Vlad Tepes or “the Impaler” is perhaps better known to the world as the real Dracula. Literally the “son of the dragon”, Dracula is the Romanian diminutive for the word dragon, the nickname coming from his father, Vlad Dracul, who had been initiated as a member of the powerful medieval Order of the Dragon. Famous for his interesting means of execution, impalement, Vlad “Dracula” used to relish raising forests of writhing victims all pierced through their fundaments with a sharpened stake.
In 1897 an Irish author, Bram Stoker, decided to take advantage of Dracula’s name and blood soaked history to use for the vampiric protagonist of his eponymously named novel Dracula.
Last Halloween I had the opportunity to tour Romania and specifically the portion of the country known as Transylvania. Visiting Vlad’s birth place, the town of Sighisoara and several castles associated with him, our last day was devoted to Snagov Island, a place where legend says the body of Vlad “Dracula” is interred.
The island, located in Romania’s Lake Snagov, is reached either by boat or by crossing a long bridge on foot. There a visitor will see an attractive monastery with many murals, some dating back to the 15th century, built by money donated by Dracula’s father. The island is currently grassy and peaceful with Shetland ponies, sheep, turkeys and other sorts of baby animals roaming the grounds. On the day of our visit sunshine glittered and glistened off the lake’s surface and a few fishing boats bobbed peacefully nearby. Boasting lush gardens the islet looks like the last place in the world you would expect to have once served as a prison, torture chamber and reputedly the resting place of one of history’s most bloodthirsty rulers…and perhaps a vampire?
Entering the monastery’s sanctuary I surveyed the colorful murals covering every available inch of wall space. In the inner chamber was a rectangular area marked with an icon and a burning candle, honoring Vlad the Impaler, who is actually a local hero for driving off Muslim invaders. The Romanian Orthodox Church maintains that Vlad is buried here, or at least what was left of him after the Muslim invader separated his head from his body on October 31, 1476 and brought it as a trophy to Constantinople. Past excavations under the altar revealed only a mass of bones from different species of animals (come to think of it since there appeared to be no one living on the island why were all those animals roaming the grounds?)
Before leaving Canada, as a lark, I had furnished myself with an EMF (electro-magnetic field detector) used by so-called ghost busters to detect supernatural phenomena. When I dug this out of my pocket and began scanning the grave and walls of the building the peasant lady who was guarding the door became very agitated and urged me to leave. My guide asked her to point out where exactly in the rules it forbade the use of EMF’s. This deterred her long enough for me to linger a few minutes, but there was no magnetic activity whatsoever in the building.
Leaving the shrine, enduring baleful glares from my peasant friend, I walked around the island and began scanning other areas for EMF activity. I finally found a circular area about 2 meters in diameter near a small vineyard where the detector produced a shrill squeal. This was the only place I had found any such activity on the island.
Was this the real burial site of Dracula? A rather exciting thought, though a much more likely hypothesis would be that this was one of the many bombs dropped on Romania by both Germans and Allies during the Second World War. But who knows? Maybe the old count was having a midday snooze below us…waking long enough to chuckle a bit at my expense before drifting back to the sleep of the Undead.
All Photo by George Burden – All Rights Reserved