I missed it. It was May 18. No, it was not the birthday of the real Dracula, Vlad Tepes, a 15th century Wallachian Prince and a knight of the order of Dracul. May 18 was the day, in 1887, that Bram Stoker published his magnum opus, "Dracula."
It is hard to overestimate the cultural importance of that novel. Interestingly, it was not a major seller upon its initial release. But over the years, the popularity of the story has grown exponentially. Indeed, at last count, over 227 movies and innumerable books had been created featuring Stoker's undead antagonist.
Stoker's background research for his novel was extensive and spanned several years. There was much material to draw upon, as vampire myths date back several millennia, with the first known reference appearing in the writings of Mesopotamia. Vampires of mythology fed on life essence, not necessarily blood. Nor was a stake through the heart the most common way of destroying the vampire. But Stoker's novel forever altered the mythology of vampires.
Likewise, Vlad Tepes was never associated with vampirism until Stoker's novel. Tepes was one of the most blood thirsty, sadistic people ever to walk this earth. He executed over 100,000 of his foes, most of them invading Turks captured in battle. Tepes favored method of execution was impalement. Tepes had his prisoners stripped and then had a long stake with a blunted point forced perhaps a foot into the anus of the prisoner. He then had the prisoner raised up and the stake planted firmly in the ground. This method of execution was designed to cause utmost agony over hours if not days as the individual, exposed to the elements, slowly slipped ever farther down the stake. And Tepes made entire forests of the people he impaled. Indeed, one of the most famous incidents occurred in 1462 when Turkish Sultan Mehmed II led an Islamic invasion force into Wallachia, only to turn back in horror after happening upon a scene of 20,000 impaled corpses outside Vlad's capital of Târgoviște.
It is not surprising that Stoker would choose Tepes as his vampire, given the prince's royal lineage, his utter blood thirstiness and his association with horror. That said, in Romania, Tepes is celebrated as major national hero for his stand against Islamic imperialism. At any rate, on 18 May, 126 years ago, Tepes was reanimated and a long deceased Wallachian prince became the most famous undead villain of our era, the vampire Dracula.