When you think of New Orleans and vampires, what comes to mind? For most, it's the iconic film Interview with the Vampire with Hollywood star boys Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, or the or new AMC+ TV series, both based on the novel by Anne Rice. Or maybe the gruesome figures attributed to the Crescent City's historical vampiric legacy, such as the Carter Brothers, Jacques St. Germaine, or maybe the Ursuline convent's own Casket Girls. There are definitely vampires in New Orleans, and we found a real Nola vampire to give us the scoop.
Vampires Are All Around Us in NOLA
NOLA and her swamps are home to many worlds and cultures like gutter punks, voodoo practitioners, jazz fiends, and apparently rougarous who might get you, just to name a few, but to assume that the notion of creatures of the night gracing these streets is nothing more than Hollywood chicanery and tourist propaganda, well, you'd be dead wrong.
Despite the common cold, and dead portrayal of vampires, there is, in fact, a community of "vampires'' living right here in New Orleans. I got the chance to chat with Maven, a vamp head figure, to get some insight into our shadowy neighbors.
Where Y'at's Interview With a Real Vampire
Where Y'at (WYA): Very appropriate timing for this. I dig it.
Maven (M): My bedtime is usually around 3 a.m. or 4 a.m., but I've been getting to bed earlier.
WYA: Off the bat, how close did Hollywood get?
M: Man, it's all BS. I love the show True Blood, but, c'mon. Garlic tastes great on pizza, if you stab anything in the heart with a stake it'll die, and I'm sure anyone would opt for a king-sized bed instead of a coffin. Interestingly, there were vampire hunters in the 90s, but we'll circle back to that one.
WYA: So what makes a modern vampire?
M: If someone's a vampire, they've usually had some type of "awakening" in youth, but there are three types. Sanguinarians—are the actual blood drinkers.
WYA: Real human blood?
M: Yes, real human blood—from tested donors, like a coworker, close friend, friend of a friend, etc. Mainly [it's] romantic partners. It's very low-key because blood-letting ceremonies are illegal in New Orleans, but it's what gets them feeling like a juvenated member of society.
WYA: I'm usually able to make do with one or two shots of espresso in the morning for that.
M: Then, there are "tantric vampires," like me, who derive energy from physical touch, such as hugs, hand holding, or sexual encounters. Finally, "psychic vampires" easily absorb energy from a smile cast by a friendly stranger across the room.
WYA: Are American vampires just a New Orleans thing?
M: Hell no. There are hundreds of communities just in the U.S. alone. Europe's got 'em, South America, Canada, etc.
WYA: How down-low are things kept?
M: Not so much anymore. Things used to be real elitist. I say you find your "real family" when you're older, and that's what it's like. Today, the vampire is more like a totem/spiritual symbol.
There's who you are as an individual and what your totem is. We've got members whose totem would be werewolves or pixies, but maybe they're also Catholic or Jewish. Anyone can join. There's no one way to vamp.
WYA: How far back does the history go?
M: Well, I helped conceive today's movement of the NOLA (vampire) scene. In the late 80s it was run by this Burlesque performer, Adrien Hunter, but it disbanded before too long when it was taken over by the Gutter Punks in the 90s. The Queen, Lady Kim, went convincing 'em, specifically the boys, that they were actually vampires.
WYA: Is it all one body or are there "tribes" like in the film The Lost Boys.
M: We'd like to think we're one big family, but we're in different families or "houses." There are about 100 different houses worldwide. The first one, publicly speaking, is "Temple House Sahjaza" (formed in 1976). Then, House of Lore, the O'Mallie Clan, House MacPhee, House of Storms, Orion, Rakoczy, etc. Cities have different houses that form a "court" which, like a town hall, brings together multiple families to make regional decisions about the community, gather for social reasons, or work on group projects.
WYA: What's the structure like?
M: Every house/court depends on their own rules or goals. Some are monarchies, some are actual 501(c)(3) registered corporations dedicated to charity, some do social activism; others just cater to gender and sexual expression. Most of these may consist of "elder vampires" who mentor the younger leaders. For me, it was a wonderful woman named Lady Rosemary whom I owe everything to as far as my involvement goes.
WYA: If there are so many [vampires] walking around in New Orleans are y'all that obvious? Any hang out spots? I feel like Vampire Cafe might be a little too on the nose.
M: We're not out here in corsets, capes, top-hats, or any of that shit. Those are for posers. The lifestyle is embraced, but not flaunted; however, we're probably at spots down Lower Decatur like Santos.
I swear that place has a curse. No matter what they try turning [Santos] into—a gay club, sports bar, whatever—the goth kids always find a way to reclaim it. As for the Balls, those are the big events where everyone enjoys looking their Christmas best as far as the goth adornment goes.
WYA: Before we wrap things up here shortly, you mentioned vampire hunters?
M: Right. In the late 90s, there were these extremely radical/semi-homicidal religious individuals that came to New Orleans with the intent to "send us back from whence we came.'' For instance, Lady Kim was literally stabbed in the chest with a stake, by this one guy at a bar, but was saved due to, let's say, some "conveniently sized attributes."' She then proceeded to beat this guy and really f*** him up.
WYA: Wow! So what would you say to "lost" individuals who feel a calling to the community?
M: Great question. We're in the beta stages of a national website called the Unity Project, a direct site to help people find communities by region, house, special interest, and upcoming events. Plus, you can contact the local community in New Orleans. Check it out at www.unityproject.life. It's pretty bare right now but there are good leads on where to find communities especially in the South. And don't worry if you're not a vampire, we won't bite. Unless you ask nicely.
Sink Your Teeth In with New Orleans Vampires
Our neighborhood NOLA vampires might make for good company, after all. However, if you decide to invite one in for a drink sometime, I'd still keep that neck covered. While you might enjoy a Bloody Mary, your new friend might enjoy AB+ blood type much more.