Grades 5+

WARNING: This is based on a true incident. It contains brutal violence.

A servant in traditional Romanian clothes opened the large door and ushered the 200 guests into the castle’s lavish dining hall.

On the tables stood bottles of wine beside flicking candles. Beyond the tables was a huge fireplace within which a wild boar roasted on a spit turned by two large dogs in a wire wheel.

The fire flared each time the pig’s juices dribbled into the flames.

A man stepped out of the shadows beside the fireplace.  He was dressed in a boyer shirt embroidered in gold and tight-fitting trousers. And, of course, he sported his trademark mustache. 

“Tepe!” the guests whispered among themselves.

Yes, the Count himself! The ruler of Wallachia.

There had been other feasts, but never before had Tepe shown up.

“Sit,” he said. “Eat. Drink. Make yourselves at home.”

He clapped his hands. Servants emerged carrying silver trays laden with steaming vegetables and breads. Others moved among the crowd, pouring the wine. Meanwhile, two cooks at the fireplace began slicing meat from the wild boar.

The banquet went on for two hours, but no one noticed the time. To dine with Tepe, while he moved among the guests, making small talk. How could anything be better!

Now he walked in front of everyone, clapped his hands once and said, “Let us make our way outside. Where coffee and dessert will be served.”

Everyone threaded outside, a few pausing to wolf down a final hunk of meat or a vegetable from their table.

Outside was a patio with an ornately carved table and chair. Beyond, a lawn was punctured here and there with holes that cast elongated shadows. Above floated a full moon. Tepe spread his arms.  “Romantic, is it not?” he asked.

Everyone murmured. Many politely applauded.

“There are two hundred of you,” he went on. “Two hundred exactly. A tenth of that is, of course, twenty.” He meandered among the guests, who parted like a sea, their moonlit faces filled with admiration. “Twenty will receive prizes.”  He pointed to this person and that as a scribe, following behind, jotted down notes.  “Him,” Tepe said. “And him. And her, for sure. Her too.”

Tepe sat down at the table. A servant brought wine. Tepe’s goblet, which was crystal, glinted in the light as he drank and smacked his lips together. Another servant brought a cake, cut off a slice, and set it before the count.

“Begin,” Tepe said.

A set of arched doors in the castle burst open. Soldiers trotted out. They separated out the guests Tepe had selected as the scribe indicated them. The soldiers then formed a double-line, back to back, each line facing a group.

Three or four dozen burly men wearing hemp waistshirts emerged, every two of them carrying a pole the thickness of a man’s wrist. One end of each pole was sharpened to a fine point.

The burly men grabbed the selected men and women and, as people thrashed and screamed and cursed, wrestled them to the ground. They stripped the people to the waist and thrust the poles between their legs, impaling them. The wretches shrieked and struggled as the men hoisted the poles and emplaced them in the holes. Men emerged from the shadows and began filling the holes with dirt.

Already some of the posts’ tips were bursting from the people’s chests or up through their mouths. The rest of the crowd groaned and cried out in anguish. Some fainted. Others fell to their knees and vomited.

Tepe rose and turned toward them.  “Silence! You are interrupting the screams of my dessert.  Unless you want to be next.”

Almost as one person, the crowd drew back. Now the soldiers, using their shields and spears, had them pinned against the castle wall.

Tepe nodded. The burly men produced a bucket and began swabbing the victims’ feet with tar. One man brought out a torch and lit the blackened legs. Fire instantly climbed the people’s legs.

Tepe lifted his glass in a toast. “I always enjoy candles with my cake,” said in a loud voice, to no one in particular.

Count Vlad Tepe killed 80,000 people through different methods, with 20,000 being impaled and put on display at his castle and outside the city. Some say the people were his enemies, others say they were criminals. Still others say they were Muslims.

Whatever, the case, Count Vlad the Destroyer –now known as Dracula – is considered a Romanian hero.

Why? Because the Ottoman Turks were invading Europe. It was impossible for the Romanians to stop the huge Muslim army.

But Vlad stopped them. The sight of thousands of decomposing corpses being picked apart by crows was so disturbing that the invading Ottomans turned back.

Vlad usually held his gruesome grand banquets at the Poenari Castle in Wallachia. Perched atop a cliff about 3,000 feet high, Poenari Castle is sure to offer a chilling and unforgettable experience for anyone who dares to walk through its ruins.

That is today.

In Tepe’s day, you could go to most watering holes in the country. Beside each well would be a golden goblet.

No one stole the cups.

No one dared.

Romania Activity 1

Find the words below in the essay. Name their part of speech.


Part of Speech   

1.     Traditional


2.     Lavish


3.     Pig’s


4.     Two


5.     Hunk


6.     Crystal


7.     Gruesome


8.     Grand


9.     Thickness


10.  Romantic