Bound by blood: ‘Vampires’ in the real world - Hindustan Times
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Bound by blood: ‘Vampires’ in the real world

Sep 16, 2022 07:05 PM IST

The vampiric community, numbering in the thousands, is spread across classes, races, geographies and genders. They take blood (1 tbsp or 2 every couple of weeks), or energy, from willing donors. See what makes a ‘vampire’ a ‘vampire’, and how the subculture evolved.

The idea of drinking blood to stay young retains a powerful hold on the imagination. The 16th-century Hungarian countess Elizabeth Bathory is believed to have murdered numerous women, so that she could bathe in their blood to retain her youth.

At one of fangsmith Father Sebastiaan’s Endless Night Vampire Balls. The 47-year-old American (not pictured) has identified as a vampire since age 17. He has taken on the mission of rallying the vampire community of New York City since 1995, also the year he launched his prosthetic fangs enterprise. PREMIUM
At one of fangsmith Father Sebastiaan’s Endless Night Vampire Balls. The 47-year-old American (not pictured) has identified as a vampire since age 17. He has taken on the mission of rallying the vampire community of New York City since 1995, also the year he launched his prosthetic fangs enterprise.

Ambrosia, the now-defunct startup that operated from 2016 to 2019, transfused the blood plasma of young donors into older customers. Venture capitalist Peter Thiel, 54, has expressed an interest in receiving such transfusions himself.

But none of these are real-world vampires. Those number in the thousands. They don’t pay for their blood. They do believe that drinking it is both a valid life choice and, in their case, a necessity.

Over 13 years, John Edgar Browning, a researcher and professor of liberal arts at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, Georgia, studied vampiric communities in the US, specifically in the cities of New Orleans in Louisiana and Buffalo in New York State. His findings were published in 2014 in the journal Humanities and Social Sciences Communications. The vampiric community is spread across classes, races and genders, the report states. Some are married, some are parents, some gay, or divorced. They range in age from 18 to 65. They are not bound by any one set of religious or spiritual beliefs.

What they are bound by is the habit of consuming human and / or animal blood, or absorbing “psychic energy”, or both. They get this blood and energy from willing donors.

Donors are typically tested for transmissible diseases. Vampires then consume 1 tbsp or 2 tbsps of their blood, every couple of weeks. Energy vampires absorb their doses through touching or sharing space with an energy donor.

“Most people who take vampirism seriously are really, really solitary,” says a 47-year-old American fangsmith (someone who makes prosthetic fangs) who goes by Father Sebastiaan, and has identified as a vampire since age 17. “If there’s one thing all true vampires seem to have in common, it’s a reluctance to tell the world who and what they are.”

Sebastiaan has been outspoken about his identity, he tells Wknd, because he has taken on the mission of rallying the vampire community of New York City since 1995, also the year he began his career as a fangsmith.

Sebastiaan too was a blood drinker at first; he is now an energy vampire. It was just more practical, he says.

For the past 25 years, in addition to making fangs, he’s been hosting Endless Night Vampire Balls. The event is like a concert. “You go… you’ll feel the energy, you can take it in,” he says.

The community

The truth is that most sanguinarians will not admit, even to their doctors, that they drink blood, for fear that the practice – while not illegal – could affect their lives, careers and, for instance, their status as parents in the eyes of the State and society.

The earliest known community of vampires in the modern world is the Count Dracula Fan Club (now the Vampire Empire), founded in 1965 by filmmaker Jeanne Keyes Youngson. Originally dedicated to the mythical count Dracula and vampire-themed stories and films, the club extended its scope after Youngson began receiving letters from people who identified as vampires. She compiled some of the earliest casebooks on this lifestyle, drawn from their correspondence.

Then came Anne Rice’s novels, a 13-book series released from 1976 onwards that introduced elements of sumptuous romance, sexuality and queerness. By the 1990s, Rice, who died last year, aged 80, was organising Vampire Balls, conventions in which the vampiric could meet and socialise.

The next boost came via Vampire: The Masquerade (1991), a White Wolf publication that laid out the ground rules for a tabletop role-playing game and provided, if inadvertently, a social construct within which the vampiric could congregate. “Thus emerged the predominant and somewhat unifying identity that persists today,” writes Browning.

Today, there are vampire communities around the world, from the US and UK to Russia and South Africa. The Atlanta Vampire Alliance (AVA) is one of the largest. A common aim stated by these bodies is the safe practice of their lifestyle.

As AVA founding member Zero put it, in her blog: “(It’s) as if we were always a culture waiting to happen.”

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