WootBot


quality posts: 14 Private Messages WootBot

Staff

The poet John Keats called autumn a “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.” Let’s leave the “mellow fruitfulness” for November - October is all about the season of mists. We’ve asked Jeopardy! smart-aleck Ken Jennings to fact-check the spookiest Halloween lore he could dig up and fill us in on all these monstrous misconceptions.

Spooky Myth #4: Dracula Was Killed By a Stake Through the Heart.

A wooden stake through the heart is often said, in vampire lore, to be the only way to kill one of the pesky bloodsuckers. But apparently Bram Stoker, the Irish novelist who created Dracula, didn’t get the memo. At the climax of his 1897 novel, Mina Harker describes Drac’s death like this:

“But on the instant came the sweep and flash of Jonathan's great knife. I shrieked as I saw it shear through the throat whilst at the same moment Mr Morris's bowie knife plunged into the heart. It was like a miracle but before our very eyes and almost in the drawing of a breath the whole body crumbled into dust and passed from our sight.”

The count is finished off by two knives: a Nepalese machete called a kukri, and a regular old Bowie knife. This is more the kind of arsenal you’d expect to see in one of the Blade movies than in an old Gothic novel, but Stoker was just ahead of the curve, I guess.

You’ve probably heard that Stoker’s count was loosely inspired by accounts of the 15th-century Vlad the Impaler, a superfluously cruel Romanian ruler sometimes called “Dracula,” meaning “son of Dracul,” his royal dad. Vlad was just a jerk, not an undead creature of the night, and his death wasn’t a stake through the heart either. He was assassinated under mysterious circumstances in 1476, presumably by the sword. (His head was placed on a stake by his Turkish enemies, however.)

The biggest shocker about the original Dracula: he wasn’t from Transylvania! Well, he was born there, but he actually ruled a neighboring region called Wallachia. In fact, the Transylvanians were the real Dracula’s military opponents. It’s a pity Stoker didn’t go with “Wallachia” as the site of Count Dracula’s castle in his book, because it sounds much scarier when you say it right. And we never would have had to suffer through that terrible Transylvania 6-5000 movie.

Quick Quiz: Name the three monster-themed General Mills cereals that are now only sold around Halloween and not during the rest of the year.

Ken Jennings is the author of Brainiac, Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac, and Maphead. He's also the proud owner of an underwhelming Bag o' Crap. Follow him at ken-jennings.com or on Twitter as @KenJennings.

Photo by Flickr member Ednaar. Used under a Creative Commons License.

vipermjb


quality posts: 40 Private Messages vipermjb

Am I missing something or was that an attempt at a Glenn Miller joke?

Don't speak ill of the alien abducted.

bmrbill


quality posts: 129 Private Messages bmrbill

Quick Quiz: Name the three monster-themed General Mills cereals that are now only sold around Halloween and not during the rest of the year.

Boo Berry
Count Chocula
Frankenberry

woot!

sunnyx0r


quality posts: 9 Private Messages sunnyx0r

Count Chocula is now only sold around Halloween? Outrage!

Slydon


quality posts: 17 Private Messages Slydon

Staff

I remember Yummy Mummy and Fruit Brute (the werewolf!) but I don't think they're back. But I had no idea Chocula wasn't year round. Is that true, Ken?

Hi, I'm one of the writers. My powers are limited but I'll do what I can.

loatu


quality posts: 1 Private Messages loatu

Ken, you teased me with the first two paragraphs, and I waited until the end to find it, to no avail.

Where did the concept of killing vampires with stakes come from?

marsilies


quality posts: 0 Private Messages marsilies
loatu wrote:Where did the concept of killing vampires with stakes come from?


While Dracula himself isn't killed with a stake, in the novel several other vampires are killed with stakes.

Killing a vampire with a stake was in the vampire lore long before Dracula. Wikipedia mentions an account from 1672 where a vampire was staked through the heart, although they had to behead him to finish the job.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vampire#Medieval_and_later_European_folklore

This article suggests that originally the staking was supposed to happen while the body was in the coffin, and go through the body and into the ground, nailing the wandering soul to the grave. The stake didn't even necessarily have to be through the heart, just through the body or even just the clothes.
http://newenglandfolklore.blogspot.com/2011/08/why-vampires-get-staked-through-heart.html

boomshadow


quality posts: 0 Private Messages boomshadow

Ken, there are a couple of problems from my standpoint:

1) Is the mistaken belief that either Vlad Tepes or the Dracula character were killed by stakes all that common?

2) You could have pointed out that Dracula (and, presumably, Vlad Tepes) really wasn't especially vulnerable to direct sunlight. The idea that sunlight kills vampires is associated with multiple different vampire legends, even some predating Dracula; one of the more common thoughts is that this may have originated from the mistaken idea that a disease called porphyria (oddly enough, a genetic blood disorder) was also either a cause or an indication of vampirism. That would have been useful to mention.

3) If Stoker had used Wallachia as the setting for Dracula's domain, the movie still could have been made under the title "Wallachia Wallachia, Washington." Also, while it was certainly not a great classic of modern cinema, I wouldn't go so far as to consider it "terrible."

I've seen "Twilight."

lstaff


quality posts: 199 Private Messages lstaff

Wait a minute. Dracula is dead???!!!

vperl


quality posts: 0 Private Messages vperl

Dracula is not dead. He has been seen sucking the life out of our economy, while living at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Lint-Licker

JasonAsher


quality posts: 1 Private Messages JasonAsher

Everyone knows Dracula choked to death on a blood clot... o.O

Dartag


quality posts: 0 Private Messages Dartag

The blades did not do it, either. Dracula was not truly killed in the first novel. He was severely injured, but not killed. Bram Stoker's great grand-nephew Dacre Stoker, and renowned Dracula lore writer Ian Holt, penned a sequel together called "Dracula the Un-dead". Dracula "lives".

WoodyTX


quality posts: 5 Private Messages WoodyTX

Even back in the day, when you need something killed or destroyed, call a Texan.

I'm not keeping track of my Woots, but they average more than one a month, starting with the InFocus 4805 Projector on 06/30/05.

Cameron


quality posts: 3 Private Messages Cameron

Whoa, hold on... Transylvania 6-5000 a bad movie?!? Let me say just four words: Geena Davis lowcut batsuit.

mossygreen


quality posts: 69 Private Messages mossygreen

The Quick Quiz was too easy as every Target store I have been in this month has all three on at least one checkout endcap. With all due respect.