Vlad Tepes III was known for ruling 15th century Eastern Europe with a bloody fist, earning the nickname “The Impaler” for his pioneering work in the art of torture. His bag of terrifying tricks included strangulation, burning, cutting off noses and ears, mutilation of sexual organs, scalping, skinning, exposure to the elements or to wild animals and boiling alive. But his favorite method of punishment was, obviously, impaling his enemies on giant stakes outside of the city, a warning to anyone who dared challenge his rule.
Oh yeah, and he did all of this to protect Christianity in Eastern Europe. What a swell guy!
His gruesome tactics, coupled with a pervasive rumor that Vlad drank the blood of his enemies, has long been thought to be the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel “Dracula”.
While Vlad’s reign of terror is well-documented, no one could ever figure out exactly what happened to him. In 1476, The Impaler suddenly disappeared during battle, never to return. Many sources claimed that Vlad was killed, but a few reports mentioned the notorious ruler being hauled away in chains.
Now, a group of researchers believe that Vlad was ransomed to his daughter, who had married a Neoplitan nobleman, and lived the rest of his days in Naples, Italy where he was buried in a church. Erika Stella, a student who was writing her disseration on Naples’ Piazza Santa Maria la Nova Church, uncovered a curious headstone that experts are saying belongs to Dracula himself.
Raffaello Glinni, a Medieval history scholar, noticed that that tomb is covered symbols representing the House of the Transylvanian “Carpathians,” something very out of place in a crypt full of Italian noblemen.
“When you look at the bas-relief sculptures, the symbolism is obvious. The dragon means Dracula and the two opposing sphinxes represent the city of Thebes, also known as Tepes. In these symbols, the very name of the count Dracula Tepes is written,” Glinni told reporters.
So naturally, the researchers are appealing to the authorities for permission to open the grave, releasing Dracula from his ancient slumber where he’ll reinstate his bloody reign of terror on an unsuspecting world. Or, you know, maybe just prove their hunch. But honestly, is it really worth the risk?