13 Historical Figures And True Stories That Directly Inspired Dracula

In the world of entertainment, the creatures known as vampires have transformed from frightening, monstrous beasts to well-groomed, glittery hunks. However, could regarding vampires as solely fictitious creatures be somewhat inaccurate? Maybe so! The truth is, some historical people were well-known and feared for their real-life vampire tendencies, and among certain criminals, there has been a longstanding tendency to believe they were vampires. In fact, the Irish author, Bram Stoker was said to be inspired by many real-life sources for his novel Dracula. Some of these sources for Dracula included people who were basically like Dracula in real life. 

In 1897, Bram Stoker released his Gothic horror masterpiece Dracula. The tale followed the journey of Count Dracula, a vampire relocating from Transylvania to England, in search of new blood. While Stoker’s Dracula character has been the inspiration for many classic horror movies and subsequent vampire tales, he is certainly not the first vampire to strike fear into people’s minds or imaginations.  

Although it may be hard to believe that the inspiration for Dracula could be based on actual historical figures, there’s a slew of novels, places, and events that may have inspired the famed author. In fact, his son even stated that his father thought of Dracula after a nightmare he had from ingesting too much crab. Although his son’s statement is laughable, some inspirational occurrences are more morbid in nature. Still, whatever events and things Dracula is based on, the idea of a blood-sucking, immortal monster, fictitious or not, is freaking scary. 

  • Prince Vlad Dracula Was A Bloodthirsty Ruler
    Photo: Anonymous / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Prince Vlad Dracula Was A Bloodthirsty Ruler

    Over the years, many scholars have come to believe that Vlad Dracula, a 15th-century Romanian prince, was the primary inspiration for Stoker's Dracula. Although other theories have also been put forth, one thing that is for certain is that Vlad was an evil man and a bloodthirsty ruler. In fact, his thirst for murder and torture earned him the title Vlad the Impaler.

    He was particularly fond of making enemy soldiers straddle spikes, which - when their leg muscles eventually gave out - would impale them. However, his murderous methods didn’t stop there. He was also known for boiling victims alive, feeding them to animals, and flaying them. It’s even reported that Vlad used these deadly procedures on innocent people, including women and children. 

  • Countess Elizabeth Bathory Murdered Young Women And Drank Their Blood
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Countess Elizabeth Bathory Murdered Young Women And Drank Their Blood

    Elizabeth Bathory was a Hungarian countess who would come to be known as one of the first vampires in history. In addition to a deeply disturbing sadomasochistic streak, she believed drinking and bathing in the blood of young girls would keep her looking youthful. Her beliefs led the countesses on a bloody rampage, which resulted in the deaths of over 650 young women.

    All of the tactics she used to kill and torture her victims were gruesome. She would slice, prod, burn, and beat her victims while they lived to collect their blood. She enjoyed mutilating their bodies, and it’s reported that she derived sexual gratification from her murders. This also included using her teeth to make lacerations on the breasts and genitals of her victims.   

  • People Were Prematurely Buried During A Cholera Epidemic In Sligo, Ireland, In 1832 

    Dacre Stoker, the famed author's great-grandnephew, was invited to Sligo, Ireland, by the local Bram Stoker Society, where he confirmed a cholera epidemic in town in 1832 inspired the story of Dracula. Bran Stoker's mother, Charlotte, grew up in Sligo.

    According to Dacre Stoker, when his great-granduncle's mother moved to France, Bram Stoker asked her to write down what she remembered from the premature burials in Sligo during the cholera outbreak and send them to him, confirming he must have used the accounts to inspire his tale of the undead.  

    Burial records from Sligo in 1832 are seven pages longer than the years prior. According to historian Dr. Fiona Gallagher, anywhere from 700 to 1,000 people perished within a six-day period, most of whom suffered a fever in the hospital. To prevent spreading the disease, people were buried right away - some before they'd actually passed. 

    When Bram Stoker was sick as a child, his mother reportedly told him stories about what happened in Sligo. During his visit to Sligo, Dacre Stoker presented a storyboard at St John's Cathedral in Sligo, where some of the infected were laid to rest. 

  • An Essay Called 'Transylvania Superstitions' Classified Two Types Of Vampires
    Photo: Muzsi Endre-Előd / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    An Essay Called 'Transylvania Superstitions' Classified Two Types Of Vampires

    In 1885, author Emily Gerard published an essay explaining Transylvanian folklore. The essay, titled Transylvania Superstitions, spoke about Nosferatu and vampires in full detail. It mentions that there are two types of vampires: those who are "illegitimate offspring" and those bitten and turned into vampires. Her essay goes into detail regarding a vampire’s lust for blood, and she describes the gruesome method of killing a vampire. This involves exorcisms, decapitation, and using a stake or burning the heart.

    Published before Dracula, Transylvania Superstitions was a significant influence on Stoker who studied it thoroughly before creating Dracula. 

  • The Baobhan Sith Was A Beautiful Fairy With Vampire Tendencies
    Photo: Henry Bates Joel / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    The Baobhan Sith Was A Beautiful Fairy With Vampire Tendencies

    According to Scottish mythology, baobhan sith - or the White Women of the Scottish Highlands - were beautiful female fairies with vampire-like tendencies. In the tales, a baobhan sith would rise from the grave to feed at night. She would use her enchanting appearance to seduce her victims, which were usually traveling men. Using her alluring spell, the baobhan sith would puncture or slit the neck of her victim with her sharp talons. She would then suck out every drop of blood from the victim and leave his withered corpse behind before crawling back to her grave.

    The baobhan sith would only hunt during late hours when the sun was down because they couldn’t tolerate the sunlight. Obviously, these folk tales predate Stoker's toothy menace.

  • The First Lesbian Vampire Was Carmilla
    Photo: David Henry Friston / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    The First Lesbian Vampire Was Carmilla

    A gothic novella that predates Stoker’s Dracula is the 1872 story Carmilla, by Irish writer Sheridan le Fanu. In fact, Carmilla  is one of the earliest examples of vampire fiction, and it's the first lesbian vampire story ever written.

    The story follows a female vampire named Carmilla and her lust for blood - as well as sexual pleasantries - from female victims. Carmilla is described as an unnatural beauty who can also transform into a black cat. After she seduces her female victims, she either kills them immediately to feed on, or she keeps them alive to continuously feed. The story is dark and filled with many sexual scenarios and gruesome murders. It was a major influence on Bram Stoker.