Excerpt from the book, LARPing with the Otherkin, by Lucy Feltham
“Exchanging blood within a loving relationship is sacred. It is the most intimate thing you can do. People who trivialise this as food can go fuck themselves”
Although they can be killed with a stake through the heart, because that would kill anybody, modern day vampires are not averse to garlic, have a visible reflection and are not allergic to silver… But they do drink blood. Well, some of them do.
I make my debut in the community at a Gothic Boat Party, hosted by the London Vampire MeetUp Group, on the River Thames. I study myself in the mirror next to my front door. Had I got the dress code right? I don’t want to stick out, but I also don’t want to overdo it and offend anybody. What on earth do vampires wear? I settle on a black silk shirt, purple jeans, and far too much eyeliner.
After a long, self-conscious walk through East London, I arrive at the Liberty Bounds pub near Tower Bridge. My nostrils are assaulted with a bouquet of dust and stale beer as I take in the dramatic scene. Clothing is period in style; jackets are stiff and shirts are ruffled. The men wear top hats and carry canes, and the women spill from tight corsets, their elaborate hairstyles thatched with animal skulls. A familiar out-of-my-depth nausea brews in the pit of my stomach.
I meet my first vampire on board the ship. He is pale with long black hair that clings to his face in the heat of the evening. Dressed in Victorian clothing, a tight suit with frilly cuffs and a lace collar, he smiles to reveal perfectly formed fangs.
“Hello,” I approach him, blushing at the idiocy of what I am about to ask. “Are you a vampire?”
After an untrusting once-over with his eyes, he fixes his gaze on mine. “Yeeees,” he purrs.
“How big is the community in the UK?” I seize the opportunity.
“Well, it’s growing,” he says, taking a step back from me, as if to regain control. “We have a few families, and the London vampire community is pretty strong, but we’re not as organised as they are in the US”.
I remember reading about this on the London Vampire Forum; it explained that unlike their American cousins, who are ‘coming out of the coffin’ in their droves, many UK vamps remain hidden in today’s society, a clandestine community yet to reveal their ‘true nature’ to their family and friends.
Happy that my vampire is now talking, I relay the memory to him. He thinks for a while, fiddling with the lace at his wrists. “I think that’s probably true,” he says. “England is a much more cynical place than America, so people are embarrassed about coming out as a vampire. They are happy to hang out with other vampires and dress like them, but they still don’t want to admit that they are actual vampires”.
He looks pleased with his answer and, without breaking eye contact, takes a big swig from whatever is in his wooden tankard. A thick red ribbon hangs from the handle.
‘Do you drink blood?’ The question falls out of me.
He furrows his brow and looks at me sideways. I worry I have pushed him too far.
“No,” he says, a smile reforming as he seemingly enjoys my question. “There aren’t many sanguines left now, not since the eighties. A lot of people think it’s too dangerous,” he waves his hand as if swatting something away, “HIV and all that. So they switched to energy and became psychic vampires,” he curls his lip into a half-smile, “like me.”
The party continues into the early hours, my rum consumption taking me swiftly past confidence and deep into the alcoves of memory loss. I spend the following afternoon nursing a throbbing head as I pore over Internet forums and articles, building my vampire knowledge piece by piece.
I discover that modern day vamps fall into two general categories; those who have a passion for vampire literature, film, folklore and fashion – known as ‘life-stylers’, who make up the vast majority – and those who genuinely believe they are vampires, with ancient souls that require supplementary life-force. The latter group divide themselves depending on how they choose to ‘feed’ in order to remain healthy:
- Sanguine vampires believe that they need to take energy through ingesting human blood, typically from a willing donor.
- Living vampyres (spelt with a ‘y’ to distinguish themselves from folklore) live by a philosophy that enables them to take energy through living a certain type of life, more on this later.
- Psychic vampires (psy vamps) need to take energy or ‘life force,’ typically from other human beings, in order to maintain a healthy energetic balance.
I am especially interested in the idea of psychic vampirism, so I decide to follow the advice of InCarnatus, my vampire forum friend, and read The Vampire Codex, a psy vamp handbook written by the famous vampire, Michelle Belanger. According to her website, Michelle, a prominent member and spokesperson of the global vampire community, had always felt different as a child. This might have been because she was born intersex and had immediate gender assignment surgery, but she puts it down to a combination of ‘genetics, environment and fate’ that made her more sensitive to psychic experience. During her teens she ‘identified and came to terms with’ psychic vampirism, that is, the need to take energy from others in order to maintain optimum physical and mental well-being.
Michelle spent the next few years deepening her understanding of what it was to be a psychic vampire, framing the concept as a natural cycle of energy exchange, separating it from the negative, predatory stereotypes surrounding the traditional archetype of the vampire. She came to understand the need for psy vamps to take energy as a necessary element of a universal energy cycle:
‘There are many people who naturally produce too much energy than they require to sustain themselves. Many of these are called to be healers… For every person who has a natural abundance of energy to give away, there is another person who has a natural need to take energy in, and so the energy of the Universe remains in a constant and vital flow’.
For me, the idea of energy exchange is a palatable access point into this world. I accept that human beings emanate energy – you can call this ‘life force’ if you like, it makes no difference – and I think we all know someone who tends to sap the energy from any room they are in, just as we all know someone who seems to inject it. So it doesn’t feel like a radical leap to go one step further and say that some people are energy deficient, and some have too much.
Michelle goes on to explain that most vampires live by a code of conduct called the Red Veils, co-written by herself and the ‘fangsmith’, Father Sebastiaan. This involves feeding only on willing partners who understand the process and are willing to be fed from, except in the case of ‘surface feeding’ (taking from the ‘outer layers’ of someone’s energy field without invading their aura) or ‘ambient feeding’ (taking the energy collectively generated by a crowd of people).
Feeding on an unwilling victim is classified as assault by the majority of the vampire community, and is deeply frowned upon.
Donors exist, and you can find lists online of vampires looking for willing donors, and vice-versa. I was fascinated to stumble onto a list of over 300 people volunteering to offer up their red stuff to a hungry vamp. Who are these people?!
I read on. The Vampire Codex teaches the newly awaken psy vamp how to feed;
To ‘ambient feed’, you simply go to a crowded place, such as a gig or a busy city centre, and let the energy flow into you naturally. You can also visualise a net around you, that catches the energy and bring it back into you.
To ‘surface feed’, you ‘select a target from the crowd and concentrate on him or her. While focusing on the target, extend a tendril of your energy towards this person… With this tendril you can gently latch onto the outer layers of your target’s energy. Once the connection is made, you then focus on the person through the tendril and start pulling the energy from him or her to you’. This is typically not harmful to the target, ‘…at most, he or she will develop a headache or suddenly become very sleepy’.
‘Deep feeding’ is the most invasive feeding method, going into another persons Chakra and taking energy at the deepest level. It is complex and can be very dangerous for those who do not know what they are doing.
I mindlessly rub my throat, swallow hard and shut the book.
Some time passes. I am sitting on a high stool in a macabre tattoo shop on the Holloway Road.
“By the power of Sebastiaan” a tall man with a long chestnut ponytail moulds my thumb and two middle fingers into the universal rock-sign (or ‘devil horns’) and motions for me to repeat him.
“By the power of Sebastiaan” I say.
“I will not eat with my fangs in”
“I will not eat with my fangs in”
“By the power of Sebastiaan”
“By the power of Sebastiaan”
“I will not sleep with my fangs in”
“I will not sleep with my fangs in”
There is a break while he tries to remember the next bit.
“Oh yeah I like this bit”, he wriggles on his seat. “By the Power of Sebastiaan”
“By the power of Sebastiaan”
“I will drink far too much Jack Daniels with my fangs in” he says, with a grin.
“I will drink far too much Jack Daniels with my fangs in” I say, smiling back.
“By the power of Sebastiaan”
“By the power of Sebastiaan”
“I will have crazy, amazing sex with my fangs in” he smirks.
“By the Power of Sebastiaan,” he goes on, denying me the chance to repeat the best one. “I will not look in the mirror until Sebastiaan says it’s ok.”
I figure we are done with the whole repeating thing, so I look back at him, and wait. He looks stern. “Well?” he says.
I resist the urge to roll my eyes. “By the Power of Sebastiaan, I will not look in the mirror until Sebastiaan says it’s ok”.
“That’s the most important bit!” he says, motioning for me to open my mouth and hold up my lips with my devil horn pinkies.
I am going through my ‘rite of transformation,’ my awakening as a ‘Sabretooth Vampyre’. The ceremony involves having fangs made by Father Sabastiaan – aka Father Todd, or just Seb to his friends – a leading protagonist in the modern vampire movement, and professional Fangsmith (apparently that’s a thing).
Going through the ceremony qualifies you for entry into the Sabretooth Clan, a global vampyre community first engineered by Seb in the early 90’s. It involves taking the ‘Oath,’ as outlined above, and the ‘Oracle’ – picking a page you are drawn to from the Red Veils and reading it aloud.
A shrewd businessman, Seb’s rule is that he only gives interviews to fang clients. To this end he has made fangs for reporters from The New York Times, CBN, Bloomberg and News Week. Originally from New York, but now living in Paris, Seb has made over 22,000 pairs of fangs in his lifetime, which, at around £100 a pair, isn’t bad business. The process is a heavily guarded secret, although he did teach one other guy to make them, Father Vincent, who then taught four more people, and was swiftly excommunicated.
The fangs are made from professional dental acrylic and moulded around the teeth so they can be slipped on and off like a loose cap. I am not allowed to close my mouth during my own fitting session, resulting in a stream of dribble that cascades down my neck and into my cleavage.
“Why do people like them so much?” I ask, attempting to dam the flood with my shirtsleeve.
He tilts his head and winks. “They make great sex toys,’ he says.
I release the dam and move my hands back to my lips; re-exposing my gums for Seb to insert the caps he has just finished sandpapering. I don’t feel very sexy.
The final stage of the ceremony is the Rite of the Mirror, ‘opening your vampyre eyes for the first time’. I am spun around twice and instructed to take-in my reflection. I open my mouth into a sinister grin to see perfectly shaped white fangs protruding from my canine teeth.
I run my tongue over them and open my lips into a sinister smile. Now I feel sexy.
Having read so much about him in books like The Vampire Codex and on Internet forums, I have to confess to being a bit star struck when I first met Seb that morning. His piercing steel eyes drew me in, as he held my gaze for longer than was comfortable. It was as if he were searching for something deep in my eyes; trying to figure me out; reading me. His size intimidated me, and his confidence had mine cowering in submission. Maybe I have been reading too many vampire books lately, but there really does seem to be something different about him, something ethereal.
“Are you going to talk to me while I have a cigarette or not?” he commands.
“Of course I am,” I trip over my words.
We stand in the London drizzle while I shiver and inhale his second hand smoke. “What do you call people who aren’t vampires?” I ask, hoping to collect another name in exchange for my suffering.
He exhales a smoke caterpillar, “people who hang out with vampires, but aren’t themselves, are called Black Swans”.
Totally worth it.
After a tube journey back to his apartment later that afternoon – me still wearing my fangs – we decide, or Seb decides, that we should go for a coffee.
I sip slowly at my tea as he releases a torrent of consciousness.
“Anne Rice’s vampires were relevant to her era, in the same way Sabretooth Vampyres are relevant to ours,” he begins. “My clients buy my books and read my blogs, and if they vibe with me they join my clan. There have been 700 active members on my site since October (it is now March), but there are about 2000 members in reality”.
He goes on, leaning back on his chair and resting his arms as if sat on a throne. “The vampyre is a metaphor, for immortality, romance, passion, money, love, power, inspiration. These are the interpretations, and I just ritualise the experiences… I am very sensitive to psy vamps. We went on a witch-hunt and kicked all of the psy’s out of my clan… and the Sanguines. I don’t mind if a couple do it as a sacred act between themselves but it’s not a scientific, psychological, or medical fact that someone needs blood”.
I interrupt him. “No, but they don’t believe it’s a scientifically measurable thing do they? It’s about psychic energy which isn’t measurable anyway.” I feel so defensive, I think because of the casual way he is dismissing all other forms of vampirism that aren’t his. It feels a bit supremacist.
“Some do, some don’t,” he says, noncommittally. “Most blood drinkers don’t even drink blood, they just say they do. All they are doing is latching onto an archetype, to have a social network”. He turns over his hands, “I drank blood. There’s no freaking energy in blood, it’s a sexual kink. That’s all it is to me. I did it for seven years, had three donors, they were all clean. We went to the doctors together.”
“Where did you take the blood from?”
“The back, or the lip typically. I thought I needed it, I thought I was a sanguine. But then I broke up with my girlfriend and realised I didn’t need it all. It’s just what you did before we all learnt about hepatitis and HIV. I’m not going to put myself at risk anymore. I am one of the most educated people on vampire culture in the world, and to me, drinking blood is a fetish, simple as that”.
I lean forward onto my elbows, “how often did you do it, in the past?”
“Oh, just during sex,” he says. “If you really think you need that to survive, that’s bullshit, and I like calling people out on bullshit real fast”. His speech gathers pace as he leans forward to meet me, both hands on the table. “Exchanging blood within a loving relationship is sacred. It is the most intimate thing you can do. People who trivialise this as food can go fuck themselves. That’s not food. That’s another person. It’s cannibalism”.
The energy drops as he responds to the vibration of his phone. He reads a message. “I screen people before I have sex with them,” he says, his eyes still fixed on his phone. “I kind of have the rock star thing going on and I get a lot of young girls who are interested in hooking up. Most of them I turn down because I lose energy during sex”.
“What about your girlfriend?” I ask, remembering him mention her earlier.
“Oh Lylou isn’t my girlfriend,” he says, “she’s my sub (a BDSM term for the non-dominant member of a sexual relationship). I vetted her very carefully. I don’t do girlfriends”.
I sense that he wants me to ask more about this, but I’m more interested in the blood drinking.
“How do Sanguines take blood?” I try.
“Oh, they use scalpels and knives and shit. There’s no safe way to do it”.
We leave for the apartment he has rented across the road, me scurrying to keep up with his giant stride. Once there, we sit on the bed and wait for Lylou and her friend to return from a shopping trip. “I haven’t seen Lylou in 6 weeks,” he says. “She’s gonna come in, see me sat on a bed with another women and think I’ve picked up another sub”.
The comment hangs in the air. I choose to ignore it, hoping it’s not a suggestion. I’m sure it would be an exciting and illuminating lifestyle change to become a sub, especially to a famous vampire, but I would struggle to explain the situation to my mum.
Ten minutes later and the girls arrive. They don’t speak very good English so after a brief introduction we sit in crippling silence while Seb uses the adjoining toilet. When he gets out we all troop outside and hail a taxi; bound for Club Antichrist, an ‘industrial, fetish, gothic night’ in Vauxhall.
“You won’t be allowed in wearing that,” Seb tells me as we approach the entrance.
I glance down at my all-black ensemble I had carefully selected this morning. “It’s all I have,” I say, secretly hopeful by the idea of not being let in.
He points at the sign on the door.
No street clothes, No trainers, No ‘normal’ suits, No denim… Naked is not an outfit, even if it’s your ‘thang’. Nudity is fine but you must look the part and make the effort… Our dress code is broad and we are not elitist, but we do want to ensure that everyone attending feels comfortable and safe.
“It’s ok,” he says. “I have a latex dress you can wear,” – he looks me in the eyes – “but you can’t wear any underwear with it”.
Panic floods my body, but Seb holds me in an intense stare that seems to dissipate my terror. I trust him, I realise. I’m not sure why, but I do.
“Follow me,” he says, “we can get changed inside”. I bear my fangs at the doorman as I follow Seb into the kingdom of industrial fetish.
My mouth drops as I take in the scene; whips, latex, naked transsexuals, bridles, tassels, leather dog-masks, zipped-up gimps, chains, people walking from room to room carrying suitcases full of lord knows what, cyber hair, girls kissing each other on the dance-floor dressed in nothing but horns and cat ears. Holy shit.
Lylou and her friend, whose name I still don’t know, make for the toilets. I follow them.
“You will need some lube to get the dress on Lucy,” Seb shouts to Lylou. “Ask around, I think the DJ will have some”.
We walk up to the DJ, and Lylou asks him confidently, and in perfect English if he has any lube we can borrow.
“Sure,” he says, without a moments hesitation, “here you go”. He fishes in his pocket and hands us a few sachets of Durex Synthetic lube.
Once in the toilet, Lylou instructs me to strip. Thankful for my recent naturist experience, I begin to undress as Lylou smirks through her fangs. “Are you shy?” she says, towering over me in a pair of huge platform boots, wearing only leather underwear framed with silver studs
“No,” I answer truthfully, marveling at the absurdity of the situation as I strip to nothing in a toilet of a fetish club, in front of a French vampire, and a complete stranger who doesn’t speak English.
As Lylou opens the packet of lube and starts to rub it over my torso, I suddenly notice that I still have a line of pink diamonds across my bikini line, remnants of vajazzle from my weekend in Essex. Shit. I decide to try and explain.
“It’s a va-ja-zzle”, I say, pointing at it, as if this would do anything to help them understand.
Lylou shrugs, uninterested, and continues to rub the lube over my hips. Once satisfied, she soaks the paper-thin rubber dress in the sink and starts to pull it over my head. It is freezing cold and sticks to every part of me. She gestures for her friend to help, and both spend the next few minutes wrestling me into it. The whole thing is very undignified, as they pick and pull at my flesh, manoeuvring each part into place. Once tucked-in, I am surprised by how comfortable the latex feels against my skin. I grin at my reflection to reveal my fangs as we exit the cubicle.
With only a millimetre of latex between my naked body and the outside world, I feel surprisingly at ease as we walk through the club. I head straight to the dance-floor and dance like nobody is watching, because nobody is. Nobody gives me a second glance, probably because I am actually wearing more than most of the people here.
I mimic the style I had observed at Whitby Goth Weekend; waving my hands in the air, swirling my hips, and moving my head around dramatically as if trying to avoid an angry bee. I have a brief moment of euphoria, before I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and realise I haven’t shaved under my arms for at least a week.
After our dance we head back to visit Seb who is taking fang appointments in the corner from his mobile unit. He looks at me, “you look good!” he says, before turning his attention to Lylou. “When I’ve finished here we’ll go have some fun in The Dark Room”, he says to her, “before it gets too … icky”.
The Dark Room, I discover shortly after, is a chamber of comfortable couches for couples to ‘explore their naughty side’. It is guarded by a woman wearing nothing but black tape over her nipples. Only consenting parties can enter and no one is allowed in alone. A box of tissues sits on a table by the door beside a wooden chest that bursts with serrated foil packets in every colour.
Around the corner, another room, The Play Room, is furnished with wooden stocks, cages, chains, spanking benches, gynae chairs (whatever the hell they are) and ‘medical equipment’. There are experts in the rooms to offer advice on how to use the equipment, and a viewing window for passing voyeurs.
I leave the party at midnight, wondering if my eyes will ever recover.
Running my teeth over my fangs repeatedly in the taxi home, I ponder the absurdity of my day. This is all far more real than I had expected. Vampires are a thing – an actual thing – a subculture as real as Hippies and Naturists. Perhaps a little less glamorous than I had expected (there is nothing alluring about awkwardly extracting spit-covered fangs to eat a packet of Monster Munch) they do exist, and the complexity of their belief system, regardless of its validity, demonstrates an impressive commitment to understanding the phenomena they are part of.
We are all desperate to figure out who we are, desperate for our questions to be answered, especially if we consider ourselves to feel in some way different from most people. Like the Otherkin community, the vampires have pushed the question of identity to the next level, explains Joe Laylock in his book Vampires Today. The question they ask is ‘What if I am not a human being at all?…What if I am something else entirely?’
The rite of the mirror: