History is full of horrific but frequently overlooked moments. Take Vlad the Impaler, a real-life medieval ruler whose dark reputation inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. He did not suck blood. He impaled people instead – by the thousands. Vlad was so scary that he once frightened an army of invaders into retreat when he lined the road ahead of them with tens of thousands of impaled victims. Following are thirty things about those and other lesser-known horrific facts from history.
30. Vlad the Impaler Lived Up to His Horrific Nickname
Vlad III was a medieval ruler of Wallachia, a region of what is now southern Romania. Better known to history as Vlad Dracula or Vlad the Impaler, his methods of governance and warfare terrified his contemporaries, and still send shivers down spines to the present day. His nickname Dracula, which means “son of Dracul”, is from the Latin draco, or dragon, after his father was inducted into the Order of the Dragon, created by Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund to rally Christians against the Ottoman Turks. He was the real-life inspiration for Bram Stoker’s fictional vampire. His other sobriquet, The Impaler, he got from his preferred method of punishment. The real-life Dracula did not suck people’s blood. Instead, he shoved sharpened stakes up their butts.
Vlad III was born circa 1430 in Transylvania, the son of Vlad II, an aristocrat who lived in exile. The father took over the throne of Wallachia in 1436 but was kicked out a few years later by rivals. So he switched sides and allied with the Ottoman Sultan, who restored him to power. As proof of loyalty, he sent two sons, Vlad III and his brother Radu, to the Sultan’s court as hostages. Radu eventually converted to Islam, but Vlad disliked the Ottomans and resented his father for his betrayal of the Order of the Dragon, into which Vlad himself had been inducted when he was five years old.