By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Sitting on a leather couch in a dark corner of a wine bar in Hollywood, Kristoff is frank about what he likes most about the vampire community: "I'm a sexual opportunist," he says. "For me, being a vampire is about indulging in everything normal people shouldn't."
Dressed in a thin black collared shirt unbuttoned down to his breast bone, the 26-year-old has long dark hair, a set of permanent fangs, white contact lenses, and a series of metal gothic rings and necklaces. He won't discuss his daytime occupation other than to say, "There's only so many things you can do when you look the way I look."
He's more open about his lifestyle, however. Kristoff is on the blood fetishist end of the vampire spectrum. "Blood is the ultimate human energy source, literally the force that keeps us alive," he says. "And sex is the most efficient, effective way to transfer that energy. Think about it: Everyone has had a sexual experience that was so powerful that it left one person so still they're almost catatonic and the other person up and dancing around like they're high. One person just gave the other one all of his energy."
He says combining his love of sex and his love of blood seemed natural. "I think every man has thought about cutting a partner or getting cut during intercourse," he says, sipping from a glass of red wine. "Some people like to use saliva for lube. Other, darker people might like to use blood instead."
For partners, Kristoff says he doesn't discriminate. Men, women, black swans, vampires, werewolves, "whoever wants to play."
On the other end of the spectrum is Nyx, a 20-year-old single mother living in the Brickell area. She calls herself a "hybrid" vampire — she says she can feed off psychic energy or blood. She says the hardest part of being a vampire is dealing with all the people who just don't understand.
"Friends of mine have had their spouses leave them when they found out about this," she says. "They've had their children removed from the house, lost jobs — all for being a vampire."
She doesn't dye her hair or wear all black. Nyx says she's an average girl: a college student hoping to attend medical school one day, someone who loves to shop with her friends. She's even a youth pastor at her church. She doesn't tell people at church about her vampire life. "Not because I'm ashamed; I just know they wouldn't understand." But she says her two lives don't conflict. "We're not immortal. We're not evil beings. Vampires are just different, and what's so wrong with being different? Diversity is a beautiful thing."
Dealing with the stereotypes perpetuated by "posers" who don't know the first thing about the lifestyle, she says, is part of the vampire lifestyle. "You hear kids talking about how they can't see themselves in the mirror or they're 170 years old or they're allergic to garlic. That's fiction. That's not who we are at all."
Like most of her vampire friends, Nyx was a social outcast in school. When life was hard, she would turn to the fantastic worlds of her favorite literature, ancient religions, and mythology. Her vampire name, "Nyx," comes from the Greek goddess of the night.
She believes her vampirism was predetermined. "All my life, I was fascinated with blood, the idea of blood, how it worked. And I was drawn to anything with vampires too." She was already a licensed phlebotomist — trained to draw and test blood in a lab — before she awakened as a vampire. She says she would never consume the blood she works with because that would violate the most important rule of feeding: consent.
"Looking back, I should have known. But most vampires don't awaken until their 20s." She has always been uncomfortable in the sun. "I actually get little red blotches all over my skin." She always preferred night to day. And since she was a little girl, she suffered from random asthma attacks. "I went to doctors, and they gave me medicine, but it never worked. I went to allergists, and they said I'm perfectly normal, whatever normal is."
The only thing that works is blood and energy consumption, she says. "I believe strongly in science, but this is beyond what science and medicine can prove. I've asked a lot of people, and nobody has an explanation for why I require this different method of feeding."
Every two weeks, she feeds from one of the donors in the private database she has compiled with her vampire friends. She says it's never with a stranger and never in front of her baby — feeding in the presence of minors is generally forbidden.
She also has a lighter side. Unlike most vampires, Nyx says she has a special fondness for the Twilight series, especially Edward, the teen vampire who must learn to control his urges. She read the books and saw the movie in the theater with a fellow vampire. "It's embarrassing, but yeah, we were there with our Edward shirts on, ready to quote every line."