Meet the blood-drinking, “real vampires” of New Orleans

Have you ever met “real vampires”? American author and editor John Edgar Browning has — and they reside not in Gothic castles or dark crypts — but in sunny New Orleans. As part of his English doctoral dissertation at the Louisiana State University, Browning conducted an ethnographic study of “real vampires,” individuals who claim to have a medical condition that requires them to drink either animal or human blood to sustain their health.

Choosing to identify themselves as “vampires” to defy negative stereotypes, these individuals have bonded together in a community known as the New Orleans Vampire Association (NOVA). Several more of these communities exist, with at least 5,000 people in the United States alone self-identifying as real vampires.

According to Browning, symptoms of vampirism start to manifest around puberty, and those who have these symptoms grow to become reliant on blood to keep their health in check. If they don’t, they supposedly experience energy loss that drain the strength from their bodies.

To maintain their lifestyle, these vampires rely on “donors,” or people who supply them with blood, either because of close relations or in exchange for financial compensation or even sexual favors.

Despite their unorthodox lifestyle, Browning considers them to not be”crazier than your Average Joe” — except perhaps for their unusual choice of beverage.