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The REAL Monsters of Halloween

These enduring characters have a fascinating basis in real life

By

Vlad Dracul

Vlad the Impaler

THINK OF HALLOWEEN and your mind conjures images of ghosts, vampires, witches and monsters. Our modern versions of them have largely been crafted by popular literature and, more influentially, the movies. But like many fantastic characters of myth and lore, they have a basis in reality.

Sometimes the true stories of these creatures that haunt our imaginations are just as weird and amazing as their fictional incarnations:

DRACULA / VAMPIRES

Today's vampire persona - the elegant blood-sucking creature of the night - comes primarily from Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula, published in 1897. Stoker's story, in turn, was based loosely on the real-life Vlad Dracula (1431-1476), a prince who actually did live in Transylvania in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. The name Dracula is derived from a Romanian word that means "devil" or dragon." Obviously, Vlad Dracula was not a vampire, but Stoker undoubtedly used the historical figure as the basis of his vampire story because of Vlad's bloodthirsty style of dealing with those who opposed him. "A Brief History About the Dracul" states: "Vlad's brutal manner of terrorizing his enemies and the seemingly arbitrary manner in which he had people punished earned him the nickname 'Tepes' or 'the Impaler,' the common name by which he is known today. Stories of Vlad's cruelties were circulating through Europe. His end came at the hand of an assassin at some point toward the end of December 1476 or early January 1477."

The legend of the vampire predates Bram Stoker and even Vlad the Impaler. Vampires Thru the Ages traces them back to 1047 and a document referring to a Russian Prince as "Upir Lichy" or Wicked Vampire. A century later, Walter Map's De Nagis Curialium includes accounts of vampire-like beings in England. Waves of vampire hysteria swept through Prussia and Hungary in the 1700s, fueled perhaps by disease, ignorance and maybe a psychotic serial killer or two.

The tradition of the vampire has been firmly established into our modern culture by Hollywood, television and the highly popular novels of Anne Rice and others.

Are there real vampires? No. There are small cults of people who call themselves "vampires," like to dress in "goth" fashion, avoid the daylight and might even drink human blood. But there's nothing supernatural about these people - maybe just something a bit... odd.

Next page: The Frankenstein Monster

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