From popular TV shows like "True Blood" to hit movies like "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," the lust for vampire stories seems to be insatiable. "New Moon" broke box office records this past weekend, earning more than $250 million in worldwide.
But are vampires anything more than fiction?
In New Orleans' French Quarter, a man who goes by the name Belfazaar Ashantison claims to be a real-life vampire. He says he suffers from a physiological condition that prevents him from "creating enough of the essential daily energies to get through even the basic tasks," making him feel perpetually drained.
"I am a vampire," said Belfazaar, 44, who works as a "spiritual consultant" at a shop called Voodoo Authentica. "My method of getting to that energy source is through the blood."
Whether you believe him or not, Belfazaar insists that to stay healthy he must feed on blood. And he's not alone in his beliefs. He is an elder in a secretive but widespread community of people who are convinced they are real vampires.
"It's a worldwide phenomenon," said Katherine Ramsland, professor of forensic psychology at DeSales University and author of "The Science of Vampires." She has spent years studying the vampire subculture.
"Some people are misfits," she said. "Some people are just creative people who don't feel they fit into normal society. Some people find the vampire a very empowering figure and they want to identify with that."
These self-described vampires believe they have an "energy leak," which makes them sick, depressed, lethargic, and say that only by feeding on other people's energy or blood do they feel better.
Belfazaar and all the other self-described vampires 20/20 spoke to for this story preferred not to be identified by their real names.
In fiction, when vampires feed they kill. However, in the strange world of so-called real vampires, there is an etiquette to drinking blood. According to Belfazaar, they don't attack strangers and bite them on the neck the way horror films show them.
"I find that abhorrent behavior to force a feeding on anybody," said Belfazaar.
He said that he feeds two to three times a week, sometimes on blood, sometimes on what he calls "psychic energy," and always on consenting donors.
There are different ways to carry out a blood feed, according to those in the vampire community. Some sanguine vampires draw blood from a vein, transfer it to a glass and then drink it.
Others like Belfazaar practice mouth-to-wound feeding. To lift the veil on what society considers taboo, he agreed to demonstrate what he describes as "a safe blood feed."
In front of 20/20 cameras, Belfazaar removed his prosthetic fangs, which he wears to "break the ice" in social situations with people who may be curious about his lifestyle. He then rinsed with mouthwash and sterilized the skin of his donor -- measures which he said are meant to keep things safe.
A man calling himself Bo was the donor. It wasn't his first time.
"It's not comfortable, but it doesn't hurt," he said. "I mean, it's not any worse than getting a piercing or a tattoo."
Belfazaar used an exacto knife to make a small cut on Bo's back. As blood flowed, Belfazaar drank it directly from the wound.