The fame of the vampire did not gain notoriety until the publication of the novel Dracula. Along with it the reputation of the already infamous count Vlad Tepes would gain a new dark perspective.
Bram Stoker built upon the already existing legends of Transylvania. How ever what most people don’t know is the division between the myth and the legend.
Most of us have now heard of the legend of Vlad Tepes. However Vlad being a vampire is seemingly based purely in fiction. How then did Vlad go from being a cruel count to an immortal darkness? When Vlad was a child his father, Vlad Dracul, gave him and his brother Radu to the sultan of persia as hostages. Vlad incurred a great number of punishments and abuses while in captivity with the Ottoman sultan. Mehmed Celebi, heir to Ottoman, became smitten with his brother Radu. Thus this allowed Radu to elude the harsh punishments of the Ottoman. Vlad’s father abandoning him and his brother combined with his harsh punishments; helped him to breed resentment within towards his father and brother.
It was not until 1447 when Vlad heard of the death of his brother Mircea and father that he was released. Shortly Vlad began to strengthen and revamp the government. This increase in strength was often at the cost of his own peasantry, and even other nobles. In time Vlad became the one many of us all know, the impaler. The impaling of his victims was typically done with a dull oiled pike. The length of the pike was dependent upon the position of importance and affluence of the individual being impaled. The impaled were then arranged around the property in concentric circles; left to slowly die for hours and inevitably rot. This act alone would be enough to create numerous heresay tales, such as those of Vlad dipping his bread in the peasants blood. However despite all this Vlad’s people never thought him a vampire.
However there is another noble in Transylvania; that perhaps played more part in the vampire tale than Vlad. Countess Erzsébet Báthory, tale is that of great atrocity and murder: and provides more influence to the novel of Dracula than the historical figure he is so named after.
Erzsébet spent much time alone at the manor while her husband Ferenc Nádasdy was away tending his obligations. Erzsébet, was into many controversial interests of the time. Of these interests, were hair dying, flagellation, lesbian pursuits and allegedly the occult.
Erzsébet took great pleasure in the torment and suffering of her servants. She used various chambers in the manor specifically for torture and torment. Some of the techniques she would use were for specific punishments. If Erzsébet thought one of her servants was stealing from her, she would have them tied down and burned with coins. As a lady of vanity, Erzsébet took great pains to try and maintain her beauty.
This obsession with vanity is what earned Erzsébet the most notoriety and increased her cruelties exponentially. As the stories go one of Erzsébet servants snagged her hair while combing it. Erzsébet was so angered by this she struck the girl in the face. The girl’s head flung back from the impact and the blood from her nose landed on Erzsébet’s skin. Erzsébet was enamored by the way the blood seem to make her skin seem younger and more supple.
Erzsébet began a quick downward spiral, actuall it was more of a quick drop to which there was no return. The servant girl had her throat slit and drained in a tub. A tub which Erzsébet bathed in. These blood baths Erzsébet thought were the key to eternal youth. Eventually she decided that the blood of young virgins were to be the most effective at restoring her youth. In addition to the slaughter of many young women, Erzsébet kept many on hand in her torture chambers. These poor girls would be cut with razors; and their blood would be applied, as some women apply moistening lotion today. These girls inevitably had their throats slit or died slowly of the razor cuts.
Erzsébet was eventually brought to trial for her crimes against the people, with the number victims range from 60 to over 600. Erzsébet was sentenced to be sealed up in a wall; where she was fed food and water through a crack for 3 years. This was where she finally died. It was thought that her punishment for these mass murders to be far less severe than adultery to her husband. This also insured that Erzsébet living relatives would thusly inherit the domain.
Both Vlad and Erzsébet, were seen as a huge influence for the creation of the Dracula novel.
Where the story ends though the legend often begins. With Dracula himself seeming far less cruel as a vampire than as a mortal man. Dracula became merely an eccentric, while Vlad and Erzsébet surpassed the atrocities of fiction and became more brutal than the story ever was.