We couldn’t resist a trip back to New Orleans in May! Of course all the food and fun are a big plus, but we also had some work to do. Objective: an interview with a vampire.

Belfazaar Ashantison doesn’t get the designation “vampire” because he likes to run around in a cape and fake fangs (although he admits he does dress up for fun once in awhile). He is a member of the New Orleans Vampire Association, a group of people who identify as vampires because they have a need to drink blood in order to maintain their health. Belfazaar describes himself as a jeans and T-shirt kind of guy, and is quick to point out that vampires like him don’t drink blood just for the fun of it. He says they are born with a characteristic that requires them to consume blood (from willing donors, by the way, not “victims”) in order to maintain the same level of health and energy that other people derive from eating properly.

We learned a lot about the vampire world from Belfazaar, but one of the chief takeaways we got from the interview was that self-identified vampires, by and large, are just like everyone else. They have the same problems, hopes, and needs that everyone else has. Many of the people we’ve interviewed for this series have been marginalized because of their connections with death, but like Belfazaar, they’re all very human at the end of the day. It’s one of the biggest takeaways we’ve gotten from our journey.