It Is What It Does

(Originally posts October 18, 2010)

Hunters. It’s a subject that seems to make vamps all twitchy. Like turning, the topic of vampire hunters just seems to raise our neck hair and bring out the fangs. 
Somewhat tongue-in-cheek I asked myself whether it was reasonable to assume that because I see myself as sane and rational, and believe myself to be a Vampyre – that someone who sees themselves as a vampire hunter might be considered delusional and around the proverbial twist? In comparison to me, I mean. Understandably, I shook my head afterward.
Just when I think I know almost everything about the Vampyre community, fate goes and throws me a curve-ball. It seems that life is like that, a fact I have grown to take into consideration in my journey, which is why I continually welcome new information, and make the best of it. Likewise, when the subject of hunters came up, I decided to put my assumptions that someone was role-playing aside, do a little investigating.While I have personally never encountered a person calling themselves a hunter or slayer who was more than barely out of diapers, or actually sane or serious, I have no doubt whatever that there are groups of people in the world today who make a very serious business of observing and recording the activities of the Vampyre community.

The internet is a global social nexus, and while I have discovered numerous sites pertaining to the activities or claimed activities of people calling themselves vampire hunters, I have to add that seriously, most of these individuals turn out to be folks who spend so much time behind their PC’s and see so little daylight, they almost qualify to be vamps themselves. There have been many fictional tales lately featuring hunters, such as “Van Helsing” and who can forget that corny series, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”? It seems the world is full of folks wanting to be hunters and slayers on weekends – about as many as there are real Vampyres, if not more. The question that comes to light however, is the tiny disconcerting detail that among this cloud of false positives, there may well be some individuals who really believe they are vampire hunters. And why not? After all, aren’t we people who think we are Vampyres?

Ever since I found out I was a vamp, I have dismissed tales of hunters and watcher groups as the fanciful thinking of role players and kids, and possibly serious scientists like the late Stephen Kaplan’s Vampire Research Center – but recently I have been hearing rumblings from totally random sources in the US, UK and here in South Africa, that there may be watcher or hunter groups with more sinister motives than mere research.

Believe me, I’m always ready to scoff at the notion of hunters. Many people (even vamps) enjoyed watching Buffy but most people accepted the show as a parody and a fantasy – not a career option – and moved on. At least, I assume so, because otherwise we would see a lot more unexplained violence doing the rounds in the media, and not quite so many kids posing as vamps? In reality things are not quite so simple, are they?

In the past 10 years alone, the word “vampire” has cropped up in news headlines far more than ever before. This may be partly due to the popularity of fiction and movies, you might be thinking, but no. If you look at the sheer number of global incidents, such as assault, serial killers, political issues, legal issues etc, reported in the past decade alone – and work out their dates, you will see how such reports are actually increasing. Go ahead, Google it.

So you think vampire hysteria similar to cases that took place in the 16th and 17th centuries is a thing of the past? Just 3 years ago, in Georgetown, Guyana (South America) a crowd of villagers lynched an elderly woman they accused of being the equivalent of a vampire in the local Obeah religion, for drinking the blood of human babies. And in 2002, Malawi was overrun with vampire hysteria, with lynchings being the order of the day. And whenever a crime-report is involved, it is usually of the viewpoint that the “vampire” is the aggressor who has to be destroyed or punished, or deserved whatever they got.

Oddly enough, In the course of my internet-based research I could only come up with one recent murder where the victim was a vampire, and that would be in Australia, 2003 – where the victim was shot dead, reportedly on the orders of a former associate. So… hit-man? Or hunter? Hmm.

Quite honestly, although I’ve heard lots of stories, even some real winners from friends and contacts who seem convinced that there are hunters – I don’t know what to believe at this point. Thinking about the possible existence of real hunters and slayers – it’s just like an episode of the X-Files. I’m sure this sort of thing would be pure heaven for a conspiracy theorist – but that would not be me.

What I do know, is that some very grounded and serious Vampyres have told me tales which make me wonder. I’ve heard similar stories of vamps being confronted by people who identified themselves in light conversation as vampire hunters, not too young, perhaps mid-twenties, early thirties, and working together. It was a case of “kill nobody, turn nobody and we’ll leave you alone”. Yes, I know we’re treading on iffy ground here, since we don’t need to kill to feed, and we all have various theories about turning (most of which result in arguments). As an example of a worst case scenario, another Vampyre claimed she was accosted late one night by a couple of guys who cuffed her and roughed her up for a few hours before letting her go, while revealing in a similar conversation that they knew she was Vampyre, and threatened her. Now I’m not doubting that she was attacked, I’m just questioning whether they were really what they claimed to be. Another question that raises its head for me is “were these all coincidences?” I don’t know if that word applies anymore.

You know how things go in our largely online community. Either some people are lying, or telling imaginative tales, or everybody is lying, or some of them are telling the truth. Unfortunately it is virtually impossible to tell which is which. But, being the sensible individual I am, rooted in logic, I decided to take it from the top again.

Hunter groups? Yes, there are loads of websites claiming to be resources for hunter groups. Most are old, long inactive, or proven lampoon sites (such as the Federal Vampire And Zombie Agency). Others are pretty clearly the stomping grounds of role-playing groups. And if there are any real hunter societies or bodies out there, they certainly don’t seem to be online, at least not on any part of the web that I have access to. Logic would also seem to indicate that this doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

What I do know is that the Roman Catholic Church once actively promoted the belief in real vampires – in fact, thousands of people were burned at the stake during the Inquisition, accused of being vampires and weres – and almost as many for dismissing the idea as bogus. Weird. But what is even more strange, is that 180 years after the end of the Inquisition, the Holy Office (of the Inquisition) is still active and on the books of the RCC, being re-organized and restructured as recently as 1965. Why?Perhaps there are no real hunters, but there certainly are vampirologist (watcher) groups out there, who are fascinated by real life Vampyres of the HLV variety. How about the folks who head up various occult research groups in the UK, who famously went around London cemeteries in the 1970’s, staking corpses in their search for the “Highgate Vampire”, and getting arrested for trespassing and vandalism – and being a laughing stock for the past 30 years? These folkstypically tend to believe that HLV’s are not “real” Vampyres. They seeus as the role-players. Go figure. And let’s not omit the role-playing kids you can meet any day of the week on the hundreds of vampire-related FB groups in the English language countries alone. You can’t miss them, really, they are so many you actually trample them underfoot sometimes.

Still, if you look at it logically (as I am trying very hard to) groups which gather crime statistics (such as police departments, the FBI etc) will definitely start finding common denominators, like the vampire sub-culture at the root of some crimes, and they will certainly be keeping an eye on the community. Personally, I think we can consider ourselves being monitored from that aspect already, even if only because of the risk of crime. Of course this would more than likely be classified as observation, not hunting perse’, like vampirological societies, only with names sounding slightly less insane, and somewhat more scary.

Although most people would dismiss us as crazies for “thinking” we are Vampyres, including most cops, there would be some people who might take a more serious interest in us – and the crime statistics – I dunno, say religious fundamentalist groups?

Take the God Hates Goth website as an example – yes, I’ve seen people dismissing it as a “lampoon website”, but a) it’s very convincing, b) it seems very well researched and well presented and might easily convince people with a natural bias towards intolerance of diversity (namely towards goths and vamps) to act out of that intolerance, c) as far as I know, nobody knows WHO put it up or why, and d) three years later, it’s still up. “Joke” website or not, it is what it does.

Now while most of this discussion appears to be based on fictional vampires and fictional hunters and unconfirmed second-hand claims, along with a generous slice of circumstantial evidence, I am trying to build a logical hypothesis, so please bear with me.

If we look at the image of the traditional hunter and slayer, we see something like the “Van Helsing” stereotype. Anyone who would play such a part would have to fulfill certain requirements for the part. First, they would have to believe in Vampyres, whether HLV’s or the fictional “undead” variety. Second, they would need to believe that regardless of the nature or personality of the vampire type in question, these vampires represent inherent risks or pose some sort of threat to the lives of people in general, whom it is assumed they intend to protect. Third, since the profile for such a character seems to be motivated out of religious zealotry, they would have to view the vampire as evil. Fourth, they would have to be under the impression that vampires (or HLV’s) actually attack or kill people to feed on their blood, or can “turn” them into vampires. And lastly, they would have to be prepared for or even keen to inflict some sort of harm to the vampire, regardless of whether the vampire posed any personal threat to them or not.

As I mentioned just now, most of these “serious” vampirologist groups loudly proclaim that they do not see our community as being real vamps at all. They view us all as we view the posers, lifestylers and wannabes – the people who simply appreciate the vampire aesthetic, who aren’t actually vampiric at all. In fact, they even have a term for us, “vampiroids”. They view us entirely as a subculture, and a very Human group, which they tend to view with distaste When “hunting vampires”, they completely exclude us from this search. From a certain point of view, that makes us very lucky, and counts them out of the running as actual “hunters”.

From our side, things appear remarkably different, though. We know we exist, we are Vampyres. As living, breathing, mortal creatures to their minds, we may not fit the bill – but I think it should be pointed out that as far as vampires are concerned, “it is what it does” applies. We real Vampyres feed off prana and blood, we desire Human prana and blood, we break religious laws and societal norms which result from ancient religious prescripts (which most of these people ascribe to) – and this tends to get just the right sort of attention.

It is what it does. We say we are Vampyres, we believe we are, we do what Vampyres do – and so in their minds, as our own, we are. And in the minds of some people, Vampyres are not simply a fact of life, or another facet of an awesome nature, or another byproduct of an awesome creator (if that’s what floats your boat), but something that needs to be observed, suppressed, hunted – and killed. For a demonstration for this mindset, just check out any quasi-religious anti-gay group, and I’m sure you’ll see exactly what I mean.

I think if these groups ever were to reconsider what they view as a real vampire, there would be a lot of people giving us their full attention. But this would require nothing less than a quantum mindshift. To do this, they would simply need to review the criteria for what they see as a vampire – and if they ever do (if they haven’t done so already) then we may have a problem. That’s right, one little gear-shift, something goes “click” – and we’re in trouble.
Still, at the end of my personal investigation into the matter I still have no definite answer on the topic of real hunters, and while everyone has an opinion, it would be nice to have some facts. The interesting thing about facts is, that sometimes it is their absence that can lead you to a conclusion.There has been no increase in reported deaths or victimization of Vampyres within the community over the past few years, at least, none that I’m aware of. If Vampyres were being reported killed, or accosted in the manner described, I’m also pretty sure this would have been common knowledge within the community, and not treated like some kind of secret that even the community itself shouldn’t know about. Secondly, if it were so, it is simply irresponsible behavior for community leaders to go on not warning their community about the activities of such groups – if they existed.

While I consider myself to be one of the real Vampyres out there, I’m still not keen on embracing the concept of real hunters and slayers sharing my space. But I might be mistaken, and it wouldn’t be the first time. After all, if we are what we do, then perhaps some of these other folks are too.
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