Morbid Fact Du Jour, the February 12th entry:
Most authorities believe the character of Dracula in Bram Stoker?s novel was based upon the historical figure Vlad Tepes (pronounced tse-pesh), who intermittently ruled an area of the Balkans called Wallachia in the mid 15th century. He was also called by the names Vlad III, Vlad Dracula and Vlad the Impaler. The word Tepes stands for “impaler” and was so coined because of Vlad?s propensity to punish victims by impaling them on stakes, then displaying them publicly to frighten his enemies and to warn would-be transgressors of his strict moral code. He is credited with killing between 40,000 to 100,000 people in this fashion.
More than anything else the historical Dracula is known for his inhuman cruelty. Impalement was Vlad III?s preferred method of torture and execution. Impalement was and is one of the most gruesome ways of dying imaginable, as it was typically slow and painful. Vlad usually had a horse attached to each of the victim?s legs and a sharpened stake was gradually forced into the body. The end of the stake was usually oiled and care was taken that the stake not be too sharp, else the victim might die too rapidly from shock. Normally the stake was inserted into the body through the buttocks and was often forced through the body until it emerged from the mouth. However, there were many instances where victims were impaled through other body orifices or through the abdomen or chest. Infants were sometimes impaled on the stake forced through their mother?s chests. The records indicate that victims were sometimes impaled so that they hung upside down on the stake.