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Title: Vampire-like activity started with role playing

Source: Associated Press, 1/20/98

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Published Tuesday, January 20, 1998

Vampire-like activity started with role playing

Associated Press

WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (AP) -- Lonely young people should be wary of a central Wisconsin group that offers companionship but engages in vampire-like activity, former members say. 

''Know what you're getting into and do not be forced into it,'' former member Aaron Thurber said. ''Do not be brainwashed.'' 

The group started out as a role-playing game and then went bad, according to Thurber, another former member and a current member. 

''We started playing the role-playing games, a vampire masquerade,'' Thurber told the Marshfield News Herald, as quoted in Monday's edition. ''That's when (the group's leader) started getting delusional.'' 

The group, dubbed the ''hissers'' by Wisconsin Rapids police, became known after an October razor attack. The attacker, reportedly one of the group's leaders, licked the blood off the knife, police said. 

A Stevens Point man last month entered an insanity plea to a battery charge in the attack. The victim suffered an 8-inch gash on the torso. 

Group members would also mix wine with blood, stay in during the day and sharpen their finger nails ''so they could tear into people,'' Thurber said. 

Members would gather at the Haunt, an abandoned homestead in Wisconsin Rapids, Thurber said, where they would light bonfires and perform rituals. They also gathered at local 24-hour restaurants to talk, he said. 

Thurber, 21, and another former member who gave his name only as Dan left the group because it had gotten too extreme, they said. Another member, Tom Yeater, Jr., 19, said he plans to leave the group soon. 

''The role-playing game was used as a cover,'' Thurber said. ''We were playing before, but then they started slicing each other with razor blades until near unconsciousness. That's when we thought it was going too far. It was a role-playing game that went to fanaticism.'' 

Thurber and other former members have started a new group they say is non-violent. ''This is a support group,'' Thurber said. ''We're not a cult.'' 

The vampire group preys on high schoolers who are looking for someone to care for them, Thurber said. 

''We had bad grades or participated in criminal activities. We did not fit in; we had no friends or family, nowhere to go,'' Thurber said. 

The former members warned that people should be aware of the group and the power it has on outcasts and they offered some advice. 

Copyright 1998 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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