How Did Dracula Become a Vampire?
To answer this question with accuracy, we first have to specify which particular version of the Dracula character, from which particular version of the story, we are talking about? We’ll begin, as we should, with the historical Dracula, Vlad III Dracula, nicknamed “The Impaler.” In life, he wasn’t considered to be a vampire; he was something way worse. After his death, slowly, with the passage of time, the identification with vampirism began to take root. Some scholars argue that it wasn’t until Bram Stoker came along that the connection was made, and this may be technically true, but Dracula WAS excommunicated by the Orthodox Church when he switched to Catholicism, and there was a tradition, albeit apocryphal, that an ex-communicant could not enter Heaven and would thus be condemned to “wander.” One could extrapolate from there a possible connection to vampirism.
How about Stoker’s Count Dracula? While the novel never says exactly how Dracula became a vampire, it is hinted, through the Van Helsing character, that Dracula learned occult secrets at the Scholomance, a cabal of black magicians. One would assume that the Draculas of the movies, both the titular 1931 Universal classic and the earlier NOSFERATU, gained their immortality in the same fashion. In the underrated 2014 film DRACULA UNTOLD, Dracula encounters a vampire in a cave in the Carpathian Mountains–this fiend was supposed to be the Roman Emperor Caligula, but that subplot was ultimately, and unfortunately, excised from the film–and is voluntarily turned as a means to combat the invading Turks. And in 1992’s BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, we actually get to see the act of rebellion that transforms the historic Vlad into the vampiric Count Dracula.
As for the most “out there” explanation, check out Wes Craven’s DRACULA 2000, which gets creative but trippy with it, although the origin story provided in the series PENNY DREADFUL comes in a close second in terms of acid-trip inventiveness. Are there any others I’ve failed to mention here?