Fans of Bram Stoker’s Dracula — the blood-lusting devil-chummy castle lord with fangs — may know a thing or two about Vlad The Impaler, the ruthless Wallachian prince known for his love of impaling humans on stake. Well, he was not a real vampire who sipped on blood margherita, but he could have suffered from a condition that made him cry tears of blood.

Apparently, our cruel prince also liked to write letters, some of which survived for over 500 years. Scientists are now studying those letters for signs of cells and proteins belonging to Vlad’s body. Nerds used a specialized plastic film called EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) to extract these proteins from the pieces of paper, performed mass spectrometry, and studied the degradation of proteins to identify patterns of sickness.

The findings suggest that Vlad may have suffered from respiratory issues, plague complications, and a rather (un)special condition called haemolacria. The name literally translates to bloody tears. It’s a rare condition and makes a person shed tears that contain blood. This is what the condition looks like:

A person crying tears laced with blood
Credit: James R, Bharadhi M, James JHaemolacria in a 22-year-old boy BMJ Case Reports CP 2018;11:e225151.

It can result from damage to a vascular tissue called Conjunctiva, which, in turn, could be from trauma, inflammation, hormonal changes, etc. “He probably suffered, at least in the last years of his life, from a pathological condition called haemolacria, that is, he could shed tears admixed with blood,” says the research paper.

Well, at least the oral legends were partially true. Unlike the literary and cinematic monstrosity that was the “Twilight” series, which made us believe that vampires shone like sparkly crystals under the sun, instead of instantly combusting into an unholy pile of ash.

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