Did you know that the archfiend best representing the Halloween season — namely, Count Dracula — is fake news?
I don’t mean that he’s fake in the sense that he’s fictional — which, of course, he is — but rather that his entire genesis is grounded in a pattern we now recognize and see on a daily basis: leftist propagandistic forces working to transform heroes into villains.
Count Dracula entered the popular consciousness in 1897, with the publication of Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula, which surrounds the exploits of an undead bloodsucker from Romania. As many novelists do, Stoker tried to give his story an aura of historic legitimacy by connecting it to real people and events. For his novel’s namesake, he found a real Romanian, Vlad III Dracula (c. 1430-1476), also known as Vlad the Impaler.
Although the contemporary historical records Stoker relied on did not portray Dracula as a denizen of the night, fluttering about in the darkness in search of his latest victim before “retiring” for the day inside a coffin, they did portray him as a sadist who tortured and impaled his victims — including small animals and insects, when he couldn’t find any humans.
Among other depravities, these accounts say that Vlad boiled people alive, shredded others “like cabbage,” forced parents to eat their children and husbands to eat their wives’ breasts, forced Muslim Tatars to swallow their own semen, and built secret trapdoors to drop his victims on cunningly located stakes below.
Most historians today reject these accounts and see them for what they were: enemy propaganda meant to demonize and take down Dracula. (Johannes Gutenberg had only recently invented the movable-type printing press, and Vlad’s enemies made great use of it to propagandize his alleged atrocities.)
That said, and to be sure, by today’s standards, Vlad III Dracula was immensely cruel and regularly impaled his enemies.
He also had something of a “dark” sense of humor. When Turkish envoys refused to remove their turbans in his presence, arguing that it was Muslim “custom and law” that they keep their heads under wraps, Dracula replied, “And I shall uphold your law, so that you adhere to it firmly.” He then had their turbans fastened tightly around their heads with little iron nails. As he dismissed the brain-hemorrhaged emissaries, he commanded them to tell their master, Sultan Muhammad II, the feared conqueror of Constantinople, not to “send his customs to other lords, who don’t want them, but let him keep them [to] himself.”
Despite all this, it’s what is left out — the all-important context, which fake news thrives on omitting — that invalidates the overall depiction of Vlad. Just as Americans today are regularly hammered about their ancestors’ role in slavery — without ever being told that everyone engaged in slavery, and often on a much worse scale than Americans — virtually everyone of Dracula’s era was by today’s standards cruel, and impalement was a standard form of execution.
Also left out is that Vlad was first exposed to savagery in his youth when he was a prisoner of the Turks, who regularly tortured and impaled their victims (and turned his younger brother and fellow prisoner into a catamite). In his adult years, he learned to fight fire with fire — not least because he was vastly outnumbered and disadvantaged — terrorizing and impaling his Ottoman enemies no less than they had done to his people. Even the contemporary claim that he dined near his impaled victims was a tradition begun by Sultan Murad II, his captor, who ordered tables set and a feast held among the corpses of his Christian enemies following the battle of Varna,1444.