Looking Beyond the Legend of Dracula

Dracula. That name instils fear in all of us, but to know that this character, this frightening creature of the night, is actually based in part on a real person who was incredibly cruel may be even more frightening. First, let’s take a look at vampires. It is true that our modern day concept of the vampire is based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Stoker created for us a creature that we associate with the well-dressed and powerful man who is also a creature of death. However, vampires themselves were featured in stories for centuries before Dracula was created and Transylvania is often associated with them. Some believe that Transylvania is located on one of the strongest magnetic fields, which may lend its power to vampires, and crossroads are said to be associated with the vampire, but what about Dracula himself? Where did he come from?

It appears that Dracula is a combination of the Southern Slavic folklore that gave rise to the legends of vampires and Vlad Dracula, otherwise known as Vlad the Impaler. Vampires were well known and during the late 17th through the 18th centuries a vampire epidemic was spreading across Europe. This means that people believed in them so much and there were so many stories of the undead and vampire attacks on travellers, that the authors and playwrights of the time decided to take full advantage of these tales to create their own stories. Stoker was one of these and was riding on the wave of vampire popularity. However, Stoker went even further. He took the general concept of the vampire and coupled it with a real person, someone who was known for his immense cruelty.

Vlad Dracula was the ruler of the province of Wallachia, which lies just south of Transylvania, from 1456-1462. He had a reputation of cruelty that went far beyond that of most men. He tortured and maimed his enemies and those within his kingdom who broke his laws and he was most famous for punishing people by sentencing them to death by impalement. This cruel form of death left the person slowly dying for hours or even days and through his nasty methods he created a kingdom in which there was no crime. Those who were used as an example of what would happen to law-breakers were enough to dissuade others from going down the same path.

Stoker did most of his research for his book in the library in London, England. It was here that he poured over texts about the provinces in Romania. He also had a friend who was a Hungarian professor and whether through conversations with him or his on research, Stoker eventually came across the name of Vlad Dracula. Obviously, since he used the name for his own character, he must have been at least somewhat inspired by Vlad, although there are many who believe that not to be the case. Regardless, even if Vlad became an inspiration for him, Stoker did not actually know very much about Vlad, nor had he ever actually travelled to Romania. Just the reputation of this man alone was enough to inspire a character.

Despite the fact that Dracula was inspired at least in part by a man whose cruelty was infamous and even horrifying, sickening even the stoutest of hearts in his day, Dracula was also based on the vampire legends of the time. Between the two what we have today is a character, a creature that is frightening and seems to have come from our worst nightmares. Maybe Vlad’s reputation as an impaler is the basis for the need to drive a stake through he heart of Dracula in order to kill him, but whatever the role it is frightening that such a man ever lived. Thank goodness Dracula himself is only a character in a book.

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Favourite Characters from Halloween and Horror Movies

Horror is one genre of movies that has had a religious and devoted following for the past three decades. One of the reasons for this following is the fact that there are so many memorable characters that have come from those movies. These characters were created and brought to life in order to strike fear into the hearts of not only the people in the movie, but in the hearts of those who watch the movies on the big screen. Gore, guts, and suspense – these slasher movies have it all thanks to the characters that make these movie tick.

Horror was around long before movies and many of the horror characters from the old stories were brought to life on the big screen. Memorable characters such as the Wolf-man and Frankenstein graced the silver screen and frightened us all. Probably the most famous of these older, more traditional characters was Dracula. Count Dracula was brought into the limelight and made famous by Bram Stoker and has gone on to have a multitude of movies made about him. He has also been portrayed in other movies and so much merchandise has been created around his character that even a breakfast cereal, Count Chocula, was created in his image.

Still, even Dracula didn’t bring horror to its pinnacle. No this role was reserved for some of the scariest and most horrifying characters ever to grace the big screen. There have been the thrillers, such as Manhunter and Silence of the Lambs, which brought the chilling Hannibal Lecter to our attention. This horrifying character sent chills down the spine of the toughest horror fan, a feeling made even more pronounced when one considers that his character is based on real-life murderer Ed Gein. Another thriller was the Exorcist, which is considered a time-honoured classic, thanks to the character Pazuzu, who possessed Regan.

Mike Myers

Mike Myers - Halloween horror movie character

We all remember Chucky from Child’s Play and Pinhead from Hellraiser. Michael Myers is a name to instill fear in even the stoutest heart and was the fixture of the Halloween movies. This character was bone chilling and everyone knew that Halloween night was reserved for only him. And what about one of the most classic horror movies of all time, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. None other than Leatherface created bone-chilling fear as he paraded around in his mask made of human skin. The fact that this character was also loosely based on real-life murderer Ed Gein makes him even more terrifying. Remember the hockey mask that belonged to Jason Voorhees? Jason, from Friday the 13th, sent shivers down the spine as well and he was so terrifying that even though he wasn’t officially introduced until the second movie people were still terrified of him in the first movie. The hockey mask that is his trademark didn’t even though it factor into the picture until the third movie.

Now Jason may be the most popular of the group just mentioned, but there is another one even more infamous, a character that Jason even met up with in the 2003 Freddy vs. Jason. You guessed it – Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm St. This character has been merchandised for decades and is one of true terror, perhaps because he gets at people in their dreams. After all, we all have to sleep at some point; you can’t stay awake forever. Freddy’s glove is one of the most popular items from that frightening movie.

With all of this history and the characters that make your skin crawl, one might wonder where horror is going. Well, 2004 saw the release of Saw, a new horror film that features Jigsaw, a blood-curdling terror that brings with him a complex psyche and a life story to boot. This movie and its sequels have initiated a new interest in the genre of horror that is bound to last another 30 years so that many more generations of kids and adults can be scared out of their wits in front of the big screen. Just remember that no one makes these horror movies come alive more than the characters that slash, kill, and maim. Characters that you love to hate.

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