Castles, Confusion, and the Count: Vlad the Impaler’s Impact on Tourism in Romania
By Rachel Lawrence
Proceedings of The National Conference on Undergraduate Research (2012)
Abstract: Vlad the Impaler is often buried in the vampire myths of Count Dracula, even in Romania where the Impaler lived and died. His castles are forgotten, while those stolen by Bram Stoker and Hollywood reap the benefits of a shadow of association. Despite this, Romania capitalizes on Vlad’s image, and blends it with the vampire to create a booming tourist industry. If this continues, Vlad the Impaler, who is identified as a Romanian national hero, will be lost in the image of something far worse, and Romania will lose its hero to a myth. Vlad the Impaler (1431-1476) was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula, and the Impaler’s family name was in fact Dracula. Stoker adopted the name for his blood-sucking Count, and now the two seem interchangeable. Castle Bran is called Dracula’s Castle, but little evidence suggests that Vlad was ever there. Vlad the Impaler’s castle is largely unknown, yet has a completely different history and exemplifies the Impaler’s drive for order and defense, and also supports his position as a national hero. A Dracula Land theme park in 2001 was supposedly going to mix the Count and the Prince, making it educational yet interesting, and making resources available for both the Count and the Impaler. Finally, the Impaler’s lost grave, and corpse, has not helped the vampire myth. These aspects of the Prince-Count confusion require analysis in order to separate the two. By examining two castles, a failed theme park, and the alleged grave of the Impaler, the Prince and the Count can be distinguished, the Impaler’s national-hero status can be evaluated, and potential impacts on Romanian tourism can be explored.
Introduction: Vlad the Impaler, who lived from 1431-1476, ruled a tiny principality called Wallachia. He was a bloodthirsty tyrant and murdered 100,000 people, at least 40,000 of whom he impaled, while defending his country and throne. His family name was Dracula, the name adopted by Bram Stoker for his famous count. Dracula tourism in Romania has exploded in recent years, and with it came a smearing of the lines between Count Dracula and Prince Vlad. Romania capitalizes on Vlad’s image, blending it with Count Dracula to drive a booming tourist industry, and now the two seem interchangeable. Western vampire myths have buried Vlad Dracula. Tourists frequently confuse Vlad’s castle, the real Castle Dracula, for one owned by his enemies, Castle Bran. Romanians fought among themselves over a Dracula Land theme park that would have merged the Count and the Prince yet again for an interesting yet supposedly educational tourist destination. Finally, the Impaler’s lost grave only fuels the vampire myth. By examining the two castles, a failed theme park, and the alleged grave of Dracula, I will distinguish the Prince from the Count, evaluate Vlad’s national-hero status, and explore the future of Romanian tourism.