By Light Unseen

Vlad "The Impaler" Tepes Dracula and Bram Stoker's novel

One of the most persistent and invulnerable pieces of total misinformation in popular culture is the claim that 19th century Irish writer Bram Stoker "was inspired by" or "based his character of Dracula on" the historical 15th century Wallachian warlord Prince Vlad III Dracula (1431-1476).

This is absolutely false.

Occasional "trivia" collectors had noticed the existence of a real-life person named Dracula (the syndicated newspaper feature Ripley's Believe It or Not once mentioned it, for instance), but no one gave it much thought beyond mild amusement. But in 1973, Boston University professors Radu Florescu and the late Raymond T. McNally published In Search of Dracula, in which they argued at great length that Bram Stoker based his fictional Count Dracula and much of what he says about the Count's history on the real Prince Vlad Dracula. The idea caught fire, for a lot of complicated reasons, and quickly embedded itself into the cultural consciousness.

Since then, Dracula scholars such as Dr. Elizabeth Miller have thoroughly and completely debunked McNally and Florescu's arguments, and established beyond any doubt that Stoker knew absolutely nothing about the historical Vlad Tepes. Bram Stoker had already outlined his story (originally titled The Undead) and established his character (originally named "Count Wampyr") before he ran across the name "Dracula" in his reading. He liked the name, and his source claimed it meant "devil," so he adopted it. It's very likely that some of the historical details that Count Dracula lectures about to Jonathan Harker in the book's early chapters are actually drawn from accounts of Vlad Tepes' father, Prince Dracul. ("Dracul-a" simply means "son of Dracul").

In Prince Vlad's homeland of Romania, the connection to vampires is especially resented. To Romanians, Prince Vlad Dracula is a national hero who defended Christiandom against the infidel (Muslim) Turks. They never associated him with vampires or evil. Dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu (1918-1989) believed himself to be a reincarnation of Prince Vlad, which is analogous to an American President believing he was the reincarnation of, say, George Washington or Abraham Lincoln.

Despite continuous efforts by Dr. Miller and others to set the record straight, journalists, writers and even academics contine to repeat the misinformation that "Vlad the Impaler inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula."