In Search of Vampires

In Eastern European folk tales, vampires are nocturnal bloodsuckers who have risen from the dead. We know these creatures' apotheosis, Dracula, as a vampire from Transylvania, a bat-like person with long canine teeth who lies in a coffin during the day and bites necks and drinks blood for sustenance.

But why do we know about Dracula and vampires at all? Why and how did a regional myth grow into one of modern Western culture's most enduring fixtures?

The historical Dracula, Vlad Tepes, was no vampire. Vlad was born in 1431 and reigned on and off from 1448 as Prince Woiwode of Walachei, the southern part of today's Romania, clashing regularly with the Ottoman Empire, Hungary's King Matthias Corvinus, and the Saxon cities of Transylvania. Although he achieved important victories over the Ottomans, Corvinus took him prisoner, and he was killed in 1477 in renewed fighting with Ottoman troops.

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