"The only ones we serve are us. [We're] very egocentric," Strathlochsaid.

"They feel they're superior in a supernatural sort of way, not aracial way," said J. Gordon Melton, director of the Institute of theStudy of American Religion in Santa Barbara, Calif., and author of "TheVampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead." Melton was an organizerfor "Dracula 97--The Vampire Event of the Century," a convention inLos Angeles celebrating the centennial publication of Bram Stoker'sacclaimed novel, "Dracula."

According to Melton, much of vampire beliefs and practices grew outof the Free Masons and other "magickal" orders of 19th-centuryEngland and France. "Magick" refers to the art of spiritual control andchange.

Melton said Aleister Crowley, a British theoretician of modernmagick, revised the whole magickal worldview into a self-centeredexperience.

"Magick is [about] becoming a master, becoming a personwho affects the environment, not the other way around," Melton said.

The French spiritualists viewed vampires as reanimated corpses whofed off living people. "What [vampires] really were stealing was psychicenergy," Melton said.

Modern satanic groups--the Church of Satan and the Temple of Set--also influenced contemporary vampire religion.

"Psychic vampirism became a very important part of the occultsubculture," Melton said of satanic organizations that include vampires."It grew out of the same worldview."

Much of Western society has always had a skeptical worldview ofvampires.

European folklore portrayed vampires as dangerous,blood-sucking creatures, and in the 1700s, waves of vampire hysteriaswept across Eastern Europe and Russia. Even today, many practicingvampires relate stories of intimidation by other religious groups.

"Vampirism has always been opposed, like Satanism, because it wasseen as a parody of Christianity," said Melton.

Strathloch acknowledged that at least once a year, vampires do getpositive reception.

"But the rest of the year, if it isn't Halloween," he said, "theywant us to stay in the casket."