Dracula inspiration Vlad the Impaler cried tears of blood - study

Proteins found on letters written by Vlad indicate that he had hemolacria which causes blood to be present in tears.

 Vlad the Impaler. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Vlad the Impaler.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Chemical analysis of historic letters written by Vlad Dracula (also known as Vlad III the Impaler) shows that the 15th Century ruler had a condition that caused him to cry tears of blood, according to a study published earlier this month.

The study, which was published in the peer-reviewed Analytical Chemistry journal, examined three letters by Vlad, two of which were in excellent condition, and the third having undergone restoration.

The scientists were confident that the three letters they examined had not been overly contaminated with other chemicals or biological contaminants because two of the letters were written in 1475 - 10 years after the founding of the Sibiu Archive where the two letters were stored. Although the third letter was written in 1457 and had undergone restoration, the method used is aimed at maintaining the original biological and chemical makeup of the document as much as possible.

Despite the good condition of the letters, the study emphasized that even when stored well, ancient proteins still undergo natural reactions over time, and therefore, a more thorough analysis of proteins found on the documents was conducted in order to ensure they were indeed the original proteins that naturally stick to objects handed by people.

Once they had excluded proteins that were likely modern contaminants, the researchers narrowed the rest down to many that were related to human skin, three that involve the human breathing system, and five coming from blood. These proteins were determined to have naturally found their way onto the letters when Vlad was writing them.

 A frame from the 1931 'Dracula' film. (credit: DEN STORE DANSKE)
A frame from the 1931 'Dracula' film. (credit: DEN STORE DANSKE)

Having isolated proteins of interest out of these proteins, the scientists concluded that Vlad suffered from hemolacria - a condition that causes blood to be present in tears.

Who was Vlad the Impaler?

Vlad the Impaler was a 15th Century Romanian prince who is known for having been particularly brutal and torturing his enemies. His nickname stems from his tendency to impale Ottomans that he suspected of conspiring against him.

Although no historical evidence suggests that Vlad exhibited any vampiric tendencies such as drinking blood or staying out of the sun, many historians believe him to be the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Count Dracula which is one of the earliest cases of vampires appearing in fiction.