It’s October! You know what that means? It means that I take on the challenge of posting something every day but better than that, I have to stick to a theme. I did this last year with the ‘more popular than I thought it would be’ 31 Ghost Stories and the year before with the ‘slightly less popular than last year’ 31 Halloweens. Even though the latest trend at Cinema S seems to be all about letting this place quietly slip away, posting a new article one every ten days or so, I’m going to do this and hopefully get this place back on track. This year’s theme is Based On A True Story. Remember a couple of years back when it seemed like absolutely every horror movie to come down the pike was marketed with the tag line “Based On A True Story” whether or not the story was actually true? Well, in true Snopes fashion, I’m going to pick 31 horror movies reporting to be based on true stories and give you the truth of it all. First up: Dracula.
Published in 1897, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, never actually claiming to be based on any kind of true story, was heavily influenced by numerous morbid chapters in history. By this point, everyone knows about the connection to Vlad Tepes. It’s usually around this time of year when The History Channel manages to wedge some spooky documentaries between it’s usual Hitler-centric programming and among them is something about the so-called ‘real’ Dracula. Dracula is mostly based on the historical voivode of Walachia, Vlad Tepes, aka Vlad The Impaler, aka Vlad Dracula. Between 1456 and 1462 , Vlad Tepes ran the show in Transylvania, not so much a nation as it is a district of Romania. Many years prior to his ascension to the throne, Vlad spent time in Turkish prisons after his father had been ousted from his position of voivode. See, Transylvania (most of the region, actually) had been at war with the Turkish for years and it was at this time that they managed to gain the upper hand in the war against everyone not Muslim. Vlad and his brother Radu were given over to the Turks as a sort of retainer fee for not killing everyone in the Transylvanian royal court. While in Turkish custody, Radu converted to Islam and hung tight with his captors because this is how you were actually expected to do things back then. It was a real pain in the ass and Vlad was having none of it. He was a belligerent, persistent asshole toward his captors who beat the crap out of him regularly for his insolence. Vlad and Radu were eventually returned to their father in Transylvania after Vlad II had become an ally of the Turkish but it was way too late for Vlad Dracula who had grown to resent everyone, particularly his father who had turned his back on The Order of the Dragon’s oath to fight the Turkish. Vlad knew that his time would come and when it did he fucked everyone’s shit up. The Ottoman’s were pretty much in control of Transylvania at the time, Vlad’s father had been betrayed and assassinated by his own people and his brother, Mircea was blinded and buried alive by the same people. Next in line to rule was Dracula and he stormed in, destroyed the Ottoman presence, who had been coming apart at the seams thanks to the crappy condition of Wallachia after decades of war. His first order of business was to get even. Vlad rounded up his Ottoman enemies, his Transylvanian political enemies and pretty much anyone who had anything to do with his father’s death and the selling out of Transylvania and had them impaled on huge spikes. Dracula was said to stand on the battlements of his castle and watch as this happened. The man was a maniac.
This wasn’t the end, though. Wallachia was in a constant state of upheaval with voivodes coming and going every couple of years. Dracula was in an and out of the throne three times while his brother Radu took over for a while. Meanwhile, Dracula was leading armies in combat against the Ottoman Empire. He had a winning strategy that always seemed to involve falling back to safe territory while leaving nothing but waste and misery in his wake. His army would fall back from their position against the Turks, they would raid Transylvanian settlements, taking up all their resources and destroying everything else. By the time the Ottoman’s got there there was nothing left for them. So by the time they got all the way back to Transylvania, they found Dracula’s army waiting for them, well-fed and rested while they, themselves, were exhausted and tired, many of their original numbers dead from disease and starvation. Dracula’s army would fight them to the last man, one hundred percent casualties.
It doesn’t end there, either. Dracula was heavy, man. One of the men responsible for the murder of his brother was condemned to die and forced to kneel befo0re his own open grave while reading his own euology. Yes! Awesome! Want more? Before he had them all executed, he rounded up his political enemies and forcibly marched them into the Carpathian Mountains where they were forced to build him a massive citadel. Vlad Tepes was a cruel, cruel dude. Eventually his fortunes turned sour and the Turks got the best of him in battle. It’s not known exactly when or where he died but it was somewhere in early 1477.
At no point in the actual history of Vlad Tepes is the vampire myth ever mentioned.
About 150 years later in Hungary, still at war with the freakin’ Ottoman Empire, a similar story appears when the Hungarian Countess, Báthory Erzsébet (aka Elizabeth Bathory), is accused of tprturing and murdering as many as 650 young women for reasons left up to speculation at this point. The popular belief being that in order to retain her youth, Bathory would bathe in their blood. Allegations of cannibalism also rose out of this investigation. Bathory’s reign of terror was a long one. It had to be to kill that many women, but the case lacks detail. Where there’s plenty known about the horror of Vlad Tepes, the details of the cruelty of Elizabeth Bathory is mostly unknown.
So there you have it. The historical basis for one of the greatest horror novels of all time, the blueprint for the modern vampire myth and a legacy of absolutely essential horror movies. Dracula. Based on a true story.