The bloody deeds of vampires long since forgotten remain legend, but are they merely history?
Many people have heard of Vlad the Impaler, who is probably the most famous historical figure believed to have been a vampire in history to date. More commonly known as the Prince of Wallachia, which was a region of southeast Europe that was united with Moldavia in 1861 to form the nation of Romania, Vlad’s family name was literally "Dracula" from which the popular legends of vampirism spread. He was known to be responsible for the deaths of at least 80,000 people during the 15th century, 20,000 of which he impaled on stakes outside his castle walls.
There are many other famous characters in human history, across diverse cultures, that also have traits that single them out as vampires however. One of the most prominent historical figures to be considered a female vampire, or at least like Vlad, a mass murderer, is Elizabeth Bathory, a Hungarian countess of the 16th to 17th centuries. She was known as the Blood Countess at the time for being chiefly responsible, along with a handful of followers, for torturing to death up to 650 young girls. It is said that this was done as the countess enjoyed bathing in the blood of virgins to preserve her youth. She was eventually captured and imprisoned in a sealed set of brick rooms in a Slovakian castle, where she is believed to have died after four years time.
Gilles de Rais, a French knight who served alongside Joan of Arc in the French army during the Hundred Years War that started in the 15th century, is also considered a vampire. He is popularly known as Bluebeard, and was suspected of being responsible for the deaths of hundreds of children. He kidnapped them from neighboring villages along with the aid of accomplices and tortured them to death in occult rituals designed to summon demons. Like the Blood Countess, his deeds were eventually discovered by church authorities of the day and he was condemned to death for his crimes.
Another vampire that became a popular fictional character is Saint Germain, based on the life of an 18th century Count who lived in Transylvania. It is said that he learned how to raise the dead from ancient Egyptian knowledge, and a long series of contemporary novels have been written based on his exploits. Legends of Saint Germain's exploits can be traced back over 3,000 years, suggesting that his long life was preserved by unnatural means...
Like the historical Saint Germain to whom few known deaths can be attributed, Arnold Paole was another vampire believed to have avoided the spotlight during his period of notoriety. He was well known in the 18th century for having killed 16 people after he became a vampire. Paole claimed that his career as a Serbian hajduk, a sort of highway robber, was interfered with by another vampire which led to Paole’s initial death. After his death in the Kosovo region in which he operated, several local residents reported seeing Paole alive and these residents then mysteriously died themselves. The accounts of vampirism in and around Paole’s time are considered among the best documented early accounts of the presence of vampires within eastern Europe.
A contemporary vampire in Paole’s time was a man by the name of Peter Plogojowitz who is believed to have died several times and come back from the dead. When he visited his son after dying and was turned away, he reportedly killed neighbors for their blood to feed his never ending hunger.
Though vampire accounts are concentrated in the region of central and southern Europe, stories also exist in Chinese, Indian, Malaysian and Japanese legends. The Hindu god Shiva had an evil wife named Kali that has many traits of vampirism, including the drinking of blood, fangs and an affinity for corpses. Even Grigori Rasputin, the mystical figure who served the Russian royal family of Romanovs, is suspected of being a vampire due to the fact that numerous attempts to kill him during his 19th century influence over Nicholas II’s wife Alexandra resulted in failure. He was poisoned with cyanide, shot, strangled, stabbed and drowned before authorities felt sure they were free of him once and for all.