Actual Vampires Live in New Orleans. We Talked to One of Them.
By Versace McClendon
Ever wondered how to take your blood donation to the next level?
It goes without saying that Belfazaar Michael Bousum Ashantison has a type.
“My favorite is A-positive. Vegan blood tastes bland. If they drink too much then it tastes a little like bleach.”
Yes, Belfazaar—Zaar for short—is a vampire. But don’t get him twisted with the creature of legend: he doesn’t burn in the sunlight; he can be killed by a lot more than just a stake through the heart; and far from invisible, Zaar’s reflection in the mirror is that of a long-haired, genial fellow.
However, the man is out for blood—preferably blood from a carnivorous teetotaler pumping A+ thick through their veins. And he’s not alone.
Zaar heads the House of Mystic Echoes, a subset of the New Orleans-based organization of self-identifying vampires, or NOVA. But what does it mean to be a modern vampire of the city? Well, as Zaar sees it, vampirism is a physiological condition in which the afflicted is unable to “reproduce any at all or enough of the daily essential energies” to, you know, lead a normal life.
“I’m using energy in its loosest sense,” Zaar said. “What we ingest becomes energy. For whatever reason our [his and other vampires’] bodies don’t produce enough of that energy.”
Proteins and carbs from chicken and pasta just don’t cut the mustard.
Zaar is forced to suck energy from a “living source” lest his skin turn dry and ashy, his eyes dull, his hair limp and his mind listless.
“Literally I’ve been prescribed everything from neonatal vitamins to vitamin shots in the ass. But for whatever reason I still don’t produce enough energy,” he said.
Even animal blood doesn’t do the trick. According to Zaar, “the only thing it can do is curb my hunger. It doesn’t sate me in any way. It just keeps me from going stir-crazy. So I do mix blood into wine every now and then. I use beef blood and a nice merlot. But, you know, pork blood just makes it too salty.”
It was during a church-bus incident that he discovered what he believes to be the curing powers of blood. Zaar was ever the sickly child, but he had one hell of a temper. For one reason or another his uncle had pinned down his arm to his side. In response, Zaar took a deep bite out of his uncle’s arm, tearing through coat, t-shirt and flesh—an impromptu communion if there ever was one.
Yet, for better or worse, a drop of blood splashed into his mouth, giving Zaar the energy to play with the other church kids for the rest of the day. One of the church members, a vampiress herself, noticed his shift in energy and took him under her wing (with parental permission, of course) to teach him all that he knows.
Fortunately, not all of Zaar’s donors have to get 36 stitches after he feeds upon them as is the case with his uncle. Today, his blood comes from willing participants. Currently, he has 4 donors who have gone through at least 3 blood tests and agreed to his “Donor Bill of Rights,” which gives a better balance to the vampire/donor relationship.
However, equality has not been achieved. Remember, modern vampires are taking energy away from their donors. After having been fed upon for the first time, one donor felt as if he had the flu for the next three days. When asked if he felt guilty about taking energy away from his donors, he replied rhetorically, “do you feel guilty about the fried chicken and pork chop you eat?”
But being a modern vampire is not just about taking. Every Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, the vampire community feeds the homeless and hungry in Jackson Square in order to give back to the New Orleans community that has been so accepting of their condition. It’s an aim to equalize the imbalance that is inherent in the struggle between vampire and victim.
In a way, they are feeding the community that feeds them. But don’t worry, blood isn’t on the menu.