The name "Dracula" is often synonymous with the term "vampire". Just what is a vampire? According to The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language (fourth edition by the Houghton Mifflin Company), a vampire is described as any of the following:
Prince Vlad Dracula was born in Schässburg (now called Sighisoara), a small town in former Transylvania (now known as northern Romania) in 1431. The house in which he was born, still stands intact in Sighisoara. It was no castle, but just a simple three-storied house.
He was named after his father Vlad Dracul, who belonged to the Order of the Dragon. This was an order formed by the Holy Roman Emperor for the purpose of defeating the Turks, who tried to conquer Europe at the time. The name "Dracul" which means dragon or devil, was taken on by his father, when he joined the order, the same year prince Vlad was born. He later added the -a on his son's name, which means "Son of the Dragon". But as the young prince grow older, he became more known as "Son of the Devil".
His father ruled over the area of Southern Romania known as Wallachia, and to keep his power, he had to be allied with powerful people. But he was a very unreliable master, that changed his allies constantly. To begin with he was against the Turks, later he suddenly changed policy and joined them for a short period. Perhaps this unreliable behavior was the reason why the Turkish Sultan ordered the capture of his two sons, prince Dracula and his little brother.
In 1447 prince Vlad Dracula's father was killed by some of his own men, and the year after, the prince, now age seventeen, was released from his imprisonment. He was sent back home to rule Wallachia, but in return he had to obey the Sultan in Constantinople. But he was overthrown, by a rival and had to escape, before he in 1456 could claim the throne back again. The first thing he did, was to build a stronghold for safety. With the help of several hundred noble families captured in his realm, who had to work as simple slaves, he got his stronghold build high up in the mountains, close to the northern Wallachian town of Tirgoviste.
Now six years of terror began. First he revenged his fathers death, then he got rid of all his enemies in a boundless carnage. Several thousand people was killed in Wallachia and the neighboring countries. But prince Dracula didn't just kill people, he liked to see them suffer. His favorite method of torturing someone to death, was impalement.
Impalement was a gruesome from of execution. The victim was impaled between the legs upon a large sharpened stake, with the width of a man's upper arm and hoisted upright in the air. Then the weight of the body would begin to drag them downwards, causing the sharpened end of the stake to pierce their internal organs very slowly. Vlad especially enjoyed mass executions, where several victims were impaled at once. In order to better enjoy these brutal acts, Vlad would place the impaled victims, in front of a banquet table and would then enjoy and commonly dine in his "forest of the impaled", to the sounds of the dying. It was these incredibly brutal acts, that got him the nickname "Tepes", which in Romanian means "Impaler".
It is alleged that prince Vlad Tepes was responsible for the death, of over a hundred thousand people within a few years. This figure, is including the twenty-five thousand people, who died due to Impalement.
In 1462, because of his enemies, Vlad Tepes had to flee again. He escape to Hungary, over the Transylvanian Alps, in hope of getting some help from the Hungarian king Corvinus. But instead of getting some sort of assistance, he was convicted on some false charges to prison for twelve years. When he was released again, he married a sister to the Hungarian King, and in November 1475, he finally got the assistance to regain control in Wallachian.
But only a month later, Dracula was killed in battle against the Turks near Bucharest. After his death, the feared and no doubt brave warrior was then decapitated. Just to make people sure that he really was dead, his head was put on display in Constantinople. Later his body was buried in a monastery near Snagov in Romania. In a book called "Dracule", from 1488, written only thirteen years after Vlad the Impaler died, he was descried as a vampire!
An author by the name of Bram Stoker wrote a number of short stories and novels, but Bram Stoker is primarily remembered for only one, that of his tale of vampires which was titled "Dracula". Dracula was originally published in 1897. Dracula was an immediate success, and is one of the best-known and most popular horror stories ever written.