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In their lairs : Vampires have become a big part of the pop culture. But even before their recent surge in popularity, they had left their marks in many places. Garlic is optional.

November 15, 2009|Krista Simmons

Vampires have long been objects of fascination in history, literature and lore. With the Nov. 20 release of "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," HBO's "True Blood" and their countless imitators, Americans are welcoming vampires into their homes again. Though many consider Transylvania to be the lair of vampirism, there's plenty of vampire culture right here. Whether you have just come out of the coffin or long thirsted for night life, these locations offer plenty of opportunities to explore the dark side.

Exeter, R.I.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries in New England, many believed vampires were the source of the rampant transmission of tuberculosis. According to folklorist Michael Bell, author of "Food for the Dead," there are at least 40 documented cases in which corpses were exhumed and their vital organs burned and stakes driven through the hearts in attempts to halt the alleged vampires from spreading the disease.

The most famous case of exhumation is that of Mercy Brown of Exeter, whose brother Edwin had contracted tuberculosis. Because of the cold temperatures and the fact that she had recently died, Mercy's heart still contained blood that was not frozen or blackened. It was decided that she was a vampire, Edwin was forced to drink her blood, and Mercy's vital organs were burned. H.P. Lovecraft, who's buried in Providence's Swan Point Cemetery, wrote about Mercy's case in "The Shunned House." It's also said that Bram Stoker used Mercy as reference for "Dracula."

The Providence Biltmore, a historic building with imposing chandeliers and a giant '20s-style ballroom, is an ideal spot to stay while visiting. The hotel is near Swan Point Cemetery and 20 minutes from the more bucolic Exeter, where Brown is buried in Chestnut Hill Cemetery. With the advent of winter, this New England sojourn will undoubtedly supply plenty of darkness for the photosensitive.

Providence Biltmore Hotel: 11 Dorrance St., Providence, R.I.; (800) 294-7709, www.providencebiltmore .com. Doubles from $119.

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New Orleans

Whether it's the fictional town of Bon Temps in the "True Blood" series or the setting of Anne Rice's vampire novels, New Orleans and environs are well-known in vampire lore.

Oak Alley Plantation, built in 1839, was the location for Lestat's mansion in the movie version of "Interview With the Vampire." Its antebellum plantation cottages now have been converted into a bed-and-breakfast at this house on the banks of the Mississippi River about an hour from New Orleans.

Though "True Blood's" Fangtasia bar has no true brick and mortar, there are plenty of other watering holes for the undead in New Orleans' historic French Quarter: Sip a Dragon's Blood cocktail at Ye Olde Original Dungeon, which is decorated with coffins and cages.

Before you head out into the night, you might want to stock up on some vampire gear at Boutique du Vampyre, where you can get the Vamp N.R.G. drink or vampire-attracting perfume. Historic New Orleans Tours offers twilight excursions through the French Quarter that visit locations in Rice's novels as well as for "Interview With the Vampire" and "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant."

Oak Alley Plantation: 3645 Highway 18, Vacherie, La. (225) 265-2151, www.oakalleyplantation .com. Doubles from $200. Ye Olde Original Dungeon, 738 Toulouse St., New Orleans; (504) 523-5530, www.originaldungeon.com. Boutique du Vampyre, 712 rue Orleans, New Orleans; (504) 561-8267, www.feelthebite.com/home.html; Historic New Orleans Tours, (504) 947-2120, www.tourneworleans.com.

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New York

Its dark, monochromatic interior makes Gotham's Night Hotel an ideal haven for bloodsuckers and night dwellers. Designed three years ago by Mark Zeff, the hotel's decor is accented with giant Gothic-style pillars, black-and-white leather chairs, black horsehair couches, pillows, antique wooden armoires, bookshelves and black-and-white erotic photographic prints.

Inside the hotel's lounge, Nightlife, a jail cell door keeps the bartender behind the bar. Check out the NewGothCity website at www.newgothcity.com for goth events and parties.

For a less vamp-sclusive outing, a must-do is Death & Co., which features cocktails such as the Sleepy Hollow Fizz (rum, lemon juice, maple syrup, pumpkin puree and egg yolk) and the aptly named 18th Century cocktail (Batavia Arrack, creme de cacao, vermouth and fresh lime juice). You might also stop by the Vampire Freaks clothing store to pick up new threads and info on the East Village's gothic and vamp parties.

Night Hotel: 132 W. 45th St., N.Y.; (212) 835-9600, www.night hotelny.com. Doubles from $199. Death & Co., 433 E. 6th St., N.Y.; (212) 388-0882, www.deathand company.com. Vampire Freaks, 189 Ave. A, New York; (212) 505-8267, http://vampirefreaks.com/store.

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Forks, Wash.

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