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VampireFreaks.Com is a website that serves as an online community for those interested in music of the Gothic industrial genre. Members are also known as ‘cybergoths.’ The New York-based site was established in 1999 by Jethro Berelson as a series of community forums. The message board at Vampire Freaks continues to be the main attraction of visitors to the site. More recently member profiles and other user-friendly features have been added to the site.
Visitors and members can access most of the Vampire Freaks website for no charge. However, the best way to get the full experience of the site is to purchase a premium membership. At the cost of $5 per month, or for a $20 annual subscription, members can search through the profiles on Vampire Freaks using location, age, or keywords. They can also send out mass messages via the Vampire Freaks chat to their Vampire Freak friends. The premium membership allows members to add 450 more images to their profile than they could if they were a free member. They also have access to an ongoing list of the most recent 50 users who rated their profile and the most recent 100 users who viewed their profile.
Vampire Freaks has a feature called cults. Cults are online groups, or communities, that members are encouraged to join in order to meet other users with more similar interests. While a free user can only create one cult, with a premium membership they can create an unlimited number of cults. Premium members can invite up to 1,000 other members to their cults each day as a paying member, while a nonpaying user has only 200 invites.
Another feature of Vampire Freaks is the Journal. Members can create journals where they are able to express their personality using words. Journals can be shared publicly with all users of Vampire Freaks, set to friends only, or kept private. Users enjoy reading journals from those on their friends’ list. However, the message board is the primary way users interact with one another. Members use the message board to socialize regarding Gothic-industrial music and to advertise events and parties in the Goth community. Forum categories listed on the message board include ‘random thoughts,’ as well as forums with more specialized topics. The more posts a member reads and adds to the message board, the more active they are as a member. This activity provides members with the opportunity to earn VIP access to forums that are limited to those with high post counts.
The primary focus of vampirefreak.com is the music access it provides to those interested in Gothic-industrialized tunes. Bands list themselves in the band profiles, and individual members can discover new bands and keep up with their favorite rockers. Members can create playlists of their favorite bands and singles using the bands’ profiles for inspiration. Members can also communicate with bands using the message boards and inbox messaging system. Music, being a top priority, is available on the Vampire Freaks Radio page where members can stream random Gothic-industrial rock.
Vampire Freaks has expanded to include a clothing store that was located in New York City, but the brick and mortar establishment has since closed its doors. Now visitors to the site can purchase Goth-inspired clothing online at vampirefreaks.com.
The public perception of the site is that Vampire Freaks allows users to openly discuss violent sexual acts, morbid poetry, and dark ponderings that relate to despair and alienation. For instance, one member named Sky Walker posted a journal entry titled “Blackness all Around Me” in which the person wrote “nothing left to live for so why carry on, I’m not going to…slashing my wrists…” Along with the negativity found on the site, as a social website, Vampire Freaks has found its way off of the Internet and onto the streets. Members of the site use the message board to connect with one another in real life through Vampire Freaks-themed parties and events. As a result there have been dozens of violent crimes indirectly linked to the site through its members.
In Canada, a 12-year-old girl and 23-year-old male chatted frequently on Vampire Freaks.com and started dating before they were charged with a triple homicide in Alberta. Also in Canada, two men met a woman on Vampire Freaks.com. The woman evidently asked the men to stab a 12-year-old boy, which they did 73 times thus killing the child. In the US, Vampire Freaks was connected with arson in Minnesota, as well as the rapes of underage females in Texas and New York. One particular incident in New York City involved a 23-year-old male who was charged with the rapes of several underage females, of which he met the majority through vampirefreaks.com. In his profile picture on the site, he is standing over a tombstone, and wears purple dreadlocks and a black cape. His crimes caught up to him after he met with an undercover officer posing as a 13-year-old girl at a cemetery. In California, a 13-year-old girl and 23-year-old male met through vampirefreaks.com. After engaging in promiscuous activity, which is illegal for a minor and adult, the male was arrested.
In defense of vampirefreaks.com, creator Berelson states he
will monitor users on a daily basis and suspend accounts that engage in
illegal or immoral activity, or for users who attack another member.
While members may engage in such activity, such as rapes and murders,
in real life, it does not mean that the site was directly involved in
and encouraged such activity. The website promotes the ability for
members to openly discuss their real lives, but is focused on music.
However it seems that many people in the general public would like for
Vampire Freaks to play some role in controlling the behavior of its
members, such as by making it a point to condemn users who are
associated with such violence and negativity. The Goth-inspired music
and lifestyle is often perceived as dark, often literally, but these
perceptions are not directly connected with Vampire Freaks, which is a
website that occurred much later than the establishment of the Gothic
culture. As explained by criminologist Wade Deisman of the University
of Ottawa, “'Like any population of 600,000 people, of course, you're
going to have some moderates and some people who are really off the