Dracula is one of the most famous monsters in all literature. But the Dracula of Bram Stoker’s imagination was, according to some, based on the real-life facts of Dracula who lived in the 15th century – Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, better known as Vlad the Impaler.
The life of the real Dracula is fairly well documented, especially all the gory details of his favourite pastime (he wasn’t called the ‘Impaler’ for nothing). But there is one aspect of his life that remains a mystery: the location of his grave.
This mystery continues to linger and has been the idea behind bestselling books and endless debates. So where do you have the best chance of finding Dracula’s true resting place?
The official line is that Vlad the Impaler’s body is buried in Snagov Monastery on Lake Snagov near Bucharest. However, this is by no means certain.
A new chapter to the mystery was written during an excavation of the monastery in 1931. According to some accounts, the tomb was completely empty upon being opened. However, according to other accounts, the archaeologists discovered a skeleton in a shirt similar to one seen in a painting of Dracula. It also had a ring sewn into the sleeve which was similar to the rings worn by the Order of the Dragon, to which he belonged.
But if this version is true then no evidence exists to confirm it.
Other accounts say that Vlad was beheaded, and that his head was preserved in honey and sent to the Ottoman sultan in Constantinople (now Istanbul) as a gift, where it was displayed on a spike to reassure the Turks that he was definitely dead.
This is explored in the blockbuster novel by Elizabeth Kostova, ‘The Historian’, which is definitely worth a read if you’re interested in the subject.
Things to See in Bucharest
- Parliament Palace, the biggest building in Europe
- The 17th-century Patriarchal Cathedral
- The Romanian Athenaeum
- Princely Palace, which Vlad the Impaler built
Things to See in Istanbul
- The Grand Bazaar, where you can haggle for a carpet
- The viewing gallery of the Galata Tower
- One of the many hamams (Turkish baths)
- The impressive Dolmabahçe Palace
The Fictional Grave
There is another mystery surrounding the burial place of Dracula, but this one refers to the fictional character. Such is the power of the vampire legend that people genuinely go in search of the grave of this fictional monster, a journey which leads them to Whitby in North Yorkshire, where Bram Stoker stayed in 1890 and where some of the scenes from the book are based.
Amazingly, when people arrive in Whitby in search of the grave, they are not left completely wanting. For in St Mary’s Church graveyard, you can actually find an unmarked gravestone in the suicide section which depicts nothing more than a skull and crossbones. This has often been labelled the grave of Dracula, so if you make a visit to Whitby then check it out for yourself and make your own mind up as to who really lies beneath your feet.
Things to Do in Whitby
- The ruins of Whitby Abbey
- The Captain Cook memorial, where James Cook served his apprenticeship
- The excellent Whitby Museum
- Whitby Lighthouse, which has some great views from the top
Explore the Legend
The mystery of where the real Dracula is buried will continue to go on inspiring travellers and writers for years to come. And if you visit either of the locations, even if you don’t manage to solve the mystery for yourself they will still make for interesting trips.