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These are just some of the cultural markers real vampires adopt to express a shared (and, according to them, biological) essence – they need blood (human or animal) or psychic energy from donors in order to feel healthy.

Their self-described nature begins to manifest around or just after puberty.

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They performed blood-letting rituals safely and only with willing donors and participated regularly in medical exams that scarcely (if ever) indicated complications from their feeding practices.

What was perhaps most surprising about the vampires I met though was their marked lack of knowledge about vampires in popular culture.

Blood is generally described by my study participants as tasting metallic, or “coppery” but can also be influenced by the donor’s physiology, or even how well he or she is hydrated.

Some psychic vampires use tantric feeding, that is through erotic or sexual encounters, while others use what could be described as astral feeding or feeding on another from afar. Afterwards, blood-drinking and psychic vampires feel energized or otherwise better than they would if they were to sustain themselves on regular food alone, like fruits, fish, and vegetables (which they eat too).

But these people aren’t the stuff of nightmares – far from it actually. I’ve spent five years conducting ethnographic studies of the real vampires living in New Orleans and Buffalo.

Just sit down for a drink with one of them and ask for yourself. They are not easy to find, but when you do track them down, they can be quite friendly.It derives, according to them, from the lack of subtle energies their bodies produce – energies other people take for granted. It’s a condition they claim to be unable to change. The real vampire community, like the legendary figure it emulates, knows few national boundaries, from Russia and South Africa to England and the United States.Particularly in the internet age, vampires are often well attuned to community issues. I found the vampires of Buffalo to be keen to keep up to date with the global community, while those in New Orleans were often more interested in the activities of their local vampire houses (an affiliated group of vampires usually led by a vampire elder who helps his or her house members to acclimate to their vampiric nature).Some were married, some were divorced and some were parents.Unquestionably, I found the vampires I met to be competent and generally outwardly “normal” citizens.Some houses, and indeed whole vampire communities, as in the case of New Orleans, will combine their efforts to organize charity events, like feeding (not feeding on) the homeless.

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