Since it is Halloween, I thought it would be fun to write a post about the five notorious historical figures who have either inspired supernatural creatures or were confused for supernatural creatures.
6. Bela Kiss-the Vampire of Cinkola
Bela Kiss was a Hungarian soldier who fought during WWI, a serial killer, and-possibly-a vampire. A man who kept to himself, with an eye for desperate women, and the ability to disappear whenever he wanted, Bela became immortal as the Vampire of Cinkola.
Born in Izsak, Austria-Hungary, Bela was a tinsmith who had married once, but his wife, supposedly, left him for another lover. He hired a house keeper to help run his house and was seen frequently with other women. He also had several metal drums that he claimed were filled with gasoline for the war rationing. When WWI started, he was conscripted and left the house in his house keeper’s care.
In 1916, the police received a call from Kiss’ landlord about the metal drums. At first, the landlord thought it was Kiss’ collection of gasoline, so he sent soldiers to collect the needed gas. However, when they opened the barrels, they found the pickled preserved bodies of strangled women. In total, they found 24 bodies-two of which were his wife and her lover.
To learn more about Bela Kiss, watch this video
Upon further investigation, it turned out that Kiss had been corresponding with numerous women, defrauding them, and then strangling them. At one point, he would pierce the neck to drain the bodies of blood, leading to vampiric rumors. Then the bodies were placed in the metal drums where Kiss would preserve them.
The police received a letter stating that Kiss was recuperating in a Serbian hospital, but Kiss escaped before they arrived. Instead, he placed the body of another dead soldier in his bed to fool the police. Kiss would be seen all over the world as the years went by. Some said he died in Turkey, was arrested and executed in Romania, and worked as a janitor in New York. His ultimate fate is unknown.
5. Gilles de Rais-Inspiration for Blue Beard
A man of extreme contradictions, Gilles de Rais was Joan of Arc’s companion in arms, an inspiration for Bluebeard, and potentially history’s first convicted serial killer. His trial and execution would spark debate even to his day as to whether he was a sadistic murderer or a victim of a corrupt state and justice system.
Born during the 100 Years War in Brittany, France, Gille de Rais was nearly married to Jeanne Paynel, one of the richest families in Normandy. When that marriage fell through, Gilles married Catherine de Thouars of Brittany, making him and his family incredibly rich noblemen.
One of his biggest claims to fame is fighting side by side with Joan of Arc in 1429. Already a skilled soldier by then, Gilles had a reputation for reckless bravery and skill on the battlefield. He was with Joan during the Siege of Orleans, France’s first military victory following the defeat at Agincourt. Gilles fought so well, he was appointed as marshal of France-the military’s highest distinction.
After Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, Gilles withdrew from the war and spend his family’s fortune on various investments on land and large spectacular plays. His family disagreed with his spending, but the worst investment was in the Chapel of Holy Innocents. His family furious at his spending habits, asked the church to prevent Giles from building his chapel, but the Church refused. However, he soon went into debt and Charles VII forbad anyone from doing business with Gilles.
To learn more about Gilles de Rais, watch this video
Around this time, boys started to go missing in his neighborhood and there were rumors that he had turned to sadism and satanism to save his dwindling finances. Additionally, Gilles would go around town, selecting boys to singing in his choir. Since many of these families were either poor servants who were afraid to testify or they were proud that a noble wanted their boys to work for him, it was an ‘open secret’. Supposedly, Gilles believed that a demon who could help him would only be summoned if he sacrificed children.
In 1490, Gilles kidnapped a cleric after a dispute which prompted an investigation. After finding ‘eyewitnesses’, the court found Gilles guilty. According to testimony, Gilles would invite the children (mostly boys) over, fed them well, and then would torture them, kill them, and mutilated their copses. Sometimes, he would rape them while they were alive and sometimes he would rape them after he killed them. The precise number of children of his killed is unknown but it has been estimated between 80-200 children. Gilles and his to assistants were executed by hanging and burning in 1440 and he was granted permission to be buried in the monastery of Notre-Dame des Carmes in Nantes.
Modern historians have reinvestigated the trial, believing that Gilles was a victim of jealous family members and state officials. Although a book was written arguing why the trial was a sham, historians are still torn whether Gilles truly was a serial killer or a victim of a corrupt justice system.
3. Elizabeth Bathory-the Blood Countess
Elizabeth Bathory the blood countess may be the best known and most prolific female serial killer. Her bloody and heinous acts would win her immortality as the first woman vampire who used to bath in the blood of young woman to retain her youth.
Elizabeth was born in Hungary and was related to the king of Poland, grand duke of Lithuania, and prince of Transylvania. Elizabeth would marry Ferenc Nadasdy, but since her family was more noble then Nadasdy’s, she kept her family name. In 1578, Ferenc was made chief commander of Hungarian troops, leading them against the Ottomans. While he was away, Elizabeth was responsible for caring for her estate and people. Her estate was on the route to Vienna, which mean that the threat of Ottoman invasion was very real. Ferenc died on January 4th, 1604, leaving Elizabeth alone and in the trust of Gyorgy Thurzo. It is unclear how aware Ferenc was of her activities, but it was well known that she had torturous appetites. It was only after she started targeting lesser
noble women did the courts decide to investigate.
Between 1602-1604, Thurzo investigated Elizabeth after rumors of torture and murder spread throughout Hungary. The investigation revealed that Elizabeth tortured and murdered anywhere between 80 to 600 girls. The torturing consisted of beatings, burnings, and brutal mutilation. There were rumors of cannibalism and the most persistent rumor was that she would bath in woman’s blood to preserve her youth. Elizabeth and four of her servants were arrested and held under house arrest as the nobles decided what to do with her. If they executed her, they were worried about upsetting her powerful family. Instead, they decided she would be imprisoned in her castle. She was bricked up in her room with only small slits for air and food. She would die four years later.
2. Grigori Rasputin-the Mad Monk
Rasputin may be one of the most famous people on this list. Known as the mad monk even when he was alive, a mystic with an unstoppable sexual appetite, and seven-time defier of death. Featured as a dangerous warlock, often aligned with dark and satanic forces in pop culture such as the movie Anastasia and the Hellboy comics and movies, Rasputin continues to capture our imagination.
Not much is known about Rasputin’s early life. It is known that he was born in a peasant village in Russia in 1869, but the rest has been swallowed by mythology and rumors. It seems that he may have been illiterate and an unruly young man. In 1886 he traveled to Abalak and married to a woman who would remain devoted to him for his entire life.
In 1897, he found a renewed interest in religion, joining a monastery, and learning how to read and write. He became a changed man, adopting the now familiar look of an unwashed, unkept priest and became a wanderer. During his wanderings, he gathered a following of acolytes which caught the attention of the officials. His ceremonies were odd and may have involved orgies and self-flagellation.
Despite this, he became the father of the Seven Lakes Monastery outside Kazan and received an invitation to St. Petersburg. When he got to St. Petersburg, he became friends with many members of the court and noble family, including the Black Princesses, who introduced Rasputin to the Romanov family.
If you want to learn more about Grigori Rasputin, watch this video
While Nicholas recognized Rasputin as a man of god, he would not become Alexei’s physician until 1906. The longer the Romanovs were around Rasputin, the more convinced Alexandra became that his prayers could save Alexei. There were incidents when Alexei’s hemophilia would get the best of him and the doctors would be unable to help him, but Rasputin could. Nicholas, seemingly at wits end, humored his wife and allowed Rasputin to remain within St. Petersburg, despite the many reports his officials gave him about Rasputin’s swindling and sexual ‘perversions’. The people of Russia were fed up with Rasputin, drawing terrible pictures of the Tsarina and Rasputin engaged in sexual acts and the Tsar as Rasputin’s puppet.
A group of nobles, convinced that Rasputin would be the ruin of the Romanovs, got together to assassin him. Prince Felix Yusupov, the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, and the right-wing politician Vladimir Purishkevich lured Rasputin to Yusupov’s Moika Palace and murdered him. It is unknown exactly how he died, but Felix said first they poisoned him with a cake laced with cyanide, then wine which had also been poisoned, shot him three times, and then wrapped him in a rug and dumped him in the Malaya Nevka River.
While plenty of stories and myths have developed around Rasputin, the true horror is that Rasputin was a charlatan who took advantage of a desperate family and helped undermine the foundation of an empire.
1. Vlad the Impaler-the Original Dracula
Maybe the most famous person on this list, Vlad the Impaler is traditionally considered to be the inspiration for Dracula.
Vlad was born in 1431 and, according to folklore, he was born in Transylvania, the central reason of Romania. He was prince of Wallachia and in 1442, he and his brother were held as hostages in the Ottoman Empire. His father and oldest brother were murdered in 1449 by the regent-governor of Hungary. Vlad went to Moldavia in 1449 and later to Hungary. In 1456, he led an invasion of Wallachia and killed the ruler the Hungarians had instated. He also purged Wallachia of anyone who wasn’t loyal to him by impaling them, beginning his murderous and horrible reputation for savage cruelty.
In 1462, he attacked the Ottomans massacring tens of thousands of Turks and Bulgarians, adding to his bloody reputation. There is a story of Vlad impaling thousands of Turks, but it is unknown if it an exaggeration or true. Mehmed, the Ottoman ruler, led a campaign to place Radu, Vlad’s brother, on the throne. Vlad, needed assistance, went to Transylvania to seek assistance, but ended up being captured instead.
To learn more about Vlad the Impaler, watch the video
He was held in captivity from 1463-1475, and rumors of his cruelty spread. He was released in 1475 and lead an army against the Ottomans in Bosnia in 1476. With support from Hungarian and Moldavian troops, he dethroned the man who currently ruled in Wallachia. The Ottomans rushed to defeat Vlad and he was killed in 1477.
It seems that Bram Stoker read about Vlad’s bloody acts and liked the name Dracul. He seems aware of some of Vlad’s actions, but most of the connections between Dracula and Vlad are superficial at best.