By Paul Perkert, Contributing Editor

Count Dracula, a fictional character invented by Bram Stoker (1847-1912), was not called a vampire because he sucked the blood of living beings, like the vampire bats of Central and South America.

In fact, the vampire bats, which do indeed suck the blood of cattle and other domestic animals, were named after the vampires (Slavic "vampir") of Tran-sylvanian legend: corpses that arise from the grave at night and suck the blood of sleeping victims.

Though they subsist entirely on blood, vampire bats would pose little danger of anemia unless they attacked en masse: they live on about a teaspoon of blood a day. They are far more hazardous as carriers of disease, including rabies.

There was, incidentally, a real Transylvanian Dracula, but Stoker borrowed his name rather than his exploits. He was Vlad IV, a fifteenth-century prince of Walachia (a region south of the Transylvanian Alps). Vlad's father was Vlad Dracul Vlad the Devil hence "Dracula," for the devil's son. The protagonist of the 1897 novel was "finally" killed when a pointed stake was driven through his heart. The real Dracula also has an association with pointed stakes: he mounted his captive enemies on them. So, besides "Dracula," he has become known as Vlad the Impaler.


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