Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Vlad the Impaler


Dracula's head was said to be brought back by the Turks to Constantinople, where Sultan Mehmed, Dracula's old enemy, exhibited it above the city gates: testimony to Allah's triumph over the evil European Empire.

The Ottoman nation would refuse to relinquish their claim to Romania for centuries after this story ends. It would not be until the year 1878 that Romania, with the assistance of the Romanovs of Russia, was able to shake off the Turks for good. "The revival of a Romanian political and national sentiment took place," explains the Romanian Travel Service. "A national bourgeoisie emerged, which struggled for the...unification of the separate states into a single nation...(Romania) was raised to the rank of Kingdom in 1881."


The Countess Ilona was invited by King Matthias to live in the Hungarian Court with her two sons after Dracula's demise. In 1508, Dracula's oldest son, Vlad, made a strike for the throne of Wallachia, but was beaten back by another relative named Mihnea who claimed to be an illegitimate son of Dracula's early days. Probably because he wanted to avoid a scandal that could hurt his mother, Vlad conceded.

If this Mihnea was lying about his bloodline, he certainly did a good job trying to act like the man he claimed was his father. The moment he set his posterior on the throne, the impalings began. But, this time the principality of Wallachia was ready. They rebelled in worthy numbers and the beast they called Mihnea the Bad was sent packing for the hills.

In the meantime, the legitimate Dracula family waned. Only Vlad lived to maturity. Of his two sons, only one married. From that point the number of direct male heirs dwindled. By the mid-1700s, the last of the Draculas was living in (where else?) Transylvania, along the infamous Borgo Pass.

Of Dracula's contemporaries, Matthias Corvinus reigned until 1490, continuing to fight the Turks as well as European Bohemia, which wanted its own king. A Renaissance man, he was a true patron of the arts. Says the Columbia Encyclopedia, "His library at Buda, the Corvina, was one of the finest in Europe."

Stefan Bathory continued to rule Transylvania for some time. His great niece, Elizabeth, was the one who would make history books, however. Countess Bathory, a vain and rather neurotic lady, believed that bathing in blood would preserve her youth. She was proven wrong, but not until she drained more than 300 women of the red stuff. For her endeavors, she was aptly named "Countess Dracula".


Where Dracula is buried is unknown. The friars at Snagov transcribed that they interred him at the foot of the altar in the chapel. But when historical archaeologists in the early 1930s removed the marble slab that was supposed to be covering the Impaler's grave, they encountered an empty six-foot pit that looked like someone at one time may have been buried there. This revelation gave rise to...well, that Dracula may have risen from the grave, after all! Bela Lugosi was still fresh in the mind of the Western World, having just appeared in the black-and-white movie version of the Stoker novel, and headlines had a field day!

Several years later, a headless skeleton was uncovered behind a large stone towards the rear of the church. Because the bones were wrapped in rotting rags that science has proven were once rich-fabric vestments, like those a prince in the 1400s would have worn, many believe that Dracula's earthly remains had been found. One strong argument in their behalf is that the faded cloak covering the shoulders indicates it had once been a vibrant wine red — the royal color of the Dragon's family.

With no better theory to disprove this, the skeleton is considered to this day to be that of the mighty and fearsome Vlad Tepes, Dracula. Researchists here and there aren't convinced and studies for and against continue to be penned.

Tongue in cheek, Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally in Dracula — Prince of Many Faces, quip, "The determined vampirists will of course reply that he never died and that his spirit will haunt us perpetually." In fact, they more soberly point to an old Russian Orthodoxy tradition that claims because Dracula "forsook the truth and the light and accepted darkness," he would never rest in peace.

Strange as it might seem to us, a large percentage of peasant stock residing in the Transylvanian Alps still believe in vampires and ghouls that rise from their graves. Religious ceremonies are enacted at certain times of the year, as on Walpurgis Nacht, the Night of the Devil (May 1), when evil is said to have sway over the world.

As Count Dracula tells British solicitor Jonathan Harker in the novel, "This is Transylvania and Transylvania is not England. Our ways are not your ways, and there shall be to you many strange things. Indeed, from what you have told me already, you know what strange things there may be."


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