CATANIA, Italy — The real Dracula may have had a medical condition which made him shed tears of blood, a new study reveals. The 15th century Romanian prince known as Vlad the Impaler is said to be the inspiration for the story of Count Dracula, the vampire immortalized in countless books and films.
The new study by a team in Italy found letters written by Vlad III, Voivode of Wallachia, which show evidence of bloody tears. Analysis of proteins on the documents from the 1400s indicate that he may have suffered from a condition called hemolacria, that could cause a person’s tears to mix with blood.
Professor Vincenzo Cunsolo of the University of Catania and an international team harvested peptides and proteins from three rag paper letters, written in 1457 and 1475. They were penned to the rulers of Sibiu (Romania) and were written by a man describing himself as “prince of the Transalpine regions” and signed as Vlad Dracula.
“Altogether, proteomic data here reported, although cannot be considered exhaustive alone, might indicate that, according to some stories, he probably suffered, at least in the last years of his life, from a pathological condition called hemolacria, that is, he could shed tears admixed with blood,” the researchers write in the journal ACS Analytical Chemistry.
“Additionally, he also probably suffered from inflammatory processes of the respiratory tract and/or of the skin,” the team continues. “To our reckoning, this is the first time such research has been carried out and has helped to bring to the limelight the health status of Vlad Dracula the Impaler.”
“It cannot be denied that more medieval people may have touched these documents, but it is also presumable that the most prominent ancient proteins should be related to Prince Vlad the Impaler, who wrote and signed these letters.”
Some scholars have suggested Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel “Dracula” was inspired by Vlad the Impaler. The ruler was notorious for cruel methods of punishing enemies, including impaling them on stakes.
Prof. Cunsolo worked with a team that included Prof. Pier Giorgio Righetti, an eminent chemist at Milan Polytechnic University. Righetti has spent most of his career developing methods to separate and investigate proteins with increasing precision.
Dr. Gleb Zilberstein and Dr. Svetlana Zilberstein harvested peptides and proteins from the three documents written by Vlad Dracula. Dr. Arhire Tudor, the custodian of a government archive in Sibiu (Romania), permitted the investigation of the three documents written and signed by Count Vlad III.
South West News Service writer Dean Murray contributed to this report.