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Throughout most of history, the majority of humans remained ignorant or in denial of the existence of vampires, which notable exceptions including the Watchers Council, Slayers, and certain vampire hunters like Daniel Holtz and Charles Gunn.
Rupert Giles once explained that people have a tendency to "rationalize what they can and forget what they can't." For a period of time in Sunnydale, California, there existed a group of vampire wannabes known as the Sunset Club.
They were hybrids, and were thus despised by other, "purer" demon species. When Xander briefly tapped into Maloker's memories, he became aware of a time when magic-wielding early humans were busily driving the Old Ones into the Deeper Well.
They were well-known for feeding on the blood of mammals, particularly humans. the last demon to leave this reality fed off a human, mixed their blood. Fearful that his time was up, Maloker sought to raise an army using his vampiric bite on a human.
In the 23rd century, vampires were called "lurks" and remained public knowledge.
For example, after he was turned, Jesse Mc Nally told Xander Harris that he was nothing but a "shadow" to him.
Most vampires reveled in destruction and cared only for themselves, but similar to how all human beings possessed different qualities, vampires could be equally varied.
While all were essentially corrupt, soulless versions of their prior selves, some became direct opposites of the people they were, while others represented an expression of the potential they had in life.
When Charles Gunn was turned, he continued to want to help people, and still despised vampires (himself included); however, his actions were held unchecked, and he eventually lost his way.