Vlad The Impaler May Have Cried Tears Of Blood

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Ben Taub


Ben Taub

Freelance Writer

Benjamin holds a Master's degree in anthropology from University College London and has worked in the fields of neuroscience research and mental health treatment.

Freelance Writer


The famous tyrant may have had haemolacria, meaning his tears were mixed with blood.

Image credit: Jakub Krechowicza/

As if the man who inspired the story of Count Dracula needed another bloody attribute, new research has revealed that Vlad the Impaler may have had a condition that made him cry tears of blood. Unlike his fictional counterpart, however, the mortal tyrant also appears to have had various respiratory and skin disorders linked to inflammation.

Boasting an impressive array of scary names – including Vlad Drăculea (which means “Son of the Dragon”) – Vlad the Impaler ruled over Wallachia (which bordered Transylvania) with an iron fist in the 15th century. Seen as a hero in Romania for his staunch defense of the region, the famous lover of skewering is thought to have been responsible for about 80,000 deaths, many of which were by impalement.


It’s also believed that Vlad provided the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s 1897 classic novel Dracula, though this has never been definitively confirmed. Rather than focusing on any fictional writings, however, the authors of a new study analyzed three documents penned by the Impaler himself in order to learn more about the legendary despot’s health.

Written in Transylvania in 1457 and 1475, the three letters were all addressed to the ruler of the city of Sibiu, Thomas Altemberger, and dealt with mundane matters such as tax collection. Using a non-damaging technique involving ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), the researchers were able to isolate and identify peptides and proteins present on the rag paper on which the letters were written.

“We characterized about 500 peptides, of which about 100 peptides were certainly of human origin,” write the study authors. “Peptides related to blood proteins or coming from proteins involved in the respiratory system were identified in all the documents characterized.”

Among the compounds found were peptides related to ciliopathy, indicating that Vlad may have had a genetic mutation that compromised the function of his cells and organs. Other proteins associated with inflammatory processes were also identified, suggesting that he probably had issues with his skin and respiratory tract.


Intriguingly, the researchers also reveal that “three peptides associated with proteins of the retina and tears were detected only in the documents dated 1475.” Based on the nature of these compounds, it seems likely that Vlad the Impaler had a condition called haemolacria, meaning he shed tears that were mixed with blood.

“Although proteomics data cannot be considered exhaustive alone, altogether, these identifications might indicate that Dracula 'cried tears of blood',” write the study authors.

Just imagine the state of his pillow!

The study is published in the journal ACS Analytical Chemistry.


  • tag
  • blood,

  • proteins,

  • peptides,

  • history,

  • tears,

  • vlad the impaler