New research suggests that Vlad the Impaler, the historical figure believed to have inspired the iconic vampire Dracula, might have suffered from a condition causing him to shed tears of blood.
Delving into the life of Vlad the Impaler, a ruler infamous for his brutal methods, researchers from the University of Catania sought to shed light on his mysterious existence. To achieve this, they examined three letters written by Vlad Dracula in Transylvania between 1457 and 1475, where he corresponded with leaders of Sibiu about matters like tax collection. Using a gentle technique known as ethylene-vinyl acetate, the scientists extracted proteins and peptides from the aged rag paper of the letters for analysis.
Their investigation revealed around 100 peptides with human origins, among which a startling discovery emerged. Specifically, analysis of the peptides from the 1475 letter unveiled the presence of three compounds associated with proteins found in tears and the retina. This intriguing connection hinted at the possibility that Vlad may have suffered from haemolacria, a rare condition characterized by shedding blood-tinged tears.
In their published paper in Analytical Chemistry, the researchers noted, “Although proteomics data cannot be considered exhaustive alone, altogether, these identifications might indicate that Dracula ‘cried tears of blood.'”
Furthermore, the investigation brought to light more than just Vlad’s tears. The peptides and proteins in all three documents indicated the potential presence of a genetic disorder called ciliopathy, which could have impacted his organ function and cellular health. Additionally, signs of inflammatory processes affecting his respiratory tract and skin hinted at potential health complications during his time.
Vlad the Impaler, a 15th-century ruler known for defending Wallachia, a region that now forms part of modern Romania, left a lasting impression on history. Reverberating through literature, some believe he influenced Bram Stoker’s portrayal of the vampire count in the iconic novel “Dracula.” Despite his reputation for ruthless leadership and his penchant for gruesome methods, the study offers a glimpse into his potential personal struggles.
However, not everyone is convinced of the study’s conclusions. Stanley Stepanic, a professor specializing in Slavic and vampire folklore at the University of Virginia, expressed skepticism. He highlighted the lack of historical evidence for Vlad shedding tears of blood and the uncertainty surrounding DNA preservation on the ancient letters. While the research brings fresh insights, it raises questions about historical accuracy.