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Is it true that Count Dracula was based on Vlad the Impaler?


Dear Vampire Hunter, 

They seem like a perfect match: Vlad III Dracula, a 15th century tyrant with a penchant for creative brutality; and Count Dracula, a centuries-old vampire with a penchant for draining the blood of Victorian Londoners. However, it might be an oversimplification to say simply that the Transylvanian vampire of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula is based on the historical Vlad.

The notion that Vlad III – also known as Vlad the Impaler – was the inspiration for the Count rests primarily on two monologues in Stoker’s novel. Early in the book Dracula regales Jonathan Harker with tales of battles fought by his ancestors, the Szekelys. Harker notes the Count recalls them “as if he had been present at them all” (Stoker, 1897/1993, p. 38). Later, Dr. Van Helsing observes the vampire “must indeed have been that Voivode Dracula” famed for crossing the Danube to fight the Turks (Stoker, 1897/1993, p. 291). 

“Dracula” was a nickname of the historical Vlad, who was the voivode, or ruler, of Wallachia. Wallachia is a region in modern day Romania that bordered Vlad’s native Transylvania. He was not descended from the Szeklers, but he was connected to a number of battles referenced by the Count and Van Helsing. Vlad also owned a castle at the Borgo Pass, just as the Count did (Florescu & McNally, 1989). All this indicates Stoker found in Vlad a name and historical basis for his villain. Commentators agree the author’s knowledge of the voivode was culled from library research and perhaps conversations with the scholar Arminius Vambrey (Miller, 2011; "Dracula,” 2001; Bierman, 1977/1988; Florescu & McNally, 1989).

But these are only two brief passages in the novel. What of the Count’s stilted manners? What of his white-hot rages and sometimes lascivious behavior? And what then of the unique powers and weaknesses Stoker ascribes to the undead?

Stoker encountered the idea of vampirism in the 1871 novel Carmilla, which spurred him to study vampire lore. As to human inspirations for the Count, at the top of the list is Stoker’s boss, the actor Sir Henry Irving. Stoker was fascinated by Irving. The actor held an “extraordinary dominance” over the writer, something like the Count held over the madman Renfield. Stoker’s description of an 1876 performance by Irving reads like an early draft of the Count’s mien (McNally & Florescu, 1972). He might even have intended to adapt his novel for the stage with Irving in the title role (Steinmeyer, 2013).

Irving is not alone though. The marks of other 19th century noteworthies have also been found in the Count, including Jack the Ripper, the playwright Oscar Wilde, composer Franz Liszt, adventurer/scholar Sir Richard Burton, and even poet Walt Whitman. (Steinmeyer, 2013). 

The Count in other works appears inspired to greater and lesser degrees by Vlad. Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film Bram Stoker’s Dracula, for example, quite clearly links the two. As for Stoker’s original though, he appears to be a composite of several historical figures. 


Bierman, J.S. (1988). The genesis and dating of Dracula from Bram Stoker’s working notes. In M.L. Carter (Ed.), Dracula: The vampire and the critics. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press. (Original work published 1977)

“Dracula.” (2001). In J.G. Melton (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. Detroit, MI: Gale. Retrieved from

Florescu, R.R. & McNally, R.T. (1989). Dracula: Prince of many faces. Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Co. 

McNally, R.T. & Florescu, R. (1972). In search of Dracula: A true history of Dracula and vampire legends. Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society.

Miller, E. (2011). Dracula (Stoker). In S.T. Joshi (Ed.), Encyclopedia of the Vampire: The Living Dead in Myth, Legend, and Popular Culture. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Press. Retrieved from

Steinmeyer, J. (2013). Who was Dracula? Bram Stoker’s trail of blood. New York, NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin.

Stoker, B. (1993). The Essential Dracula. L. Wolf (Ed.). New York, NY: Penguin Books. (Original work published 1897) 

Answered on 2015-10-28 10:34:08


Why do we forget most of our dreams?


Dear Beautiful Dreamer,

You signed up for Ball State’s emergency notification service months ago, but there was no text message warning you about the dozens of angry bears that had descended – literally, from helicopters – upon campus. Cowering under a blanket, you hope they’ll pass your first-floor window without noticing, when you hear claws scratching against the glass. You leap to the window, holding it shut while the brawny bruin pries at it.

Hours later you find yourself still in bed, blankets and sheets kicked into a tangle, with a fuzzy memory of being terrified by something. What DID you dream?

Sometimes we remember dreams in great detail, like feature-length movies. Other times, we’re left with fragments: a hazy memory of falling, or going to a party, or being in class. Many factors internal and external determine which dreams you remember fully, vaguely, or not at all.

Dreams usually occur during periods of sleep characterized by rapid eye movements and increased frequency of brain waves. Everyone experiences such periods, called REM sleep, during a night of normal sleep, and everyone has dreams too – every night. In fact, a typical adult will dream three to five times during eight hours of normal sleep (“Dreams,” 2001).

When REM sleep ends and a sleeper lapses back into dreamless sleep, dreams are forgotten. If, however, the sleeper awakens in a quiet environment just after dreaming, or if REM sleep is followed by a period of activity in his or her higher brain centers – called cortical activation – the dream will be consolidated into memory ("Recall of dreams,” 1993).

The tendency to recall dreams can be enhanced by keeping a diary and recording remembered dreams upon waking ("Keeping a dream diary," 2003). Dreams are also sometimes recalled spontaneously when a person sees something in the waking world that reminds them of a dream they had during the previous night (“Recall of dreams,” 1993). 

A final, perhaps obvious, consideration also plays a part; people are more apt to remember an interesting dream than a boring one (“Recall of dreams,” 1993). It is possible then, if you haven’t been recalling your own lately, that your sleeping self hasn’t been up to anything your waking self cares to know. 


"Dreams." (2001). In The Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. (Vol. 1, pp. 195-196). Detroit, MI: Gale. Retrieved from

"Keeping a dream diary." (2003). In The Gale Encyclopedia of the Unusual and the Unexplained. (Vol. 3, p. 132). Detroit, MI: Gale. Retrieved from

"Recall of Dreams." (1993). In Encyclopedia of Sleep and Dreaming. (Vol. 1, pp. 491-493). New York, NY: Macmillan. 

Answered on 2015-10-07 13:00:04


I've heard it said that a duck's "quack" does not echo.  Is this true, and if so, why?


Dear Just Ducky,

The basic ingredients of an echo are a sound, a medium it can travel through, a surface capable of reflecting it, and a listener. If you have a duck, you’re halfway there. The duck’s quack is your sound and the air is the medium that will carry it.

Next is the reflecting surface. In order to produce an echo, a sound must hit and reflect off an obstruction at least half as thick as the sound’s wavelength. For example, audiologist Marshall Chasin measured the frequency of a duck quack as 2,300 Hz. The wavelength of said quack would be about six inches and therefore would require a surface at least 3 inches thick to echo from (Chasin, 2014). A quack meeting a thinner surface won’t echo.

But the inability of a surface to reflect a quack is hardly the duck’s fault, so the question remains – will a duck’s quack echo off a sufficiently thick surface, or does it possess acoustic properties that prevent an echo? Are these poor creatures truly doomed never to know the simple joy of shouting into a cave, parking garage, or racquetball court?

Science to the rescue! As word of ducks’ echoless quacks resounded throughout the world, British acoustician Trevor Cox set out to determine whether the legend was true or just a bunch of noise. Cox, a professor at the University of Salford, enlisted the help of a lucky ducky named Daisy and recorded her quacking in a reverberation chamber. He later used a computer to simulate the sounds of Daisy vocalizing in a concert hall and near a cliff. Cox’s experiments proved that Daisy’s quacking indeed produced an echo (Radford, 2003.)

We can turn now to our listener. While we listed only four main ingredients above, distance is the icing on the quack. There must be a sufficient delay between an original sound and its echo reaching the listener, otherwise he will perceive the two as a single noise. This requires that the listener and the surface providing the bounce be not too close (Albers, 1970). Further, Cox allows that a duck’s quack is actually sort of quiet and its echo can be difficult to hear. (Radford, 2003). We don’t, after all, often encounter ducks in echo chambers and concert halls. So while a duck’s quack does echo, there are many circumstances under which you might not perceive it.


Albers, V.M. (1970). The World of Sound. Cranbury, NJ: A.S. Barnes and Co. 

Chasin, M. (2014). "Do duck quacks echo?" The Hearing Review, 21(11), 12. Retrieved from 

Radford, T. (2003, September 8). "Quacking the myth: Acoustics professor proves ducks do echo." The Guardian (London), pp. 11. Retrieved from 

Answered on 2015-03-25 12:24:00

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