Adelaide Literary Magazine


ADELAIDE Independent Monthly Literary Magazine / Revista Literária Independente Mensal, New York / Lisboa, Online Edition  








by Dr Raymond Fenech



The Third Letter, was a historic ballad, written by one of the most popular and greatest romantic poets in Romania, Mihai Eminescu where once, he actually invoked Tepes, as he is still known today by the Romanian people, to return from the grave to save them and put the enemies of his country to the sword. In this historic poem, Mihai fervently requests:

You must come, O dread Impaler, confound them to your care.

Split them in two partitions, here the fools, the rascals there;

Shove them into two enclosures from the broad daylight enisle 'em,

Then set fire to the prison and the lunatic asylum.

Vlad Dracula, the man known to the West as the most evil and terrifying vampire of all times came to the fore thanks to Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula. But he is not the character as depicted in this novel and his historic significance goes much further than that, especially with the Romanian people who to date consider him as their national hero.

Perhaps, first it would be better to discover how Vlad the Impaler, Tepes as he is known to his people, son of Dracul (Latin draco meaning dragon) became the man who was to be the terror of the Ottoman Empire. On October 1, 2014, Christopher Klein wrote in an article that Dracula’s Dungeon, the 15th century Romanian Ruler had been unearthed in Turkey.

Hurriyet Daily News, a Turkish newspaper reported the discovery was made by archaeologists, while they were working on the restoration of Tokat Castle in northern Turkey. There, they uncovered two dungeons where it is believed Vlad the Impaler was held hostage. Archaeologist Ibrahim Cetin pointed out in the newspaper that: The dungeons were built like a prison, adding, the castle is completely surrounded by secret tunnels. It is very mysterious. It is hard to estimate in which room Dracula was kept, but he was around here.

It has always been strange how alliances are formed between the worse enemies and such was a case in point, when Wallachia, the ruler of Romania was forced to request the assistance of the Ottoman Sultan Murad II so together, they would engage in battle a neighboring enemy who had penetrated inside Transylvanian territory. Vlad the II, Vlad the Implaer’s father embarked on a dangerous journey, deep into enemy territory that of the Turkish Empire hoping his diplomatic mission would be successful. Accompanying him were his two sons, prince Vlad III, who was 11 and 7-year old Radu. Eleven years earlier, their father had taken a solemn oath to defend Christianity in Eastern Europe, when he joined the Order of the Dragon, a fellowship of knights.

The diplomatic mission which Vlad II had embarked upon turned out to be a trap as both himself and his two sons were imprisoned. The elder Vlad was released under the condition that he leaves his sons behind. The two young boys were held hostages at Tokat Castle, which was situated high up along a precipice overlooking the town of Tokat, exactly where the archaeologists discovered the dungeons. During their stay, Vlad III and Radu were taught science, the arts and philosophy. Vlad became a very skilled horseman and a warrior, but he was also mistreated and tortured. His hate for the Ottomans grew to a point that would later unleash his wrath, turning him into their most feared enemy. It was probably the Ottomans themselves who used to impale their prisoners that inspired him to do the same to them.

In the meantime, the rest of his family, weren’t much better than he was as a prisoner of the Ottomans.  Vlad II was killed by local warlords known as the Boyars in the swamps near Balteni, Wallachia in 1447, whilst his older brother, Mircea, was tortured, blinded and then buried alive.

Surely the influence of these terrifying events during Vlad III’s boyhood must have contributed in no small way to turn him into a ruthless and merciless killer. The Ottomans themselves had created a monster which would eventually unleash hell upon them.

The day finally came when Vlad the III was released from Tokat. In 1456, Vlad III ascended to the throne of Wallachia.  He was now ready to make it his mission to take his revenge and become the terror of the Ottomans. His merciless way in which he dealt with the prisoners earned him the nickname of Vlad the Impaler.  His terrorific reign of blood went beyond the imagination even of the worse psychopathic murders in history. His style of torture, mutilation and mass murder of his enemies involved a variety of sadistic deaths by impalement, disemboweling, beheading, skinning, or boiling alive.

Europe was threatened with the Ottoman invasion after Constantinople fell in 1453. Vlad III led a huge force to take on the Turkish Armada and to ensure that Wallachia would not fall under the Ottoman rule. The battle which took place in 1456 turned Vlad into a legend, when a story of his triumph circulated the villages that he had single handed fought Vladislave II, one of his enemy leaders, beheading him in the process.

Although Vlad III ruled his homeland, his property was in ruins because of the raging wars, as well as a result of the civil wars caused by the feuding boyars. To solve this problem once and for all, Vlad decided to host the boyars to a sumptuous banquet. Hundreds of them attended never realizing this would turn out to be their last supper as they were all murdered and then impaled.

In 1462, Vlad III received the news that an Ottoman army, eight times the size of his own were advancing into his territory. This was by far the most famous victories of Vlad III on Mehmed II. The battle raged in 1462 when 250,000 Ottomans were at the end of a crushing defeat by Vlad’s army, which consisted then of 30,000 men among them young boys.

Quickly, he ordered his troops to hide in the adjacent Romanian forests where he waged a very savage but clever guerilla type of war on the enemy, poisoning water wells and spreading death through the enemy ranks, by infiltrating men with contagious diseases. When the enemy was at its extreme limits, he decimated the remaining force by attacking them and impaling over 20,000 Turkish soldiers on steel poles outside Targoviste City. When Sultan Mehmed II arrived on the battleground, he was so horrified by the scene of his men mostly still alive and suffering excruciating pain from their impalement that he ran back to Constantinople. 

But it seemed that Vlad’s reign would not last, when Hungarian forces captured him in Romania later that same year. He was imprisoned for over a decade for the second time in his life. But it was not the end of Vlad for he reclaimed his throne in 1475, after his brother Radu died. A year later, Vlad III fell in a battle against his worse enemies, the Ottomans. But by then, only his body could die, because his reputation of being the greatest most feared leader grew to the extent that he became a legend. Stories spread quickly around his people how he cannibalized the bodies of his victims and soaked his bread in their blood.

Centuries later, the legend of Vlad III, even though already well known among the people in Eastern Europe, reached international fame when in 1897, Irish Novelist, Bram Stoker wrote fervently about the dark nature of this Romanian hero and immortalized him forever in his Gothic novel, Dracula. 

For those who do not know what impaling is and how it’s done, here are the grizzly details. Readers who are squeamish are advised to skip this paragraph and move on to the next. Impaling is more than what many historians describe as a gruesome torture – in fact this is indeed an understatement. Specialized people were employed purposely to do this sadistic operation, in which either a metal, or a wooden pole were used. These, unlike many would imagine had a blunt edge and this was purposely made that way, to avoid injuring any vital organs as they were inserted vertically through the vagina or the rectum, or through the body either from the back or the front.  The end of the pole would either exit right through the victim's mouth, neck or shoulders. It would be quite impossible to describe the agony and the excruciating pain suffered by the victims as the poles would then be raised vertically increasing the victim’s torment, which could last from hours to days, before death put an end to his suffering. The height of the pole also had an important significance. Those who had higher ranks were impaled on longer poles than those who were common soldiers. The idea was to intimidate Valld’s enemies as the poles could be easily seen from afar. The act of impaling was also undoubtedly intended to cause psychological repercussions on any invading enemy soldiers, who on witnessing such scenes of horror and devastation would lose their appetite to fight, knowing they could meet the same fate.

Vlad III’s reputation as a vicious and perhaps even psychotic murderer is arguably one of the most disputed subjects about his reign of Wallachia. Some historians do not consider this as something out of the ordinary, considering that in those times most rulers applied various horrendous methods of death and torture for their enemies. It was most certainly no place for wimps and only the strongest and most courageous survived to tell their story. 

One particular impressive story was when Vlad was visited by Ottoman diplomatic envoys in 1459. When they were asked to take off their turbans, the Turkish diplomats refused, saying it went against their religious custom to remove them. But Vlad was not having any of that and whilst he highly congratulated them for their devotion to their customs, he ordered his soldiers to nail their turbans onto their skulls.

But such ‘barbarities’ were very common in those days. Grand Master La Valette who led the Great Siege of Malta in 1565 and managed to destroy the Ottoman forces, which were 10 times more numerous to his, on one particular occasion reacted in the same way. When one of his fortresses fell in Ottoman’s hands, the remaining few surviving knights were crucified on wooden crosses, beheaded and disemboweled. Some even say the Ottomans actually fried and ate the liver of the knights, whilst these were still alive and watching their enemy banquet on their entrails. La Valette was so infuriated, he ordered the hundreds of captured Turkish prisoners to be beheaded. He then ordered his men to turn the cannons on the fortresses in the direction were the Ottoman camps had been set up and used the Turkish prisoner heads as cannon balls. You can imagine the shock of the Ottoman soldiers when they were showered by the heads of their own colleagues.

These were medieval harsh times for all that and neither the Geneva Convention nor any Human Rights Organizations had as yet been invented. Having said that, even in today’s wars, atrocities, torture, beheadings and mass murder is practiced on regular basis. In those days, most men would die for their word of honour, their religious values and principles – how many men today would be willing to do the same?

In 1462, Vlad wrote a letter to one of his military allies describing in some detail a victory he had accomplished against the Turkish invaders: I have killed peasants, men and women, old and young, who lived at Oblucitza and Novoselo, where the Danube flows into the sea … We killed 23,884 Turks, without counting those whom we burned in homes, or the Turks whose heads were cut by our soldiers ...Thus, your highness, you must know that I have broken the peace. It is estimated that Vlad killed over 100,000 people.

It has to be emphasized Vlad III had become the terror of the Ottomans and his victories became famous to the point that Pope Pius II was highly impressed at the devastation and fear he had spread among the Ottomans. His victories were not just celebrated in Wallachia and Transylvania, but throughout the rest of Europe.

Vlad finally met his end in 1476, whilst on yet another battle against the Ottomans. He together with a small vanguard of soldiers patrolling a battlefield were ambushed. Vlad fought to the end but finally succumbed and was overpowered and killed. He was then beheaded and his head was taken to his worst enemy in Constantinople, Mehmed II as a memento, which ended up decorating the city gates.

During the Communist reign of Nicolae Ceausescu in the 70s, the name of Vlad III was once again resurrected and proclaimed a National hero. It was declared that his ruthlessness was in line with the times and that most, if not all other European leaders were as ruthless and vindictive with their enemies as he was.

Nikolaus Modrussa, the Bishop of Modrussa, a close adviser to Pope Pius II (Papacostea 1988, 227) described Vlad as follows: He was not very tall, but he was corpulent and muscular. His appearance was cold and inspired a certain horror. He had an aquiline nose, dilated nostrils, a reddish thin face, and very long eyelashes that overshadowed big, wide, gray eyes; His black, bushy eyebrows made him look menacing. He wore a mustache, and his prominent cheekbones made his face look even more energetic. A bull's neck clutched his head, from which a curly black mane hung on broad shoulders.

Vlad III’s Mythical Fame in Our Times

Dracula wouldn’t have been so popularly acclaimed hadn’t it been for Bram Stoker’s novel and In Search of Dracula, the revelations brought to light by Florescu and McNally in (1972 and revised in 1994). Since Vlad’s fame continuous to date because of the above publications, I strongly believe that both the legend and myth that followed deserve some space in this article. The following is a series of news items, scientific studies and articles which continued making Vlad the Impaler so famous even after so many years since his demise.

An interesting study of what vampires are afraid of is very relevant to the above article since Vlad III, Dracula served as the foundation of Stoker’s legendary vampire. What is strange in the following documented evidence is that there are existing conditions/diseases that actually make a human a vampire look alike. Here are some of these features:

Why are vampires afraid of garlic?

Actually garlic and the fear it induces on vampires is otherwise known as alliumphobia, a neurosis that causes people to become terrified by the sheer foul smell of the plant.So, if you are eating out, don’t be surprised if you see a person running away from his food if this would have been sprinkled with garlic. And if he does, then according to this study this could well be a vampire. Being close to garlic triggers a severe panic attack strong enough for the ‘vampire’ to run away.

In southern Slavic countries and Romania legend has it that vampires are repelled by garlic. This stems from its use also to ward off evil spirits. So it was believed, those who refused to eat garlic were vampires. Cloves of garlic were placed in the mouths of the deceased prior to burial to prevent them from turning into vampires, according to "In search of Dracula: the History of Dracula and Vampires," (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1994).

Why Vampires Bite

Vampires are known to have fangs, but humans like most carnivorous predators also possess sharp pointed teeth. What causes vampires to bite is actually termed as hydrophobia, better known as rabies, a disease that is often found in dogs or bats and other animals. In fact, this virus affects the nervous system, but not only, it also poses serious eye problems as these become over sensitive to sunlight and other visual stimuli such as mirrors. In Latin rabies means madness, or rage and causes the persons affected by it to become very violent, delusional and delirious. Sleep patterns are also affected by rabies and this leads to insomnia or sexomania.

According to Mayo clinic, bat bites, to which vampires are often described as turning into, are the most common source of rabies infection. In fact, two strains of the rabies virus in several European countries can only be transmitted to humans by bats and are therefore known as bat rabies

The Mirror Effect

Very often vampires are said to be invisible in mirrors. This is of course according to fiction but is it? A disease known as Eisoptrophobia actually causes people to be frightened of mirrors. People with this kind of disorder causes them severe anxiety attacks. This makes them believe that just looking inside a mirror can actually bring about a supernatural entity. Some can only look inside a mirror for a few seconds. According to them, if they stay longer starring inside the mirror, they would see that the person inside is not their reflection. According to "An Excess of Phobias and Manias," (Senior Scribe Publications, 2003).

The mythical knowledge, vampires are invisible in mirrors dates back to European Myths that believe they have no reflection because they have no soul.

Blood thirsty

Biochemist David Dolphin in 1985 claimed he had discovered a disease that could be linked to the vampire myth. He pointed out that this was really nothing but porphyria, a genetic blood disorder. Porphyria sufferers feel the desire to drink human blood, which in turn causes abnormalities in their hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells. His theory was later dismissed as a misunderstanding of the disease.

Furthermore, Mayo clinic has revealed that another vampire symptom that is real is red-colored urine, explaining why historically, people may have suspected porphyria sufferers of drinking blood.

Exposure to Sunlight

Vampires cannot stand sunlight – is this a myth too? Not really this is actually a rare but very realistic disease that makes the sufferer unable to withstand sunlight, so much so that blisters start to form on his skin within minutes of exposure to the sun.

Are Vampires Real or a Myth?

The following article written by Professor Verselin Cajkanovic, specializing in classical languages and chairman of the classics department at the University of Belgrade, as well as a noted ethnologist was translated by Srpski Knijizeveni Glanik (The Serbian Literary Herald) (Begrade 1923.)

According to the author of the book, The Vampire, a Casebook edited by Alan Dundes this article recounts as follows:

A few days ago, in a patriarchal area of Bosnia, an unusual event occurred. In the village Tupanari (in the Vlasenicki jurisdiction), a vampire appeared. When it became intolerable, the peasants gathered, and more antique, they dug up from the grave, pierced it with a hawthorn stake, and then burned it.

Several Belgrade papers have written about this incident. According to a report in Vreme (Time number 511, May 23 of this year) an excerpt is claims as follows:

An old peasant Paja Tomic … died … the 9th of April this year. Shortly after his death, his wife Cvija began to complain that her dead husband had begun to return nights as a ghost and that he ran throughout the house scaring the inhabitants. There are some who believe Cvija and some who did not, though she has unceasingly asserted that her husband is a vampire and that he returns every night. Thus things went on for a whole month and then, it is said, her sons also became aware that there was a vampire in the house.

Stevo and Krsto Tomic, the sons of the deceased called the whole village to a discussion of what could be done about their father who had become a vampire … The crowd led by the two sons went to the cemetery and the corpse was dug up. It was pierced by the hawthorn pole and thrown onto stakes. After the body was burnt and the ashes dispersed and those few charred remaining bones thrown back into the grave …  A ‘vukodlak’ (a vampire) sometimes returns to his wife and sleeps with her; and then a child is born of such a union that does not have bones.

The Vampire, a Casebook continues: And if the Tupanari report does not state this plainly, it is obvious the Cvija and the peasants of Tupanari made just the same assumption regarding the purpose of the vampire Paja. As can be seen among our people even today, such an ancient belief has been preserved; namely, a god, or demon can have corporal union with a mortal woman.

But there have been sightings and even attacks by ‘vampires’ and the following few incidents were highlighted in an article on the British newspaper, The Daily Mirror. According to Rod McPheein his article, Vampire Britain: UK Could be Home to More Blood-sucking Night-feeders than Dracula's Homeland, dated 16th September 2014.In the last 100 years, the UK recorded 25 times more vampire sightings than Transylvania. Here we look at some of the most fascinating cases. Two hundred and Six cases of vampire encounters were reported in Britain over the same period, an average of 2 sightings every year.

The research was the result of a compilation of evidence by Rev Lionel Fanthorpe, a paranormal investigator who went through at least 11,000 reports of unexplained phenomena in Britain since 1914, something which he described as shocking.

I really only expected to find one or two instances in Britain, he says. So I was amazed when I discovered one story after another. And I really didn’t expect to find more here than in somewhere like Transylvania. It is in a part of Europe where folklore and fairytales are widespread, but in fact, we could only find nine or 10 reports there, over the same period.

These are some of the reported sightings: The Birmingham Vampire, The Surrey Vampire, The Lady Vampire, The Croglin Vampire, The Blandford Vampire, The Highgate Vampire, The Iron Toothed Vampire, The Berwick Vampire, The Alnwick Vampire, and The Animal Vampire.

Probably the most famous and the most realistic and durable of these encounters was, The Highgate Vampire, which terrified London in the 1970s. However, more recent sightings suggest the floating spectre has returned as a floating figure dressed in top hat, cape and well over six feet. This was reported in the Daily Star newspaper of 26th November 2016.

The newspaper further reported that: Witnesses say, they had seen a floating man in a Victorian suit and top hat apparently gliding through locked gates. Legend has it, the vampire was a medieval nobleman who had practiced black magic in medieval Romania. He arrived in England in a coffin in the 18th century, but was awakened from the dead by modern Satanists at his resting place, at Highgate Cemetery in North London.

The newspaper quoted David Farrant, who runs the British Psychic and Occult Society, as saying, He was one of the first to see the so-called vampire in 1969.

In a letter to the Hampstead and Highgate Express, he wrote, that when passing the cemetery he had glimpsed a grey figure.

He said: My first reaction was like it was so real that I actually thought it was someone dressed up or messing about, because all these stories about vampires were in the news. It was by some branches but as soon as I turned up, I was aware of something standing there and it was exuding a feeling not of evil, but menace.

It all happened so quickly. The whole thing lasted for four to five seconds and felt like whatever it was filled me with energy, it is difficult to explain, and suddenly it just vanished.


‘Dracula’s Dungeon Unearthed in Turkey’, Hurriyet Daily News, Turkey (Christopher Klein - October 1, 2014

Science NewsVlad the Impaler: The real Dracula was absolutely vicious (Marc Lallanilla) October 31, 2013

‘An Excess of Phobias and Manias,’ (Senior Scribe Publications, 2003).

25 Facts about Vlad Tepes the Impaler, updated on November 30, 2016 (Dr. Thomas Swan)

Who was the real Count Dracula? (Josh Clark)

Dracula’s homepage: Dracula: The History of Myth and the Myth of History (Elizabeth Miller)

Dracula Monster or Hero (Asleiman 38)

Live Science - Pop Culture, Real Life: 7 Strange Ways Humans Act Like Vampires (Remy Melina) March 28, 2013

Professor Verselin Cajkanovic, specializing in classical languages and chairman of the classics department at the University of Belgrade wrote an article on vampires in The Serbian Literary Herald, Belgrade 1923. It was inspired by a newspaper report on a real Bosnian vampire and in turn published in the book, The Vampire a Casebook edited by Alan Dundes – The University of Wisconsin Press 1998 

Vreme, Belgrade (Time number 511, May 23 of this year)

In search of Dracula: the History of Dracula and Vampires, (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1994).

The Daily Mirror newspaper, UK, Rod McPhee - Vampire Britain: could be home to more blood-sucking night-feeders than Dracula's homeland, 16th September 2014

Paranormal investigator Rev Lionel Fanthorpe, from his 11,000 reports of unexplained phenomena in Britain since 1914 contributed his opinion in the article, Vampire Britain: UK could be home to more blood-sucking night-feeders than Dracula's homeland, published in The Daily Mirror, 16th September 2014

The Daily Star, The Highgate Vampire returns: Horror sightings of 'floating figure' spark UK panic (Douglas Patient 26th November 2016)

Caption:  "[Stoker's] Dracula is linked to Transylvania, but the real, historic Dracula — Vlad III — never owned anything in Transylvania," Curta told Live Science. Bran Castle, a modern-day tourist attraction in Transylvania that is often referred to as Dracula's castle, was never the residence of the Wallachian prince, he added. "Because the castle is in the mountains in this foggy area and it looks spooky, it's what one would expect of Dracula's castle," Curta said. "But he [Vlad III] never lived there. He never even stepped foot there."
Caption: The Battle with Torches by Romanian painter Theodor Aman. It depicts the The Night Attack of Târgovişte, a skirmish fought between forces of Vlad III the Impaler of Wallachia and Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire on Thursday, June 17, 1462.









About the Author:

Raymond Fenech

Raymond Fenech embarked on his writing career as a freelance journalist at 18 and worked for the leading newspapers, The Times and Sunday Times of Malta. He edited two nation-wide distributed magazines and his poems, articles, essays and short stories have been featured in several publications in 12 countries. His research on ghosts has appeared in The International Directory of the Most Haunted Places, published by Penguin Books, USA.










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