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Vampire Pangs: Bleeding Love
by Trevor Ballanger
Assistant Arts & Culture Editor
Their razor-sharp teeth protrude from the corners of their mouths as they breathe on the necks of their victims. They are the mythical creatures that parents tell their children aren’t real before bed. But their essence is alive and well for those who choose to see the world through the absence of sunlight.
Among the many sights Chicago has to offer, one in particular goes relatively unnoticed. While they may not turn into bats or appear stiff with rigor mortis, vampires do exist, and they might be closer than you think. The vampirism culture in Chicago offers a unique insight into the human experience.
The vampire dominatrix known to her clients as Mistress Cleo LaVamp wakes up in the afternoon, sometimes as late as 4 p.m. Long black hair cascades down her body, almost to her hips. A black leather bustier is tightly strapped around her voluptuous, delicately pink body. Her hands hold a long piece of chain, and she’s looking directly at you with a
Welcome to Continuum Dungeon LeVamp’s vampire club that caters to bondage, discipline and sado-masochism. She is the head mistress at Continuum and currently employs 10 other mistresses, with five more in training.
On the first Friday of each month, she hosts a private gathering for local vampires, a small community in comparison to other cities, but one she said is very close-knit. All are welcome to attend the gatherings, which usually draw 10–20 people. Along with the vampire guests, non-vampires come to offer themselves as blood donors for feeding, while others are simply curious observers.
“As I awakened as a vampire, I began exploring my interest in BDSM,” LaVamp said. “When someone is engaging in a BDSM scene, obviously different types of energies [are] generated within the person. It’s very easy to feed directly on those energies.”
Chad Hawks, host of many local vampire events, said he’s identified himself with the vampire community nearly all of his life. Five years ago, he even modified his teeth to be fangs. Despite the misconception that all vampires are intimidating, he said he has more ties to the emotional aspect of vampirism, as the atmosphere can be darker than he feels comfortable with.
Hawks said the response to his physical modification and unique lifestyle hasn’t been that negative. He works at a corporate company in the city, where he said co-workers are accepting and tolerant of his choice. In public, people are more curious about him than being disapproving.
“That’s now who you are,” Hawks said. “It took a while to become non-apologetic about that. No one has ever said anything derogatory, and certainly not hurtful. It’s been very interesting to see how people react.”
Chad Savage is a vampire enthusiast who co-owns Vampire Social Club and ChicagoVampire.com with his wife, Lady A, an event planner for horror-themed parties. He said it’s important to remain open minded about the varying interpretations of the topic.
When Savage was 18, he became drawn to the growing vampirism movement after reading Anne Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire” in 1987. Because the Internet was virtually non-existent, Savage said enthusiasts like himself relied on fanzines and correspondence networks that perpetuated the history and mythology of “all things spooky” to further their interest.
While no solid proof of the infamous undead creatures exists, Savage said he considers it a strange coincidence that countries completely isolated from each other were able to document the same stories at the same time.
He said, in most instances, research would reveal the involvement of a dragon, a great flood and the presence of a formerly living creature who takes something from a person to sustain itself. In this case, the substance in question is blood.
Hawks said raw flesh is a major part of his diet but finds the thought of being a vampire more romantic than intimidating because his personality leans toward the giving side. While he has consumed blood, he said it isn’t something he seeks out regularly.
Sanguine vampires say they are allowed to consume blood in Chicago because there is no law that states otherwise. According to LaVamp, when donors make themselves available at Continuum, they are required to go through medical testing before being fed on.
According to LaVamp, not all vampires are sanguine and instead choose to feed off of a person’s other energies. She said she is sanguine and feeds off of one primary source—her slave, who sought her out months before she accepted him because she wanted to ensure he was sufficiently dedicated to the BDSM lifestyle.
LaVamp said she drinks his blood directly by making a small incision on his body with a scalpel and sucking the wound, usually drinking approximately two tablespoons. In some cases, she and vampires like her will ingest almost nothing but blood for up to two months.
Savage said he doesn’t know anyone who drinks blood but feels people who do so are disillusioned. He said immersing oneself in the dark, gothic atmosphere is ground that should be treaded lightly because it’s easy to become lost, but that the same outcome can occur in anything from cooking to religion.
“If you are a balanced person, you are going to handle it in a balanced way,” Savage said. “But, that’s true of everything. There are crazy Christian people who do crazy things for Christ, [and] there are crazy vampire people who do really weird things because they think they’re vampires. And of course, when they do that, it makes everybody who’s into this stuff look ridiculous.”
According to Martina M. Cartwright, a registered dietician and adjunct faculty member in the Nutritional Sciences Department at the University of Arizona, the act of consuming the blood of a living creature is perhaps a metaphor for taking energy, though today people literally perform the act. She said historically people drank blood believing it was a health elixir with the ability to transfer youthful qualities.
“The desire to drink it varies from person to person,” Cartwright said. “Sometimes it’s a social thing. Some people actually say that they do crave it.”
Drinking blood comes with a number of health risks, according to her. Blood, like raw meat, should be stored properly because it is conducive to bacterial growth and transferring disease.
Although the vampire scene is more prevalent and easy to find in places like New York, Savage said Chicago was once a hotbed for vampire culture in the early 1990s. He said during this time, Chicago produced much of the art, music and literature of the lifestyle, something he continues with his website, SinisterVisions.com, and providing design layouts for other horror-based groups.
He and Lady A have been known to host vampire-themed parties. Hawks said she has been a “leading force” in uniting people with the same beliefs and culture, giving them a safe environment to do what they love.
On April 13–14, Savage will sponsor Chicago Fear Fest, a two-day horror film festival, in an effort to reestablish Chicago’s horror fan base. Savage is also part of Zombie Army Productions, which will host a zombie prom at Excalibur.
Some public events are held in the interest of the vampire community but are typically frequented by supporters of the lifestyle and enthusiasts. Until Feb. 17, Late Bar Chicago, 3534 W. Belmont Ave., hosted a once-monthly gathering of the Vampire Social Club. A fetish night is currently hosted by LaVamp at Exit, 1315 W. North Ave.
Vampire stories have become a cultural phenomenon in recent years on films, TV and the publication of books like “The Twilight Saga” by Stephenie Meyer and “The Vampire Diaries” by L.J. Smith, which are primarily directed at teenagers. The genre’s predecessors shed a darker light on the world of vampires.
“I look at it like a gateway drug,” Savage said. “My hope is that for every teenage girl that reads ‘Twilight’ and thinks Stephenie Meyer invented vampire books, there’s somebody else that reads and goes, ‘Well, I kind of like that. I wonder what else there is,’ and goes out and finds the books that are actually good.”
In response to those who may consider the vampire culture evil, LaVamp said she thinks people watch too many movies because the Hollywood version of a vampire is nothing like what they are in real life. She added that being part of the vampirism movement is nothing to be ashamed of.
“Most people are raised into it; some people are born this way,” LaVamp said. “It’s difficult at the start because you don’t know how to control it. It’s a learning process. It’s a lot of spiritual work to build up to having the proper control of it.”