It's my understanding that earlier on were Vlad was hailed as a hero in Romania, Hungary, and even Poland for holding back the tide of Ottoman expansion; later on there was much embellishment about his cruelty toward just about everyone.
Have not done much reading on this so do not know which is the more correct picture of the man.
However, I'm pretty sure he didn't sleep in a coffin at night.
Much of the information we have about Vlad III Þepeº comes from pamphlets published in the Holy Roman Empire and chronicles written in Muscovy. The first known German pamphlet dates from 1488 and it is possible that some were printed during Vlads lifetime.
At least initially, they may have been politically inspired. At that time Matthias Corvinus of Hungary was seeking to bolster his own reputation in the Empire and may have intended the early pamphlets as justification of his less than vigorous support of his vassal.
The pamphlets were also a form of mass entertainment in a society where the printing press was just coming into widespread use. Much like the subject matter of the supermarket tabloids of today, the cruel life of the Wallachian tyrant was easily sensationalized.
The pamphlets were reprinted numerous times over the thirty or so years following Vlad's death -- strong proof of their popularity. The German pamphlets painted Vlad Þepeº as an inhuman monster who terrorized the land and butchered innocents with sadistic glee.
The Russian pamphlets took a somewhat different view. The princes of Muscovy were at the time just beginning to build the basis of what would become the autocracy of the tsars. They were also having considerable trouble with disloyal, often troublesome boyars. In Muscovy, Vlad was presented as a cruel but just prince whose actions were directed toward the greater good of his people.
Despite the differences in interpretation, the pamphlets, regardless of their land of origin, agree remarkably well as to specifics. The level of agreement has led most historians to conclude that at least the broad outlines of the events covered actually occurred.
It's tough to get to the truth about events that occurred over 500 years ago, but- when multiple sources from a time when torture was common agree that Vlad was, shall we say, rather strict- then you can bet there was a basis for the stories.
Vlad Tepes means "Vlad the Impaler" by the way.
Think of Churchill and Bush.