In another installment of our “Evil Dudes in History” we explore the history and legend of the Wallachian voivod Vlad Tepes, the inspiration for the most famous vampire of all time. Plus: Which is the lesser of two evils: being impaled Vlad style, or being left to die of exposure on the top of a mountain as an Incan sacrifice?

Music: “The Wheel of Hurt” by Margaret Whiting



Charity o’ the Week: Relief Fund for Romania

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  • Gavin Pitts

    Excellent episode! For a crazy guy, Vlad Tepes was kind of badass.

    Stakes that were sharpened killed the victims quickly. Blunt stakes were preferred by Vlad, because rather than pierce vital organs, they pushed them aside and the victim stayed alive and in pain much longer. Relatives of victims often paid the executioners to sharpen the stake and place it directly over the heart.

    Vlad routinely took his meals underneath the writhing bodies of his impaled victims, often toasting their health! He expected his courtesans to do the same. One of them complained that the stench was overpowering- Vlad thoughtfully had him impaled on a stake 10 foot longer than usual so he would not be bothered by the smell whilst he was dying.

    My favourite DRACULA movie would be either the John Badham 1978 version with Frank Langella as Dracula and Laurence Olivier as Van Helsing. The sequence where Van Helsing confronts his vampirised daughter remains chilling to this day.

    I also enjoy TO DIE FOR (1989) with Brendon Hughes (an early crush!) as Vlad Tepes. It was also the last film of Duane Jones (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD)

    You also can’t go past Murnaugh’s NOSFERATU and the brilliant Willem Dafoe SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE…

    • Toren

      We started to talk about Shadow of the Vampire but decided the Vlad connection was too far removed…so it got cut!

  • Holtzmann

    You know, Kevin is right! Someone has to make a Dracula movie where he’s a semi-omnipotent dragon instead of a bat-like vampire who gets a stake through the heart and goes poof. I smell a modern mythology fusion blockbuster (think Van Helsing, but more badass and without werewolves) in the making!

    Also, I request a stand-alone MP3 of Toren’s song at the end (sans production voice-over)! It’s oddly haunting. Also, it’s one of the few stances I can think of where the word “fucking” is actually integral to the structure of the song!

  • Deines-saur

    Another great episode, yet, sadly, it lacks a certain quality since you failed to mention the greatest Dracula TV series of all, Dracula: The Series. While about Dracula (the legend) and not Vlad Tepes, it certainly merited a mention. Why this fine Canadian production lasted only one year is beyond me. And, yes, my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek….. having been pushed aside by the stake coming up out of my mouth from my anus.

  • dg!

    No mention of Werner Herzog’s re-make of Nosferatu? Or are you saving that for the Werner Herzog episode (which I’m starting to think he deserves)?

    I also REALLY want that song – it’s the perfect anthem for hiking!

  • Some Bitch

    Despite the lack of a mention of Blacula, it was an interesting show. I noticed the apparently Irish ‘Charity O’ the Week’ link. Is this new or am I just not observant? Either way, I like the idea.

    • Toren

      Whenever Joe remembers to post it in the entry, it’s included. We’ve been doing it for a few months now. It’s the perfect riposte to those who would say the makers of Caustic Soda have no redeeming qualities! (As if I don’t get that enough from my cat)

  • She Fights Like A Girl

    The talent on you guys. It gives me the creepin willies.

    And “Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula High School” was a TERRIBLE movie.

  • Will the Vague


    I’m an avid listener, and I will admit here with a degree of sheepishness that I always skip the Thickets interludes when they’re featured. Just not my cup of tea. Coming from a clarinetist, choral singer, and rabid Harry Partch enthusiast, that blow I can only assume will land softly. BUT.

    That song at the end? Golden. An album of THAT I’d shell out for in a heartbeat. I just have one complaint:

    It’s verging on 24 hours now and I can’t get it out of my head. Please make it stop?

    • Generaleesimo

      That’s your karmic punishment for skipping all the other Thickets interludes. It’s your own personal left on a mountain top to die.

  • Derek

    Fantastic ep and a great ending. I agree with Will the Vague that most of the Thickets music is a little harsh for me, but that one was awesome, Toren. I admire how you seem to be able to come up with an entire some with your own voice, just layered over itself (like with the Muppet Tribute intro). Great work. 🙂

    What a ghastly topic and lesser of two evils. Stomach is still churning a bit.

    As a peripheral pop culture reference I recently saw the Dark Shadows movie. I thought it was a bit slow and heavy on the storyline, but I hadn’t realised it was a (apparently) very famous tv serial from the 60s. Have you guys heard of it, is it just me, or is it just a US phenomenon? (It’s peripheral because the dude’s a vampire – that’s as close as it gets to Vlad.)

    • Toren

      I’ve never seen Dark Shadows (it is a British series I believe) but I had heard of it. Apparently there are DS conventions and cosplay and the whole bit.

      • O. C. P.

        I also used to think that the original Dark Shadows was British, but it’s American. 1,225 episodes!

      • She Fights Like A Girl

        This American Life even had a story on Dark Shadows fandom, in their Conventions episode.

        • catwoman153

          I watched Dark Shadows when I was a kid. It was on in the morning right before I left for school, possibly on the Sci-Fi channel. I loved it then, but I haven’t seen it since so I have no idea how I’d feel about it as an adult.

  • Holtzmann

    Something I just remembered about impalement!

    Two of my friends actually did research on it a few years ago. One is a historian, the other was still graduating from med school back in the day. It wasn’t the most thorough scientific investigation ever, given they did it in their spare time, but they reached an interesting conclusion. What they found out was that unless quite a lot of jiggling (sic) was done on the body to keep it aligned after the stake was raised to a vertical position, the tip of the stake would leave the body by piercing somewhere around the neck and shoulder area, most likely towards the back as the body tended to slump forward. Apparently, it coming out of the mouth would be either a perfect shot (sic) or they went through the trouble of pushing it all the way there before putting the victim up.

    Interesting stuff!

  • Devon

    Toren’s song at the end should be a ring tone!!!

  • Scot

    Does Joe get everything he knows about Transylvania from a Halloween card? That place is scenic as shit. Definitely a great view to take in as as your body slides painfully down a wooden pole.

    • Joe

      I get everything I know about Transylvania from Hollywood, and we know how accurate they are.

    • Generaleesimo

      If Hollywood has taught us anything, Transylvania is spooky as shit (but probably in a scenic sort of way).

  • banks!

    I thought for sure there would be a Public Service Announcement for what to do if you got impaled!

    I did a few first aid courses over the years and I remember learning how to deal with impalement. Simply put, do not remove the impaling object unless it obstructs breathing. If you must move the patient, trim the impaling object down as small as possible and secure it so it doesn’t shift. Pretty simple stuff but I did get to see some pretty cool accident pictures to go along with the lesson.

  • Phav Nosnibor

    More pop culture: about five years ago, Big Finish Productions did one of their monthly Doctor Who audio dramas that involved Vlad and Radu and all of that fun impaley stuff. Historical accuracy maybe goes out the window a bit when companion #2 (a former Egyptian pharaoh) falls in love with the sadistic SOB, but as Doctor Who historicals go, it’s fairly grounded.

  • Skroonk

    Fantastically Caustic episode gentlemen! History is even more aweful than mythology and rumours. Special thanks to Toren for the song at the end. I’d love to hear more of those. You guys rock! Please keep it up.

  • Matt

    I just want to point out that you’re too late on the Vlad to dragon comparison. There was a series of book by Sarah Ash published years ago that rely on that bit of mythology very heavily. They’re awesome.

    Lord of Snow and Shadows
    Prisoner of the Iron Tower
    Children of the Serpent Gate

    • Holtzmann

      Well, that’s interesting! Going to try to get my hands on those!

  • Scott Dornian

    Well done once again!

    How does that old saying go? “All that is required for good to flourish is for evil men to be ridiculously lazy”. I think that’s the one.

    I tip my hat to you gentlemen

  • Calvin

    A) Learning about Vlad the Impaler in greater detail than his name.
    B) Spaceship Zero Reference.
    C) The song at the end.*
    D) The Boyar that got away.

    *Seriously? Could this be the start of some new Thickets tunes? Dare I bother to cross my fingers?

    • Calvin

      Ack, forgot to explain why those points were listed.

      Those points are what made this episode particularly awesome.

  • Tyler

    This sucks that this is the end of evil men in history, I thought for sure that maybe it would become a filler show. You missed out on some that would even make Vlad quake, Joesph Stalin, Attila the Hun, Charles Ng and Leonard Lake, Jim Jones, and many more. I hate to admit it but, I think many more to come.

    I enjoy the shows hope maybe you guys can keep evil people in history going.

    • Joe

      Don’t worry, this isn’t the end! Our web site will add one to the list after we add another episode. There is no planned end to the series!

  • Katie

    I read a lot, and a while back I ran across a sequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula called Dracula: The Undead written by Bram’s nephew Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt. Here’s the wiki.

    In this book, they mention Vlad’s past, and somehow, SPOILER ALERT, also tie in Countess Elizabeth Bathory, Jack the Ripper, all the original Dracula characters, AND the Titanic. Well worth the read.

  • Stella

    So I know this is an older show, but I just found out about Caustic Soda by chance earlier this week. I gotta say, this is now my favorite podcast. There’s so much great info in your shows, and you guys are hilarious to boot. Thank you, and keep up the good work!

    But the reason I’m writing is that the song at the end? Fucking fantastic. I’m going to comb through this entire site to see if you’ve made an mp3 available. But if you haven’t, please do!

  • Kabur Naj

    Here’s an impalement-related tidbit of pop culture / in the news.

    Two decades before “The Blair Witch Project”, the Italian shock director Ruggero Deodato released perhaps the first ever found footage movie: “Cannibal Holocaust”. As a promotional gimmick Deodato had contractually obligated the four main actors to not make any media appearances for a full year after the film’s release in order to heighten the illusion that the footage in the film was genuine. This stunt proved to be too successful, as Deodato was brought up on murder charges for the four actors (spoiler alert) as well as for a supporting cast member who was featured impaled in one scene of the movie. Proving that the four main actors were still alive was fairly straight-forward since he was still in contact with them, but the impaled woman had been a local from Columbia where the movie was filmed so that proved more problematic. Deodato had to describe to the court in detail how the effect had been achieved and a panel was convened to scrutinize the footage and discern whether it was real or not. This together with photographs of the actor interacting with the crew after the scene had been shot were eventually enough to get all the murder charges dropped (however the filmmakers were still convicted of obscenity and violence on account of six on-screen animal killings which had not been staged).

    Because of its notoriety, the image of the impaled woman was used heavily in promoting the film’s video release. It’s featured prominently on about half of the posters and box-covers at this fan-site:

    You can see the scene in question here (for however long the link remains active) [NSFW]:

    There’s alse a tie-in to your Censorship episode, as “Cannibal Holocaust” was included in the video nasties list.

  • Curtis

    another fun and interesting episode that got right to the… point?

    i recently watched Dracula Dead and Loving It as part of my pre-game research for the perils of using the vampiric viscipline ‘Dominate’ in the White Wolf RPG ‘Vampire the Requiem.’ Phrasing is apparently key. there are some definite LOL moments in there, though on the whole it’s rather goofy.

    • Toren Atkinson

      What time did you SHEDULE the RPG session?

      • curtis

        oh i didn’t schedule it, that’s the GM’s headache…I mean…joy :). so it started last sunday, and will continue every sunday until tis done. my character is based on Johnny Depp’s 9th Gate ‘book detective’ with a dash of ‘capt. jack Sparrow’ in Paris during the early 1920s who is currently human but on the trail of a madness- inducing book; an investigation that will most-likely result in him being Embraced (so i guess then i’ll have to add Dark Shadows Depp, too, huh?)
        madness? most likely.
        Entertaining? most assuredly.

        • Joe

          This week: Toren finds out pronunciation jokes don’t play well in typed web comments.

          • curtis

            Wait… ‘sheduled?’

  • rimbaud3000

    I really enjoyed (is that the right word?) this episode. It made me cringe. The idea of having a turban nailed to your skull made me feel queasy – I think I was prepared for the impaling but nails to the meninges caught me by surprise.

    I also hadn’t considered the point of entry when impaling – I assumed it was through the abdomen and out the back, or vice versa.

    Will there be a further Vampires episode?

    I loved the film Shadow of the Vampire and I would like to know what you all thought of it. Not that I need your approval to like something! (please approve of me liking it…)

    I am becoming addicted. I nearly had a tantrum when I forgot to charge my phone at work and couldn’t get my Caustic Soda fix.
    I am 37. I shouldn’t be having tantrums, IT IS ALL YOUR FAULT *stomps off*

    • rimbaud3000

      One more thing – great song Toren, you have created a bloody persistent earworm there.
      Clever harmonies.
      Good stuff.
      The only downside is that people think I am mad when I start singing it without realising. Plus it is NSFW especially in my field (due to the swearing) but my unconscious mind doesn’t care, it just wants to sing…

    • Toren

      Typically we save monsters for the Hallowe’en episodes, so maybe you’ll hear “Vampires” in Oct 2013… Thanks for being a Soda Jerk! Have you reviewed us on iTunes yet? HINT HINT

      • Generaleesimo

        Although there was a bunch of vampire talk in our first in the (hopefully lengthy) Evil Dames in history series: Elizabeth Bathory, Check that one out, I’m sure you will enjoy.

        • Rob

          I have listened to that one, great episode too. She was definitely an Evil Dame.
          I haven’t the time or inclination to comment on every episode but I have yet to find a bad one… I am working my way through the back catalogue.

      • Rob

        Of course, I reviewed you guys as soon as I realised you were all brilliantly insane and worthy of listening to.
        I am Champion the Blunder Horse, apparently, although I may have been drunk when I wrote it as I do not remember choosing that name.
        It is my pleasure to be a Soda Jerk. I may have to purchase one of your lovely badges (buttons) to let the world know. I do recommend you to all and sundry.

  • Ben Mears

    No mention of the Christopher Lee Hammer Dracula movies???

    No mention of Marvel’s TOMB OF DRACULA comic???

    You mention the Seasme Street Count, but not those? Heck, why didn’t you mention Count Chocula?

    I’ve only listened to about a dozen eps so far….but you guys seem to have some curious gaps in you Pop Culture knowledge. But I guess that’s to be expected from a bunuch of under 40’s…..

    • Joe

      Caustic Soda isn’t about listing every single thing about a topic. That’d be impossible. Also: half the time people think we skipped something we probably mentioned it but got nothing much in addition to that so it got cut.

      We cover the most interesting and “caustic” aspects of our topics.

      The under-40 burn isn’t correct either.

      Congrats on the most entitled “I can’t believe you didn’t mention…” post so far.

    • thickets

      Before we record an episode, usually at least a week in advance, I post on the Caustic Soda facebook page soliciting for content suggestions. If you really want your voice heard I would suggest “joining the conversation” as other podcasts and news services like to say.

  • Ryan

    At first I thought Toren was just riffing when the song at the end started, and I was seriously impressed by his improv.