I never realized how vicious and inhuman Dracula was, but researching him shows how respected he was in Rumania where he also was feared for the harshness and viciousness of his punishments for law breakers. He was also considered a hero for protecting his homeland against invaders.
The Impaler (Dracula), Prince of Wallachia (1448, 1456-1462, 1476) is probably one of most infamous inhistory for his inhuman cruelty. Draculaís preferred method of torture and execution was impalement. Draculaís reign of terror began as soon as he was placed on the throne. He motivated by revenge for the deaths of his father, by assassination, and his older brother Mircea, who was buried alive. In celebration of Easter he gave a feast for his noblemen and their families, well aware many of whom had a part in the conspiracy that killed his father and brother, and many played a role in the overthrow of numerous Wallachian Princes. During the feast, Dracula asked the noblemen how many Princes had ruled during their life times, all had out lived several Princes, the very least was seven reigns, the most more than thirty. Upon hearing this Dracula had them immediately arrested. The older nobles and their families were impaled on the spot and the younger nobles and families were forced to slave labor rebuilding the old castle from a nearby ruin. It is reported they labored until their clothes were literally worn away and were forced to continue their laborious work naked. Very few gentry survived the rebuilding of Bran Castle.
Death by impalement was an agonizing way to die, and Dracula found ways of improvement to make it slow way to die. Records indicate his victims sometimes suffered for hours, some for days. He often had the stakes arranged in various geometric patterns, with the height of the stake indicating the rank of its victim. The not too sharp (victim might die too quickly of shock) stake would be forced through the body until it emerged from the mouth. Others were impaled through the stomach or chest. Infants were impaled on the same stake that went though their motherís chest. Some were impaled so that they hung upside down on the stake. All were left where they died for months. The smell of decaying corpses and the sight of twenty thousand rotting bodies turned Mohammed II, the conqueror of Constantinople, back after being sickened by this gruesome sight in 1461. The "warrior" sultan turned command over to one of his men and returned to Constantinople. There is also a report that a Turkish army dropped all plans of invasion and retreated in fright when they rode up upon thousands of corpses impaled and rotting on the banks of the Danube.
Many times thousands were impaled at a single time. Ten thousand were impaled in the city of Sibiu in 1460. In 1459, thirty thousand of Brasovís merchants and nobles were impaled on St. Bartholomewís Day on Draculasí orders. "One of the most famous woodcuts of the period shows Dracula feasting amongst a forest of stakes and their grisly burdens outside Brasov while a nearby executioner cuts apart other victims."
Although his favorite, impalement was by no means his only method of torture. They included: hammering of nails into oneís head, hacking off limbs, blinding, strangulation, burning alive, cutting off of noses and ears, mutilation of sexual organs (especially in the case of a woman), scalping, skinning alive, exposure to the elements or animals, and lastly, being boiled alive.
Everyone fell victim, from women and children and peasants, to merchants and great Lords to Ambassadors from foreign powers. But the vast majority were local merchants from Transylvania, and noblemen from his own Wallachia. His brutality against his own people were an attempt to enforce his moral standard upon his country. He seems to have been obsessed with the concern of female chastity. Young women who lost their virginity, adulterous wives, and unchaste widows were the targets of Draculaís cruelty. He would often have their sexual organs cut out or their breasts cut off. They were also impaled with red-hot stakes forced through the body until it emerged from the mouth. It is reported that Dracula ordered the execution of an unfaithful wife by having her breasts cut off, she was then skinned alive and impaled in the square in Tirgoviste, her skin was tossed on a nearby table. Dracula kept his people hard working and honest, the punishment being of course, impalement. It is said that he kept a solid gold drinking cup next to the well in the village square to see if anyone would take it. It sat right where he left it until the day he died.
Reading the stories of what acts he carried out makes one realize why he was so feared by not only nobility but everyone from all walks of life none were excluded from his harsh conviction of justice.
The Foreign Merchant
A visiting merchant aware of reputation of the landís honesty, left a cart with many treasures unattended in the street overnight. When he returned to his cart in the morning he was shocked to find all 160 of his gold ducats had been taken. Upon the complaint of the merchant to Dracula, he issued this warning to all, find the thief and return the money or the city will be destroyed. He then assured the merchant his money would be returned and invited him to stay at the palace until morning. He ordered 161 ducats be taken from his own treasury and put in the merchantís cart. The next morning the merchant found the money and in counting it reported to Dracula the money had been returned and there was one extra. The thief had been caught and Dracula ordered him impaled he then informed the merchant that if he had not reported the one extra ducat he would have been impaled along with the thief.
The Two Monks
There are several versions but they all boil down to this: Two Monks visit Dracula at his palace in Tirgoviste. Curious of the churchmenís reaction, Dracula showed them rows of impaled corpse in the courtyard. When asked their opinions, one monk responded ,
"You are appointed by God to punish evildoers."
The other monk had the moral courage to condemn his cruelty. One version says Dracula rewarded the sycophantic monk and impaled the honest monk, and in the other version, Dracula rewards the honest monk for his integrity and courage and impaled the sycophant for his dishonesty.
The Polish Nobleman
Benedict de Boithor, a Polish nobleman visited Dracula in 1458. At dinner a golden spear was set directly in front of the nobleman. When asked why he thought the spear had been set up, Benedict answered, he thought some noble had offended the prince. Dracula responded that he had, and that the spear was set up for him. Benedict replied if he had done anything to deserve death that Dracula should do as he thought best. Benedict then added in that case Dracula would not be responsible for his death because he had displeased the Prince. Greatly pleased with his answer, Dracula showered the man with gifts while declaring that had he answered in other way he would have been immediately impaled.
The Foreign Ambassadors
When granted an audience with the Prince the envoys refused to remove their hats as was the custom when in the presence of the Prince of Wallachia. Angered by this sign of disrespect Dracula had the Ambassadorsí hats nailed to their heads so they might never remove them.
Dracula had a mistress who lived off the back streets of Tirgoviste. She loved the Prince to distraction and was always anxious to please him. Dracula was often moody and depressed and she made every effort to lighten her loverís burdens. She dared tell him a lie in an effort to cheer him up; she told him she was with child. He warned her not to joke about such matters. Despite her knowledge of his feelings about dishonesty, she insisted she was telling the truth. Dracula had her examined to determine the veracity of her claim. When he was told she was not with child he drew his knife and cut her open from the groin to her breasts while proclaiming his desire for the world to see where he had been. He then left her to die in agony.
The Lazy Woman
Dracula once noticed a man working in the fields wearing a caftan that was too short. The Prince stopped and asked him if he had a wife. The man answered yes, Dracula had the woman brought before him and asked how she spent her days. The frighten woman stated that she spent her days washing, baking, and sewing. The Prince pointed out her husbandís short caftan, proof of her laziness and dishonesty and ordered her impaled despite her husbandís pleas that he was well satisfied with his wife. Dracula then ordered another woman to marry the peasant but admonished her to work hard or suffer the same consequence.
The Nobleman with the Keen Sense of Smell
On St. Bartholomewís Day1459, Dracula impaled thirty thousand merchants and nobles of the city of Brasov. To enjoy his orders to the utmost he commanded a table be set up and that his nobles join him for a feast amongst the forest of impaled corpses. While dining, Dracula noticed that one noble was holding his nose in an effort to alleviate the terrible smell of clotting blood and emptied bowels. Dracula then ordered the sensitive nobleman impaled on a stake higher than all the rest so he might be above the stench.
The Burning of the Sick and Poor
Dracula was very concerned that all his subjects work and contribute to the common welfare. He noticed the poor, vagrants, beggars and cripples had become very numerous in his land. Consequently, he invited all the poor and sick in Wallachia to Tirgoviste for a great feast, claiming no one should go hungry in his land. As the poor and crippled arrived in the city they were led into a great hall where a fabulous feast was prepared for them. The Princeís guests ate and drank late into the night, when Dracula himself make an appearance. "What else do you desire? Do you want to be without cares,lacking nothing in this world?", asked the Prince. When they responded yes, Dracula ordered the hall boarder up and set on fire. None escaped the flames. Dracula explained his action to the noblemen by claiming that he did this, "in order that they represent no further burden to other men so that no one will be poor in my realm."