Since his first appearance in Bram Stoker’s 1897 horror novel, Dracula has been a fixture in the popular culture. The blood-sucking vampire has appeared in dozens of movies, including the iconic 1931 Bela Lugosi film, and has inspired countless imitations. While much has been embellished, the Dracula character is based on a real person—the Transylvanian prince Vlad III—and actual historical events.--In 1408, Sigismund of Luxembourg, the King of Hungary, created a secret society devoted to repulsing the Turks: the Order of the Dragon. Among its first members was the prince of Wallachia, in Transylvania, Vlad II. When Vlad II joined the Order in 1431, he was given a new patrymic: Dracul, the Romanian word for dragon. Thus his son Vlad III was known as Son of the Dragon—or Dracula.--When Vlad II died in 1447, the Turks installed Dracula on the throne. He turned on his former masters immediately, however, keeping his oath. In 1462, when the Turks invaded Wallachia, Prince Vlad traveled to Hungary to lobby for aid from his fellow Order of the Dragon member, Matthias Corvinus, who instead threw him in a dungeon. There Vlad languished for ten years. Corvinus, the man who imprisoned the real-life Dracula, was, thus, the real-life Van Helsing.--Vlad’s reputation for cruelty was well known even in his lifetime. He was known to dunk his bread in the blood of his victims. His favorite form of execution was impalement. It is said that he once impaled 10,000 Turkish soldiers along a road into Wallachia. The Ottoman ruler—no stranger to cruelty and bloodshed—was so disgusted he turned around. Vlad III Dracula was killed in battle with the Turks in 1477.