Saturday, November 6, 2010

Shelby Ellis and a Culture of Fear.

The Backstory.

A 16 year old girl named Shelby liked black clothes, vampire books, and the ilk. She liked to dress goth, and was on the social networking site "Vampire"

Her parents didn't like what she was into. They forbade her wearing goth clothing, makeup, or hanging out with certain friends - so she sneaked around behind their backs and did it anyway. They cut off her internet access so that she could not log onto the networking site - so she sneaked around behind their backs and did it anyway.

Things got more restrictive at Shelby's house, so like a lot of teenagers she ran away from home. Of course, if the story ended so simply, I wouldn't be blogging about it.

"Vampire Cult"

Shelby's alarmist parents referred to her interests as a "dark cultic behavior", apparently being a teenager is now being in a cult, ya know. And when Shelby and two of her friends ran away around the same time, her parents jumped not to the conclusion that their daughter (who stole $160 and a cellular phone) had run away to evade strict parenting, but that she had been abducted by a dark, dangerous, vampire cult.

The young lady had an account with the website "". This website, despite a dark theme and color-scheme is really just a dark version of Myspace or Facebook. In other words it's the "Hot topic" of social networking sites. "Vampire" doesn't have groups, or forums... instead (trying to be cutesey and "konstantanos dark") they have "cults".

Yeah, I think it's dipshit too, but then again, despite wearing black clothing for the last fifteen years - I'm not a total douchebag (only about 1/1oth douchebag). The parents, already alarmists and freaking out about the dark clothing take a social networking site's categorization style as gospel truth - dark, dangerous, vampire cult!

CNN picks up the story, showing images of vampire video games, clips from the twilight movies and True Blood, and various video bites of rotating pentagrams, candles, and people in hooded robes. CNN begins first asking, then just openly stating, that a teen runaway involved in a silly, dipshit, social networking site is actually a member of a underg- oops, forgot my formula - DARK, DANGEROUS, VAMPIRE CULT!

The Facts.

Shelby and the two unnamed friends were members of "", and all went to the same school. The other two girls had already been recovered and refused to give any information on Shelby's whereabouts. There were no ransom notes, no suspicious letters or e-mails, no phone calls, no signs of struggle. Just a girl, vanishing.

There was no indication, including a lack of breaking into the girl's computer to recover e-mails/forum posts, that anything had happened to her.

Media Response, and Community Reaction.

Amongst the voices raised was that of Author, Lecturer and house-leader Michelle Belanger*, the governing body of the Atlanta Vampire Aliance,, and numerous local houses and individuals who've made it their mission to spread correct info. Info stating, without hesitation, that there were no signs of her ever having been in contact with the vampire community, no one had heard of her - that also, there were no signs of violence or abduction, so it might be prudent to cease the scare tactics, and focus on her return.

Within a very short period of time the Vampire community had circulated photos, news articles and potential locations for her whereabouts. A few papered towns with leaflets out of their own pockets. Those of us who are witches were working to make her visible, nigh unmissable, and for her safe return. And even as we did these things - we were being labelled as dark, cultic, dangerous, and responsible for her vanishing.

Found safe. Now what?

A day or so after it hit the national news, Shelby was found. Alive. Unharmed. NOT being held against her will. She had made it all the way from Georgia to Washington, where she was found in the company of at least one adult, and several minors. She went willingly with police and is awaiting extradition to Georgia in a Juvie facility.

Her parents still believe she was abducted by a "vampire" cult, though Shelby herself has not weighed in, and the other girls are tight-lipped. The news media is still spinning the angle that a dangerous cult is somehow involved, even though every indication is to the contrary. No apologies have been issued, no retractions or clarifications have been made.

Per usual, being different, being goth or a witch or a self-professed vampire is enough to scare up a nationwide culture of fear. Fear over what?

Good fences make good neighbors.
because then we can spy on them when they think they're safe and know what they're REALLY getting up to!

People don't want the truth from their news. They want scandal and sensation. The average American doesn't give two shits that Shelby Ellis came home safely - to be honest, most of them probably really wanted her to be dead. Another statistic, a lesson, an example they can point to and say "This is why THOSE PEOPLE are inferior, and why we're so goddamned awesome."

This sort of topic is as important to the Pagan community as it is to the Vampire community - Because while we may have internal distinctions and solid lines, no one on the outside will make those distinctions when the time comes, and things get rough. We have to defend each-other from accusations that we know are baseless, before those accusations get applied cross-category. That whole "United we Stand" bit, y'know...

* I know some folks seem to have an issue with Michelle Belanger, but I've never quite figured out why, or how. No one's really ever explained it other than "I just dislike her" or "Vampires should've stayed in the shadows!" So, if someone can offer a lucid insight into their own dislike, I'd at least "get" why mentioning her is sometimes met with sniggers - unless it's about the S&M photos, which I get, but c'mon...


  1. I am getting really tired of the 'if it looks like a goth and dresses like a goth it is Satanic/Evil/Vampiric/Cultish' media feeding-frenzy bullshit. When journalism and 'the news' became infotainment instead of focusing on information and keeping the public aware, the prevailing cultural IQ plummeted.

    The family needs counseling.

    50 yrs ago, it was Communists. Now it's vampires and cults and 'dark' and related stereotypical hoohah.

  2. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop here--the "generational curse." I heard about this at my local diner while I was sitting there reading Ars Philtron (I kid you not) and a group from a nearby "church" was having a discussion of the topic of generational curses. I thought they were talking about some plot line from the Hebrew Bible. No, they meant basically teenagers acting like teenagers and how this is a manifestation of a sin committed by one's grandparents. Seems like this teen possession almost always takes the form of a) gothness or b) liking rap culture. I looked this up later and found that it is an actual belief of certain Christians. One of the first things parents are supposed to do is get all the New Age and vampiric and goth and Wiccan and so forth stuff out of the house. Then the kid has to be exorcised repeatedly--by their parent. Just listening to this conversation made me remember 1970 and fights with my parents about my fatigue jacket upon which I had drawn a nifty image of Thoth with a marker. "Your friends just seem very UNHAPPY," my mom sniffed. I feel sorry for teens nowadays. They can't just be rebelling; they have to be cursed.

    And you are right about us needing to hang together or all hang separately.

  3. @Harold - This is actually leading me into another, very long, entry about the cliquishness of the "woowoo" subculture/s. One that'll probably lose a lot of readers, and make a few folks extremely uncomfortable.

    I've encountered the "none of them seem happy!" schtick. Honestly, I think it's a projection. The onlooker cannot imagine being happy in those circumstances, therefore the person IN the situation is unhappy. Fin. Neat little package, doesn't require bursting anyone's safe little bubble.

  4. I will be very interested to read what you have to say on that matter. I believe that a a lot of the disdain between woowoo subcultures is a manifestation of wider social tensions around gender, class, and race.

  5. 16 is old enough to emancipate yourself, no? Given the circumstances and her apparent resourcefulness, I wonder if she'd be better off on her own.