Cover image for The embrace : a true vampire story
The embrace : a true vampire story
Jones, Aphrodite.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Pocket Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
xiii, 384 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HV6248.F336 J66 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
HV6248.F336 J66 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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A bestselling author and journalist recounts the chilling, true story of the 16-year-old vampire cult leader who commits a brutal double murder.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

With several best-sellers to her credit, including Cruel Sacrifice (1994), Jones returns with another expedition into teen true crime. The horror she investigates this time is the brutal murder of a husband and wife in a Florida suburb, perpetrated by Rod Ferrell, a magnetic, egocentric teenage vampire cultist, who lures a small group of troubled teens (among them the 15-year-old daughter of the murder victims) into a situation that forever changes their lives. The grisly circumstances are certainly right out of every parent's nightmare, with blood rituals, vampire role-playing, aberrant love, and dysfunctional family relationships, and it's the perfect stuff for true-crime writers. Unofortunately, Jones drops the ball. Although she draws on court records, news stories, and interviews to re-create the events leading up to and following the crime, her purple prose ("Only he could penetrate her inner sanctum"; "His strong arms made her melt"; "Rod filled her void"); clunky, confusing chronology; and reconstructed dialogue ("based on recollections of the participants") turn real-life tragedy into boring, almost absurd, melodrama. Expect some publicity-driven demand (and the inevitable TV movie), but most readers will find Jones much less satisfying than true-crime veterans Ann Rule (Bitter Harvest, 1998) and Joe McGinniss (Fatal Vision, 1983). --Stephanie Zvirin

Publisher's Weekly Review

On November 25, 1996, in Eustis, Fla., Ruth and Richard Wendorf were found bludgeoned to death in their home, with their youngest daughter, Heather, 15, missing. Jones (Cruel Sacrifice, etc.) portrays Heather as a lonely girl whose desire to transcend her "mundane," privileged life brought her under the influence of a charismatic monster who introduced her to an underground world of teenagers dressing in black, practicing ritual bloodletting and dreaming of traveling to Paris and New Orleans. Was Heather part of a gruesome execution planned by self-described vampires or a brainwashed victim seduced by pack leader Rod Ferrell? Jones makes a case for the latter, minimizing Heather's involvement in the murders ("She was without an ego"). While Jones claims to have used "proven sources of journalistic research," she does admit to altering "certain details" and taking "certain storytelling liberties." Jones seems to think Ferrell was just born mean, and she turns him into a larger-than-life character, calling him "the embodiment of insanity." Her entire account suffers from psychological na‹vet‚, as she appears to believe whatever HeatherÄwho stands to inherit half a million dollars from her parents' deathÄtells her and dismisses those who contradict the girl, including Heather's own sister. Jones provides a good overview of the facts surrounding the murder and her prose glows with a voyeuristic intensity, but she comes off as so wholly biased in favor of Heather, "the victim," that her presentation lacks full credibility. (June) FYI: Jones's All She Wanted is soon to be filmed with Drew Barrymore. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One Roderick said he had been asleep for five centuries, that he had been tired of the great adventure called life, but, cursed with immortality, he had grown restless. Somehow, he found himself clawing his way from the depths of the earth, back to the mortal universe and a thing called society. Suddenly, he found himself staring in a mirror, shaving part of the hair on his head, and putting on the grunge dress of a teen at the end of the twentieth century. In the 1400s, he would confide, Roderick had known the power and privilege of the aristocracy in France. Naturally, the idea of living among the bourgeoisie disgusted him; Roderick had the strongest dislike for peasants. He wondered if he had made the right choice, allowing himself to dwell among the lower classes in a strange, transient place known as Florida, where people wore white and played games in the sun. During the five hundred years of his slumber, Roderick claimed, he had become accustomed to being a spirit, to calling on "the Elders" in a vast darkness. Roderick loved to roam his phantom cities, the ancient worlds of the Arabians, the Egyptians, the Greeks. But now, Roderick had decided to rematerialize in the flesh. He had decided it was time for Rod to emerge. Guised as the ultimate rebel, he would cloak himself as an American teen. Roderick, used to being one of the most idolized entities in the world, regarded himself as an equal to God and felt it was fitting for him to choose America. Because of their sins, their greed and corruption, ugly Americans threatened to destroy the planet. Called upon by Lucifer, Rod decided he had to take matters into his own hands. He decided to collect himself an army of American youth. At first, Heather Wendorf didn't know what to make of him, this Rod Ferrell character. Before they were introduced, she had heard stories around Eustis that Roderick was supposedly a vampire -- some of her girlfriends had talked about that. Of course, Heather was curious, but she was too busy with her artwork and piano lessons; besides, she was interested in the boys who played on the football team. When Rod first approached her, the guy seemed odd. Even though he was only sixteen, he was some kind of egomaniac. He seemed to have a need to conquer the universe. Rod had an arrogant way about him that never made sense, especially to Heather. She was the type who enjoyed a rather upscale existence without ever having to brag about it. She was without an ego. Heather didn't know when she started to become attracted to him, but Rod seemed more sensitive than other guys. She found his voice appealing. She thought she understood his talk about the end of the world. He spoke of mass destruction and was well versed about people like Saddam Hussein, who he claimed was the fourth Anti-christ. The guy seemed to be light-years ahead of her. She was becoming smitten. Physically, Heather found Rod unappealing. He had a long, narrow nose and pale skin, but there was something very sensual about him. In part, it was his flowing black hair, shoulder-length and silky, which was usually tied back into a ponytail. And there was something about the way he expressed his emotions that grabbed her. Rod was enchanting, with his wisdom about good and evil, with his proclamations that he was a fallen angel . . . Rod was, without a doubt, the embodiment of insanity, but yet, there was something vampiric about him. Perhaps it was his piercing eyes, his long nails, his paper-thin body; whatever the reason, Heather felt he cast off some kind of mystical eroticism. At first, Heather thought it was because she had been reading too much Anne Rice; she didn't really know why she found herself becoming attracted to the idea of drinking human blood. Rod had turned her on to The Big Book of Death, a tome that explored different ways of dying, which Heather needed because she intended to wipe herself out before the year 2000. Heather made no more pretenses about religion. She didn't believe Christ could save her. The only thing she seemed driven by was death, and the grim world Rod offered. When he spoke, it was as if he cast a spell over her. She wanted to die. She wanted to be undead. The word vampire didn't matter. Heather didn't care what Rod was. She knew Rod wasn't any Dracula or strange prince from Transylvania. Rod filled her void. He was an ancient soul, a space traveler who could come into her dreams and help her transcend time. That's all Heather cared about. She didn't want to be a mortal teenager, trapped in a cookie-cutter existence. "Lest mortals destroy themselves with their own hate and greed," Rod insisted, "I have been cast on this land. I am the devil's child, walking with earthly feet." "What do you mean?" Heather asked. "Are you saying you worship the devil?" "Don't say that," he howled, "that's blasphemy, and if you even think it, then none of us can be released from hell." Rod would tell Heather these things, yet his manner would be very casual. When they first met, the two of them would just be sitting off by themselves, looking very normal, hanging out in the Eustis High cafeteria. Until she hooked up with Rod, Heather had been somewhat of a loner; she hadn't found too many people she felt connected to. But then, Rod seemed worthy of her time. He was a newcomer to town, someone who quickly gathered friends, and Heather dropped whatever few buddies she had, so she could absorb him. Before she knew it, she and Rod were becoming inseparable. "What if you and I were deemed rulers of the world?" Rod asked half-jokingly. "I don't know, Rod," Heather teased, "I've always wondered when that might happen." "Do you think you would fit my purposes?" "Perfectly." "I'm not mortal," Rod said, poking her in the side. "Okay," she said, smiling, "you will be given a chance to prove that." But Rod would just start laughing whenever Heather expected a real answer. After school, it had become her habit to agree to meet him at the cemetery. It was a place where time seemed to stand still and Heather liked it that way. She preferred being a part of Rod's world, even if it was just pretend. She thought it was fantastic, the way Rod would comment about the "brutal barbarism" around them. He found the naked and horrible realities of life in the United States to be unbearable -- the ugly American golfers, the petty little tourists -- they were quite a shocking difference from the elite world he had been used to, living as a gentleman in France. All the while, Heather's parents were under the impression she was staying after school to watch her sister, Jeni, during cheerleading practice. The Wendorfs trusted their daughter, they never questioned her, so Heather had herself a foolproof setup. After a couple of hours with Rod, she would bounce over behind the bleachers and meet her mom for a ride home with Jeni. As time moved on, even though Heather's parents noticed some minor changes in her appearance -- there were some new ear piercings, there were some black Gothic outfits -- the Wendorfs never hounded her about it. Heather was an artist. She needed to expand her individuality. Of course, Rick Wendorf would have preferred Heather to be another cheerleader, like Jeni, but then his wife always stressed the importance of creativity. Ruth Wendorf encouraged Heather to explore her inner self. If Heather was into New Age, Ruth thought there was nothing wrong with that. Things like healing crystals, or the belief in prophecy, just couldn't be dismissed. * * * During their cemetery talks, Rod had taken his time about confiding things to his fledgling. He was leery about telling Heather anything, but eventually began talking about his assumption of God-forms. Through the power of imagination, Rod explained, he could re-create himself into the shape of any god. Eventually, Rod promised, he could teach Heather to meditate on simple symbols so she could penetrate their secret meanings and rise on the planes. Rod vowed he would help Heather take her first astral journey, but first she would have to learn to use spiritual energy, she would have to build up her astral body. Heather cherished this notion. She so wanted to escape the mundane, she'd go home and lock herself in her room to practice meditation with candles. At times, she'd work with various spells, trying to test Rod's authenticity, but she was unable to travel without his guidance. Of course, Heather had never actually experienced Rod's astral projection. But Rod wanted Heather to be patient. He said she wasn't ready to leave normal consciousness just yet. Rod called Heather a prophet who could "sense spirits" that were not physically present. Having the cemetery right across from Eustis High School was a blessing, he said, because it gave him a chance to teach her the principles of "spirit meditation." Of course, the first time Heather witnessed Rod in a trance state, she was scared to death because Rod became violent, tearing at his own flesh with his teeth. But after a minute, everything became calm. To Heather, Rod's consciousness seemed delusional but majestic. She would listen to him ramble about the Hundred Years' War, about the peasants' revolution, about life in fifteenth-century France. He would rant about his "union with the Lord," when he was a boy adorned in magnificent brocades of silk, and would describe himself as a creature similar, in spirit, to Joan of Arc. Rod claimed he had visions of Heather being burned at the stake. He told her they had both been reincarnated, had been brought back from a life together centuries before, and Heather started to believe him. She started to think she had been "chosen" to live forever. Copyright © 1999 by Aphrodite Jones Excerpted from The Embrace: A True Vampire Story by Aphrodite Jones All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.