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Piercing the Darkness

Piercing the Darkness

4.5 2
by Katherine M. Ramsland
"If you begin to hunt for vampires, the vampires will begin to hunt for you."
-- "Christian"

In the summer of 1996, a young female reporter named Susan Walsh disappeared while writing a story on downtown Manhattan's mysterious "vampire" underground. Suspicion immediately fell on the bizarre cultists who wore black, painted their faces white, and drank (or


"If you begin to hunt for vampires, the vampires will begin to hunt for you."
-- "Christian"

In the summer of 1996, a young female reporter named Susan Walsh disappeared while writing a story on downtown Manhattan's mysterious "vampire" underground. Suspicion immediately fell on the bizarre cultists who wore black, painted their faces white, and drank (or claimed to drink) human blood. One of the experts consulted in the search for Susan Walsh was clinical psychologist Katherine Ramsland, who was steeped in the subject as a journalist and bestselling biographer.

Susan Walsh was never seen again. But the search for her opened new doors of inquiry for Ramsland, who found herself drawn almost against her will into a world she had previously explored only through the investigations and research of others. Now Ramsland was face-top-face with her subjects and the questions were alarmingly intimate and direct: Were these vampires for real? Did they act from compulsion or choice? Did they really drink blood? What else did they do?

Often against her better judgment, Ramsland began to follow up personal ads and Internet inquiries with actual forays into the vampire scene, penetrating deeper and deeper into a world few Americans even dream exists. What she found was all too real. Hidden beneath the media images and the talk-show circuses, lies a dark realm with its own rituals, rules, boundaries--and penalties.

Written in the bold tradition of participatory journalism, Ramsland's extraordinary investigative memoir takes you directly into the world of the urban vampire: a transgressive arena of dark energy and heat that overlaps with S&M, Bondage, and Gothic cults. Here youwill learn the distinctions between Bloodists, Classicals, Nighttimers, and Inheritors. You will visit the members-only clubs where "liquid electricity" (blood) is the favored currency of intimate exchange, and explore the "feeding circles" that avoid the risk of AIDS. You will hang out with lovers whose sex toy is a razor and meet others who shun normality as we would shun the secret practices they hold sacred.

Ramsland returned with her eyes opened to new kinds of darkness. You may think you have seen or heard everything. You may even think you are unshockable.

You are wrong.

A daring writer's intimate odyssey into a world of darkness

"Whether someone wanted to drink blood or merely read about someone else drinking blood; whether someone wanted to exert a hypnotic influence over others, or be the one to fall into the swoon; whether someone just wanted to be a vampire once a week and then put it aside, or live the feeling of it with every breath--it mattered not to me.

"I was prepared to listen to the stories of vampires, donors, victims, experts, chronicles, hunters, readers, writers, musicians, strippers, squatters, dominatrixes, role-players, criminals, divas, entrepreneurs, fetishists, and any other person who manifested some aspect of what I call vampire culture. It's as diverse a group as any subculture gets, and anyone who thinks that it's noting but what the television news flashes on the screen at Halloween, or what the talk shows portray, is missing the richness and complexity of the responses that the vampire has generated in recent years.

"That's how I got my start. And When I decided to immerse and find out more, I discovered a lot more about this culture that I ever expected."
-- from Piercing the Darkness

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1996, when Ramsland (Dean Koontz: A Writer's Biography) decided to explore vampire culture, she faced a crucial choice. Should she observe it with scientific detachment or immerse herself in its netherland? No stranger to the outre due to her research for books including Prism of the Night, her acclaimed bio of Anne Rice, Ramsland chose the latter path--a wise choice, judging by this immensely insightful and exciting report on her journey into darkness. Ramsland relates her adventures among the vampires with a novelist's flair and skill. She frames it through her quest to find out what happened to a reporter who'd disappeared while investigating Manhattan's vampire cults. She paces it, in part, through her ever-closer encounters--through e-mail, phone, then in person--with a vampire known as Wraith. She personalizes it through a steady, honest sounding of her own responses to those she encounters ("the enticing feel of the experience that could seduce me toward my own destruction--and surrender to it utterly"). As she travels through the Internet and then America--and, despite the book's subtitle, Europe too--she encounters hundreds of vampires of every intensity: those who adapt vampire dress and, sometimes, custom-made fangs (Ramsland gets fitted with her own pair); those who lap blood from willing victims; and the few who believe themselves immortal, or at least other, and who "prey" upon hapless victims. Ramsland interviews psychologists, scholars, vampirologists and other experts who cast light on her subject from a variety of perspectives. Most important, despite her fear and occasional revulsion, she evinces a remarkable empathy for those who believe the blood is the life, allowing her psychological entree into what she calls the "pulsing mystery" of the vampire, and making her book, in addition to a riveting read, a model of engaged journalism. Author tour; dramatic rights: Lori Perkins. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Reporter Susan Walsh disappeared in 1996 while researching the Manhattan vampire underground, and the case remains unsolved to this day. Ramsland, a biographer of Anne Rice (Prism of the Night, LJ 10/15/91), investigates the disappearance through interviews--in person and online--with assorted characters who live in this subculture. The text is almost journal-like in its chronology, with verbatim conversations, afterthoughts, and conjectures. The vampires often come across as thoughtful and misunderstood but just as often frightening and dangerous. Like the author herself, most readers will be at once fascinated by the custom-made fangs and exquisite Edwardian costumes and repelled by the blood-drinking rituals, piercings, mutilations, and other customs practiced by this group. An unblinking look at a thriving underground that, although cleared by law enforcement, may have played a role in the disappearance of a young writer.--Christine A. Moesch, Buffalo & Erie Cty. P.L., NY
Kirkus Reviews
Anne Rice biographer Ramsland immerses herself in the underground society of vampires (from role-players to actual blood-drinkers) in order to form some general theories about vampire culture. Spurred on by her own longtime fascination with vampire fiction and the mysterious disappearance of vampire cult investigator Susan Walsh in 1996, Ramsland began her own probe into the various forms of the vampire lifestyle. It's not clear whether Ramsland had any specific focus when she began her study other than solving the Walsh mystery and indulging her own romantic fascination with vampire legends. What develops, however, through meticulously recounted conversations with people deeply entrenched in the vamp scene and through a heavy dose of Ramsland's own philosophical musings about these encounters, is a voyeuristic ogling of an alternative, and at times morally deviant, culture and the author's realization of her own almost perverse infatuation with it. Ramsland becomes deeply involved with the vampire society and credibly offers comprehensive information about the rituals, role-playing games, and communities (both online and off) of the culture she's exploring. And with her academic background (she teaches philosophy at Rutgers) as a guide, Ramsland extends her exploration into various psychological and philosophical realms ranging from healthy fantasy play to personality disorders and satanic worship. And yet, for all that,the book has no specific purpose: No hypothesis is proposed and no answers are given. The interviews are intriguing, even if visceral and at times grotesque, but without a frame of purpose, the book is merely a collection of oddly interesting stories. Perhaps thisis the way Ramsland wants it, in keeping with the secretive mystique of vampire legends, but this absence leaves the book a bit, well, lifeless. )

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.54(w) x 9.59(h) x 1.26(d)

What People are Saying About This

" a pretty blond
Having penned a biography of Anne Rice as well as guides to her works, Ramsland is well credentialed for tackling the contemporary cultural phenomenon of vampirism. She investigates the case of reporter Susan Walsh, who "suddenly disappeared while investigating Manhattan's vampire cults." Walsh

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Piercing the Darkness 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
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creates the ultimale envisions of all that appeals to me...and let's me know what to expect when i know how to look for it. :[