“The Real Vampire Community’s Early Days” – by Vyrdolak

The following articles are posted here with the kind permission of the author, Vyrdolak (Inanna Arthen). They are cross-posts of articles on her own website resource for the OVC, By Light Unseen. Our own copy of her articles will be updated as and when she updates the originals on her own site. Links to the original articles on By Light Unseen are in the chapter headings and also below these in text form.

The Real Vampire Community’s Early Days

http://bylightunseen.net/earlydays.htm

This article will be expanded with further information as I collect it. I’ll be delighted to hear from people who were involved in groups or networks prior to the 1980s and can share their experiences.

As far as I’ve been able to trace, the term, “Vampire Community” was first used by Sanguinarius in the late 1990s, and primarily referred to the coalescing network of messageboards, chat channels and email groups on the Internet. But a loose and disconnected network of Vampire-Identified People had been in existence for at least several decades by then.

It’s impossible to document what may have existed prior to the 1970s. Very few people openly identified as “vampires,” and those networks or groups they may have formed were far underground and secretive, like the networks for gays prior to the mid-20th century. The earliest networks evolved out of several related sources.

Vampire fiction or media fan groups (e.g. Dark Shadows fan clubs) attracted some Vampire-Identified People who found or recognized one another.
The BDSM scene had a subgroup of Vampire-Identified People, although it’s important to stress that not all members of the BDSM scene who were involved in blood play considered themselves in any sense “vampires.”
Satanist, Pagan and magickal groups, especially those that explored the “dark” mystical disciplines, became homes for some Vampire-Identified People.
Finally, as the Goth movement grew and established itself in certain nightclubs or other public venues, many Vampire-Identified People gravitated to their local Goth subculture, even if they didn’t really consider themselves Goth or follow the Goth musicians and bands.

Once a few Vampire-Identified People had gathered under the auspices of one of these communities, they frequently formed their own smaller group or organization and kept their shared interest secret from the larger community. They often were conflicted between risking exposure by reaching out to find others, or remaining private and constantly fearing discovery and ostracism. The early groups were like speakeasies: potential new members had to know someone who could introduce them, and/or use the right “code words” and catch phrases to identify themselves.

Before the Internet became widely available, fringe communities of all kinds communicated through thousands of small, home-printed publications or newsletters sometimes called ‘zines. Typed or even handwritten (later produced with the earliest primitive word processors and desktop publishing programs), reproduced by mimeograph or photocopier and mailed out to subscribers, these ‘zines could run anywhere from two to over fifty pages and featured wildly diverse (and frequently copyright-violating) content. An ephemeral medium, most are now long lost except for those few copies that may have been filed away by their editors or subscribers. They also linked limited circles of readers with little overlap, although the most devoted Vampire-Identified People often subscribed to as many ‘zines as they could find. During the 1980s, ‘zines were exhaustively catalogued and reviewed in Mike Gunderloy’s mind-boggling periodical, Factsheet Five.

In the 1960s, “vampire research organizations” started to appear (usually consisting of one person and possibly a few assistants and reporters-at-large). Dr. Jeanne Keyes Youngson founded the Count Dracula Fan Club in 1965 after a trip to Romania. Originally focused on vampire literature and fandom, especially Dracula, the CDFC amassed a research library of over 25,000 books and in 2000 changed its name to Vampire Empire. Dr. Youngson is intensely skeptical about self-proclaimed “real vampires” (I once met her at a party where she was entertaining attendees with stories about the letters she received amid gales of incredulous laughter). But the CDFC was contacted by so many Vampire-Identified People that Dr. Youngson published a short book about some of her “cases,” Private Files of a Vampirologist, in 1997.

Meanwhile, the very eccentric Sean Manchester launched the Vampire Research Society in Britain in 1970. Manchester, a huge admirer of Montague Summers, believed that folklore vampires like those reported in the 18th century panics were real and dedicated himself to detecting and destroying them. He is most famous for allegedly discovering such a reanimated corpse in London’s Highgate Cemetery. He had no patience with ordinary people who called themselves vampires, although like Dr. Youngson, he certainly heard from some of them. He got a lot of press, albeit rather derisive, and helped push the idea that “real vampires” actually existed into the public consciousness.

Dr. Stephen Kaplan founded the Vampire Research Center in New York City in 1971 (according to his own book,Vampires Are (1984)) and reported correspondence, phone conversations, and in-person meetings with Vampire-Identified People in response to the Center’s listing in the Manhattan phone book. These individuals had collected into small private groups but it’s unclear how they communicated outside of their immediate local network, if they did so at all. Many of the “vampires” that Kaplan encountered seemed to be involved with either the BDSM or Satanist subcultures, and Kaplan claimed that some Satanist groups he attempted to investigate killed his dog and threatened his life.

Dr. Leonard Wolf ran advertizements in the late 1960s asking simply, “Are you a vampire?” He reported the response in his somewhat pretentious book about vampire fiction, the vampire’s mystique and (mostly) himself, A Dream of Dracula(1971). This was among the earliest commercially published works to describe more-or-less sane and law-abiding people who defined themselves as “vampires” to the mainstream reading public. While neither Kaplan nor Wolf issued a newsletter or helped Vampire-Identified People connect with each other, their published works showed isolated Vampire-Identified People that they weren’t alone and others like them existed.

Martin V. Riccardo founded the Vampire Studies Society in 1977 and issued a quarterly newsletter, Journal of Vampirismfrom 1977 to 1979. Riccardo went on to explore the nature of “psychic vampires,” and claims to have invented the term, “astral vampirism.” In 1978, Eric Held cofounded the Vampire Information Exchange, along with Dorothy Nixon, after talking to Stephen Kaplan by phone. Both Held and Nixon were intrigued by the idea of “real vampires.” The VIE published the Vampire Information Exchange Newsletter (VIEN) from 1978 through the mid-2000s. Despite the interests of their founders, both of these newsletters tended to focus on vampire media and folklore, and did not treat Vampire-Identified People seriously. However, many Vampire-Identified People subscribed to them and attempted to contact the researchers.

During the 1980s, the wave of vampire popularity launched by Anne Rice’s fabulously successful books led to a number of non-fiction works being published that explored the roots of vampire enthusiasm. Either tangentially or directly, these books touched on people who defined as “real vampires” and stated that they drank blood. Folklorist Norine Dresser distributed questionnaires to college students and members of vampire fan clubs as she researched American Vampires: Fans, Victims, Practitioners (1989), and opened the book with a discussion of several blood-drinking Vampire-Identified People. Martin V. Riccardo’s The Lure of the Vampire was published by the CDFC in 1983 and Stephen Kaplan’sVampires Are was published by a small press in 1984. Olga Hoyt’s Lust for Blood (1984) included a chapter about Vampire-Identified People drawn from Dr. Youngson’s case histories. For better or worse, the existence of Vampire-Identified People was penetrating the general public’s awareness more and more.

During this decade, several Vampire-Identified People and researchers appeared on talk shows or “documentaries,” usually around Halloween and often as part of a group that included Pagan leaders like Andras Corban Arthen, Satanists like Dr. Michael Aquino (whose Temple of Set included a subgroup named Order of the Vampire) and self-proclaimed Christian “occult experts” like Mike Warnke. Dr. Kaplan’s assistant, Max Toth, made a number of such appearances, and Dr. Kaplan himself gave presentations at New York area fan conventions. These appearances usually included contact information for the guests. A few Vampire-Identified People, such as Countess Misty, “came out of the coffin” publicly, giving interviews, mingling at fan conventions and writing columns for ‘zines.

A major shift took place in 1991, and I’m still trying to analyze just exactly what caused it. Perhaps it was simply one of those occasional confluences of coincidences and there isn’t a root cause. But it seems to owe a lot to Anne Rice.

In 1991, Anne Rice was at the top of her game. She had published the first three of her Vampire Chronicles (Interview With the Vampire (1976), The Vampire Lestat (1985) and Queen of the Damned (1988)), all of which were enormous best-sellers among mainstream readers, not just genre fiction or vampire fans. Accessible and friendly to her fans, Rice had recently moved to New Orleans. In 1988 she approved the formation of an official fan club that began hosting Halloween gatherings for fans, who often attended costumed and “in persona” as their favorite characters.

What made Rice’s books unique was her use of the intimate first-person voice, and the vampire protagonist’s point of view. Readers found themselves inside the minds and feelings of vampires, something that had rarely been attempted in fiction before. In essence, by reading Rice’s books, readers were “role-playing” the protagonist, and experiencing what it was like to be a vampire, involuntarily. Why so many readers found this so appealing is another question (not everyone agrees that Rice is the world’s best writer). But obviously millions of them did, and that created a subtle change in the collective consciousness that both the Vampire Community and conventional wisdom completely fail to appreciate.

Anne Rice and her first-person narratives may have tilled the fertile ground into which White Wolf Games dropped the seed of a role-playing game called Vampire: The Masquerade in 1991. But whatever the explanation, V:tM exploded in popularity almost the moment it was released. Vampire fans no longer were passively experiencing vampirism through narrative: now they could act it out and improvise their own stories. Gaming, Live Action Role Play (LARP) gaming and associated social events became immensely popular almost overnight, especially in large cities. The Gotham vampire club scene in New York City saw a huge burst of activity and membership with the founding of The Sanguinarium in 1993 by “fangsmith” Todd Hoyt. Vampyre Lifestyling, a spin-off from both the Goth movement and the gaming subculture, also grew at a fast pace.

Anne Rice’s success is probably the reason that two of the first commercial mass-market books devoted entirely to Vampire-Identified People (rather than including a chapter on them as an afterthought) were published in 1991: Vampires Among Us by Rosemary Ellen Guiley and Bloodlust by Carol Page. Liriel McMahon founded the Vampirism Research Institute in 1991 and began publishing The Journal of Modern Vampirism.

All of this provided positive jungles of protective coloration and camouflage for bona fide Vampire Identified People to become more public and search for others like themselves. Several Vampire-Identified People launched amateur magazines or newsletters in the early 1990s. Inspired at least in part by Anne Rice’s novels (certainly the terminology came from there), some small groups settled into “safe houses” or “coven houses,” living communally as “vampire families.”

But it was the Internet that was about to facilitate an explosion of participation, interaction and change among Vampire-Identified People, as it gave equal access to all and rendered geographical location and restrictive personal circumstances moot.

It’s vitally important to understand one thing. During all of this time, all of these Vampire-Identified People, whether online or offline, public or private, were blood-drinking vampires. That was what made them vampires. That was the one thing they had in common. They all stated that they needed, or wanted, to drink blood. No one openly claimed to be a “psychic vampire” (although “psychic vampires” were mentioned occasionally in a very negative context, in accordance with earlier descriptions of them).

That was about to change.

The Online Vampire Community Takes Off

http://bylightunseen.net/ovcbeg.htm

Until the early 1990s, computer networks were not available to the general public. Technical professionals could access networks through their jobs, and college students and staff had some connectivity via large university systems. Email, “bulletin board” discussion groups and Usenet existed, but all were limited and clubbish communities. Even those people who had home computers and access to networks generally had to dial in with modems that by modern standards, operated at a crawl. A very few bulletin boards and Usenet groups for vampire fans were created, but they were devoted to vampire fiction or media.

As the 1990s began, the protocols that established the true Internet, and allowed the creation of websites and browsers to read them were established. The “World Wide Web” of interconnected hyperlinked content was founded around 1993. Mass-market services like Prodigy, GEnie and America Online opened up cyberspace to millions of people, including Vampire-Identified People.

The Online Vampire Community, or OVC, was born in these early venues. Some of the very first vampire-related websites were up and running as early as 1994. AOL had some members-only chatrooms for real vampires by 1995. The Usenet newsgroup alt.vampyres attracted so many Vampire-Identified People that a major schism erupted between them and the more skeptical users, spawning a new newsgroup, alt.culture.vampyres for “real vampires.” (See the academic paper, “Negotiating the Vampire: Conflict Resolution in a Usenet Newsgroup” by Gerry Gold.) The “guestbooks” of several vampire websites turned into the prototypes for the public messageboard services that would shortly be made available on a large scale. Prominent among these was the guestbook on Liriel McMahon’s Vampirism Research Institute (VRI) website.

As Sanguinarius describes in her essay, “From the Beginning to October, 1998,” the year 1997 saw a sudden explosion of serious, sympathetic “real vampire” sites and information onto the Internet. My Fireheart article, Sanguinarius’ website, my website (under the title, The Real Vampires Home Page), and others popped into being within the space of a few months. Very rapidly, Sanguinarius and several other people began creating online forums for direct interaction among readers of these websites, including Sanguinarius’ messageboard, AngelBitMe’s V.E.I.N. messageboard, Namadie’s Hall of Memories messageboard, and a number of email groups.

The venues available in 1997 left much to be desired. Free email group hosting had only just begun to be offered by a few companies, and the groups tended to be buggy, unreliable and prone to security lapses. Many of the “real vampire” messageboards were initially set up on Server.com, which operated on a complete laissez-faire principle and provided no way to control or block problem posts. Some of the same individuals who were active in these fora also posted to the Usenet newsgroup alt.vampires, which was more of a fannish/scholarly venue, and alt.culture.vampires for “real vampires.” The guestbook-cum-discussion-board on Liriel McMahon’s VRI website continued to be active. IRC chat channels also became important centers of activity for those Vampire Identified People who could access them, and some have been in use consistently since the early 90s.

The first reference to this loosely linked online subculture as a “community” appeared in the Statements of Purpose onSanguinarius’ Vampire Support Page (as it was then named) website in the summer of 1997. At that time, the reference was all-inclusive, with “vampire community” indicating everyone who could be considered or who called themselves any type of “vampire,” whether they were connected with the online fora or not. In this sense, the term was used in the same general way that “community” has been applied to a number of subgroups that have in common a special interest or experience–for example, the Pagan community, the LGBT community, the leather community, even “the victim community” of survivors of violent crimes.

Sanguinarius suggested that self-defined “vampires” represented a “community” through broad common interest. Her Statements of Purpose asserted that her objectives included greater understanding and networking among community members, outreach to isolated individuals, public education efforts about blood-drinking and vampirism, and support for Vampire-Identified People suffering from persecution. This is similar to the basic goals of many founders of various “communities.”

One point, however, was more assumed than articulated: by “vampire” Sanguinarius meant blood drinker.

As websites, e-groups, messageboards and chat channels continued to proliferate during the winter and early spring of 1998, a core membership of regular participants evolved. These members did not restrict themselves to just one online venue but circulated among almost all of them (although most had a favorite “home”). This meant that discussions, interpersonal issues, hot debate topics and so forth did not stay in one isolated place but spread throughout the network of Internet fora. Strong personalities emerged, and inevitably, so did strong disagreements. There were even one or two community scapegoats. Some community members became highly distressed at the occasional lack of civility in discussions and complained or announced their departure (usually temporarily). However, an objective look into all the online turmoil reveals some interesting changes going on underneath the surface.

The “Psivamp Revolution” and Its Aftermath

http://bylightunseen.net/psirevo.htm

Beginning in the early spring of 1998, a variety of online debates centered on a critical issue: what, exactly, was meant by the term “vampire” (or the then-current “real vampire”), what characteristics did a “vampire” have, and who should be considered one, and hence a member of “the vampire community?”

Many of the heated discussions had their direct or indirect origin in my own website. The direct origin came from a couple of features of that site in particular: the “real vampire traits checklists,” which some felt were misleading, and the FAQ question “What is a psychic vampire,” in which I made the (apparently contradictory) statements that “there is no such thing as a psychic vampire,” and “all real vampires are psychic vampires by nature.”

What I meant, and made a complete mess of explaining at the time, was that I believed that all “real vampires” could and should be drinking blood, that “real vampires” needed blood for its pranic energy content, and that the community should not dismiss or invalidate any bona fide “real vampire” merely because he or she didn’t, or couldn’t, find a source of blood. How my article and website were interpreted was a bit different–and unfortunately, I apparently was extremely obtuse (and remain somewhat skeptical) about what some people tell me was “my influence in the community.”

There were a growing number of self-defined “psychic vampires” in the Online Vampire Community (OVC), and an even larger number of what were then called “psi-blood feeders”–people who reported craving for, and/or being satisfied by, both blood and “energy.” I heard from a lot of these “hybrid vampires” in my own email, and independent surveys by the original owner of the Psychic Vampires website seemed to support this “bell curve.” It appeared, at that time, that the majority of Vampire-Identified People reported a need for blood and “energy” in varying proportions.

Like Sanguinarius, I was less concerned with categories and definitions than in uniting the entire community according to what it shared. I expected a high degree of diversity. I hoped to encourage varieties of Vampire-Identified People to see themselves as having vampirism in common and so feel more like a unified class of kindred spirits, despite their differing needs and practices.

Community member Amy Krieytaz, however, continued to bring up the question of supposedly “pure psi-feeders” and“pure blood vampires” feeling “excluded” by my model, which was anything but my wish. My chief sympathies were with blood-drinking vampires, but I got the impression (accurate or not) that many “pure” blood-drinking Vampire Identified People (i.e. Sanguinarians) in the online community did not have a high opinion of me and my website. Meanwhile, Amy attempted to address the situation by inventing more and more hair-splitting “overlapping categories” of so-called “real vampires,” and we debated this issue in private email.

I perceived an ominous change as the summer of 1998 went on. The online “psychic vampires” (with and without blood-craving or blood interest tendencies) continued to increase in number incredibly rapidly, and websites, chat channels and messageboards specifically for them were being founded enthusiastically. As this was going on, “psychic wars” began to break out in which the “psychic vampire” community rallied around one or more members who complained of being attacked, often during IRC chat sessions, by other “psychic vampires” (either members of the group or hostile outsiders).

These claims baffled and disturbed blood-drinking Vampire Identified People who could not understand what these attacks meant or how to assess reports of something they could not perceive. The skepticism–no matter how quiet and noncommittal–the “psychic vampires” sensed from other members of the OVC contributed to a widening crack. Instead of seeing themselves as “real vampires” with an experience in common (a need to “feed” on blood or “energy”), the online community was beginning to separate into two halves. One side still felt that vampirism by definition implied a need to drink blood. The other side was beginning to openly suggest that “real vampires” should not need to drink blood, but instead should “evolve” or progress to the “higher” level of “psi-feeding.” Long before this difference of opinion became openly contentious, it was creating a deep psychological rift. But the greatest irony of all in this development, at least from my perspective, was that it was all my fault.

Prior to the publication of my FireHeart article in fall, 1987, nobody, under any circumstances, considered a “psychic vampire” something that could be positive, or that anyone would ever admit to being. Every book that dealt with “real life vampirism” defined vampirism on the basis of blood-drinking. If psychic vampires were mentioned at all, it was in the context of early occult literature that described psychic vampires as people (or astral entities) who drained the vitality of others, either unconsciously or maliciously. Some books described “psychic vampires” as the leechlike, clinging, using personality types defined and denounced by both the Church of Satan and the Temple of Set. The sole “positive” reference to a “psychic vampire” from his own point of view occurs in Norine Dresser’s American Vampires, and that was published two years after my article. Without meaning to, I had introduced a totally new paradigm for psychic vampirism. When it was dropped into the whirling maelstrom of the Internet, with the posting of my 1987 article on the EarthSpirit website at the beginning of 1997, it was like a bomb going off. When I put up my first website as a response to the article, I only managed to pour gasoline on a roaring fire.

All of these people who were reading my website weren’t adopting my ideas as a whole package. They were extracting from my site what agreed with their pre-existing worldview and ideology, which ninety-nine percent of the time meant completely ignoring my assertions that all “real vampires” need to drink blood and that “psychic vampires” are not a separate class of vampire. My site acted as a psychic vampire manifesto, and those who read it adapted my ideas, and passed them on to others who further adapted them, and so on. I had started a revolution, in which a “psychic vampire” suddenly was not a draining, energy-challenged individual who leeched off other people and needed to be “cured,” “magically bound,” or avoided, but a kind of superior being, a potential master energy-wielder, who could outgrow any need to “feed” on blood, or on other people.

But I didn’t own this revolution. I watched my ideas, my terminology, and often my exact words circulate through the Internet, and I didn’t get the credit for them. (To be fair, most of the people passing them on evidently had no clue about their origins. For example, the term “pranic vampirism” originates with me–I’m the first person to link the word “pranic” and the word “vampire.” But nobody remembers that now, except a few people who have recently attempted to claim, without a shred of documentation, that they were using the term “pranic” earlier and are blatantly lying.)

But I did get the grief for the results. Many blood-drinking Vampire-Identified People didn’t like me because some self-defined “psychic vampires” were adapting my ideas in ways rather unflattering to them (and very much at variance from my intentions). Some “psychic vampires” didn’t like me because I continued to insist there was no such thing as a “psychic vampire.” Almost everyone was dubious about me because of my “vampire traits checklists,” which were widely seen as a bad idea. As I was buried under an avalanche of email that mostly pled for an explanation of checklist scores, I was beginning to agree with that point of view.

The Psychic Vampire Revolution was a movement whose time had come, and the self-defined “psychic vampires” (or “Psivamps”) can’t be blamed for the way they expanded into the nascent online community. After all, so many Vampire Identified People continued to bravely maintain that the “vampire community” should (somehow) include every self-defined vampire. What nobody seemed to realize–perhaps not even the “Psivamps” themselves–was that the “psychic vampire” community was hiving off into its own completely independent reality, with its own leaders, its own subcommunity, its own vocabulary, and its own concepts. It was also growing explosively, with self-defined “Psivamps” outnumbering both blood-drinkers and self-defined “hybrids.” (I think many “hybrids” were intimidated into believing their blood-craving was “unevolved” or unethical and tried to suppress or deny it. The anonymous surveys distributed by Suscitatio LLC in 2006 reveal that the majority of Vampire Identified People still claim to need both blood and “energy.”)

As the “Psivamps” became stronger, more self-assured, more articulate, and developed a better consensus, their collective influence naturally became much stronger in the general online fora. The blood-drinking Vampire Identified People found their opposing self-definitions thrown into sharp relief as a result, and began reaffirming their own identity, pulling back into their own subgroup and grumbling behind the scenes.

Under the mounting pressure of this still unacknowledged and widening breach, the explicit issues finally erupted publicly in September 1998. Some blood-drinking Vampire-Identified People logged complaints that the “Psivamps” were “taking over.” Sanguinarius forcefully stated her view that “real vampires” were defined as blood-craving or blood-lusting Sanguinarians, period, and that “psychic vampires” were not worthy of the name. She posted this message on both the original Bloody Minded messageboard and then the general Vampire Community messageboard, and the “Psivamps” suddenly found themselves brutally challenged by an acknowledged leader of the vampire community. They were, naturally, hurt and dismayed, the more so because a few other Sanguinarians cheered Sanguinarius’ message and added their agreement.

Some “Psivamps” angrily responded to Sanguinarius’ message while others simply abandoned the messageboard for their own exclusive “Psivamp” fora (at least until they cooled off). Sanguinarius later relented on her strong position and apologised, but she continued to state that she simply did not understand the “Psivamps'” perspective on life, and that her real allegiance was to other Sanguinarians and their issues. Her view was probably representative of many blood-drinking Vampire-Identified People. However, Sanguinarius and many others reaffirmed their dedication to the community as a whole. An uneasy truce was settled, and Sanguinarius renamed her main messageboard “the Vampiric Community Messageboard” in accordance with a new suggestion of Amy’s that we consider ourselves the “vampiric” community of “vampiric” people (not just “vampires”).

At about this same time I was undergoing a private capitulation, based partly upon my finally realizing what I had, in a certain sense, wrought, and partly upon bowing at long last to another in a string of disappointments I had encountered ever since getting online in December of 1994. I threw in the towel for good on any ideas of unifying “real vampires” under a single multi-faceted definition. I posted a long, abject, public apology to Amy Krieytaz for misunderstandings regarding her proposal to name “hybrid” or “psi-blood feeding” Vampire Identified People after me, as “Arthenian vampires.” I then temporarily took down some sections of the Real Vampires Home Page website, including the troublesome “real vampire traits checklists,” for long-planned and extensive revisions.

Although some of the upsets settled down, the general tenor of the online fora did not improve. As I saw it, the contention of the big split created a psycho-social atmosphere that attracted a huge amount of negativity to the Online Vampire Community.

When I launched my completely redesigned website in December, 1998, now named Living Vampires, I created an accompanying messageboard for it, and also started a couple of email lists. But for the next eighteen months, my fora and all the other high-traffic messageboards were constantly plagued by a series of extremely persistent, obnoxious and Internet-savvy trolls, several of them posting from other countries. It seemed that we messageboard moderators spent all our time deleting obscene posts, tracing IP numbers, identifying nuisance posters who used multiple nicknames, filing complaints to ISP’s, and struggling to keep discouraged members from giving up on us. Several boards survived a number of sophisticated denial-of-service attacks in which they were flooded with hundreds of obscene posts. Server.com only advised us to “ignore” the trolls and asked me at one point “what we’d done to offend these people” and provoke them into bothering us so much.

Apart from the outright trolls, I was distressed by the fact that most of the owners of messageboards appeared willing to tolerate, and sometimes even encourage, personalities on their boards that I saw as being highly destructive to any “community” spirit and discouraging to other posters. The most active and verbose posters, it seemed, tended to be strongly opinionated and blunt-spoken egotists who were always ready to lecture, attack and abuse anyone they disagreed with. On top of that, they made it clear that they didn’t identify as “vampires” of any kind, but needed to explain to all of us why we were wrong about things. There were also some individuals who were very obviously (to me, anyway) quite mentally ill, yet were praised for their poetic wisdom and truthful insight. I communicated at length to other messageboard moderators about my concerns, and my feeling that we all needed to raise our standards and have the fortitude to moderate much more strongly on behalf of our more humble members who were being intimidated by these overbearing individuals. The other moderators chose not to agree with my advice.

By spring of 2000, I was fed up with handling the problem posters and being flamed to cinders on my own messageboard. I closed my messageboard and other fora down and retreated from participation in any and all Vampiric Community fora. In retrospect, I probably should have had a thicker skin. But there were other stressors in my life at that time, and I decided that I wasn’t being rewarded for the investment of time and energy I was making. Sarasvati offered to take over my Server.com messageboard, stating that she felt it was important to some of its core members, trolls regardless. I turned the messageboard over to her, and she ran it successfully for many years as Echoes of Night.

But I was far from the only frustrated moderator in the online community. Most of the Server.com messageboards became moribund or were shut down, and a number of key individuals and leaders largely retreated from participating in online fora. Those that remained began to set up fora on servers with EZBoard or similar companies that required members to register and log in before they could use the forum. This virtually eliminated the problem of trolls, spamming and nuisance posts. However, some members of the online community were not comfortable with having to register as members, and others (including me) did not like the format of the new fora. These individuals refused to participate in the members-only messageboards. Many well-known websites, some of them with extensive and high-quality information, were abandoned or taken down during the next couple of years.”

[These articles are posted here with the kind permission of the author.]

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