Vampires are apparently real…did you know? You might want to stay away from this place if you don’t want to get bitten.

Independent – John Edgar Browning met his first “real vampire” in a Gothic apparel store.

A doctoral candidate at Louisiana State University at the time, Browning had already been on the hunt for several months. He was talking to the store owner of Wicked Orleans, a Gothic-style clothing and leather shop in New Orleans’s French Quarter, when a middle-aged woman and two teenage boys walked through the door.

The store owner stopped mid-sentence. This woman, he motioned, was one of the people Browning was looking for.

Nervously, Browning approached her and started talking to her about his ethnographic study of “real vampires.” To be clear, these aren’t people who possess the supernatural powers that we associate with the likes of Count Dracula, but rather individuals who claim to have a medical condition that requires them to drink blood (human or animal) in order to sustain themselves.

Members of this community have chosen to identify themselves as “vampires” in defiance of the negative images that the label evokes. Did she know anyone who fit that description?

The woman smiled, and Browning had his answer — her open lips revealed teeth that had been filed to a point, like fangs.

“I call it my ‘first time,’ ” Browning told The Washington Post of the inaugural encounter. Though the woman never did give him a call as promised, Browning soon found himself in the company of vampires again at a nightclub. Then, several weeks following that, he met an “elder vampire” who invited him to attend meetings of the New Orleans Vampire Association (NOVA).

Browning, who has spent his entire academic life studying the depiction of vampires in film and literature, originally thought that there must be something deranged about real people who identify with the characters that seem more suited to horror movies than a historic district in Louisiana.

Read more: Independent