The True Story of Count Dracula

Blog Blog

Monday, Oct 31 2022 by

It’s October, a month full of spooky stories of undead villains, haunted castles, and battles between good and evil. And the story of Dracula has all of that, for sure! Bram Stoker’s Dracula is one of the most famous stories ever written in English, and one of the most-often told.

Let’s take a look at the man, the legend, who probably inspired Bram Stoker to write one of the world’s best horror stories, and whose real life has villains, castles, and battles galore.

Birthplace of Vlad III, Sighișoara, Romania

Vlad III was born the grandson of the Voivode (something like an appointed count or duke) of Wallachia, a region in present-day Romania that played an important role in Middle Ages Europe. Wallachia was at a crossroads between the Muslim-ruled Ottoman Empire, the Christian Holy Roman Empire and the kingdom of Hungary.Vlad was born and raised for a short time in Sighișoara, which was one of the most important cities in central Europe for hundreds of years.

His house, in the old town center, is now a restaurant and tourist attraction, dedicated as much to the undead myth as the brutal ruler.

Birthplace of Vlad III the Impaler (Dracula) (StreetView)
Birthplace of Vlad III the Impaler (Dracula)

Curtea Veche, Vlad’s Royal Residence, Bucharest, Romania

Vlad III joined the Order of the Dragon (Dracul in medieval Romanian), a Christian order of knights sworn to fight Muslims, and took on the name “Dragul” or “Dracul”, which the creative Bram Stoker turned into “Dracula”.

He earned his other nickname, the “Impaler” because he decapitated diplomats and citizens and soldiers alike, and stuck their heads on pikes as warnings to his enemies. Even before his death, the legend of Vlad the Impaler spread throughout Europe. Rumored to have impaled tens of thousands, his story was told in some of the earliest printed literature.

While Vlad was ruler over Wallachia, he built a fortress, Curtea Veche, in Bucharest,  to defend his northern border from Hungary and his southern border from the Ottomans. He was the first of many rulers to recognize Bucharest’s strategic position, and it eventually became the country’s capital.

Curtea Veche has fallen into disrepair, but there is a large bust of Vlad III watching over his castle, and his lands.

Curtea Veche (Birds Eye)
Curtea Veche

Dracula’s Castle (Bran Castle), Bran, Romania

While this castle was a fortress rather than a palace, Vlad did stay here a few times both as a ruler and as a soldier seeking to protect and then restore his fiefdom.

Vlad "The Impaler" Tepes' Bran Castle (Google Maps)
Vlad "The Impaler" Tepes' Bran Castle

Another View

This castle, on the border between Wallachia and Transylvania, serves as an excellent base for planned invasions into new territory, and a great fortress for defending against invasion.

Dracula's Castle (Bran Castle) (StreetView)
Dracula's Castle (Bran Castle)


The grounds of the castle were in a prime defensive location, so leaders have had forts here for more than eleven hundred years. One fortress was razed to the ground by Genghis Khan’s invaders. More recently, the castle was an official royal residence for the short-lived royal family of Romania after World War I.

These days, the house is available to visit, but don’t expect to learn a lot about the written character of Dracula; the castle was not ever seen by Bram Stoker, nor was it an inspiration for the castle in the book. Descriptions of Dracula’s castle are entirely different from the actual castle.

Bran Castle Courtyard (StreetView)
Bran Castle Courtyard

Corvin Castle, Hunedoara, Romania

Wallachia in Vlad’s time was tumultuous and violent. Leaders seized power, and family members fought each other to the death for the right to rule. After Vlad’s father and brother died, a cousin took power. Vlad overthrew the cousin who took control, and then spent the rest of his life as ruler, a prisoner, or soldier.

After being deposed, Vlad was held for about a decade at Corvin Castle. The Castle is one of the largest in Europe, but the current castle probably doesn’t resemble the original, as reconstruction has been whimsical and not followed historical records.

Corvin Castle (StreetView)
Corvin Castle

Torture Room

The castle was a typical Gothic structure, with tall towers, colorful roofs, many courtyards, and plenty of place for a political prisoner. It even included a torture room, which may have been known to Vlad during the time he was there.

Torture was unfortunately common in medieval times, as a way of punishing people, extracting information, and seeking vengeance. The castle has an exhibition on torture, to help us understand what happened, and hopefully help us be more kind to one another.

Torture room - Corvin's Castle (StreetView)
Torture room - Corvin's Castle

Snagov Monastery, Bucharest, Romania

According to legend, after Vlad died in battle in late 1466 or early 1467, and was buried at Snagov Monastery in Bucharest. While there is no actual proof, the local government loves to encourage the idea, and promotes tourism to the small island.

Snagov Monastery (Google Maps)
Snagov Monastery

Vlad III was a brutal leader, but he is remembered as a hero of Romania for protecting the homeland at any cost against the Ottoman invaders, who conquered so much of Europe during the 1400s.

Vlad Dracul may not have been an undead vampire, but it’s certain his legend will live on in eternity.