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Experiencing the vampire magic
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Columnist Beth McAfee-Hallman also spent a night with the vampires, because, well, she's a huge fangirl. She baked Ian Somerhalder cookies. No joke. Column

One woman moved to Covington from Savannah, two German au pairs drove up from Atlanta; one woman from Augusta admitted she would go to jail if she didn't get a picture and one family brought two toddlers out in the cold to watch. While all of this sounds crazy, it's just another night of stalking vampires for the (mostly) ladies who come to watch the filming of the super-popular show "The Vampire Diaries".

You've seen these people around town - we all have. They wander around outside Worthington Manor. They skulk around the green of the square. They stand on street corners clutching their notebooks and cameras. Some are scary. Some look a lot like sorority girls. But they all seem to have a common goal of seeing something happen that is "Vampire Diaries"-related. It's not something everyone can relate to, but this show seems to have brought together a whole, all-walks of people (by people, I mean females) who are all about some vampires. Having never seen the show myself, the allure is lost on me. Of course that meant an evening spent with the stalkers was in order.

Around 11 p.m. Thursday night, it was freezing. Literally. But that didn't stop hundreds of women and an occasional man from standing around the square and judicial center hoping to catch a glimpse of the actors from "The Vampire Diaries" who were in town filming. They had blankets and cups of coffee and binoculars. The later it got, the more people starting converging outside the judicial center. It was like they were called there by some magical force - like their estrogen was leading them to where the pale actors would come.

A bit of listening revealed the allure mostly had to do with the men. These women, some of them older, some of them younger, were all about the actors. These women are drawn to the make-believe vampires and werewolves. Blame Anne Rice. Everyone thought vampires were creepy until her. But somewhere along the way, having some muscly man in a leather jacket bite a hole in your neck and suck out your blood became sexy. After Anne Rice came "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Her band of night walkers were bad because they ate your neck, but they could turn good for love. And then there was "Twilight."

It made the whole vampire thing romantic. Which is fine, but watching it on television and standing outside in the cold to catch a glimpse of an actor-who-plays-a vampire-who-sucks-your-blood-which-is-super-romantic is a whole other level.

Around midnight the ladies heard one of the cast was headed over. It wasn't one of the men, so they weren't that excited. but when Nina Dobrev (who plays Elena on the show) came over, the camera phones and point-and-shoots cameras came out. They huddled around her and took pictures, whispering questions. When asked why they were being quiet, one fan, looking like she couldn't believe the question was even being asked, explained that if they were too loud the production assistants would make them leave. And if they left, they would lose the chance to meet one of the dreamy vampire men.

After Nina left, the girls were sad. Sisters (one in college, one 12) were being called by their parents and told they had to come back home to Conyers because the little one had school the next day. Others seemed defeated. Apparently Nina didn't usually come out and they saw this as a possible sign that no one else would. The others saw this as super positive. If she was coming out, certainly the men would. Well, one man in particular. Ian Somerhalder, who I call Ian SmolderHolder because I can't remember how to pronounce his last name and because he does this weird smolder-like Flynn Rider from "Tangled" face whenever the cameras point in his direction.

Hours passed. The temperature continued to drop. More people arrived. They set up lawn chairs like they were circling a burn barrel in their grandpa's backyard. The Snuggies came out. While some of us (i.e. me) were cold and sleepy and getting cranky waiting on something to happen, everyone else seemed to get more pumped up. Finally, someone heard, "It's a wrap!" from across the street where filming was going on. A wave of excited whispering commenced. Several of Covington's finest came over to keep the peace. And then a white van drove by. It was him, it was the SmolderHolder.

He was in the middle of a pulsing, pushing, mob of females. He seemed gracious. He spoke with everyone. He kissed cheeks. He smoldered and the women swooned. It was frightening how excited they were. There was no screaming, but that was probably because none of them could catch their breath. A lone man was hopping (literally) around the mass of women with his digital camera held high, snapping pictures. He seemed like he might cry. All around it looked as if a bomb had gone off. There were discarded Snuggies and thermoses - empty cups from Square Perk and tubes of lip gloss scattered everywhere.

When he finally left and everything was finished, it was like someone broke the spell. Now it was just cold and late, rather early,. It was after 1 a.m. The ladies were feeling the effects of having spent eight hours or more sitting around outside in the cold. It was time to get in their cars and drive back to Atlanta, Augusta, Tucker, and for some of them, just down the street in Covington. The magic was over.

But just like the woman who moved from Savannah, the tourists who come from Italy and Germany and Canada for a glimpse of the SmolderHolder or Nina or any of the other actors, they will return, filling their gas tanks and bellies up in Covington then sit together on the square, making new friends and memories. All because of some vampires.

And while many, including myself, find the whole thing a little silly, it doesn't really matter. What matters to these people is the magic this show invokes to them. And we could all use a little more magic in our lives.