the latest version of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula stars Jonathan Rhys Myers as Dracula and is soon out on DVD. Featuring dramatic Transylvanian setting and beautiful, gutsy heroine, the tale of Dracula is one that continues to fascinate more than a century after it was written.Now Bram Stoker’s great-nephew Dacre Stoker has revealed that he believes the author’s unusually vivid take on the effects of blood loss could be the result of a bizarre medical treatment he endured as a child. ‘I believe he was blood-let,’ reveals Dacre. ‘He grew up in Ireland, in a medical family, and several of his uncles wrote treatises in which some sort of undiagnosed illness suffered by Bram was mentioned. ‘The treatment for such illnesses – blood-letting – would undoubtedly have created some sort of trauma in him and I believe that it could have formed the kernel of an adult fear of blood loss. He adds: ‘Like Jonathan Harker, the idea of blood-sucking women would have struck terror into Bram himself. The trauma, that he got over but things you experience as a child stay with you for very long time.’
First recorded in India’s Ancient Ayurvedic Texts, which are more than two millenia old, blood-letting is one of the oldest medical cures in the world.Although rarely practiced now, the treatment was offered by ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, among others, and continued to be used well into the 19th century.During Bram Stoker’s lifetime, the ‘cure’ was used to treat everything from nosebleeds to heavy periods, and was even used to help women through childbirth. Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, could have resulted from trauma. One period medical text went even further, recommending it as a cure for cancer, cholera, diabetes, epilepsy, indigestion, insanity, leprosy, plague, smallpox, and tuberculosis to name but a few. ‘There’s lots of Stoker’s personal life in Dracula,’ adds Dacre. ‘His childhood illness, the universal fear of being thrown into grave…
‘The frightening elements of Dracula never get dull because there is so much that’s still unexplained, particularly in terms of what happens after death. The inspiration for Dracula is a medieval Wallachian ruler whose penchant for impaling his enemies inspired fear throughout the Ottoman Empire. Named Vlad III, also known as Vlad Țepeș (the Impaler), he has gone down in history as a villain, new research suggests that the man behind the myth might not be as black as he’s painted. Born in 1431, Vlad appears to have had a relatively uneventful childhood, although his father, Voivoide Vlad II, spent much of it fighting off challenges from rival dynasties. In 1442, his father finally secured his throne by striking a deal with the Ottomans and 11-year-old Vlad and his younger brother Radu were sent to Istanbul as security. During his years in captivity, Vlad was taught Turkish, the teachings of the Qu’ran and also given instruction on the art of warfare. But in December 1447, rebel aristocrats rebelled against Vlad II’s rule with the help of Hungarian regent, John Hunyadi, Vlad was killed and his heir, Țepeș’ older brother Mircea II was blinded and buried alive at Târgoviște.Vlad was now Vlad III of Wallachia and with the help of the Ottomans, he re-took the throne. But his first reign lasted just a few months before he was ousted
Eight years later in 1456, Vlad returned and this time prevailed. His plans, to strengthen the country’s army, economy and his own position, required ruthless determination – and Vlad had both in spades. He began by weeding out the most troublesome members of the aristocracy, killing many and forcing the rest out of power.He extended the campaign to their allies, the Transylvanian Saxons, and enacted laws that increased the penalty for crimes such as theft to death. With Wallachia secure, he turned his attention to the Ottomans to whom he was expected to pay vast sums of money in tribute, and allied himself to Hungarian ruler, Matthias Corvinus.In 1462, the Ottomans, under Sultan Mehmet II, invaded, bringing their army of 90,000 men against Vlad’s estimated 30,000 troops.He responded with breath-taking cruelty, showing no mercy to prisoners and, according to legend, leaving a forest of impaled Turkish soldiers for the Ottomans to find. Although his campaign of guerrilla attacks and night ambushes slowed the Turkish advance, by 1462, Vlad was trapped at Poenari Castle by Turkish forces led by his younger brother Radu. Forced to flee, Vlad lived in exile until the death of his brother Radu in 1475 left the Wallachian throne unoccupied once more.He announced his return to the throne and by the end of 1476 had begun a new campaign to end Ottoman rule in Wallachia.But just two months in, Vlad was killed and his body buried in a monastery on an island in the middle of Lake Snagov. His head was taken to Istanbul.