarlet in the vampire community, but she -- like many vampires -- does not allow her real name to be printed because she has not come out of the coffin in real life. "I don't always produce enough energy to sustain myself," Scarlet says. She noticed this deficiency while a child, she says, and "awakened" as a vampire in her teens.
So the woman, who recently relocated from the South, occasionally needs to take a little energy from her boyfriend. Just a teaspoon of blood, once every week or 10 days, and always collected with disposable single-use lancet. Safety first, safety first. Feeding is "not as parasitic as people think," she says. "It's more of a reciprocal thing." While she has an energy deficiency, she says, her boyfriend has an energy surplus. "He'd been a little hyperactive, and now he can actually sleep through the night." It's almost medicinal, really.
Rabinowitz is just as discriminating when it comes to empathic feeding. "I stay away from people with medical issues," she says. "There's just too much complex emotion there." Also, no drunks, no druggies, no head cases, and "I try to stay away from people who are evil, basically." Although she most often feeds from one willing donor (most often, her long-term partner), she is able to take in ambient energy from crowds, without people even realizing. Places such as Hard Times Cafe and Applebee's can be good spots, she says, because of the generally positive energy.
Think of this next time you're noshing on Nachos Nuevos.
At this point, it seems wise to address the fact that we are giving serious discussion to vampires. Or, at least, people who genuinely believe they are vampires. Because vampires are something that we've been taught are not, er, real. And if they are, shouldn't they be slinking around a Transylvanian forest wearing a cravat?
The vampires expect this reaction, and they are prepared for it.
"We're taking advantage of the release of 'Twilight' " to try to get some truths out, says Michelle Belanger, a prominent psychic vampire and author of "The Psychic Vampire Codex." For example, did you know that New York has at least 1,000 self-identified vampires? "If we take that as a sample," Belanger says, "it's less than 1 percent, but we'd still have tens of thousands worldwide."
Repeat: Tens of thousands of people believe they are vampires. It is hard, however, to verify this, seeing as it's a self-selecting title, and each vampire might have a different definition of what it means to be vampirical. Some are more "Anne Rice," some are more "Aren't you my yoga instructor?"
* * *
Down in Georgia, the Atlanta Vampire Alliance and its research arm, Suscitatio Enterprises LLC, have been working for two years to collect useful data on the community. More than 700 vampires have answered hundreds of survey questions, and from the study we learn that vampires:
1. Have much higher rates of asthma, migraines and anemia than normal humans.
2. Most commonly live in California, followed by Georgia, Texas, New York and Ohio. (The District does not have a high concentration -- House Eclipse was the most prominent vampire group in the area, but its Web site does not appear to be updated regularly.
3. Are an average age of 28.
Also, only 17 percent of vampires drink blood; 31 percent are solely psychic, and the rest are hybrids.
The keeper of this data is J. Collins, who is also the administrator for Voices of the Vampire Community, which Collins describes as "kind of like the United Nations of Vampires," except that it exists purely to disperse information and does not govern.
On Friday afternoon, Collins, who goes by the vampire name Merticus, was fielding media requests for interviews with vampires. He casually rattled off the schedule of just about every major vampire in the United States. Father Sebastiaan was in New York, briefly, before heading off to Paris. Don Henrie, a "lifestyler" who really does sleep in a coffin, just taped Maury Povich and was heading back to Las Vegas with his manager. Belanger was giving a lecture on vampires at a college in Florida.
"We really hope that the fruits of what we're doing now will lead to us being understood later," he said. The VVC exists to help vampires form a cohesive community, present a united front.
Of course, as with any community, there have been internal struggles:
Psychic vampires have perceived sanguinarians as rudimentary brutes, while blood vampires "had a very hard time accepting that psychic vampires are legitimate," Belanger says. She sighs. "It boiled down to: Oh, sure, 'I'm taking your energy, I'm taking your energy.' [Sanguinarians] have a hard time wrapping their brains around the psychic stuff."
Anyway. That hatchet was mostly buried a few years ago, Belanger says, especially after Sanguinarius, a respected blood-drinking vampire (and founder of the resource site http://Sanguinarius.org), changed an earlier antagonistic position and came out in support of unity.
In a phone interview, Sanguinarius, whose real name is Elizabeth, wholeheartedly expresses solidarity, but goes on to say that psychic vampires "concern themselves as much as we do with ethics . . . but all ethics aside, they could just walk into some place, and pick some person, and feed on them until the person flops down and twitches. The cops can't do anything because it's not illegal. Now if I did that . . . "
You can understand the frustration.
You can also understand the inter-community annoyance, which sounds pretty much like run-of-the-mill interoffice tension (Oh, sure, she has kids, so she gets to leave at 5. Now if I tried that . . .).
It's all so borrring, so very borrring. Deep down, deep way down, we don't really want vampires to be just like us, because we are pretty lame. Deep down, we know that if we really have nothing to fear, then we also have nothing to be titillated by, nothing to make us shriek, then laugh, then shriek again. No, no, don't suck my blood! Or do. Okay, do.
It's doubly depressing to learn that some academics are viewing vampires as less mythical creature, more identity group. It's the next step in society's evolution, says Joe Laycock, author of the forthcoming "Vampires Today: The Truth About Modern Vampires." See, "in the Middle Ages people didn't really consider themselves as individuals," Laycock explains. "These modern 'Who am I?' questions are very new. Self-identified vampires take it to the next logical progression: Maybe I can't take for granted that I'm human. Maybe who I am is not a person at all."
In the future, we will all be vampires.
In "Twilight," the sensitive vampire Edward can scale trees in seconds, can stop moving cars with an outstretched hand, can read people's minds, and gets all glittery when he stands in the sunlight.
When Rabinowitz is asked whether she possesses any of these skills -- any at all -- she thinks about it for a second. "I do have a heightened sense of smell" when she feeds, she says. And, of course, she can read people's energy, which is not exactly like reading people's minds, but it's something.
The energy in the movie theater, for example, was really happy. A lot of people overcome with excitement and emotion. Personally, she loved the movie. Unlike previous vampire movies, she thought this one went a long way toward showing that vampires are complex, multifaceted beings. Regular folk.
Vampires should be pleased.
We average humans are a little disappointed.