As is with the coming Halloween brings one to rekindle memories of all those monster movies of yesteryear. You know the old Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi flicks that came on Saturday night. But, when you think about it the casting of Lugosi as Count Dracula made Bela Lugosi an international star. The only problem was he could never be believed in any other role, for it was his portrayal as the infamous Dracula that is so much of today's folklore. What he conveyed on the screen was a much more seductive sort of a romantic in the way he lured his unsuspecting victims to their early demise than any actor that happened to portray Dracula on film. It is said that when Bram Stoker first wrote Dracula back in 1897, a gothic novel that brought to life the character Count Dracula, was a take on the real authentic terror of Transylvania. An individual whose legacy was written in the blood of so many. Like Tamerlane some 50 years before here was a monster of a man who relished in the torture and mutilation of fellow human beings.
To comprehend how one individual captured the imagination of Bram Stoker in which he paralleled his character of Count Dracula on the historical facts of Prince Vlad is to travel back to the year 1431. It was during this time that Transylvania was in a constant state of war between two great empires the Ottoman Turks and the Austrian Hapsburgs. Treachery, vindictiveness, and revenge ruled the day, as Dracula was soon to discover. Many have speculated that Dracula's own thirst for power was quenched by the blood and impaled bodies of his victims. To understand how one individual became such a murderous insidious psychopath on his way into history we have to follow the times and events in his life. It was here in Transylvania that a leader known as a defender of the Christian faith, a Romanian hero, and a subhuman monster the world came to know as Dracula.
Prince Vlad was actually born in 1431. His father was called Dracul meaning "dragon" or devil in Romanian because of his association with being a member of the Order of the Dragon. It was the Order of the Dragon which was in a constant state of war with the Muslim Ottoman Empire. Many scholars and historians believe that Prince Vlad who was the son of Dracul and the name Dracula meaning son of Dracul was the actual beginning of the legend that Dracula was a vampire. It really came to light when history now recalls how Dracula really lived. While still young Dracula was imprisoned, first by the Turks, who hauled him away in chains, and later by the Hungarians. Dracula's father was murdered during this time, while his older brother, Mircea, was blinded with red-hot iron stakes and buried alive. It was probably while in captivity that Dracula's mind began a methodic transformation into the heinous monster that history still portrays him as.
It can be said though in all the years of his reign in Walachia Dracula was actually a pretty good administer of the people. He brought law and order into his realm. He built monasteries, battlements and fortifications only his methods of dealing with crimes and those who openly opposed his rule were subjected to the most horrific punishments hence the nickname Vlad The Impaler was appropriately applied. It is said that on St Bartholomew's day in 1459 he had over 30,000 merchants and officials from Brasov impaled just because of alleged corruption. A demented mind must have taken over because afterward Dracula just sat down to eat amongst all the corpses. Their bodies were left to rot outside the city walls a gruesome reminder of what would happen to anyone who disobeyed or was not loyal to him.
Another infamous atrocity occurred in 1460. This is where 10,000 persons were impaled in the Transylvanian city of Sibiu. And still another grotesque atrocity where in 1462, Mehmed the Conqueror, during his campaign against Wallachia, was greeted by the sight of 20,000 impaled Turkish prisoners of war outside of Dracula's capital of Târgoviste. Thoroughly sickened and unable to continue, he delegated command to one of his subordinates and returned to Constantinople. It was these types of savage brutality that Dracula relished in. The issuance of fear and terror ruled supreme until his death.
But, history books really doesn't actually portray Vlad as a person who had qualities that mattered. A holder of the Catholic Church, a man who married and loved two women in his life. A son who adored him and for people that were loyal retained a trust. All of these traits are overlooked because of the obsession with fear, bloodletting, and terror. In the end a dark betrayal by his brother led Dracula to his death. His son was restored to the throne but was assassinated in church just after two years reign. Power, control, and wealth all played a vital role in the times that Dracula live in as they do to this very day.
It is interesting to note that in 1931 and excavation of the burial place of Vlad turned up empty. All that was there were animal bones. To this day the Prince of Darkness is still revered while others wait for his return. Sort of reminds one of another historical figure whose legacy is associated with Halloween and that is Houdini. Both find people so captivated by the image that history has bestowed surrounding the mysteries that to this day persist.