2. A Man Who Loved to Impale People So Much, He Became Known as “The Impaler”
The father of Vlad the Impaler was overthrown once more in 1447, and this time his enemies killed him while they were at it. The Ottomans marched in and installed Vlad on Wallachia’s throne, but his rule lasted only a few months before he, too, was overthrown. He regained the throne in 1456, this time with help from the Ottomans’ enemies, the Hungarians. To celebrate, he invited two hundred aristocrats and their families to an Easter Sunday feast in 1457. At some point, he asked his guests how old they were. He wanted to know who had been old enough to have participated in his father’s overthrow back in 1447.
He then dragged those who fit the bill outside, and had them promptly impaled – a horrific way to die. Victims had large, sharpened, wooden stakes driven through their bodies, often through their rear end. The stake was then planted vertically into the ground, so that the victim was left to dangle in the air. Vlad impaled people in a manner that avoided damage to vital organs, and thus averted immediate death. Instead, the victims suffered hours or even days of agony before they expired. To add an artistic touch to the horror, Vlad impaled aristocrats arranged in rows that came to be known as “The Forrest of the Impaled”.
1. A Display So Scary it Terrified Invaders and Made Them Turn Around and Head Back Home
The mass impalements did not halt Vlad the Impaler’s Easter Sunday feast, and the party went on. Afterward, the wives and children of the impaled aristocrats were taken to the mountains to rebuild a fortress, still dressed in their Easter finery. He worked them hard, until most died of exhaustion. Months later, when the job was finally done, Vlad’s reward for the few survivors, now skeletal figures clad in tattered rags, was to impale them. That was just the start of The Impaler’s passion for impalement. To solidify his rule, Vlad systematically exterminated the aristocratic class that had given his family so much trouble. Impalement was his preferred method to deal with them and anybody else who angered him.
He also warred against the Ottomans. Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror, who had seized Constantinople and extinguished the Middle Ages Byzantine Empire a few years earlier, sent a force of 10,000 cavalrymen to deal with him. Vlad ambushed and defeated them, then impaled the survivors, with their leader mounted on the highest stake. In 1462, the Sultan led an army of 90,000 against The Impaler. As they approached Vlad’s capital, the Ottomans met no resistance. Instead, the road was lined with 20,000 impaled Turks and Muslim Bulgarians. The horrific sight was enough to spook the Sultan, who promptly turned around and went back home.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading