The Vampire Chronicles

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“The Vampire Chronicles” (Books)

(pop culture)

The collective name for the vampire novels of Anne Rice, “The Vampire Chronicles” are now traced to 1976 and the publication of Interview with the Vampire. While well received, it would be nine years before its sequel, The Vampire Lestat, appeared. Only in 1988, with the publication of the third volume Queen of the Damned, did the concept of designating the series “The Vampire Chronicles” emerge. Subsequently two further volumes, Tale of the Body Thief, and Memnoch the Devil appeared.

In 1998, Pandora, the first volume without the vampire Lestat, the primary character tying “The Vampire Chronicles” together, was published, utilizing characters from the earlier volumes. Neither the cover nor the title page mentioned “The Vampire Chronicles,” however, an endnote designated a then projected volume, “The Vampire Armand,” as continuing “The Vampire Chronicles.” Before retiring from the vampire world altogether, Rice wrote a total of nine novels in the Vampire Chronicles series, following The Vampire Armand (1998) with Merrick (2000), Blood and Gold (2001), Blackwood Farm (2002), and Blood Canticle (2003). The concluding volumes tied her vampire tales with the tales of the Mayfair witches, another series of books she had written. In addition, she wrote two vampire novels not included in, but related to, the series, Pandora and Vittorio the Vampire (1999).

Vampire Cult Richard Wendorf and his wide Ruth Wendorf of Eustis, Florida, were murdered on November 25, 1996, victims of what was termed a vampire cult murder in the press. Three days after the murder, 16-year-old Roderick J. Ferrell of Murray, Kentucky, and four other teenagers were arrested. As the story of the case unfolded, it tied the group to the popular role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade. A large group in Murray played the game in which they assumed the role of a vampire character and developed their part in what was an ongoing vampire drama.

The original group in Murray had organized as the Victorian Age Masquerade Performance Society (VAMPS). Reportedly, Ferrell became caught up in the imaginary world of the game and became the leader of a small group within the larger VAMPS membership. His more “serious” approach to the fantasy world of Vampire led to the disruption of the group, and Ferrell’s own break with a close friend who had introduced him to the game. Ferrell took the fantasy world of The Masquerade (along with its unique jargon) to a new level. He and his following began to think of and see themselves as vampires, not just in the fantasy world of the game but in their everyday lives. Several members went so far as to claim direct descent from Vlad the Impaler.

Ferrell, it seems, began to live out his vampire identity. He dressed in black and dyed his blonde hair to match. He began using his vampire name Vessago all the time. After being suspended from school in September 1996, he started living a nocturnal life, and the group that hung out with him (some thirty individuals) took on some religious-like ritualized trappings of a cult-like nature. They would cut themselves with razors and drink each other’s blood. They took very seriously the embrace, the term used in the game for transforming someone into a vampire. In Ferrell’s group, the embrace was not merely symbolic, but actually involved the sharing of blood between group members. These activities, which are actually forbidden to players in the game, earned them the label of a cult.

On several occasions during 1996, Ferrell, who previously had lived in Florida, returned there to visit his former girlfriend, Heather Wendorf. Heather joined him in some blood drinking and later reported that she believed herself to have communed with spirits during their blood-drinking rituals. Then in November 1996, Ferrell and three members of his Murray group headed for Florida, where, after meeting Heather on the afternoon of November 25, they performed a blood-sharing ritual to embrace Heather into her new vampire life. It was a short time after that ritual that Ferrell led in the bludgeoning to death of her parents. A V sign surrounded by circular marks was burned into her father’s body. The group, including Heather, fled to Louisiana where they were arrested on Thanksgiving Day. Found in their car were a copy of Anne Rice‘s The Queen of the Damned; a collection of short stories, The Ultimate Dracula; and a book of magical spells.

Following Ferrell’s arrest, the press briefly questioned the role of Vampire: The Masquerade in the crime, but soon concluded, as in the cases of several suicides among the players of Dungeons and Dragon, that the game did not act as a causative factor in the teenagers’ actions. The game may have supplied Ferrell with content for his imagi nary world, but had it not been present, some other fantasy would have been created as a vehicle for his sociopathology.

Ferrell’s trial occurred in early February 1998. He was charged with murder and the three who came from Kentucky with him with lesser charges. Heather Wendorf was not charged and served as a major witness for the state. Ferrell, who had earlier tried to place the blame for the deaths on another group, in the end pleaded guilty. Howard Scott Anderson, whom Ferrell implicated as a accessory, was given life imprisonment, while the two women, whom Ferrell claimed were uninvolved, Dana L. Cooper and Charity Keesee, were convicted of third degree murder. Ferrell was sentenced to the electric chair, and spent two years as the youngest person on death row. In 1999 his sentence was reduced to life without parole. As of 2009, all four are now serving their terms in Florida.

The Vampire Empire (The Count Dracula Fan Club) was founded in 1965 by Dr. Jeanne Keyes Youngson, then a successful animation filmmaker, to promote and encourage the study of Bram Stoker, Dracula, and vampirism in general. In 2000, the club changed its name to the Vampire Empire.

Youngson had been introduced to the subject of Dracula and to Vlad the Impaler, the fifteenth-century prince of Wallachia, who had lent his name to Bram Stoker’s famous novel, while at Maryville College in Tennessee. The occasion for the founding of the Club, however, was her trip to Romania, which brought together her fascination with Dracula and new knowledge concerning Prince Vlad.

While in Romania she made the decision to found a Dracula society, and the Count Dracula Fan Club was formally constituted soon after her return. The club developed two headquarters—one in New York and one in London—and Youngson began to establish its various specialized divisions. The first, the Count Dracula Fan Club Research Library, was opened in 1970. It now has over 25,000 volumes that include special collections on Dracula, Bram Stoker, vampirism, and The Shadow and other adventure/mystery series. It is assisted by the Friends of the Library and the related Bram Stoker Memorial Collection of Rare Books. In 1978 the London center closed and was moved to a second location in New York. By this time the club had developed a large membership.

In 1990 Youngson established a Dracula Museum at No. One Fifth Avenue in New York City. Over the 25 years since she founded the club she collected copious Dracula, vampire, and Stoker artifacts and memorabilia. The museum collection documented the folklore and literary/cinematic vampire and captured a wide variety of material to meet the cravings of modern vampire fandom. She was especially attentive to gathering a vast supply related to Bram Stoker and his sanguinary Count Dracula. (The Museum featured an impressive Bram Stoker Wall of Fame, much admired by the visitors who visited the museum during its continuance.) The museum also housed numerous first and early editions of Stoker’s books, as well as autographed photos of actors associated with roles in Dracula and vampire movies. In 2000 the vast collection was purchased by a theatre complex in Vienna, Austria, to be on display in tandem with Roman Polanski’s theatrical musical version of his “Fearless Vampire Killers.” Each Christmas the Vampire Empire holds an Open House for members in its penthouse headquarters featuring the famous Vampire Santa tree and a Stoker Memorial tree trimmed with antique ornaments. The club also holds teas on the terrace for visiting members during the summer months.

In 2009 the Vampire Empire reported 1,225 members worldwide. The president and founder of the society is Dr. Jeanne Keyes Youngson who can be reached at: Penthouse North, 29 Washington Square West, New York, N.Y. 10011–9180 USA.

Sources:

The Count Dracula Fan Club Handbook. New York: Count Dracula Fan Club, 1992. 20 pp.
Moore, Steven, ed. The Vampire in Verse: An Anthology. New York: Dracula Press, 1985. 196 pp.
Oz, Jane. So You Want to be a Vampire. New York: Dracula Press, 1989. 12 pp.
Perkowski, Jan. Daemon Contamination in Balkan Vampire Lore. New York: Dracula Press, 1992. 15 pp.
———. The Vampire as Remnant. New York: Vampire Press, 1992. 6 pp.
Polidori, et al. The Count Dracula Fan Club Book of Vampire Stories. Chicago: Adams Press, 1980. 91 pp.
Sanders, Lewis, ed. Vampire Haiku. New York: Dracula Press, 1990. 28 pp.
Youngson, Jeanne, ed. The Count Dracula Chicken Cookbook. Chicago: Adams Press, 1979. 60 pp.
———, ed. A Child’s Garden of Vampires. Chicago: Adams Press, 1980. 60 pp.
———. The Bizarre World of Vampires. Chicago: Adams Press, 1996. 40 pp.
———, ed. Private Files of a Vampirologist: Case Histories & Letters. Chicago: Adams Press, 1997. 53 pp.