What comes to mind when you hear the words “real-life vampires?” Do you think of Dracula sipping a rare vintage of A+ from a wing-backed chair in his haunted mansion? Or something more akin to soapy teenage drama of The Vampire Diaries? Heck, maybe your mind goes straight to Count Chocula (we don’t judge).

While you've got the fangs and even the blood right, the vamps that call the Bayou City home say the rest of the portrait pop culture paints isn’t quite on the money. For one, they don’t hang out in dank, dark caves. And they prefer the steady stream of bass thumping at local clubs, like Montrose’s Numbers Nightclub, to creepy organ music. Not to mention these creatures of the night spend their so-called “day side” contributing to Houston’s community as doctors, lawyers, police officers and even stay-at-home parents, says Mikael and Alisha Kage, king and queen of the Houston Vampire Court (HVC).

“The most hurtful stereotype is that we are messy eaters,” says Mikael Kage, who presides over a court of more than 40 vampires alongside his queen. “With movie vampires, is any of it even getting in their mouths?”

Adds Alisha Kage, “It’s so wasteful.”

Found in 2012, the HVC has become a haven for any spooky person needing the support of like-minded individuals. In fact, says Mikael Kage, it’s the only court of its kind in Houston, even though the community’s been here 25 years. But before we delve into that, let’s answer the question we know you’re just dying to ask: How does someone become a vampire?

Well, you can’t just force it. And you definitely can’t ask a member of the undead to “turn” you (yes, that’s an actual request they get—a lot, says Mikael Kage). Instead people experience what is called an awakening. No, not like the undead rising out of their coffins à la Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It really centers on someone seeking out information on vampires and then finding a home within the vampire community. “People are looking for an escape from the reality they are in,” Mikael Kage says. With everything going on these days, we totally get that.

HVC meets about four or five times a month, typically at Numbers or a local witch’s market, though the pandemic has forced them to relocate online. These courtly meetings aren’t just for socializing with other bloodsuckers. They often focus on larger projects the vampire community have coming up—philanthropy projects, to be exact.

One of their coolest and most successful projects to date is a drive to eliminate student lunch debt in the Houston region. Since gathering information from every single independent school district in the area in 2018, members have been contacting individual schools and donating to pay off a child’s lunch debt, Alisha Kage explains. “You don't have to look far to find a story of a friend or loved one with children who had to go hungry. We knew that just a little bit from each of us, doing what we could, would make an impact.”

Of course, you don’t earn the moniker of “spooky do-gooders” because of just one project. The HVC donates food to local charities and drops presents off at local toy drives every holiday season. They also help their own kind find employment opportunities or pay bills during financially difficult times. And after the court gathers for its annual Nightshade Ball, 25 percent of the event’s proceeds go straight to charities (last year, they donated $1,800 to animal shelters, rehabilitation centers, and projects aimed at stopping human trafficking, in case you’re wondering).

A lot of this work isn’t done as part of large, organized events; more often, individual members seek out information on local charity work and then make it known to the entire court so others can help whenever they have time. And, outside of that annual ball, they never keep a penny of what they make in the name of giving. If you ask us, that sounds like philanthropy worth sinking your fangs—err—teeth into.

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