In the past few days, a poll was posted on the Vampyre Academy website, one which asked essentially one question twice with two sets of alternative answers. The poll began with a statement:
“The dictionary defines a vampirologist as ‘one who studies vampirology’ or ‘A person that researches, studies, and discusses vampires in both the fictional and real world and the trends that follow them.’ Please give your input on how you as a VC participant think a vampirologist should measure up to this definition.”
The two questions posed were:
Q1: Which of the following would you say is true about how a vampirologist is supposed to act FROM A VC PERSPECTIVE?
* To research, observe, but NOT to intervene? (44%)
* To research, observe AND to interact, but NOT to intervene? (56%)
The aim of this question was to determine the VC participant point of view on whether a vampirologist should interact with the VC and its participants while engaging for research purposes.
Q2: Which of the following would you say is true about how a vampirologist is supposed to act FROM A VC PERSPECTIVE?
* To observe and study the VC as it is, WITHOUT influencing the VC? (89%)
* To observe and study the VC as it is, up to and INCLUDING extending influence over the VC to change to suit his or her own principles? (11%)
The aim of this question was to determine the VC participant point of view on whether a vampirologist should engage for research purposes either with or without the intention of changing the VC.
The answers to these questions appear to indicate that participants feel that a vampirologist should research, observe AND interact with the VC, but NOT intervene in the VC. Conversely, the same respondents to the poll indicated that a vampirologist should observe and study the VC as it is, WITHOUT influencing the VC.
Why the poll?
The point of the poll was to get the perspective of the VC itself on the two concepts in each question, and to convey/clarify where at least one ‘vampirologist’ of our general acquaintance has been going wrong.
The purpose of the poll (and this article) is not to launch a personal attack on anyone, but rather to look at the perspective of the apparent majority view of the VC in relation to current events, and to address the elephant in the room as it were. After all, rather a lot has been said on the topic from several quarters, and generally laced with emotional argument and rather lacking cool rational analysis of the situation.
As an example, let’s look at one response by Anthony Hogg, a self-described vampirologist on his own Facebook group ‘the Vampirologist’ minutes after links to the poll were disseminated across various VC groups on Facebook:
“I’ll stay out of the loaded questions on the poll (there’s no either/or), however, I’ll say this: vampirology is simply the study of vampires. It’s right there in the name. Does it have to be from a neutral, passive observer perspective? Fuck no. Anyone familiar with my work knows that I’m a mythbuster. VC folk get no special treatment from that. Joe Nickell provided an excellent definition for vampirology in his book, “Tracking the Man-beasts” (2011):
“However, if we are to seriously add the root –ology to vampire, the presumably scholarly field thus described must represent more than credulity and fantasy. There is a serious field of study—embracing folklore, psychology, cultural anthropology, literature, history, and so on—that attempts to research and make sense of the various aspects of the vampire myth. To that study the term vampirology may well be applied.”
And guess what? Joe Nickell applies critical thinking and skepticism in his investigation techniques. In the very same book, he debunks vampire myths.
By the poll’s second option logic, no investigator should do that: they should keep their mouth shut. That’s why the poll is loaded. The second option is notably telling however: “To observe and study the VC as it is, up to and INCLUDING exerting influence over the VC to change to suit his or her own principles?” Now isn’t a poll, which forces a participant to choose between two options instead of allowing any leeway, designed to “exert influence over the VC to change to suit his or her own principles” once those results are tallied up? I think so. 😉“
Let’s weigh this lengthy statement (which tends to demonstrate an external biased view of the VC and subculture) against what we know about Anthony Hogg. He was allowed to enter the Vampyre Community in general because he presented himself to said community publicly as a vampirologist – one who studies Vampyres – both the fictional kind and the real living kind. There was at first no hint of drama or intent to alter or to change the VC, or to conduct ‘social experiments’ in any studies. It was apparently assumed that Mr Hogg, as a vampirologist, would conduct himself in a similar manner as previously known academics – and after all, the VC seems eager to accept and welcome academics eager to understand and to explore the subculture and the community, and preferably, to further the acceptance of our kind in the outside world through articles and lectures etc.
Except that in this case, our intrepid vampirologist does not hold with vampyric people using the ‘v-word’ to identify themselves, since he feels it is ‘inaccurate’ and in his view belongs solely to the realm of myth, lore and fiction and does not pertain to living, breathing not-undead people, without any exception whatsoever. Not content with merely disagreeing with the primary self-identification of the Vampyre Community, he has also sought to influence the community into changing to suit his views.
He claims to be a vampirologist. Is this the role of a vampirologist? He claims to be a researcher. Is this the role of a researcher? He claims to be an academic. Is this the role of an academic? Is Mr Hogg actually PART of the Vampyre Community? Or is he just a hostile outsider running amok within it?
Well, he certainly has been interacting with us for some time, being at the center of drama in numerous groups on FB, posting articles about fictional vampires, about living Vampyres, and more often than not, criticizing Vampyre culture and asserting that participants in the VC, and the structure and make-up of the community itself do not meet with his personal approval. He makes it quite clear that this is what he seeks to change about the community. A community which he has been interacting with, under the pretext of being a ‘vampirologist’ of course. But is he a MEMBER of the Vampyre Community? Is he one of us?
Is he Otherkin? No. Is he a Donor? No. Is he a Vampyre? No. Is he even a Larper or Lifestyler? No.
He proclaims that he is a vampirologist. Here to study Vampyres. To study US. To STUDY.
At what point does ‘to study’ change to mean ‘to manipulate’, ‘to alter’, or ‘to change’?
He is a non-Vampyre who entered the community and was allowed to do so, to interact, on the understanding that he was a vampirologist – which is a misrepresentation on his part actually – since he’s really an activist for change from outside.
He has his fans and friends in the VC. I admire him for his intelligence and sometimes for his wit and charm and reasoning skills. However what I don’t like about him is the negative effect he has on the VC in general, and the destructive potential – and the apparent eagerness he displays to inflict it – along with the clear lack of forethought, consideration and even empathy he displays in such contemplation.
It’s quite simple – he doesn’t like how Vampyres identify, and he doesn’t like the culture or understand it at all, and he’s determined to change it in any way he can, regardless of whether it works out the way he wants, or if it holds any negative implications for those in the community.
In other words, he goes (and has gone) beyond simply studying and observing, and actively works to upset and change the Vampyre subculture and community from what he sees it as being, to what he WANTS it to be.
This, no matter what he says vampirology ‘is’, is NOT in line with what a vampirologist is SUPPOSED to do – nor at the very least, what the VC understands a vampirologist is supposed to do. Which is kind of the point.
On the one hand, Mr Hogg is correct – there is no precise, specific, point by point, black and white definition of what a vampirologist does or doesn’t do.
This is because there is NO such actual THING in the academic world as a vampirologist.
You won’t find for example, at a university, an academic with that title. The Roman Catholic Church still has a post for a ‘Vampire Hunter’, which might not be quite the same thing, but well, who knows? Anthony has often used examples of sociology and anthropology as comparative examples to excuse himself from being held to any kind of behavioral ethics to be expected of an academic engaging with a closed community in order to study them. This of course should bring his motives and intentions in question.
Vampirology is technically speaking, a prominent feature of fiction itself, such as “Dr Abraham van Helsing” in Dracula (or “Abraham von Goosewing” from Duckula, take your pick) for example – even though this most famous of all examples was also technically a vampire hunter.
There have always been the kooks and nut-jobs skulking in the shadows, such as Anthony Hogg’s own better known arch-nemesis Sean Manchester lurking in Highgate Cemetary in London all those years, who made a life-long hobby (or obsession) out of chasing ghost stories and tales of lurching undead revenants in the mists of their imaginations and craving media attention. Some of those have used the term ‘vampirologist’ too, even though they do not typically even remotely consider what they see as ‘Goth wannabes’ and ‘vampiroids’ as anything like their actual subject of study – an undead myth that it is extremely unlikely ever existed out of mythology or fiction or drug-fueled delusions.
The standard definition of ‘vampirology’ therefore appears to be focused on the study of fictional and mythical creatures which do not actually exist outside of a book – since it does not in fact recognize us as the ‘real vampires’ in question. No. They seek undead corpses slumbering in caskets hidden in forgotten cellars.
However, since the 1970’s, when the Vampyre Community began to coalesce into a visible and detectable presence, there has been a slow, gradual increase in interest in us. A mix of religious critics and curious (if sceptical) academics have increasingly been probing and investigating the Vampyre subculture. Since there are actual Vampyres and an actual Vampyre Community, there is a perceived need to study them, and hence, *poof* the ‘real modern vampirologist’ was born.
While Mr Hogg may view our culture and identity as largely if not entirely based on fiction, then it isn’t entirely unrealistic nor unreasonable to point out that if that’s what he believes, then his claim of being a ‘vampirologist’ should be viewed as equally as tenuous.
However, the goal of a vampirologist would, by the dictionary definitions at least – and due to the prevailing and much more professional record of his predecessors – by VC interpretation, be to understand the VC as it IS, as it exists, to report on it, to write about it, to speak on radio or TV about it even…NOT to change the whole thing to suit their own principles.
That’s not studying, that’s not pure research or academia – that’s social engineering.
When a researcher starts interfering and altering their test subject, they become a hostile influence first of all, and secondly, if a vampirologist moves from study and observation and even limited interaction into actively influencing, directing or altering, then they are crossing a line – and stop being a vampirologist.
Remember Joe Laycock? The guy who wrote several very useful and internationally academically renowned articles and papers about the Vampyre subculture and the Otherkin/Therian subculture?
Remember D.J. Williams? The fella who wrote a few academic papers about the Vampyre subculture in relation to social work and mental health and wellness and leisure activities?
I don’t recall them interacting overtly with the VC on Facebook, getting embroiled in intense drama, flame wars, getting banned from dozens – LITERALLY DOZENS of VC groups, starting their own Facebook VC groups to compensate for being excluded, writing blogs and trying to change anyone or the culture they were studying?
I don’t recall Laycock or Williams blogging critical articles about their opponents in the VC, complaining about the resistance to change they were met with, all their critical thoughts on the culture and what they feel needs to change about it? Or starting groups of their own on FB in the VC to initiate these changes and essentially to establish their own factions of supporters in the VC?
I might apply the term ‘vampirologist’ to them, even though these are not their sole fields of study or expertise, but at least insofar as they have studied and reported their findings on the VC to the outside world – WITHOUT exerting pressure on the community or subculture to accede to their views, and without throwing tantrums should the VC not pay heed to their works or findings.
In short, they and their findings are quite separate from the VC itself. There is no expectation in these cases, on the part of the vampirologist, that the VC should adopt their findings as doctrine or to force down the views of the vampirologist onto the culture, structure or make-up of the community itself.
They have analyzed their subject as it is, interacted to do research and ask questions and obtain clarity, and reported back on it as they saw it – regardless of their personal feelings on the subject. Therein lies the difference.
Not so with Anthony Hogg. He objects to the use of the term ‘Vampyre’ (or ‘vampire’), he has made some valid points when it comes to historical accuracy in the representation of vampyrism in some aspects of the culture or in some mythological views the community has about Vampyre nature and origins – but it doesn’t end there. Perhaps most importantly, he has absolutely no respect whatever for the culture itself in that he couldn’t care less if he upsets any groups or communities with his bull-in-a-china-shop approach to things.
He doesn’t respect our customs or traditions, he apparently couldn’t care less about the role played by various community organizations or community leader figures – not that he has even bothered to take the time to research them – nor does he care if his actions undermine these, even if he places the safety and well-being of community participants at risk.
If the entire VC structure and framework were to collapse today and vulnerable people in the world identifying as Vampyres or vampyric people were left without support or trustworthy learning information due to the absence of an online VC network, it wouldn’t really be an issue for him since he doesn’t really seem to believe that Vampyres are anything more than at best roleplayers or at worst, delusional nuts in need of therapy or some as yet misunderstood phenomenon that would according to him, be better off identifying as something else.
Time and again, he has practically lain on the floor and had a kicking and screaming fit if people don’t agree with him or acquiesce to his demands. The OVC is littered with the wreckage left behind of his forays into Vampyre culture and in fact several groups have actually split and virtually waged war on each other because of his very presence there.
Is this a vampirologist?
Is this what the VC should expect when in future people presenting themselves as academics come knocking at the gates asking to participate in our groups and to interact with us as a community for reasons of study and potential mutual benefit?
Is it in the best interests of the Vampyre Community to continue to entertain the presence and participation of such a disruptive presence in its circles?
Should the VC welcome with arms wide open, outsiders who come among us to change our culture to suit them? Is it their place to dictate how we should behave, what we should believe about our nature or how we should conduct ourselves?
First off, he is a skeptic, as he has pointed out many times. Nothing wrong with that. I’m a skeptic too when I hear folks claiming to be 257 years old, claiming to burst into flames in the sun, using fancy otherworldly titles, or to be able to feed off the ‘energy’ in music or from a book, or the like. I even have a hard time swallowing claims that there are such things as Vampyre-whatever hybrids… in my own private view, you’re a Vampyre OR something else, not both. Despite my own opinions and skepticism, I generally keep my feelings on the topic to myself and don’t let it interfere with how I treat participants in the groups I am involved with.
On the other hand, Mr Hogg is skeptical about people really being vampyric – that is, having a hunger, having a shortage of energy, having an inherent need to satisfy or meet this shortage by various means. He would sooner argue against and criticize to the bitter end any kind of evidence submitted in support of self-identified Vampyres, than admit that the identity is any more than a hypothetical pseudo-religious belief. In short, he very likely doesn’t even believe we are anything other than people suffering a common mass-delusion who have adopted (or hijacked) his favorite fictional term for lack of any alternative, while being mesmerized by the attractive fictional representation of the movie vampire. Not being vampyric or a Vampyre, we can understand such doubt and skepticism, naturally.
This is of course his opinion, and he is perfectly entitled to it. But Mr Hogg has demonstrated a tendency of going way beyond mere skepticism and opinion-holding.
He may be a vampirologist yes, to some degree – but again, when you experiment and intervene with the subject of your study – say to change its principles and practices to suit your own views, seek to undermine its fabric and to remake it in your own image, and risk destabilizing it in the process while disregarding the safety of participants or continuation of it, you cross the line from being a vampirologist to being an activist or advocate of your own ideals – or at worst, a revolutionary.
Some have in the past, and even recently pointed out that Anthony Hogg is a threat and a danger to the culture we are a part of, not because he may necessarily represent any kind of political power shift in the VC, or of necessity because he disagrees with the views held by the influential ranks of the VC – but because he is an outside influence – NOT a part of the VC, not even a vampyric person – who has intruded into a culture which he feels compelled to CHANGE according to his own views.
He has not stopped short of drama, dissent, and overt hostility towards some participants in some cases. He has blamed others in the community who have confronted him, crying foul, claiming victimization and citing concepts such as ‘anti-intellectualism’ and fear of his great intellect as reasons for his waning – nay, plummeting – popularity in the VC.
In the meantime he has also shunned and virtually ignored any and all attempts to advise him on how to approach community leaders, to admonish him on how to conduct himself in a manner expected of an academic researcher within the community. Being a bull in a china shop has clearly been more entertaining for him – that, and receiving alleged hate mail and threatening messages. All academics get those from the communities they study, didn’t you know?
But it’s not ‘intellectualism’ to enter a community under false pretenses in order to ‘study’ a culture, with the ulterior motive of tearing down and changing that culture according to ideals which are external to that culture.
Academia is not meant to be a Trojan horse.
It’s not ‘anti-intellectualism’ to detect, to highlight and to oppose such actions. It’s a matter of self-preservation.
The point is, it’s not a vampirologist’s place to interfere in their subject of study or to alter it to the way they want it to be – that’s not a STUDY of the subject, that’s EXPERIMENTATION – and a study of the results. See what this means? There is a difference in FOCUS.
Study ‘can’ involve experimentation to a degree in order to observe results for the purposes of gathering scientific or statistical data. ‘Mingling’ by a vampirologist can be done unobtrusively. Without interfering or changing. Like a ‘duck blind’. Working to change the subject is not studying. That’s intervening.
A good comparison would be the Prime Directive in Star Trek. If you’re a vampirologist who’s interfered, you’ve broken that directive, torn it to shreds. The principle I was referring to here of course, is INTERFERENCE, and attempts to change the VC from the outside.
What happens when you intervene with your study subject to alter their behavior, beliefs or practices? You change the subject itself – and the results of your study. These are then skewed and one should ask, what is the real point – or value – of any such skewed study anyway?
Who sets the pace or calls the tune in the VC? Is it the Vampyres? Or is it Otherkin, or non-vampyres? Is this the Otherkin Community? Or the Vampyre Community? This is the Vampyre subculture and the Vampyre Community, is it not?
It’s not the Vampirological Community, and Mr Hogg, being neither Vampyre nor identifying as anything else other than ‘a vampirologist’ and ‘a myth-buster’ – and an aggressive one at that, may be participating in the VC – but he sure isn’t PART of the VC, and in that respect he is an outside or external influence attempting to pervert and to subvert the entire framework of the VC and its associated subculture seemingly for his own amusement.
There is one VC term however, that can describe Mr Hogg quite well in the context of all of the above: ‘White Swan’ – and we here should all know what that means.