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Real-Life Vampires in New Orleans and Atlanta Take Us Inside Their World




CNN

When Maven Lore was equipped for his first pair of fangs, a switch inside him flipped.

“Something just came to the surface and everything turned out okay for once in my life,” he said. “I had this idea that there was more to it than sharp teeth.”

He didn’t know what to call that feeling at the time, or that he would drive it from New York to New Orleans, but he now knows it was a “wake-up call”: his first taste of life as a vampire.

Lore found her place in New Orleans and never left. Now a crafter of bespoke acrylic fangs, he rose to the (reluctantly accepted) role of King of the Big Easy Vampire Court.

“Being part of the New Orleans Vampire Court is about us all coming together – a win for one person is a win for all of us,” he said. “We’re all kind of ‘sink or swim’ together.”

Human vampires live, and they’re quite a far cry from the fictional creatures we recognize. Their interpretations of vampirism vary widely – many of them feed on energy or sexual encounters – but the eating habits and fangs are just the outward signs of a community as diverse as it is misunderstood by non-vampires. You might not even know it’s a vampire, at least not if you’re looking for stereotypical information. There are no restrictions for self-identifying vampires – they are not tied to nightlife or required to worship fictional vampires.

Vampires (sometimes spelled “vampires”) today are, in essence, people of different backgrounds with a common goal – belonging – who have found community with their fellow vampires. To live as a vampire is a subversive choice, a proud rejection of social norms. And in that way, it’s an empowering way to live, said John Edgar Browning, a liberal arts professor at Savannah College of Art and Design, who has spent years studying vampire communities in New Orleans and in Buffalo, New York.

“Human vampires make accessible the infinite potential that exists to expose and unfix the repressive and oppressive categories from which marginalization is born,” he told CNN. “So in a way, these vampires are therapeutic for us.”

CNN spoke to two giants of their respective communities, Lore of New Orleans and Merticus, the co-founder of the Atlanta Vampire Alliance, about their lives, their joys, and the misconceptions about vampirism they would like to put to rest forever. rest.

First: yes, some modern vampires do consume blood, often from willing donors – usually loved ones or partners – in small amounts. But many refrain or condemn the practice and instead find sustenance in sexual encounters or other experiences from which they can draw energy (Lore and Merticus among them). When strangers feign fear and ask Lore if he’ll drink their blood, he jokes, “No, that’s called murder.”

While the uninitiated are usually the most interested in eating habits, Lore said that’s hardly what vampires care about. (He compared asking a vampire about his eating habits to asking a non-vampire if he ate deli meats.)

Many vampires do not fit the archetypes Bram Stoker et al. popularized. They are people who often work day shifts – Lore is also a graphic designer, DJ and jeweller; Merticus is an expert in antique furniture.

And most human vampires weren’t even attracted to the community because they idolized Dracula. In his ethnographic studies of human vampires, Browning said he found that members of vampire communities were primarily drawn to each other for social elements, not for their affinity with vampire media.

“I wouldn’t even call them vampire fans at all, just people with a common history since their teenage years, an innate need for blood or energy, and a shared need to find others like them who accept,” he said. Browning said.

Merticus was looking for answers from others like himself when he joined vampire chat rooms in 1996 after noticing for years that he could “draw strength from charged situations”, which he realized. later realizes that it was psychic feeding.

“I never felt like my body or even this period aligned with my mind or my soul,” he told CNN. “Or more simply…I always felt something different about me that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.”

He made friends in those chat rooms that are still a part of his life today, and offline, those bonds grew even stronger.

Lore found these connections when she first visited New Orleans 24 years ago, days before Halloween. He has lived there ever since.

“I didn’t even know there was a community,” he says. “But they were family.”

And now they are his family too. He has played an important role in the NOLA vampire scene: in addition to his business as a fangsmith, he is also a mentor to young vampires, a role he stumbled into but accepts nonetheless. He resists being referred to as a “peacekeeper” between the vampires in the area, though he has been known to regularly advise and resolve disputes between members.

“We all want to get along and be loved – that’s why I love the vampire community,” Lore said. “It doesn’t matter what race…gender you are. You are accepted.

The enduring popularity of fictional vampires means that Merticus and others must constantly clarify that they are not like the nocturnal bloodsuckers who continue to entertain and terrify us. In fact, Merticus said, many human vampires “stay out of the public eye” due to the many misconceptions about what it means to be vampires and fear or retaliation from people they know.

Now, Merticus said he’s working to educate people that vampirism is an “amalgam of physical, mental…and spiritual attributes,” and that vampires are largely productive members. of the society.

Vampirism is often associated with the occult – and fictional vampires have been known to engage in human sacrifice among other macabre acts. The idea that the vampire subculture “encourages and condones such behavior” is wrong, Merticus said. On the other hand, human vampire communities welcome members of all religions.

Both vampires said they resist being recognized solely for the fact that they identify as vampires. And they certainly stand up to aesthetic stereotypes of vampirism: Merticus has said he doesn’t wear fangs or gothic clothes, and Lore describes his nocturnal style as a cross between smart suit-wearer and ’80s rock and roll. (When making crocs, he prefers to keep it casual in sports recreation.)

Fortunately, however, Merticus said, the direction in which fictional vampire portrayal is headed is positive and multifaceted — the days of white-skinned, one-dimensional bloodsuckers are over.

“The Hollywood interpretation of the vampire slowly began to transform the vampire into something more human than a monster,” he said, referring to Barnabas Collins, the protagonist of the gothic soap opera “Dark Shadows,” from David Bowie with “The Hunger” and adaptations. from Anne Rice’s classic, “Interview with the Vampire”.

“The humanity of the vampire struck a chord with audiences,” Merticus said.

Lestat (Sam Reid) and Louis (Jacob Anderson) in this year's TV adaptation

But these vampire and more popular properties only heighten the media attention for off-screen human vampires. Merticus said he preferred to stay in the “shadows” – many vampire houses, clans, organizations and individuals have “worked very well” without all the hubbub.

“It’s what makes the tapestry of our collective experiences so rich and rewarding as we grow older together,” he said.

But as long as there is interest in human vampires, Merticus said he would be a somewhat reluctant spokesperson for them. He even conducted surveys of other vampires to learn more about their origins, eating habits, and social life.

Both Lore and Merticus have stated that vampirism is not their whole life. Both are in committed relationships with non-vampires, they said, and being a vampire is only one facet of who they are, not their defining quality.

Merticus’ Atlanta vampiric alliance has mostly morphed into a relatively small, tight-knit team of “aging vampires,” he said. The Georgia Vampire’s life is relatively quieter than Lore’s – he’d rather sneak out to restaurants, bars, and cultural events than work and play in sleepless downtown New Orleans.

Just as some vampire groups in New York are very influential, almost political organizations, and the vampire community in Ohio are primarily psychic feeders, according to Merticus, each vampire house, coven, or court has its own traditions and shades.

“Most of us communicate with each other even though we approach the path of vampirism from different avenues of belief and practice,” Merticus said.

Vampires of all kinds, from all over the United States, want to support and protect the people who have become their family. Like the family, they bicker and disagree (this is where Lore comes in, to mediate). But the goal, Lore and Merticus said, is always unity.

“To me, unity doesn’t mean we’re all the same,” Lore said. “It means unity of goal. We are all a family despite our differences; sometimes we love each other because of our differences.

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