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Vampires vs Goths in Gotham

For the uninitiated, the vampire (or vampyre) scene is a different animal from goth. They share a similar love of the vague idea of “darkness”, they attend many of the same clubs, and they’re frequently mistaken for each other… But, as South Park riffed on, they don’t like to be.

In contrast to the goths’ more straightforward social scene, the vampire subculture is built around emulating the lifestyles of their namesakes, and has evolved into an elaborate society involving belief systems, religious texts, and rituals—some involving bloodletting, some not. The more devoted members tend to form “houses”—half neopagan coven, half extended family—that revolve around elders who mentor and issue commands to the underlings. Although a worldwide subculture, it was born in the Lower East Side, and has stuck around since then. This has caused some conflicts.

“These ‘Vampyre Houses’ have restrictive rules and mentorships that resemble gang structure in part, which have no place in the goth scene.” Christine “DJ Xtine” Johnesohnes explains. “That to me is a heinous perversion of the support and friendship that the goth/industrial scene is supposed to offer its members and I will have no part of it. Anyone controlling the freedom of choice of another person in the name of mentorship is dangerous.”

And relations between the two subcultures are sometimes unfriendly. She goes on to describe her experiences trying to host a party at the same time as a vampire event at another location:

“We had no idea that these people would care because it was obvious to us that there was hardly any “crossover” between [our crowd] and [theirs]. However, the promoter of that party ‘took offense’ that we had this party on the same night and sent one of the members of his ‘house’ over to our party to threaten us, disrupt the party, threaten the patrons … discourage them from coming in, and so forth. We had to file a police report.

However, one member of the vampire scene, who asked to remain anonymous, denies there’s a schism between the two groups, claiming they “go to the same places and feed off each other.”

In the early days, “there weren’t too many places that would let you have a meeting.” he says. “So we’d sit at the back of the [goth] clubs. That’s how it was for years.”

Now, tellingly, the vampires are also complaining about hard times, many of them echoing the same sentiments as the regular goths. “The lustre and mystery is gone” he says. “The party atmosphere has almost completely diminished.

Less and less places want to deal with it, and a lot of places changed how they look. It’s difficult to find small bars that’ll let you have an event … A lot of people have said that it’s banned for goths to have a party… Unless you put up $20,000 to hold down a club. Most clubs don’t want it because they’re not going to make the amount of money they expected. “

And it seems their scene is much smaller than it looks from the outside. He claims there are roughly 40 families, but just “80 to 90 regular faces. … If I had to give an estimate, throughout the whole city, I’d say it’s 200 to 250 [of us].”

Despite any drama, it may also be possible that things between the two scenes could work themselves out in time. Johnes, tempering her earlier statements, later said, “I wanted to clarify that I will allow anyone into the club who wants to sincerely have a nice time, there is a Vampyre gentleman who shows up all the time who sincerely wishes us well and he is one of our favorite patrons and friends.”

But nevertheless, opinions on whether or not there’s a future for either scene have been almost uniformly pessimistic. Ledyard describes the current state of affairs as “tragically bad”, also implicating our society as a whole: “Germany and England are far better than anywhere in this country … Most of America’s goth scenes are very young, flawed or unsophisticated.” And Johnes claims that many people who stayed are often “too disgusted to go out to the clubs because they were so much worse than when the scene here was at its height. “I don’t see much of a future for NYC with alternative scenes.” She concludes.

But one dissenting opinion comes from Low. “I think that as long as people are fascinated with dark art—spooky music, fashion, and imagery—there will always be a place for goth [here].” he says. “The allure is durable. The problems will eventually get figured out, I’m convinced. Goth has ‘died’ in NY several times already, but just like Count Dracula in the old Hammer movies he’s always back in the sequel no matter how many times he gets staked.”

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