Few characters capture the imagination as dramatically as Dracula, the blood-thirsty count from Transylvania--which is how the Irish author Bram Stoker portrayed the mythical monster in his 1897 novel, Dracula. In 1931, a first musical horror movie was produced. The world now knows Count Dracula as a pale, red-lipped vampire who lives in a fog-shrouded castle set high in the forested Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania. At night, he prowls the villages below for fresh blood.
In Stoker's novel, Dracula can become a wolf, a bat, or a puff of smoke, and is immortal as long as he's able to drink the blood of the living. Despite his powers, he is vulnerable to such simple defenses as garlic, wolfsbane, crucifixes, and holy water. In movies, Dracula chases beautiful young women through convents, sepulchers, monasteries, prison cells and castle ruins, through rooms with trapdoors, secret passages, animated skeletons, and portraits that come to life.
In Romania, however, historians and teachers depict Dracula's model, the 15th-century Vlad the Impaler, as a patriot and champion of order, eager to be known as a mighty ruler.
Vlad was the son of a 15th-century prince known as Vlad Dracul--"Dracul" means "evil" in Romanian. His father sent the boy and his brother to Turkey as hostages to guarantee Dracul's faithfulness to the Sultan. There, young Vlad learned punishments such as impaling, which was common in the 1400s. When Vlad returned to rule in Romania, his law enforcement was simple: criminals and anyone who offended …