The Real Count Dracula
Once upon a time, in the mysterious and creepy realm of Dracula there were
people who lived in fear of the real blood sucker. Most of us thought that
Dracula was merely a story written by writer Bram Stoker.
But it turns out that the inspiration for this dark kingdom is real, found in a
Romanian province. As in the book, the mist-covered mountains are real, the
crumbling castles are real, the howling wolves, swooping bats, peasants making
the sign of the cross, all real. Dracula was an historical figure in Transylvania.
The places Bram Stoker described in his 1897 novel are actually in the ancient
town of Bistritz, the Borgo Pass, the Carpathian Mountains.
The castle of Vlad the Impaler, still exists there. Vlad is believed to be the
medieval Romanian prince who inspired the character of Count Dracula.
Very few people knew about Vlad the Impaler because when the Communists
came in to take over Romania in 1944, they were determined to stamp out
native superstitions. They could no longer talk about werewolves or witches,
and certainly not vampires. Stoker's book was actually banned until 1989 when
politics opened up Romania to the real world.
The world is so hungry for Dracula its fangs are dripping. The Bram Stoker
Dracula was a literary obsession, a bestseller that has been in print for over a
century. Dracula has been the inspiration for (at last count) 204 movies, the
subject of fan clubs and fields of scholarship. Like the world of archaeology,
the world of vampirology is always making news out of ancient subjects.
The real Dracula, a Romanian Prince named Vlad Tepes, a.k.a. Vlad the Impaler
was real. He is believed to have been buried in dank monastery in Sighisoara
near a swampy island in the middle of Lake Snagov. Today, a cranky monk and a
housekeeping nun currently inhabit the monastery along with Dracula.
The Castle Bran, built in 1377 actually has turrets, dungeons, secret
passageways and billowing flags and is often passed off as Castle Dracula. Vlad
might have slept there once.
So who was Vlad? He was one of the worst mass murderers in history, a 15th
century warrior who relished watching his enemies being tortured. Vlad’s
favorite method of killing people -- and he killed a hundred thousand -- was to
impale them through their tenderest parts on long wooden poles, then arrange
them in a field where he could watch a bunch of them expire. Because he kept
Romania from becoming Turkey's backyard, Romanians call him a hero, never
mind the gore.
Two scholars of both Dracula and Vlad the Impaler, Raymond T. McNally and
Radu Florescu, are convinced that the vampire is the fictional version of the
They note how carefully Stoker researched Transylvanian folklore, history
and geography to write Dracula, and they have documented that Vlad actually
signed his name as Draculya.
His father had been initiated into the society of the dragon, the Dracul (a
word that also means "devil" in Romanian), and by adding "ya," his name meant
son of Dracul.
When historians discovered Bram Stoker’s diaries they were delighted to
learn that Stoker knew about the real Dracula, Vlad the Impaler.
The mystery was finally cleared up when an ancient manuscript was discovered
that stated Vlad the Impaler used to dip his bread in the blood of his enemies
and eat it -- making him technically a vampire. This legend was based on truth.
Goldberg, E. A. 2009. Vlad the Impaler: The Real Count Dracula (Wicked History).
Florescu, R. 1994. In Search of Dracula: The History of Dracula and Vampires.