Sunday, August 7, 2016

Horror Stories

There is always an ounce of truth when it comes to horror stories. Some are exaggerated immensely, others are too real to be true. Meet Prince Vlad Tepes... otherwise known as Dracula...

From Life Magazine Special - "Strange But True: 100 of the World's Weirdest Wonders"
Purchase here!

Dracula, "The Prince of Darkness," was born in London, of all places, in the mind of 19th-century Irish novelist Bram Stoker. But the count's likely progenitor, Prince Vlad Tepes (who also possessed a pro-wrestling-style nickname, "The Impaler), was indeed born in the land called Transylvania—to considerable circumstance in the mid-1400s.

Truth be told, there's nothing nightmarish about the often stunning countryside in this large and legendary province in the middle of Romania. The splendid scenery could as easily have been setting for The Sound of Music as for a horror movie. You can just picture Julie Andrews running through these sunny alpine valleys, singing her merry heart out.

But instead you picture Bela Lugosi as a sharp-fanged demon wrapped in a cape, operating in the black of night, preying upon innocents. The music, if you conjure any, is full of ominous chords played on a pipe organ.

This is because it is also true that in the distant past a lot of blood was spilled in unspeakable ways in Transylvania. Vlad Tepes was born circa 1434 probably in Sighisoara, which—with its walled citadel perched on a hilltop, its secret gateways to back alleys, its 14th-century clock tower—is one of the most charming examples of a medieval city left in the Europe. Outside Brasov, another lovely old city, is the intimidating Bran Castle, where Vlad ruled—forcefully—over Wallachia from 1456  to 1462.

From the beginning of his reign, impalement on stakes in the town square became his signature measure of revenge against the family's enemies, and then continued as the standard punishment for everything from murder on down to lying. In 1476, Vlad, having already been driven from power, was himself assassinated.

The darkness that surrounds the Dracula legend is certainly substantial, but no more so than that which underlies the famously gorgeous City of Light. Paris sits atop a honeycomb of underground tunnels-185 miles of them—that in the 18th and 19th centuries were a refuge for robbers, smugglers and fugitives (including the fictive Phantom of the Opera). They also served as an adjunct to the city's overstocked cemeteries. Called the Catacombs, this subterranean world today still contains the bones of several million Parisians. You can visit the tunnels as a tourist. If you dare.

From Life Magazine Special - "Strange But True: 100 of the World's Weirdest Wonders"
Purchase here!

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