Vampires have stoked the human fascination with horror revulsion and romanticism for centuries. With creatures of the night made popular through novels, film and television, the human imagination runs wild when confronted with unusual or strange behavior – especially from a historical standpoint. These real life “vampires” are the true face of horror and inspired many of the legendary figures that are household names today. Although their behavior doesn’t strictly adhere to what would be considered “vampirism” in the common age, their murderous tendencies have shocked horrified and awed populations for centuries – and their names live on indefinitely.
Vlad Dracula (Vlad the Impaler)
Reigning over his native Wallachia in the mid 1400′s, Vlad was a terrifying yet revered prince of the nation. Under his watch the crime rate of his native lands dipped to startling rates. He saved his country many times from the invading forces of the Turks and the conquering Ottoman Empire. He was known to be exceedingly cruel to his enemies but was respected for his sense of justice among his own people – although they themselves were far from immune to his appetite for dispensing pain to those he deemed deserving.
To this day he is respected, honored and considered a hero among the Romanian people even though he is thought to be responsible for the deaths of many tens of thousands of people during his reign of terror. His nickname “the Impaler” still remains to this day as a reminder to his favorite method of execution. He is rumored to have sat in a field where hundreds had met a gruesome fate – being impaled alive. He calmly ate and drank while watching the last moments of a multitude of victims.
Countess Elizabeth Bathory (The Blood Countess)
A Hungarian noble from 1560-1614, Elizabeth surely had a taste for blood – but not for the purpose of drinking. She believed that the blood of young virgins would keep her eternally young and she would not be bound by normal human aging. She was vain and arrogant and demanded the sacrifice and bleeding of many of the peasants in the surrounding areas near her castle and was known to bathe in the blood of the local virgin population as a result of her torturous activities. Like Vlad Dracula, the Bathory family symbol consisted of a dragon – and her cousin was said to have gone on an expedition with the infamous Impaler and united their families under a common goal.
She was notoriously cruel and vindictive to her household staff and the people under her reign and often tortured people for no other purpose than her own twisted enjoyment. She was also highly involved in witchcraft and black magic. Eventually, Elizabeth’s reign of terror came to an end and she was tried and convicted of both vampirism and witchcraft. She was thought to be mentally incapacitated and was sentenced to be walled up alive in a tower of a Hungarian castle where she lived nearly three years.
Gilles De Rais (Blue Beard)
A French nobleman who served the French nation with legendary Joan of Arc lived in the mid 1400′s. He was a wanton killer whose exploits shocked and terrified his compatriots and he became infamous throughout the course of his own lifetime.
His curiosity for black magic and sadism ultimately earned him a fearsome and gory reputation and he is thought to be an early form of serial killer on an incalculable scale. His murderous reign included child sacrifice to demons and conversations with the devil who demanded blood from his servants. Gilles eventually came under the jurisdiction of the notorious Inquisition (which was subsequently guilty of mass-murder on a far grander scale than any one individual). He was tortured until he was compelled to confess his crimes and a large number of witnesses brought testimony against him.
He was convicted of sodomy, rape, murder, human sacrifice, witchcraft and dozens of other crimes and was executed in 1440 by strangulation that was supposed to be followed by burning. Due to the overwhelming (and surprising) sympathy of the crowd, his family was allowed to remove his body before it was burnt and he was buried in a nearby church. He is thought to have been responsible for the deaths of between 80-200 people although a precise number is impossible to determine.