Dracula, Prince of Horror

Vlad DraculImpaled victims

In the autumn days of the Middle Ages, disconcerting tales of horror began to spread through Europe about Vlad Dracula (“Little Dragon”), Prince of Wallachia (part of current-day Romania). As many pamphlets and handwritings attest, this man was so bloodthirsty that he subjected not only his enemies, but even his own subjects to unspeakable cruelties, impaling them on stakes, burning them, flaying them and boiling them alive. According to one story, he particularly enjoyed dining amidst his impaled victims.

In all likelihood, these horror stories – which would give rise to the Count Dracula figure in modern novels and movies – were compiled and spread on the instigation of King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary, who had imprisoned Vlad in 1462 for political reasons. Yet whoever the culprit was, the numerous pamphlets against the Prince of Wallachia constitute one of the earliest uses of the printing press to commit wide-scale character assassination.

Literature

• Matei Cazacu, L’Histoire du prince Dracula en Europe centrale et orientale (XVe siècle) (Geneva 1988)
• Raymond T. McNally & Radu Florescu, In Search of Dracula: The History of Dracula and Vampires (2nd revised edition; Boston – New York 1994)
• M.J. Trow, Vlad the Impaler: In Search of the Real Dracula (Stroud 2003)
• Heiko Haumann, Dracula. Leben und Legende (Munich 2011)

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