First Person | Getting Fanged

IMG_0090Alexa Tsoulis-Reay Carlos Rodriguez, a customer of the fang-maker known as Father Sebastiaan, shows off his new fangs. The author, while researching an article on vampire culture, purchased a custom-made set of the prosthetics, too.

On a recent soggy fall evening just past 7 p.m., I found myself standing on Fourth Avenue, smoking a cigarette while my new custom-made vampire fangs set. Next to me hovered a six-foot tall man dressed in a shiny black butcher’s apron, splattered with white paste, like he had been interrupted while baking a cake. A black cowboy hat sat upon his long-blonde hair.

Meet Father Sebastiaan aka Sebastiaan van Houten: Master Fangsmith, a self-described living vampire and head of the Sabretooth Clan.

“The Father,” as he is commonly known, has lived in Paris since 2007. Attracted by the scent of Halloween, he returns to the East Village every October to custom design removable fangs. He sets up shop in a tiny red and black windowless room, just past the pirate costumes inside the Halloween Adventure costume store on Fourth Avenue near 11th Street. He is assisted by Victor Magnus, whom he met in 1995 in a Greenwich Village magic store and who now runs the New York arm of the fang business.

I had been researching vampire culture and heard that I must talk to Father Sebastiaan, fang-maker extraordinaire. When we met for the first time, he insisted that I experience the fang design firsthand to truly understand his craft. After some convincing, I submitted to the procedure.

Seated inside his cramped workroom, I was instructed to use my pinkies to stretch open my mouth and reveal the top of my teeth and gums. I felt like a cat, about to get an oral vaccination. “I’ll make them subtle,” he said, then, turning to Mr. Magnus, who hovered nearby, he added, “We don’t want to make her look like a beaver.” Next, I was told to roar and throw a pair of devil’s horns. This took some time for me to perfect.

That preamble is part of the “Rite of the Mirror,” which refers to the moment when you see yourself in fangs for the first time. Father Sebastiaan instructs customers not to peer at their reflections until the fangs are fitted. He likes to record the response customers have when they observe the moment of transformation. 
Those fitted with fangs — Father Sebastiaan does about 100 custom-made sets a season (my set cost $100) — become members of the Sabretooth Clan. Father Sebastiaan won’t disclose the specific number of people in the clan, but insists that it is “lots.” He has just written “The Clan Sabretooth” book, which combines his biography with information about his business.

Next, Father Sebastiaan painted paste on my teeth and pressed on the tooth-shaped prosthetics. Then I was led out of the hidden fang-smithing suite, and onto the street while the mold set.

IMG_0076Alexa Tsoulis-Reay Sebastiaan van Houten aka Father Sebastiaan: Master Fangsmith, a self-described living vampire and head of the Sabretooth Clan.

On the way out, I broke the rules and peeked in a mirror. The paste had caked around my lips, as if I’d just eaten an ice-cream. A woman with perfect hair and box-fresh Hunter rain boots walked past me with a poodle on a leash. She stared at me, her face contorted into a sneer.

A native of Red Bank, N.J, Father Sebastiaan says that he experienced his moment of awakening after having fangs custom-made by a fang smith during a vampire role-playing event. He wanted to wear the fangs to his high school prom.

In 1994, he started making fangs while working as a dental technician’s assistant in New Jersey. On Sundays, he would lead an eclectic assortment of clients he met clubbing in the city to his boss, a dentist who would make permanent fangs while his usual clients were at church.

Father Sebastiaan makes it clear that his fangs are for costume use only. He warns clients not to sleep in them, or use them to exchange blood. “Fangs can be sensual but don’t put those you love at risk, and only nibble,” he writes in his book.

Getting fangs doesn’t turn you into a vampire, but Father Sebastiaan said that it is possible to wake up to your latent vampirism when you see yourself in fangs for the first time.

Back inside, I was told to relax. Father Sebastiaan placed his black latex-gloved hands inside my mouth. “Don’t worry, your teeth won’t come out,” he promised before he yanked the prosthetics, producing a crunching sound as the mold was released.

I was allowed to look in the mirror, while a dutiful Mr. Magnus filmed my reaction. I didn’t feel like a vampire, but the shiny points certainly looked authentic. For the final step, Father Sebastiaan polished the baby-sized teeth while chatting merrily to me. I left with my new pair of fangs safely stored in a plastic box.