Evan Francis Brown, a 20-year-old from Gadsden, Alabama, is accused of branding a 17-year-old with a “V.” For “vampire.”
Newspaper readers (and journalists) are perennially intrigued by the extremes of human behavior. That’s one way to explain how Evan Francis Brown caught the eye of several Alabama-area reporters. Last October, Brown allegedly tied up a 17-year-old boy and burned a “V” into his forehead with a heated kitchen utensil. Police arrested Brown, who apparently told them that he is a vampire, goes by the name “Vamp,” and considers himself a Satanist. Brown’s case heads to an Alabama Grand Jury in March.
In almost any other instance, a second-degree assault case would not make the local papers, let alone the national news. But American audiences seem to like a little “oddball story,” something that makes them raise their eyebrows or shake their heads. All Brown had to do was say the magic words: “vampire” and “Satanism.” That got him the headlines.
Of course, nobody seriously believes Brown is a vampire. However, to judge by some comments, people do think his actions are the fault of popular vampire fiction, particularly Twilight. (Kudos to the one person who pointed out the millions of other Twilight fans who do not assault people.) Typically it takes more than gazing upon the twinkly form of Edward Cullen to make someone burn a “V” into another person’s skin. What it takes is a history of mental imbalance — a prospect curiously overlooked by much of the reporting, so far.
More distressingly, reporters are playing up the Satanist angle. Maybe they aren’t aware that violence against others goes against the Church of Satan’s ideals:
What is truly dangerous, what allows people to murder innocents, what some people have labeled “evil” is actually an extreme self-righteousness. Not self-interest or self-gratification, as Satanism advocates. Those who give themselves permission to hurt others have to be able to feel they’re justified, anointed in their feelings of “I deserve this,” “I’ve been deprived,” or “I’ve been hurt.” A deep lack of empathy, a short-sightedness and an intense self-righteousness—that’s where those empty eyes come from. Our society cannot afford avenues for that kind of mass self-delusion anymore. It’s against the very basics of Satanism to allow yourself to feel that kind of self-righteous indignation.
This is another case in which Satanists are painted with a criminal brush, just because one criminal claims he is a Satanist. Remember, this is someone who also says he is a vampire. Arguably, he doesn’t know what he is. Journalists should consider being more thoughtful about which of his statements should be reported as facts in their articles. Brown, more likely, is someone who is struggling with mental-health issues. Parading him around as the freak of the week is not likely to help him in any way, nor anyone else struggling with violent urges.
Culturally, I find it interesting that so many people who decry the popularity of vampire fiction would take the time to read — let alone comment on — a newspaper article that essentially is a form of vampire fiction. Clearly these stories have a hold on us. That’s fine, but they need to be reported in a more responsible way, if they’re going to be reported at all.
Have you ever known anyone who claimed to be a vampire or other fantasy figure? Did you take them seriously? Share your stories in the comments.