Plenty of perfectly ordinary people are enthusiastic horror fans who love watching movies that send chills down their spines. It may be strange that someone would seek out things that scare them, but all things considered, it’s totally harmless… usually.
Rod Ferrell took that fascination with horror to a different level. His interest in vampires became an obsession. He loved them so much that he decided he wanted to become one of them, and he would stop at nothing to achieve this macabre fantasy.
Born Roderrick Justin Ferrell in 1980, this young man from Kentucky (known to most as “Rod”) suffered through a difficult childhood and adolescence, but nobody could have predicted how strange and horrifying things would turn out.
He claimed that even as a small child, he fantasized about death. He especially found being executed by the electric chair intriguing. “It was almost like I was romantic with the subject of death; I don’t care how I die as long as I do so,” he said in an interview. “I have nothing left on Earth.”
It didn’t help that Rod was an outcast among his peers. By ninth grade, he was expelled from school and started using marijuana and LSD. Eventually he turned to more dangerous drugs like cocaine and heroin, sometimes simultaneously, which often fueled his anger and violence.
As he grew up, Rod’s fascination with dark subject matter including the occult, gore, and satanism, took a drastic turn. On May 30, 1996, his mother came home to discover that he used a razor to carve an inverted crucifix, a satanic symbol, into his own chest. Another time, she found Rod and his girlfriend drinking each other’s blood!
Rod made no attempt to hide his bizarre behavior. “My bedroom was an array of the darker side of the occult, such as the Necronomicon, the Satanic Bible,” he explained. “I had upside down crosses. I had broken shards of glass lying about in the corner. I had hooks and metal cables wrapped around looking like Hellraiser.”
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By the time Rod was just 16 years old, he started a small gang known as “The Vampire Clan.” This was about much more than being rebellious teens who enjoyed goth fashion and 1990s heavy metal music. He truly seemed convinced that he was a vampire.
Rod even gave himself a new vampiric identity in the form of “Vesago,” a persona he named after a character he created for a tabletop role-playing game called, Vampire: The Masquerade.
Rod believed that as Vesago, he was a 500-year-old vampire. “I tried to embrace the lifestyle of being a vampire and being so young, my mind latched onto it so deeply, so tenaciously, that I got lost inside it,” he explained.
Rod found the name for his vampire alter-ego in a 17th-century occultic book The Lesser Key of Solomon. Vesago is believed to have special powers including fortune-telling and the ability to uncover lost objects.
It’s unclear how many people Rod led in his “clan,” but authorities say at one point it could have had as many as 30 members, all of whom were expected to drink Rod’s blood as part of a grisly initiation ritual.
Besides Rod, the most prominent member was Howard Scott Johnson, who was Rod’s closest ally. Rod’s dark fantasies reached a crescendo on November 25, 1996, when Rod, Scott, and two other members traveled to Eustis, Florida and broke into the home of Richard Wendorf and Naomi Ruth Queen.
The four teens had come in through the sleeping couple’s garage, which was unlocked at the time. This wasn’t just “good luck,” this was planned. Richard Wendorf and Naomi Ruth Queen were the parents of Heather, one of the members part of the break in. She was a friend of Rod’s and ran away from home before meeting his group of so-called vampires.
Heather told Rod that her parents made her life a living hell. So he decided to punish them… and she was right alongside him. After watching the couple sleeping deeply in their beds, he beat them to death with a crowbar.
Following this heinous crime, the teenagers fled from police. They thought they were safe from capture in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but before too long the police finally caught up with them.
Rod and his fellow self-professed vampires were extradited back to Florida to stand trial. Rod didn’t hesitate to confess to the murders of Naomi and Richard. Everyone in the group was tried as an adult, even though they were just 16.
However, as the leader and one who actually went through with taking the couple’s lives, Rod received a death sentence, making him the youngest person in American history to be sentenced in such a way. His charges were later reduced to 2,000 years in prison. That’s life for a human, but not for a vampire.
Howard, Rod’s right-hand man, was sentenced to life in prison as well. Rod later claimed that together they danced around the murdered bodies. Meanwhile, Charity and Heather were sentenced to 17.5 and 10.5 years in prison, respectively.
As you might expect for such a grisly, unusual turn of events, Rod’s story caught the imagination of many in the world of entertainment, and adaptations soon followed. One of the many horror films was 2002’s Vampire Clan, which even used the real names of the key figures involved.
Today the chances of Rod ever leaving prison are practically impossible. He was also diagnosed with several different mental illnesses, including schizotypal personality disorder. This was a contributing factor to be sure, but his upbringing also played a role in how these awful events unfolded…
In 1997, the year after her son’s crimes, Rod’s 34-year-old mother was tried for sending sexually explicit messages to a 14-year-old boy. Worse yet, they included phrases like “I longed… to become a vampire, a part of the family, immortal and truly yours forever,” indicating that Rod may have gotten some disturbing ideas from her.
Rod may not see another day outside of prison, but whatever his motivations, that’s probably for the best. It’s scary to think that his crimes ever happened in the first place.
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