Meet bloodthirsty Julia Caples – a mum of two with a taste for the red stuff.
No, not a nice glass of wine – human blood.
Julia, 46, a vampire fanatic from Pennsylvania, has been sucking blood straight from human donors for 30 years, and has been known to guzzle two litres a month.
The mum of two says she is part of a huge underground sub-culture of other blood drinkers around the world, and doctors say the craze is gaining momentum because of the success of vampire-based books, including the Twilight series.
Julia, a care worker, says she tries to keep her unusual tastes away from son Alexi, 11, and daughter Ariel, 24, but invites willing donors to her home, cutting them with a 'pagan' – a sterilised knife she designed herself.
She believes that drinking life blood from others keeps her feeling young and vigorous – just like ageless vampires from cult movies.
"When I feed off of a person and drink their blood I feel stronger and healthier," she said. "I know scientifically there's not a lot nutrition in blood, but maybe there's some value we haven't discovered yet.
I feel more beautiful than any other time when I'm regularly drinking. I''m also extremely healthy with no major health problems, and I have an abundance of energy all the time. At times I've drunk half a gallon a month.
Julia's fascination with blood began as a young girl, during her first kiss as a teenager, when she got the urge to bite her partner with disastrous consequences.
"It was my natural instinct and I liked the taste," she said. "I just got an urge and can't really explain it. It's never gone away. Needless to say though, he never kissed me again!"
She began drinking blood regularly with her ex-husband Donald, 49. The pair – who are still good friends – married in a vampire-themed ceremony, and drank from each to celebrate.
Daughter Ariel said she worries about her mum's bloody habit, but Julia is adamant she has safety measures in place. "I meet some donors online but I absolutely have to meet them in person first," said Julia. "And they have to get blood tests to make sure that they're not carrying any blood borne diseases like AIDS or HIV."
Steven Gruenstein, Haematologist at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, says a variety of cultures have been drinking blood for thousands of years but it could be due to deficiencies in the body. Commenting on Julia's lifestyle he said:
"I would absolutely discourage someone from ingesting raw human blood. There are risks involved. HIV, hepatitis and other viral and bacterial illnesses can be transmitted through blood, so though these risks are not large, they are real and it would be an unnecessary danger.
"Blood does contain chemicals like salt, iron, protein, and people might be driven to drink it because of a deficiency of iron or some other chemical.
"There has been a resurgence of cult drinking blood vampirism in this country and throughout the world, possibly down to all these TV shows and movies that have become so popular."
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