Your students will all be familiar with the name Dracula and the most famous vampire of all time, but they might not know that Dracula was based on a real-life person—a person who makes Bram Stoker's terrifying villain seem like a fluffy bunny in comparison. Yes, Vlad the Impaler of Romania was even more vicious than Stoker's creation could ever hope to be, and he was a human being! Introduce your students to the story of Vlad Dracula to emphasize the connection between history and fiction (and also to guarantee that they'll have nightmares for the rest of the school year.
"Bram Stoker's Dracula, published in 1897, continues to send shivers down the spine of anyone who reads it. It is dark Gothic at its best, a brilliant, imaginative and can't-put-down work of art. The atmosphere it creates is, in this writer's opinion, spookier than any Stephen King novel. But...many people who have read the book are not aware that the character Dracula the vampire is based on was a highborn member of a Romanian court, prominent in European history — and much more terrifying than his fictional descendant. While not the black-cloaked, centuries-old, fanged bloodsucker of literary fame, the infamy of the historical figure outperforms that of Stoker's creation. Prince Vlad, or as he was called even in his own time, Dracula (which means "Son of the Dragon") tops the list of Romania's many, many Christian crusaders who, in the transition years between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, fought to keep the Muslim-faithed Ottoman Turks out of their country."