Dracula or Vlad?
Dracula is one of the most recognizable horror icons and has grown in popularity since he first appeared in Bram Stoker’s famed novel ‘Dracula.’ Although Dracula is a fictional character, it is said that his origins may have been forged in some bloody truth. Dracula was supposedly inspired by the real-life historical warlord Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler.
Vlad was born in the Transylvanian town of Sighisoara sometime between 1428 and 1431. He was born in a modest house, which still stands today. He was the second son to his father known as Vlad II Dracul. Vlad’s father was part of the Order of the Dragon, which acted to keep the spread of the Ottoman Empire out of Europe.
Years after the birth of his son, Vlad’s father would go on to become a ruler of Wallachia. After his death, Vlad went on to become the Prince and ruler of Wallachia 3 separate times during his own life. Vlad came in and out of rule as a result of battles and various imprisonments.
During his rule, Vlad gained infamy and became notorious for his cruel but effective war tactics. He was named ‘the Impaler’ for impaling people, which tended to be a slow, painful torturous way to go. One famed instance of Vlad’s impalement tactics caused an enemy’s army to retreat from battle with Vlad out of fear. In this instance, Vlad displayed more than 20,000 corpses impaled on wooden spikes spanning an area of 7 acres. Impalement was to become his preferred method of torture and execution, though he is said to have adopted other techniques. Some numbers estimate the death toll he caused by impalement during life to be around 100,000 people.
Because of Vlad’s ruthless nature, many legends about him formed and much of his activities were sensationalized. Some have gone as far to claim that he ate the flesh and drank the blood of his enemies. However, there isn’t substantial proof of this. Never the less, these legends have continued into the modern day and into Western societies, largely due to his links with Dracula. It is important to remember that Vlad is actually celebrated as a historical hero in Romania and was acting in ways to protect his own people.
Vlad was eventually killed in battle just outside of Bucharest in either late 1476 or early 1477. Some writings suggest his body was then cut into pieces, while another suggests his head was taken off and sent to his enemies.
With so much notoriety surrounding his name, there is no question as to why rumors of Vlad Tepes, the real-life Dracula, returned as a ghost. Below are real places you just may come face to face with the ghost of Dracula.
Our first location supposedly haunted by the ghost of Vlad Tepes is an area where Vlad is said to have been killed. While the exact place that Vlad was murdered isn’t really known, it is said to lie within the Boldu Forest just outside of Bucharest. Interestingly, many people believe that Vlad was beheaded alongside an already very mystical body of water known as the Witches Pond.
The Witches Pond is notorious for being a gathering place for witches and the pond is thought to contain some kind of magical properties and cursed water. Nothing to do with Vlad really, but interesting none the less.
Many people have claimed to sight the apparition of a man, sometimes with or without a head, wandering through the surrounding forest in the vicinity of this pond. Though the identity of this apparition isn’t exactly known, many speculate that it may be the ghost of Dracula.
The next haunted destination on this journey concerns Corvin Castle. This is one of the most pristine medieval fortresses remaining within Europe. Though Corvin looks like a true fairytale castle, it has a brutal history of torture and executions. Vlad himself was actually imprisoned here for approximately 7 years. It is said that he survived by drinking the blood of rats and was slowly driven to insanity inside his dark cell. Some say this was a driving factor in his blood lust, however, the legitimacy of these stories has been questioned.
Since Vlad’s death, some say his spirit has returned to become trapped in the dungeon, just underneath the Hall of Knights. Though some say this could just be residual energy left from his stay at Corvin Castle.
Our next haunted location seems the most likely to have a haunting from Vlad Tepes. Known as Poenari Fortress, this one is Vlad’s actual castle and what many claim to be the real Dracula’s Castle.
Poenari Fortress and its surroundings are said to be insanely haunted. Legend has it that Vlad spotted this ruined castle and its strategic position, so he claimed it and enslaved his enemies to rebuild it. Many of these workers died in the process. Once the project was completed, legends state that these slaves were then executed, by impalement, though these claims aren’t substantiated.
Eventually, the castle came under attack and was seized from Vlad. He famously managed to escape by turning the horseshoes backwards on his horse to fool his enemies.
Many believe that Vlad haunts this area along with his wife and those killed rebuilding the fortress. Apparitions have been seen in the area, disembodied voices heard and strange light anomalies are often seen.
Other Places Haunted By Dracula’s Ghost
In addition to the above locations, said to be haunted bu Dracula’s Ghost, there are some other locations worth mentioning. While these locations don’t really fit the mold of having a haunting, they still reserve interesting stories behind them.
The first of these locations is Bran Castle. Interestingly, this one is marketed as Dracula’s Castle, probably because it is the most glorious castle in Transylvania, but in reality, it doesn’t have any ties to Vlad.
The only real links that Bran Castle has to Vlad is that he passed through the mountains that the castle lies within during his life. It is possible that Vlad stopped at Bran Castle for a night or two, yet that isn’t documented and just speculation. Furthermore, the castle is believed to be haunted by many ghosts, yet the ghost of Dracula is not one of them.
Another place with alleged ties to Vlad is over in Budapest, Hungary. Here, we find a tunnel system known as the Buda Labyrinth. This tunnel system spans underneath a castle and was once used as a prison and torture area. It is claimed that Vlad was held prisoner here for a number of years, though many believe that this is just a gimmicky marketing ploy to attract tourists. Never the less, there are some rumors that his ghost exists within Buda Labyrinth.
If you are interested in other bloodthirsty and infamous rulers from history, I recommend checking out the story of Elizabeth Bathory, the Blood Countess!
Thanks for reading!