500 years after Dracula’s death: researchers reveal a terrifying secret

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After analysing letters written by Vlad the Impaler, the prince of Wallachia and the historical figure referred to by the author of Count Dracula, researchers have made a surprising discovery.

A gloomy castle in a dark forest in Transylvania, a large cloak, and pointed and bloody teeth—you’ll recognise what these next few lines are about the legendary Count Dracula.

The origin of the vampire from Transylvania
The famous nobleman from the Carpathian Mountains is considered the archetype of the vampire in modern literature. He comes from the epistolary novel by Bram Stoker, a British writer who sparked the enthusiasm for vampires in Anglo-Saxon literature and made his character the most famous vampire in the world.

Bram Stoker based the hero of his novel of the same name on several real people: Vlad Tepes, called Vlad the Impaler, and his father, Vlad Dracul (the Dragon), because he was a member of the Order of the Dragon. We are particularly interested in the former in this case.

The letters of Vlad the Impaler

To learn more about the ruler, researchers from the Italian University of Catania obtained no less than three letters written by the hand of the Wallachian-born nobleman. In his letters, he addressed the rulers of the city of Sibiu about tax matters.

As the letters date from 1457 to 1475, a technique that was not harmful to the old documents had to be used. They used ethylene vinyl acetate to collect proteins and peptides still on the paper. The human traces left on the historical documents tell us more about the “vampire” count.

After analysis, the researchers discovered that Vlad the Impaler suffered from a disease known as haemolacria during his lifetime. This disease is characterised by those affected shedding bloody tears.

Inspiration for Dracula’s character may have bled from his eyes. This suggests that the dreaded tyrant may have suffered from a condition known as hemolacria, in which he shed blood-coloured tears.

“Although the proteomic data alone cannot be considered exhaustive, these identifications may suggest that Dracula ‘wept bloody tears’,” write researchers in an article published in the journal Analytical Chemistry.

Based on further analyses, the authors of the study also suspect that Vlad suffered from a genetic disease called ciliopathy. The latter is a genetic disease caused by a cilia malfunction (thin projections on almost all cells).

Source used: Analytical Chemistry/gentside.de/picture:

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