Friday, May 29, 2015

Comprehensive interview with Anthony Hogg a vampirologist, on absolutely everything Vampire

Taken With Permission From: 

Anthony Hogg started his fascination with all things vampire, at the age of eleven. Today he is one of the most sought after people to give insight on anything related to these supernatural beings.

A vampirologist. Can you elaborate?
 Thanks for having me! Sure. A vampirologist is someone who studies vampires from an academic perspective. I personally view it through the lens of history and folklore, but others might apply their own expertise, be it psychology, anthropology, or in the case of one of my favourite writers in the field, Paul Barber, through forensic pathology.

When and why did you decide to become a vampirologist?
I’ve been interested in vampires since I was 11 ½. I’m much older now. My thirst for vampire knowledge steered me into chasing 18th century vampire texts; the ground zero of vampire studies. This was around 2004. My desire to highlight this era at the expense of the typical literary and cinematic routes, Polidori’s VampyreVarney the VampireCarmillaDraculaInterview with the Vampire, wash, rinse, repeat, eventually lead me to other people who shared my interest, specifically Niels K. Petersen and his brilliant blog, Magia Posthuma. His blog inspired me to launch my own, Diary of an Amateur Vampirologist (2008--11), which you could consider my official vampirologist launchpad.

Being in the profession that you are, you have experienced numerous types of influences all related to the vampire. Can you tell us what your conclusion is with the different instances being: Vampire as a subculture, Vampire religion/ Spiritualism, Vampire fiction and Vampire history.  The first thing I can tell you is that everything you mentioned is in a constant flux; the vampire scene today is very different from the one I first delved into. The vampire as subculture is what I would define as members of a collective who identify with the vampire in some shape or form, be they lifestylers, roleplayers, sanguinarians or psychic vampires. It's all in the title, “subculture,” which Wikipedia defines as “a group of people within a culture that differentiates itself from the larger culture to which it belongs, though often maintaining some of its founding principles.” 

Vampire religion and spiritualism is a manifestation of the vampire subculture, where you get various vampire covens with syncretic spiritualties or established cults like the Temple of the Vampire or the Order of Aset Ka. In essence, it’s no different from other vampire subcultures, if you replace their respective dogmas with the “founding principles” of other subcultures.

Vampire fiction is exactly what it says on the tin: fiction incorporating vampires as characters. We could easily extend the principle to vampire movies and television.  
As to “vampire history,” I often mention that in my online discussions, so to clarify that point, I refer to historical representations of the vampire, primarily through legend and folklore. The famous Arnout Pavle and Peter Plogojoviz cases of the 18th century is what I would regard as vampire history; alternative histories, which represent Vlad the Impaler as a vampire (even though he most definitely was not), isn’t what I regard as history, but modern-day myth making.
Vampire history isn’t dependent on the reality of vampires; it’s dependent on what people believed at the time and whether or not there’s historical record for it. For instance, in the Pavle and Plogojoviz cases, we have contemporary 18th century reports available for our perusal.

There was an article that floated around the internet about Vampires being the Chosen ones. What is your take on the relevance to Bloodline of the Holy Grail and the script that accompanied the article?  The article you’re referring to, Michelle Belanger’s “Vampires as the Chosen Ones,” revels in the kind of pseudo-history I often criticise. To be fair, even she amends “discern with care” to it. And so you should. Belanger says “I believe [it] owes a great deal of inspiration to the book,Bloodline of the Holy Grail. It was passed on to me by a member of a prominent vampire temple that has existed since at least 1991.” The book was written by Laurence Gardner – in 1989. That should be the first warning sign.

As I said in my reply to your question on vampire religion and spiritualties, this stuff gets very syncretic in vampire circles; various religious beliefs or mythologies are often stirred together and given a vampiric twist. In this case, the story was obviously “borrowed” from the “Jesus bloodline” nonsense popularised by writers like Gardner, Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, Henry Lincoln, and more recently by Dan Brown, despite the story’s origins in a fraudulent document created by Pierre Plantard.

Put it this way: scholars still debate whether Jesus existed at all, little alone fathered children and spawned a vampire bloodline.

There are many things that seem to come full circle when you refer to things like Vlad The Impaler / Dracula, the Order of the Dragon, vampire, Amalekites , Nephilim and then when you come to Africa Annunaki or the Loas. What is your view on it? 
My view is that the “full circle” is deliberate: writers like Gardner and Nicholas de Vere have a knack for teasing out patterns from diverse religions, mythologies and historical personages. In academic circles, we’d call this comparative mythology, but in the hands of those writers, we’re talking lexical pareidolia; the names look similar, therefore theymust be related. Oh, they both mention dragons? Another connection! Pure nonsense. Establishing historical connections is much more complex than “they sound similar.”

The connection between these things is very slight – or very obvious. Take Vlad Dracula. He was named for his father, Vlad Dracul, whose on name reflected his membership of the Order of the Dragon, a Catholic knighthood instituted to halt the spread of Turkish invasion in Europe. That’s hardly a mystical connection. And considering Vlad has no real connection to vampires apart from Bram Stoker liking his name enough to change his character from “Count Wampyr” to “Count Dracula,” that’s also a helluva stretch.

As we both know, there are established societies / subculture groups across the world that refer to themselves as being vampiric or vampyre. What is your take on this?  My take is that they’re in search of self, identity – something to contextualise themselves as people who crave blood or psychic energy … and rather than seek medical or psychological assistance, they’ve found that outlet by latching onto a mythic figure filtered through the lens of pop culture. There’s a reason why so many identify bad reaction to sunlight as one of their defining vampire “traits” even though this was not a symptom of the historical vampire, but introduced to vampire “myth” through cinema.

Identifying as a vampire is obviously much more glamourous than acknowledging you probably have some sort of vitamin deficiency or pica. Sun allergy is medically-grounded condition; vampirism is not. It saddens me that many of these groups have little understanding or appreciation for historical vampirism which is especially odd to me, considering they’ve built their identities around being a “vampire.”

Case in point: some self-identified vampires refer to themselves as “vampyres” because they think it distinguishes them from the “fictional” vampire, probably because the spelling seems all mysterious and Gothic. Except it isn’t a different word at all: “vampyre” is merely the archaic way of spelling of “vampire.” When “vampire” was introduced into our language, it was spelt “vampyre” and the spelling between “vampire” and “vampyre” alternated right through the 19th century before. That’s why the multiple authors who wrote for the penny dreadful,Varney the Vampire (1845–7), alternated their spellings between “vampire” and “vampyre” during its print run – the “correct” spelling wasn’t set in stone yet. It just happens that “vampire” won the battle and that’s why it’s the most common spelling used today.

Unfortunately, this kind of historical ignorance is pervasive within the communities because it’s spread by “elders” who’re more interested in shilling anachronistic mysticism to gullible followers than fact.

Whatever my take on it is, I know these groups will continue to grow and prosper. Obviously, I can’t stop people identifying as vampires, even though they’re basically identifying with an undead, bloodsucking corpse. But at the very least, I can encourage them to get their history right.

You have made it a job to interact with these subcultures and to comment on many of their posts as you see fit. Do you ever feel threatened by it all? By anyone? As many of these people do not agree with your approach. 
I wouldn’t say I’ve made it my job, so much as it has become part of my job. I’m “that” guy: if I see someone has written about something incorrectly or if they’re sharing an obviously nonsensical story without checking Snopes first, I have to correct them. It just happens that I admin many vampire themed groups awash with folk from vampire subcultures who’ve been fed a steady diet of bullshit and regurgitate it accordingly.

The only thing I feel threatened by is the possibility that discussing vampires enters the realm of political correctness. Now that further sociological studies are being done on them, I have a feeling that their “feelings” will be put at the forefront over hard, incontrovertible fact: that vampires have no basis in reality outside novels and movies. I encounter enough anti-intellectualism within these circles as it is, without being blockaded by misguided, but well-intentioned rights activists.

That said, I believe further study – medical and psychological study – should be done with members of the vampire subculture to determine what their “thirst” is based on. There’s no question that there’s lots of consistency if we strip the whole thing down to a “craving.”           
Many people within the subcultures misinterpret my stance on this issue: it’s not that I doubt they crave something (though I will contest it as a “need”), it’s that applying the name of a mythic entity to yourself and expecting it to be given precedence over the well-established undead vampire archetype is not only harmful to their cause, but amounts to identity theft. If you want to be taken seriously, stop defining yourself through an undead corpse.

Unfortunately, the data behind these also heavily tainted, because there’s nothing stopping someone from claiming to be a vampire especially if it will make them feel like they fit into a larger social group. All you have to do is mention you need blood or psychic energy. Free pass.

Either way, I’d love to see studies advance beyond the usual sociological surveys. I’d love to see some hard answers for the cause of their thirst. This would meet greater success with with “sangs,” who feed on blood as opposed to psys who feed on an invisible something-or-other.

The subculture itself, define themselves under different categories: Blood Drinkers, Psi, Empathic, Sexual, Soul, Genetic, Malkavian, Nosferato etc. What is your take on the different classifications and the peoples that classify themselves accordingly?  There are many, many variants. There’s no consistent or authoritative glossary as far as I’m concerned. In fact, the last two you mentioned are taken from roleplaying game, Vampire: The Masquerade.

I can totally understand the desire to classify the subgroups. Afterall, even within my field, there have been numerous attempts to classify vampires, but nothing’s really “stuck.” But classification is a constantly evolving thing, yet I how many variations on “psychic vampire” can you really have? It gets ludicrous. Like metal genres. Remember when heavy metal was sufficient? Now we have death metal. Melodic death metal. Syphonic death metal. Viking metal. Folk metal. It doesn’t stop. But this is the nature of subgroups: they all want to feel special, so you’re going to see the classification become increasingly diverse and specific.

How is some of the categorization different from people who classify themselves as being psychic, empathic or different?  That’s a good question: what is the difference, really? Psychic vampirism is defined as taking someone’s lifeforce to feed yourself. What does an empath feed on? Empathy? What is empathy? Can you bottle it? Drink it? Isn’t it the distillation of someone’s lifeforce? I dunno, man. You get all kinds of variations. There’s also emotional vampirism, too, although Albert J. Bernstein has basically used that to define anti-social behaviour.

What is your overall goal in being as involved with the subculture, and everything vampire as you are?  I don’t have a goal within the subculture. At least, not a clearly defined one. I just happen to be smackdab in the middle of it. If you’re talking about subculture in a greater sense, that is, vampire fandom, then I certainly have grand plans along those lines. In regard to the latter point, my goal is to spread greater awareness of vampire history. 

There are many novels today that expose the youth to the mythical essence of things like vampires and the Nephilim etc. How do you feel the likes of Stephenie Meyer and Cassandra Clare have influenced the interest levels in our youth today?  That’s exactly why we often see fundamentalist Christian groups up in arms about them; if it’s not Meyer or Clare, it’ll be Harry Potter: their concern is that these books open the door to the occult. And they do. If you’re interested in those themes, chances are you’ll seek out more. But can a specific path be predicted? Is there a direct line between reading Twilight and seeking the Nephilim? No, not necessarily. The path one takes from it depends on one’s latent interests.

Take mine, for instance: my vampire interest is what might be defined as old school or retro. I like the classic tropes, the garlic, the crosses, stakes and holy water. Notice the Christian trappings there? That’s because they appeal to my own faith. They validate it. Good vs. evil. I enjoy the vampire archetype as a battle between men and monsters. I’m more Van Helsing than Dracula. Put it this way, if those works inspire people to chase mystical paths, then their penchant for mysticism was already there. In fact, before vampires, I was already into the supernatural. I wanted to be a ghost hunter. I also loved to read mythology, particularly Greek mythology – and I was kid then, too.  

Where do you see it going in the future? 
I can never predict that. Who would’ve thought thatTwilight would catch on the way it did? After all, its basic storyline was already published fifteen years before hand in L.J. Smith’s Vampire Diaries series. Vampires tap into a zeitgeist, as Nina Auerbach reveals in Our Vampires, Ourselves (1995). Anne Rice pulled it off with Interview with the Vampire (1976) which is a postmodern vampire tale she wrote as the “classic” vampire was being overhauled, and the “Other” became humanised. What does it say about our own time where a series written for teenage girls caused such a cultural ripple that one of its fan-fic spin-offs, Fifty Shades of Grey, was able to affect a cultural shift, too? Perhaps we’ve become gluttons for punishment, especially considering Bella and Edward’s relationship dynamic.
 That said, there are some discernible signs of things to come – and one constant. Firstly, paranormal vampire romance is a huge genre. That is probably the biggest cultural shift in vampire fiction; paranormal romance seems to be overtaking horror. That means the traditionally male-centric genre is being taken over by womenfolk. More power to ‘em. Second, this will inevitably create backlash that seeks to restore “old school” or monstrous vampires to the forefront. That’s why after Twilight, we get The Strain. All the flack Meyers’ copped for her “sissy” vampires is what Rice copped from traditionalists when her Vampire Chronicles came out. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

But most notably, these efforts are never as successful as the “humanised” vampires. I don’t see The Strain having True Blood’s longevity, for instance. Remember when the Fright Night remake billed itself as an antidote to Twilight? It tanked. People want vampires to be more human that cardboard cutout, jack-in-the-box monsters, so I think we’ll see more of that.

In my research I found many similarities between Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga and referrals vampire subculture use for society. For instance – Bella Swan – swans in their culture mean non vampyres or people that move around in vampire circles. The referral of dayside, Nightside and Twilight as classifications for identities.  Meyer has prided herself on knowing bugger-all about vampires until after she delved into them a little further, following her fateful dream of a vampire sparkling in sunlight. I would be very surprised if Meyer consciously patterned her series on the vampire subculture. To be fair, I don’t exactly know why she patterned her series on shifting days, but if your train of thought followed through, how do you account for “Breaking Dawn” and “Eclipse”? Those aren’t vampire subculture terminologies. I’d pin this one down to coincidence at best. Also, let’s look at her whole name: “Bella Swan” = Beautiful Swan, just like the story of the ugly duckling and how does Bella view herself? As an awkward teenager with nothing to offer – but a “perfect” vampire completely adores her, seeing, what we could argue, is her true beauty.

Being as involved as you are, in something that has lasted throughout time, how has the vampire evolved throughout time? We can start with the word’s etymological origins: vampire meant something completely different when it was originally used. According to Slavic scholar, Bruce A. McClelland in Slayers and Their Vampires (2006): “the word vampir was a pejorative name for a group or a member of a group whose rituals or behavior were offensive to early Orthodox Christians. It is unlikely that the earliest meaning of the word vampir denoted anything supernatural. Rather, I suspect that the term generally designated someone who engaged in pirštestvo, that is, in ritual feasting, where sacrifice was performed and wine was drunk to excess and ritually poured out (as libation), sometimes mixed with blood.”

If McClelland’s right, that means “vampires” used to refer to pagans who liked to party! In a way, that comes full circle to Lost Boys, doesn’t it? If we factor in Orthodox believes on punishments awaiting those who didn’t do it their way during life, most famously the vrykolakas, and the Russian heretics (the word apparently originated in Ukraine), we can see that “vampire” morphed from a pejorative for the living to the dead.

But our vampire template is derived from the Serbian model, specifically, the Arnout Pavle case. When it was given coverage in Europe’s newspapers, it introduced the word into Western vocabulary; the earliest appearance of the word in English, for instance, is the London Journal’s March 11, 1732 coverage of the Pavle case. The earliest writings on vampires were studies on folk like Pavle; despite being widely regarded as superstition, vampires were examined as a paranormal phenomena, because that’s what they were: Slavic ghosts.

The template those accounts provided – undead corpse, bloodsucking, ability to infect others – soon slipped into political allegory and later into fictional literature, where one of the earliest vampire stories, John Polidori’s The Vampyre (1819), tipped its hat to the London Journal article in its introduction.
 From there, the vampire has adapted and evolved to different eras, falling in and out of fashion, but its adaptability has kept it alive.

By doing what you do, you have come into contact with many fraudulent people, in your experience which was your worst encounter? 

The biggest fraud I have encountered is a human, not a vampire: Sean Manchester. He claims to have hunted and staked a vampire through London’s Highgate Cemetery to Crouch End. He presents this account as a true story. I used to be a fan of the guy, because I regarded it as a pretty cool story – albeit one I didn’t really believe in.

But soon, I found myself questioning it, the more I learned. And the more I learned, the more disturbing the picture became. I discovered Manchester was far from a harmless eccentric, but incredibly malicious and quite possibly sociopathic – and just happens to be the head of his own little church. He used a multitude of sockpuppets to harass me, has tried to obtain and publicly share my personal details, had my blogs shut down and even
created a blog called Hoggwatch to vilify me as a “troll” – all because I had the tenacity and temerity to question his story, expose its numerous holes and reveal him to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

What research have you done, where your findings to-date remain inconclusive?
That would be the ultimate cause behind the sanguinarian or psy “need” to feed on blood or psychic energy. But I don’t think there’ll be a one-size-fits all answer for that and I think it’s foolish to think there’d be just one.  

Being Christian, how difficult is it to remain biased toward the things people within these sub cultures relate to, and how they perceive society? Oh, bias is very easy! However, when it comes to my discussions within these groups, I leave them at the door. I take a hardline sceptical approach; an objective approach. When you’ve got such a diversity of spiritual viewpoints, then it’s pointless battling faith against faith.

How much similarities are there between vampire spiritualism and Satanism or Free Masonry, if any? Good question, but one I can’t give a conclusive answer on. The best I can say is that they have occultic systems that may overlap and all emphasise some form of freethought, utilise special codes and generally stay underground. Outside of that, I can’t really say.

What is next for Anthony Hogg the vampirologist? Oh, many things! The most obvious would be more articles for my website, Vamped. The other stuff will stay up my sleeve for the time being…

Where can fans meet up or follow your work? They can visit Vamped.org, add me on Facebook or follow my irregularly updated blog. See you there!

1 comment:

  1. Montague Summers is, or rather was, a vampirologist just as Seán Manchester is and remains a vampirologist, but Anthony Hogg is quite something else. There is no question that Hogg has a vampire obsession which embraces fiction every bit as much as folklore, but Hogg's obsession focuses unhealthily on particular individuals. He says that "the biggest fraud" he "has ever encountered" is Seán Manchester. The problem with that statement is that he has never encountered Seán Manchester who clearly wants nothing to do with Hogg. The closest they have come is when legal notices have been issued to recover material stolen by Hogg; material belonging to Seán Manchester and used against him maliciously with false attributions. Hogg is less than half the vampirologist's age, lives on the other side of the world, has never visited Europe, much less England or indeed Highgate, and has therefore not met Seán Manchester. Hogg's agenda is that of a troll.

    More about Anthony Hogg: http://hoggwatch.blogspot.co.uk/

    More about Seán Manchester: http://the-vampirologist.blogspot.co.uk/