The Count's lifetime identity

Michael the Brave (1558-1601)
Michael the Brave (1558-1601)

Who was Count Dracula before he became a vampire? According to Professor Van Helsing, he was a brave warrior with a mighty brain, who survived physical death and, by unknown chemical or electrical influences, continued to exist as un-dead creature, feeding off the blood of the living. In his conversations with Jonathan Harker, the Count reports on his family's history and mentions a voivode (military leader) who crossed the Danube and fought the Turks on their own ground. Betrayed by his own brother, who made a treaty with the Ottomans, he lost his war, In the same paragraph, he also refers to an "other" of the same race, who lived in a "later age" and was inspired by the first-mentioned voivode.


As early as 1931, in the Dracula movie with Bela Lugosi, the Count refers to himself as "Vlad." In 1956, Basil Kirtley proposed that the historical person functioning as Stoker's model for the Count would be Vlad Dracula, the Impaler. His thesis was picked up by Professors McNally and Florescu from Boston, who wrote several popular books on the connection between the fictional Count Dracula and the historical Vlad III. They even claimed that a medieval poem written by Michael Beheim would have portrayed Vlad as dipping his bread in the blood of his enemies. Although their translation of Beheim's text obviously was faulty, they never cared to revise their statements. A serious critique was only developed from 1997 on, by Professor Elizabeth Miller from Toronto. She pointed out that Bram Stoker did not really know much about the historical Vlad Dracula: neither did he know his name Vlad, nor was he familiar with his reputation as a blood thirsty tyrant.


Over  a period of 15 years, the debate between McNally and Florescu on the one hand, Miller on the other hand has dominated the official discussion about Bram Stoker's novel. By and by, Miller's theories were adopted by Dracula scholars, serious fans and interested journalists.


Only my close reading of Stoker's novel revealed that the whole controversy was based on a fundamental misunderstanding: Although the voivode first mentioned by the Count can be traced back to Vlad III, in chapter 25 of Dracula, Van Helsing and Mina clearly identify the Count as "that other," who lived in a later age and equally fought against the Turks. Stoker never revealed the name of this anonymous person to his reader, but we can make an educated guess. We know only two Wallachian leaders who, after Vlad III, actually put up resistance against the Turkish empire: Radu of Afumati and Michael the Brave. Of the two persons, Stoker only made notes on Michael. Van Helsing mentioned that during his lifetime, the Count was called "one of the bravest of the sons of the 'land beyond the forest'"; this would very well match the name of Michael the Brave, obviously. Michael also was the only Wallachian voivode who, after being beaten back across the Danube, crossed that river again to battle the Turks. Last but not least, Michael the Brave is the only voivode who actually "commanded nations."


My thesis is that Bram Stoker only introduced this anonymous "other" because he did not want to connect his evil vampire character with a historical person that could easily be identified.



  • "Bram Stoker’s Vampire Trap – Vlad the Impaler and his Nameless Double." Extended version of the essay added to The Ultimate Dracula. Linkoeping University Electronic Press, Sweden. Published on 19 March 2012. PDF file available via
  • "Dracula’s Truth Claim and its Consequences." Journal of Dracula Studies, ISSN 11492-708X. Volume 16 (2014), pages 53-80. Published in October 2014.
  • "Count Dracula's Address and Life-Time identity." Chapter for the book Dracula—An International Perspective, edited by Marius Crișan, published by Palgrave Gothic/Springer in Nov. 2017. The final editing was done in May 2017.