I vant to drink my -- er, your blood

In the process of writing his latest book, "The Dead Travel Fast: Stalking Dracula From Nosferatu to Count Chocula," Eric Nuzum needed to do some research. So he ... well, let's let him tell it:

Author Eric Nuzum"It happened right before I moved to D.C. I had taken a job here and arranged it so I had about three weeks off between jobs ... I had my last appointment with my doctor in Ohio before I left. And he had to take my blood for a regular blood test. He was a nice guy, very sweet, a little older -- probably close to retirement -- and he's drawing the blood, and I ask him, 'Would you draw a vial for me?'

"And he looks at me like, 'What do you mean?' And I start spouting off this whole thing about, 'Oh, you know, I'm doing this research...'

"And he looks at me and he goes 'Like Billy Bob?'

"And I said, 'Yeah!'

"He says, 'No.'

"So he walks out and I'm like, 'Now what am I gonna do?' But I'm sitting there and there's the cart with all the supplies, so I just go bloop, bloop, bloop and put them in my backpack.

"So I went home -- I had actually gone out to breakfast because I wasn't allowed to eat the night before -- and I thought, 'I'm just gonna do exactly what I saw him do.' I was scared that once I got it in I wouldn't be able to stop. I just kind of lined up some gauze as and stuck it in. It hardly even hurt; it was like, 'Oh, it's filling up. Yay!' So I just waited and it stopped and I thought, 'Wow, this is all going so well.'

"In my research, I had found out that blood tastes better chilled," Nuzum continued, "so I put it in a cocktail shaker with some ice and I shook it and poured it out into a cup ... and I just shot it back. All I remember feeling is as it passed right behind my collarbone, I realized I was gonna be sick. And I don't think it was the physical taste. I think it was just at that moment it dawned on me what I was doing. ... As soon as my foot hit the bathroom tile it was all over -- I didn't even get close to the sink or the toilet. It was everywhere. There was breakfast in it, too. I don't mean to be gross, but I had tried to keep it in my mouth and that was the real mistake.

"I was so scared about my wife, who was then my girlfriend, finding out that when I was done with that bathroom, 'CSI' couldn't have found a speck, I mean, it was spotless. I actually got praised when I came home for cleaning the bathroom on my day off.

"It took me a year to work up the courage to tell her that I had done this. She didn't care at all. She was like, 'That was really dumb.'"


Some people hit the library, some call up experts to troll the Internet -- Nuzum drank his own blood. Such is the perverse dedication of this author and NPR's director of programming and acquisitions, whose "The Dead Travel Fast" was released in September.

In the course of this entertaining ride on the cloak-tails of popular culture's most famous undead citizens, Nuzum dresses in vampire drag to attend a Vampire Ball, hangs out with Butch Patrick of "The Munsters" on a vampire tour of Romania, pops out of a coffin at an elaborate haunted house in Oregon, meets "Dark Shadows" fans at a convention, tries to turn himself into a vampire thanks to a "Six Easy Lessons" pamphlet penned by one "Madame X," sits through countless vampire movies ("Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter" emerging as a favorite) and spends an awful lot of time in chain restaurants meeting self-identified vampires. Most of whom, for some reason, turn out to be African-American. Oh, and he drank his own blood, but not for long.

Nuzum is not insensible to the kitsch factor of his subject -- after all, his reading on Tuesday at Wonderland Ballroom will feature free fangs at the door, specialty cocktails "The Blood Bath" and "Boodshot" and a DJ -- but "The Dead Travel Fast" is packed with facts and historical detail. The author's experience takes center stage, but his meticulousness adds to the great store of vampire lore and clears up many misconceptions.

"I decided to write a book about writing a book about vampires," he explained. "It's almost like a meta-memoir of the process of writing the book that people are reading.

"A lot of people who write books are experts about what they write about. I'm not that kind of a writer. I'm more of like a general reporter, where I follow what's interesting to me and sort of become an expert on something."

Nuzum doesn't peremptorily reject the glamorous image of the vampire -- in fact, he found the subculture less romantic than expected. The Court of Lazarus' "Vampire Ball," for example, was hardly something out of Anne Rice. More like something out of Anne Rice fans.

"You think it's going to be really elegant," said Nuzum, "and it's so cheesy. But I don't think they see it that way. And I'll be honest with you: I was very scared about going there, and my wife was scared. Because we had no idea what was gonna happen or how I would be received."

With a report that the Court knew more about him than he did about them, it turns out -- "they knew where I lived, where I worked. I didn't even know their real names" -- and the revelation that self-proclaimed vampires are people, too.

"I wanted to demystify things, because when you strip away the fangs and the clothing and the pancake makeup, you basically have every geek that you went to high school with, including yourself," Nuzum said. "When I see them, it became very quickly impossible for me to see anyone who declares themselves as a vampire as actually being a vampire. When I hung out with a bunch of people in Jillian's in Arundel Hills Mall, and I walk up and they're all black, at that moment, they stop being vampires and started just being a group of people who have this thread of connection to each other."

Nuzum even traveled to Whitby on the English coast, which Bram Stoker cited as Count Dracula's British landing place. There, the author sorted truth from fiction, with some difficulty.

"All the events and places in Whitby are based on actual things, and we're sitting on the Stoker Bench ... I pointed out to my wife, 'Oh, that's where Dracula turned into a wolf and ran up and down the steps, and he keeled over here' and so on. I'm talking about them like they really happened. One thing that's shockingly difficult to believe is how Dracula had hidden himself in that cemetery, because there are no mausoleums there, or even a hiding place; it's just all headstones. There's not even, like a tree with shade."

But Eric, Dracula doesn't exist. His Children of Night, however, proclaim themselves frequently. What they don't do is show up. Why is it so hard to meet a vampire?

"A lot of people like to say they're a vampire. They have a little ceremonial routine they do when they meet people, but if you ask them questions about it, about what it really means, they have no idea. ... I think they may have been a little scared of being outed, for lack of a better term, and becoming an object of public ridicule. A lot of people have no problem saying things about themselves on the Internet."

Nuzum threw himself into the writing of this book, but just because it's on the stands, doesn't mean he's free from the company of bloodsuckers as long as he's doing readings. (Just don't give him vampire-headed Pez dispensers.)

It might seem odd that a writer would produce the book "Parental Advisory: Music Censorship in America" and then turn around and buy a ticket to Transylvania.

But Nuzum has an explanation:

"I think that I gravitate toward fanatics."

Source: written by Arion Berger


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Fanged Films

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

Drawn to Vamps?

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Vol. 1 No. 17