I received a faculty development grant in the fall of 2007. I used the money to travel to New Orleans, Louisiana to perform ethnography and interview vampires and vampire fans during the busiest time of the year for the undead: Halloween!
I filmed interviews and events in order to create a documentary video. This video - Visiting Vampires in the Big Easy - takes the viewer on a magic carpet ride through vampire tourism in New Orleans.
Vampires have become increasingly visible in the 21st century. They are no longer viewed as the bloodthirsty beasts of yesteryear but are seen as romantic outsiders longing to find love and have a luscious bite or two from a willing donor. Vampire fiction has moved on from the morbid folkloric nosferatu, and the aristocratic beasts of Polidori, le Fanu and Stoker. Indeed, vampires in modern fiction are often tortured, sexy, gorgeous, wealthy, mysterious and lonely. The books frequently chronicle the handsome but unhappy vampire’s meeting with his destined future companion. Such romantic visions increase vampire fandom and bring hordes of women to sites such as New Orleans to seek out the misunderstood vampire or at least to converse with others who dream of befanged outsiders as well. Such connections between fan folk frequently occur through the web but are solidified during vampire tourist events.
The viewer of this documentary film is taken on a ‘vampire tour’, to visit a haunted mortuary, an above-ground graveyard, the fabulous Anne Rice Vampire Lest at Fan Club Ball and to talk to vamp enthusiasts and ‘living vampires’. Some individuals interviewed include vampire author Sherrilyn Kenyon, goth musician Anders Manga, the owner of Haunted History Tours, the manager of the haunted space The Mortuary, numerous vamp fiction fans and many others.
This documentary looks at vampire culture and fandom and delves into very real and universal questions of place, space and image. Why are people so attracted to the idea of the undead and what is it about New Orleans that brings vampires, writers and vampire enthusiasts to wax poetic about its nighttime charms?
I have shown the 45 minute film at two academic conferences and I am scheduled to show it at one more. It is available on Amazon.com and I am also working to locate a broadcast outlet for the film.
The faculty development grant enabled me to hone my ethnographic skills and delve into a fascinating cultural space. The research obtained will also be used for a chapter in a planned book about vampire subcultures. Both the film and the planned book contribute to my professional development.
The Haunted Mortuary, has documented spirits and a new section featuring Anne Rice's vampire paraphernalia.
Heather Joseph-Witham with bestselling vampire romance author Sherrilyn Kenyon A vamp couple at the annual Anne Rice's Vampire Lestat Ball.Heather Joseph-Witham with bestselling vampire romance author Sherrilyn Kenyon A vamp couple at the annual Anne Rice's Vampire Lestat Ball.