If you clicked on a site called vampires.com, I figure it’s a safe bet you have at least a passing familiarity with one Vlad III, surnamed Dracula, nicknamed Tepes or “the Impaler.” Vlad was the inspiration, to greater or lesser extent (it’s still debated) for Bram Stoker’s vampiric character of the same name. The more you learn about the historical Dracula, the less frightening the fictional vampire becomes. In terms of bloodthirstiness, the Count had nothing on his namesake. In fact, were the two to ever meet (other than in this hilarious rap battle) I daresay the Count would be aghast at the atrocities of which his human source material was capable.
But did Vlad really do all that stuff?
It is true that the sources for those stories of Vlad’s bad behavior were created by his political enemies, who might have had reason to libel his name. Did they fabricate his litany of crimes? A new exhibition in Romania claims so. Was Dracula, as it alleges, a victim of “bad propaganda” that was “aimed at presenting eastern Europe as a primitive land and a source of evil”? In fairness, Romanians have as much of a political reason today for wanting to depict Dracula favorably as did the Germans back in the day for depicting him as evil incarnate. Putting aside all the biases, then, what is the truth? We’ll never know for certain. It isn’t illogical to suggest that the reports of Vlad’s cruelties were exaggerated. On the other hand, the uniformity of those allegations, and their sheer number, suggest at least some partial truth. Would Dracula lose any of his mystique if it turned out he wasn’t as evil as history contends?