John Edgar Browning, a former doctoral candidate at Louisiana State University, spent five years of his life conducting a field study - about the existence and lifestyles of “real” vampires.
Browning studied individuals, who, rather than possess supernatural powers, claim to have a certain medical condition requiring them to drink human and/or animal blood in order to sustain their health.
Browning spent most of his academic career studying vampires and their depiction in literature and film. He then thought that in order to complete his studies, he should study those individuals who claim they are actually vampires - living in the historic district of Louisiana.
Browning, who is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Georgia Institute of Technology stated that, “Until 2009, the only area of vampire studies that I hadn’t approached was real vampires. I think I subconsciously saved it for last because I just thought what a lot of people think: that they must be crazy and have read too much fictional work about vampires.”
Browning’s research included reviewing surveys that have found there over 5,000 people in the United States who identify as true, legitimate vampires.
Very aware of public perception, these communities of vampires largely keep to themselves as they do not want to attract unwanted attention. Browning’s preconceived notion that these people were crazy soon changed as he got to know them. He noted that, “After a short period of time I realized that they weren’t crazy. At least, they weren’t any crazier than your Average Joe.”
According to Browning’s research, an individual’s vampirism symptoms begin to manifest in the pre-teen years. These people find themselves weak for no reason. By accident, they tend to discover that ingesting blood gives them an instant burst of energy. This may happen when a lip is bitten on accident or they put their mouth on a cut. They then realize the power of ingesting blood.
Also according to Browning, the vampires he interviewed indicated they could not control their urge for blood - with most needing to ingest blood around two or three times a week.
Interestingly, many people who identify themselves as blood drinkers wish they were not vampires. One woman told Browning that, “Many of us would rather not go through the cyclic symptoms and just be happy to live life like a normal person.” Another individual proclaimed that, “If the cause could be identified, I would most certainly take a pharmaceutical pill.”
Most vampires hide their conditions from their healthcare providers because they are well aware of the stigma attached to vampires. And, those who have had the courage to talk to their doctors have never been given a medical explanation for their urges.
Browning’s research led to him find that most of the vampires were, on the outside, ‘normal’ in society’s eyes. They were married, had friends and careers and many did not reveal their identity to their children. Also, many vampires were not aware of the current films and television shows that predominantly feature vampires. Therefore, they were not super-fans obsessed with a particular story or character.
They simply have no idea how they became vampires.