Bitten!: Chicago-area vampire enthusiasts

The second Twilight movie comes out November 20th, andTV series such as True Blood continue to suck in new vampire fans. But for two longtime local enthusiasts, vampire stories are more than a fad

Chicago vampire enthusiasts Chad Savage and Martin V. Riccardo
Local vampire enthusiasts Chad Savage, left, and Martin V. Riccardo

 

CHAD SAVAGE, 41, whose company specializes in dark visual design, runs Chicagovampire.com. Married, with two daughters, the northern Indiana resident also heads up the website for Anne Rice’s Vampire Lestat Fan Club.

First bitten In 1987, after reading Interview with the Vampire and seeing The Lost Boys and Near Dark on film.

On the current feeding frenzy “The only thing that annoys me is when you get a 14-year-old kid who thinks Stephenie Meyer invented vampire books,” he says. “I actually hope that somebody will get to the end of the Twilight series, want more, and maybe go out and say ‘What other vampires are there?’ Because there are some great ones.”

Vampire romance First corresponded with his wife through a vampire magazine, then met her at a gathering of Anne Rice’s Vampire Lestat Fan Club in New Orleans.

Monster in the mirror “You can retrofit the core idea of the vampire to fit whatever’s going on at the time,” he says. Vampires can be a metaphor for corporate America, or “Stephenie Meyer used it to catalyze all of the concerns that a teenage girl has about dating and her body.”

Favorite vampire on film Jerry Dandridge from Fright Night.

Vampire verdict “Do I think they exist in traditional literary form? No. But could there be something that this is based on—people that draw energy from other people or something like that? Why not? I’m not so secure in my knowledge of the world to unequivocally say yes or no.”

Vampires and kids His six-year-old is not scared of vampires because she was never taught to be, he says. “She’s much more frightened and offended by ignorance and people who call her names.”

By the way “Just because you’re interested in something doesn’t mean you have no grip on reality. I’m interested in [vampires]. I enjoy it. But I don’t think I am one,” he says.

 

MARTIN V. RICCARDO, 57, is a behavioral hypnotist who founded the Vampire Studies Society. The married Berwyn resident writes books on vampires and lectures about the undead at area libraries.

First bitten In the early 1970s. “I’m fascinated by the constant evolution of the vampire myth,” he says.

On the current feeding frenzy While there have been previous waves of interest, “we’re in the biggest wave there has ever been, due to the interest in the Twilight novels,” he says.

Favorite vampire on film Bela Lugosi in the 1931 film Dracula. “People dislike it because it is so well known. It is almost a caricature of what people think Dracula should be. But he really molded the image.”

Favorite vampire in books Anne Rice’s Lestat. “He’s very introspective and pensive and artistic and musical. He has interesting dimensions I just haven’t found in other vampires.”

Verdict on vampires “I do not believe in real reanimated corpses,” he says. But “there are strange things out there, and I don’t have an explanation for everything.”

Interviews with the vampires While researching his vampire books, Riccardo has talked to people who believe they’ve met real vampires, including one Indiana woman who found unexplained bite marks on her body and could not detect a heartbeat in her boyfriend. As for the stories: “I usually take this with a grain of salt—or a clove of garlic.”

Last fright The vampire film 30 Days of Night.

By the way “The vast majority of vampire fans have no interest in drinking blood,” he says. “If I were to say I was interested in leprechauns, people are not automatically going to assume I dress up in green outfits and horde gold in the backroom.”

 

Photography: Lisa Predko

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