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AROUND TOWN

Is There a Ghost of a Chance He's Right?

October 28, 1994|BEVERLY BEYETTE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

My interview with the vampire takes place in a peach-colored house on a tree-shaded street in Redondo Beach.

Just home, sweet home, save for the doormat that goes "Boooo!" when stepped upon. But, it is almost Halloween.

The man who lives here, however, is no average suburbanite. The first clue? A mop of improbably blue-black hair, which he swears is home-grown. Wiglike, it all but obscures his green eyes. Sea-green, he explains: "All Gorfs had sea-green eyes."

Then there are the canine teeth (his own, he swears), long and pointy. And that voice: Is it British or ghoulish?

"Some people say I'm a cross between Vincent Price and Elvis Presley," says Albert Ryan-- Sir Albert, if you will.

He's entitled to a title, he claims, as a descendant of "Lord Gorf," an Irish nobleman burned at the stake in 1706 for Satanic savagery.

"He supposedly tortured and murdered people and drank their blood--men, women and children. Very vicious. We don't like to talk about it," says Sir Albert, proceeding to talk about it.

As he tells it, his Gorf ancestor had a fancy burial in Tipperary but, two years later, was exhumed by a pair of grave robbers. The corpse "bolted upright in his coffin and opened his eyes, which blazed like live coals." His horrifying scream, and the fresh blood on his face and hands, sent the intruders fleeing.

"One died of a heart attack," Ryan says, and "the other died in an asylum." Throughout the village, people turned up dead with small bite marks on their throats and wrists.

It was on Halloween about 40 years ago that 8-year-old Albert was told by his Irish-born parents of this legacy. He hoped they were joking; still, he'd had his suspicions. "All the males in the family seemed to have large canine teeth. My father's literally stuck out of his mouth." And his Irish uncle was a "dead-ringer (so to speak) for Bela Lugosi."

It was inevitable he would search for his roots in Ireland. "I found out it was no joke," he says. He makes vague reference to some library documents.

Always, he was bent on being an actor and, like bats to a belfry, was drawn to macabre and sinister roles, beginning at Bishop Montgomery High in Torrance, where he played the homicidal maniac in "Arsenic and Old Lace." Perhaps, he muses, he was a bit weird even then.

On Irish and British stages, he gravitated to ghostly roles. Perhaps it was only a short leap into a second profession: vampirologist and ghoulologist.

"It's a very secret branch of parapsychology," he explains. So secret, he adds, that, in all of California, there are but five vampirologists. As demand is limited, he has a day job as a speech therapist at a facility for the developmentally disabled. Vampires preferring darkness, vampirology is no 9-to-5 gig.

Among his clients, he mentions assorted police departments, Metropol and Scotland Yard. Could we, uh, verify that? "Oh, no. It's very secretive. Nobody will divulge any knowledge of having anything to do with it. . . . They'll say, 'We don't know you, we never had this conversation, it never happened. . . .' "

He dismisses the skeptical as being as unenlightened as those who don't believe in UFOs. Deadpan, he'll tell you, "I have myself authenticated 40 vampire cases," among them two "terrifying close encounters" that convinced him of the existence of blood-sucking vampires and flesh-nibbling ghouls.

Just how does a vampirologist do his thing? Well, he explains, a hunt typically begins with the spotting of a tombstone riddled with holes. Should a vampire lie below, flowers placed there will wilt at once. "And there will be an aura. If you happen to be psychic, which I am, you will detect it immediately."

Ryan describes a memorable sighting, that of Ubour the vampire in Bulgaria: "We saw the vampire literally rise up out of the grave, jellylike, bloated, its skin like leather, its eyes bulging out of its head. And it had only one nostril. It glided across the ground. There were spurts of hair sticking out of his head. It was ghastly, absolutely ghastly."

Now, lest you think Ryan has been nipping at the elderberry wine, he wishes to go on record: "I don't believe somebody bites somebody and turns them into a vampire."

*

His sister, Marie, who lives with him, says: "I think he's done some of these things." The police investigations? "I'll be honest, I don't know."

The vampirology? "I look at every bit of that very lightheartedly . . . but there are a lot of things in the world you can't explain."

Is it possible Sir Albert's vampire character and reality have somehow fused in his mind?

"I hope not," Marie Ryan says.

To become a vampire, "You must lead a very evil and wicked life and die in an unredemptive state," Ryan says. In short, one makes a pact with the devil to become "a full-fledged vampire in good standing."

Now, L.A. has survived riot, floods, quakes. Are vampires next? "There's more reason than you can imagine to be afraid," Ryan says. "I've investigated 12 cases of absolute vampirism in 10 years."

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