Whether you are a super Dracula or Bram Stoker fan, or you just have some strange obsession with Transylvania, you are going to want to dig your teeth into our list of 20 Shocking Facts You Didn’t Know About Vlad Dracula. Few people actually know that the notorious Count Dracula is a different figure from Vlad Tepes (also known as Vlad III). The first one is fictional, while the latter was a true person in history.
Thanks to our list, you can discover the true world of Vlad Tepes. Who exactly was this guy? Did he really just kill for fun and eat his victims? You will have to read our list to find out! We have twenty factoids here that you will want to tell your friends. Just be thankful that you don’t have to travel all the way to Poenari Castle to learn a bit more about this famous (and infamous) historical figure from medieval times.
Sit back, relax, and read on for more insight into Vlad’s life, from his early upbringing to his formative adolescent years. Perhaps you will see why he did the things he did, and how his family life was less-than ideal. But we’ll let you get into that on your own! Finally, enjoy the educational aspect of this list, with important dates and places, as well as some of the visitor and tourist sites that you can still visit today! Transylvania may be far away, but you can feel just a little bit closer thanks to these crunchy Vlad Dracula tidbits.
20 He was a Medieval Prince
As mentioned above, he was actually Vlad the III, so there were two other Vlads before him. Anyway, Vlad was the first son born to Vlad the II Dracul, who was the son of Mircea the Elder. Both Vlad’s father and grandfather were voivodes, or war lords in Transylvania. So, being a kick-ass dude was pretty much in Vlad’s blood. As far as his mother is concerned, historians don’t have the details on that. She may have been Princess Cneajna of Moldavia, but Vlad’s dad was also a bit of a player and he had a number of mistresses, and I don't think they could just call up Maury to find out!
19 He was Held Hostage
In 1442 he was sent, along with his brother Radu to the ruler of the Ottoman Empire. Sultan Mehmed II kept them in his possession while Vlad and Radu’s father was fighting in Wallachia. You might think that being a hostage would be terrible, but not if your captor was a Sultan! Vlad and Radu were able to learn about philosophical stuff and the Quran (which was a problem for Vlad since he wasn’t Muslim). Even so, he was also able to become fluent in Turkish, which would prove useful later on in his life. Despite the advantages of this style of kidnapping, Vlad was still unhappy for his time in captivity.
18 His Dad’s Politics Screwed Him Over
While Vlad was held hostage by Sultan Mehmed II, Vlad’s father was busy ruling Wallachia which had its allegiance with the Ottoman Empire. So essentially the hostage take-over of Vlad and his brother was a war ploy to keep Wallachia loyal to the Ottomans. While Vlad was extremely distraught over his fate and no doubt angry at his father for helping to put him in this predicament, he was still faithful to his dad. Still, it sucks that his war lord father ended up putting Vlad in danger (even if he was a “favored captive”) in the Ottoman Empire. It is clear why Vlad truly saw the Ottomans as the enemy.
17 He was an Educated Guy
As we said before, Vlad may have been a captive, but he was actually treated with some decency. Among his freedoms was receiving an education in the arts, philosophy, science, and even combat. He also learned how to wield a sword and ride on horseback. There is no doubt that those skills would come in handy later on in his life. After all, he would end up as a war lord himself in Wallachia, avenging his father and taking his anger and hostility out on those Turkish enemies. The Ottoman Empire was probably regretting their decision to treat Vlad with such respect once he rose to power.
16 Being a Hostage Took a Toll on Him
Vlad’s brother, Radu, was seemingly indifferent to being a captive; in fact, he ended up siding with his captors and even converted to Islam while being their prisoner. On the other hand, Vlad developed a more hostile attitude which may have contributed to his pastime of impaling enemies. First of all, Vlad was a Christian, so there was no way he wanted to read the Quran and convert to Islam. Secondly, he was still peeved at the fact that the Ottoman Empire was treating his father like a puppet. No wonder Vlad adopted a destructive and spiteful attitude as a captive, which then made him an incredibly powerful ruler.
15 He Took Over for His Dad
Vlad eventually became the new ruler of Wallachia in 1448, taking the position from his dad. Yes, Wallachia was supposed to remain allegiant to the Ottoman Empire, but Vlad was rubbed the wrong way when he was held hostage. So, he sided with the Hungarians instead of the Ottomans and he became the new Wallachia overlord. We stated earlier that Vlad was a Prince, and he was actually a ruler in power on three separate occasions. Unfortunately for him, he kept getting knocked out of power. Still, after his father’s death, Vlad was filled with even more determination to get back at his enemies, hence deciding to impale them on stakes to really make an impact.
14 He was Clever
One of his war strategies against the Ottoman Empire was to have his own soldiers (the ones who were ill, no less!) dress in Ottoman clothing and try to confuse the enemy. It worked, although they didn’t achieve their main mission of killing the Sultan. That’s okay, though because Vlad had other tricks up his sleeve. Never one to back down, he devised another plan to burn all of his villages to the ground while fleeing from his enemies. That way his foes wouldn’t be able to loot Vlad’s habitations. He took it a step further though, and also placed poison in all of the wells he left behind. Haha, suckers!
13 He Inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Nowadays we have various versions of the Dracula character. The most famous one of all is perhaps Bram Stoker’s Dracula that we know today. While the Dracula of Stoker’s literature was not very similar to Vlad III, some historians still say that Vlad would drink human blood or eat his impalement victims. But a larger number of researchers state that Vlad didn’t do that; he wasn’t a cannibal. He may, however, have washed his hands in the blood of his impaled enemies before dining on (normal) food. Whatever the case, one thing is certain: Vlad III did have a love for bloodshed and violence.
12 His Name Has Meaning
The name “Dracula” is an interpretation of “Son of the Dragon.” What is that referring to? Well, Vlad’s dad was known to be a member of The Order of the Dragon, which was a hush-hush society. Vlad himself ended up joining the society, during which he received his new moniker. Nowadays another translation of “Dracula” comes out to be “Son of the Devil.” Whoops. That’s kind of ironic, considering that the Order of the Dragon was formed in order to preserve the Christian faith in Eastern Europe. We suppose it doesn’t matter too much, considering that Vlad III and the Dracula we know of today are two different figures (non-fictional vs. fictional).
11 The Legend of the Golden Cup
As we said, Vlad was a pretty clever fellow, and he was not one to throw in the towel or take the easy way out. One of his most iconic moments of wit and “testing” was the golden cup, which was placed in the center of the town square in Wallachia. Many of the inhabitants were quite poor, but Vlad said that anyone would be able to drink from the golden cup under one condition: it was not allowed to leave the town square. It turns out that no one ever drank from the golden cup. Hm, we wonder why, almost like they were terrified to test the power of one of the strongest rulers of all time?
10 He’s Credited With Lots of Deaths
The history books say that Vlad the Impaler (as he came to be called after his death) killed off some 100,000 people during his lifetime. The numbers do vary, but that seems to be the average amount of victims. A lot of researchers credit Vlad’s killing streak with his built-up angst at being held prisoner by Sultan Mehmed II as well as his yearning to avenge his own father’s death. And as a matter of fact, death punishment by impalement was not uncommon at all during Vlad’s time, especially in Transylvania. Perhaps that is why Romanians don’t freak out too much about him.
9 We Don’t Know Where His Body is
Since he spent much of his life in combat against the Turks, it makes sense that that is how he died. Vlad ended up being beheaded during a battle but there are holes in the story after that. It turns out that the exact whereabouts of Vlad’s body are still unknown today. It is said that he was placed in a cemetery at Comana, but that was dashed to pieces and rebuilt in the 16th century. Another missing chunk of the story of Vlad’s death is exactly how it occurred. We said he was killed in battle, but we don’t know whether that was a battle against the Turks, other rivals, or even his own soldiers.
8 He Had a Killer Castle
No, seriously. Constructing Vlad’s castle was super difficult work, and he employed the nobles of Wallachia (the ones he didn’t kill,) to help build it up to greatness. Known as Poenari Castle, visitors today can climb up the 1,480 steps to the top. There, they will see Ceausescu’s Folly, a mountain pathway winding along the canyon side of the Arges River Valley. Vlad saw the structure as his chance to refute his power and capability; it was one of his main fortresses and was even utilized after he died. Due to its size and location, it was a formidable building and helped keep Vlad safe.
7 He Was Prince 3 Times
Lucky Vlad, he was able to ascend to ruler status a whopping three times during his lifetime. The first was when he was just a young boy, back in 1448, but this only lasted a matter of months. The “golden age” of his rule was between 1456 and 1462, and was the second reign on Vlad III. The third and final reign was when he took Wallachia back from Turkish hands in 1476. This was a very short rule (a couple of months) and then poor Vlad was killed in combat. Even so, this was not a bad track record for just a single guy.
6 A Lot of Romanians See Him as “Good”
Known as Vlad Tepes, the historical figure has a much more positive reception in Eastern Europe than he does in Western Europe. His name spread to the West as one equal to bloodshed and the consumption of children. Plus, it didn’t help that Bram Stoker decided to write the story of Dracula and base is off of Vlad. While the two figures are two different people (one real and one fictional,) there are many people who mistakenly assume that Vlad was in fact the real Dracula. Pity. While the two did share a lot in common, they were distinct. In Romania, Vlad is more of a historical figure, not a horrible creature.
5 Elizabeth Bathory
Elizabeth Bathory was born a century after Vlad’s lifetime and she was technically Hungarian, but she shared the same love of bloodshed as the prince did. In fact, she had a reputation as a serial killer and cutthroat woman of the Bathory family. Between 1585 and 1610, it is estimated that Bathory put hundreds of people through torturous murder. As far as folklore and history goes, Bathory gets likened to Vlad and Dracula on numerous occasions, easy to see why when both were bloodthirsty and hold notorious fame. Moreover, Bathory is often called Countess Dracula. We really wonder what Vlad would have thought of her!
4 He Had a Prognathism
Although Vlad III was around in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, his likeness has been captured and preserved in a few portraits. One of them is housed in Ambras Castle in Innsbruck. The Castle has a “gallery of horrors,” and it is there that visitors can catch a glimpse of Vlad III. Interestingly, his portrait was painted to show him with a “Habsburg Lip,” also known as a prognathism. This is when a person’s lower jaw juts out further than the upper jaw, creating a not-so-glamorous look. It was a common genetic trait of the Habsburgs, hence the name.
3 He Was Engaged in Sibling Rivalry
As we said earlier, Vlad was not happy to be held hostage by the Turks, but his brother, Radu, was quite content. He even became friends with his captors. This led to Radu being commonly favored over Vlad, with the Turks calling his little brother “Radu the Handsome.” In an awful turn of events (for Vlad) Radu crossed over to the dark side and became an ally of the Ottoman Empire. He was even deemed a leader of the troops and was in charge of battalions of men. They even ended up capturing Poenari Castle for a time! So much for brotherly love.
2 His Dad Was Publicly Killed
The public assassination of Vlad’s dad left a bad taste in his throat. Many suspect that the large number of deaths Vlad contributed to were in order to avenge his dad’s death. After all, the guy was a killing machine. Vlad certainly had a strange relationship and connection to his dad. He was sent to be a captive as a result of his dad’s war lordship. Then, Vlad took over for his father and had to fight against those same enemies. Plus, his own brother was a traitor. And while Vlad’s dad may have used him as an insurance liability in war, Vlad still felt loyal to him.
1 In Fact, He Suffered Lots of Loss
After fleeing to Moldova in 1448 (his dad was already dead at this point, and his bro was no longer loyal,) Vlad become good pals with Prince Bogdan, who was also his uncle. Unfortunately, Prince Bogdan was assassinated in 1451, forcing Vlad to go on the run again. There is a silver lining, though. After leaving Moldova, Vlad returned to Transylvania, where he studied under Janos Hunyadi and King Ladislaus. These two figures taught Vlad much about warfare and fighting. That certainly came in handy, because Vlad sure did have a long of pent-up anger to get out. Sort of explains his preoccupation with death.