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Everyone knows the legend of vampires, and Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula. But are you familiar with the inspiration behind the famous tale? 

Stoker wrote Dracula in 1897 and has since written countless horror movies, novels, and television shows based on his image of vampires; vampires who can fly, drink human blood, and are killed by stakes. While today’s image of vampires is slightly skewed by ones that sparkle and have more sex appeal than Chris Hemsworth, the true origin story of vampires remains the same. 

The real Dracula is Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia. 

Who is Vlad? 

Vlad III, also known as Vlad the Impaler, was born in 1431 in Transylvania (modern-day Romania). His father was known as Vlad II Dracul, hence where Stoker coined the name Dracula. 

Vlad became a strong philosopher, warrior, and more, in his years in the Holy Roman Empire. It was here, where Transylvania was situated between Christian Europe and the Ottoman Empire, that he witnessed many wars and battles. Eventually, he took over his father’s seat as ruler of Wallachia. 

Why is he called Vlad the Impaler? 

Vlad earned his name during his period of rule. He was known for impaling his enemies on stakes and leaving them to die. Throughout his leadership, Vlad was estimated to have killed over 8,000 people, with 2,000 being impaled. 

It was said that the sight of hundreds of bodies impaled on stakes outside of Wallachia scared away the warriors coming to invade the area. 

Is this where the legend of staking vampires came from? 

No! While the most famous way of killing vampires is staking them through the heart, it did not start with The Vampire Diaries. Through several different histories, the legend of staking vampires in order to kill them came to life. 

For instance, in rural regions of Europe hundreds of years ago, with family members buried in shallow graves, it was not uncommon for large rainstorms and floods to carry their bodies back to the surface. They adopted the act of staking the bodies within the grave in order to have the body remain buried. 

In other areas in early Europe, many believed that when a soul could become evil when it died, turning into a spirit or a vampire. Wooden stakes were used once buried in order to prevent the dead from rising again. 

Many other times, graves were unearthed and decaying bodies were seen. To many, they looked different than they had when the bodies were originally buried. This led townspeople to believe the dead were rising from their graves, and stake them all.  

Others, who committed suicide were seen as evil as their brains were not the same as others. These people were also often staked at the first burial. 

Throughout history, there are several clear origin points of modern-day vampires, our most famous coming from the story of Dracula. Who knows, maybe some of the vampire legends are more than just stories…

Maddie is a fourth year student at the University of Ottawa majoring in History. She is a major fan of Friends, and The Office and is a geek for all things history. Maddie loves food, relaxing, and her cat.
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