In its early days, the administration of the FVZA was very much a work in progress. Leadership fell to old Civil War generals who knew little of the specialized fighting necessary to combat vampires and zombies. The Agency developed an unsavory reputation for corruption and inefficiency as it became a dumping ground for friends and family of well-connected officials. At one time, the Agency had more bureacrats on the payroll than agents! Worst of all, the Agency served as a cover for white supremacists carrying out attacks against blacks in the Reconstruction South. The result, not surprisingly, was an agency held in low regard by the public.
|Savings Bonds and|
stamps helped fund
As vampirism spread and touched more and more lives, that same public demanded a better FVZA. William McKinley was elected in 1896 largely due to his promise to rid the country of vampires and zombies. In 1897, he moved the FVZA into the Department of Justice. When McKinley was assassinated in 1901, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt took over the job and installed his friend Hilton Dickerson as FVZA Director. The Agency would never be the same.
Few figures in American history cast as long a shadow as Hilton Dickerson. Born and raised in Saint Louis, Dickerson had cut his teeth hunting vampires and zombies in the west, where he met Roosevelt. Even before he arrived in Washington, Dickerson was reknowned for his take-no-prisoners approach. At well over six-feet tall, he struck an imposing figure in his customary bearskin jacket. Once he took over at the FVZA, Dickerson conducted a purge of all Agency cronies and hacks. He also stepped up nationwide recruitment and raised the hiring standards for agents.
While Dickerson played the role of Wild West soldier of fortune to the hilt, he was actually a savvy politician expert at using the media to promote himself. When Hollywood came calling, Dickerson handpicked Tyrone Power to play him in a series of movies called The Night Watch. In addition, Dickerson was the hero of a comic book series, and he produced and narrated a radio show, The Vanguard, based on real-life FVZA cases. Unfortunately, his dramatic instincts were not on par with his vampire-hunting skills, and the show failed to take off. Despite that misstep, his exhaustive public relations work paid big dividends: in a 1930 poll, Americans selected Dickerson as Public Hero Number one.
To be fair, not all of Dickerson's accomplishments as FVZA Director were the result of good self-promotion. Dickerson's purges helped restore public faith in the agency, and his scrupulous standards in the hiring of agents enabled real inroads into vampire and zombie control. In 1933, he started the FVZA Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico; a year later, he helped organize FDR's Vampire Emergency Administration (VEA), which gave hordes of unemployed men a limited role in assisting the FVZA.
But Dickerson's ego created an inevitable backlash. The Agency's overzealous pursuit of the undead resulted in significant civilian casualties and occasionally turned public sentiment away from the Agency, as in the case of LeDoux versus the FVZA. Dickerson clashed frequently with President Roosevelt, whom he felt tried to take too much credit for progress in the war on the undead. But in the end, it was a single incident that brought about the demise of Hilton Dickerson.
Throughout the fall of 1935, a highly-elusive vampire pack had been operating in northern New Jersey. On the night of November 4, the pack snatched a baby from its bedroom at the home of Donald Swanson, a prominent local businessman. The Swanson Baby disappearance was a media sensation, and when the baby was found dead a few days later, the public cried for blood. The Agency shifted virtually all its resources into pursuing the renegade pack and, on the night of November 19, an FVZA team cornered the pack in a wooded cabin near Trenton and destroyed them. Dickerson arrived on the scene, had his picture taken and told the newspapers, incorrectly, that he had led the raid on the cabin. When the lie was uncovered, Dickerson's time was up. He was fired by Roosevelt, and though he resurfaced from time to time, the once-formidable leader of the FVZA gradually faded from view and died in 1950.
|New York Times headline, November 5, 1933|
The rules changed in the post-Dickerson era of the FVZA. Directors were limited to two terms (eight years), and all their decisions had to be rubber-stamped by Congress. The new oversight, combined with a succession of outstanding FVZA Directors, transformed the Agency that had once been an embarrassment into one of the most respected in government. Ironically, it was the Dickerson-instituted recruitment and training programs that enabled our leaders to draw upon such a large pool of qualified people for the role of America's top vampire and zombie hunter.
© 2001-2008 Dango Productions, Inc.