Meet the ‘living’ vampires

Vampires are in fashion and so is drinking blood

She loves the taste of blood, hates the sun, and, if you ask, will tell you she died in a train accident back in 1892: meet Seregon O'Dalley, a would-be vampire living in New York.

She's far from alone.

Vampires are in fashion across the United States, encouraged by the hit TV series "True Blood," now in its third season, the "Twilight" movies and "Vampire Diaries."

Stories about feeding on blood are greedily consumed and eagerly published.

For a pastime with dark, anti-religious overtones vampire fashion is itself becoming oddly like an organised religion. There are rules, priests, private gatherings and large-scale celebrations.

Hundreds of "vampires" attend balls every few months, with the next vampire ball taking place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 31.

Believers in this sect-like lifestyle range from teenage devotees of Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" to adults who got hooked on Ann Rice's "Vampire Diaries" in the 1970s.

Rice is the author credited with turning the European model vampire - exemplified by Dracula, the horrific character at the center of Bram Stoker's 19th century novel set in Transylvania - into a more user-friendly American version.

In the very un-Transylvanian setting of New Jersey, O'Dalley keeps her apartment well curtained from the sun and decorates with bat motifs.

"It's like a religion. There are houses, and pageants, and clans, and kind of presidents, ministers," she said.

Still, this is an age of kinder, gentler vampires. O'Dalley actually enjoys garlic, the traditional weapon against vampires, and her blood consumption is modest, to say the least.

"Every once in a while I drink blood. I make a prick on my finger and take the blood," she says.

And there's no chance of leaving nasty marks on her neighbors' necks. "We don't bite. That should never be done. Everything should be consensual," she cautions.

Joaquin Latina, who claims to be 2,744 years old, even if his passport puts him at 35, said he's been fixated on vampires since childhood.

He's read all the literature on the subject and never misses an episode of "True Blood," which he rates far above the more anemic "Twilight."

"Vampires are not monsters as such, they are more beautiful than the average persons, and they are immortal. It's a dark ideal of mankind. Today they are more like rock stars," Latina said.

The only problem in this thriving vampire environment, Latina says, is that New York has become too clean and law-abiding over the last decade.

The best scene, he says, is in Philadelphia now. "New York is too safe now for vampires."

Sociology professor Robert Thomson, who teaches at University of Syracuse in upstate New York, said "the vampire culture has been around for a long time, long before 'Twilight' and 'True Blood.'"

However, "'Twilight' has completely domesticated it. It got rid of the Eastern European monster."

According to Thomson, vampires are surprisingly marketable. They are "mysterious, dark, very, very attractive and erotic," he said.

"The vampire movement is a style, an attitude, there's a sense of belonging to a community. It can also be a branding."

There's no shortage of branding out there. A modern vampire going to the Philadelphia ball could, for example, get kitted out at Vampire Freaks boutique in New York's East Village neighborhood, and purchase custom-made resin fangs for 138 dollars at another vampire-friendly business.

If that wasn't enough, there's always the vampire tour of Central Park run by a man, or vampire, who goes by the name John Seward - the character in "Dracula" who attends patients at the psychiatric asylum.

 

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