A Different Kind of Transylvanian Blood Lust

Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
Jan. 13 2014 9:47 AM

This Sibiu Hunting Museum Shows a Different Kind of Transylvanian Blood Lust

Atlas Obscura on Slate is a blog about the world's hidden wonders. Like us on Facebook, Tumblr, or follow us on Twitter @atlasobscura.

Romania's last Communist leader, Nicolae Ceaușescu, was known for his repressive regime, in which children were recruited as police spies; food, electricity, and gas were rationed; and reproductive rights were severely restricted.

Ceaușescu was also so fond of gunning down bears that he gave himself special hunting privileges during his 1965 to 1989 reign. After he had depleted the bear population in his own private reserve, Ceaușescu made bear hunting illegal for everyone but himself and a few hand-picked Communist Party members.

Advertisement

The measure protected many bears from slaughter, but Ceaușescu killed way more than his fair share, and used reckless methods to do it. Driven by a desire to kill the biggest animals possible, he had bear cubs captured, fed a hearty diet, and then released back into the wild when they had fattened up.

The food the bears enjoyed was better and more plentiful than what Romanian people at the time could access, but the animals had grown so used to being fed by humans that they died hungry in the wild. Undeterred, Ceaușescu switched methods, ordering the bears be fed raw meat and beaten with sticks to discourage attachment. The resulting aggressive bears were known to attack hikers and cars.

One of Ceaușescu's largest trophies — a huge brown bear's skin and stuffed paws — is on display at the Museum of Hunting in Sibiu, Transylvania. Other trophies in the museum belong to Colonel August von Spiess, a fellow relentless chaser of Carpathian bears who was Romania's royal hunt master during the 1920s and '30s.

In a karmically cogent twist, Ceaușescu ultimately shared the fate of the animals he hunted. In 1989, a series of violent riots in Romania finally forced him from power. Widely loathed and shown no mercy during a hasty trial, Ceaușescu was convicted of genocide and shot to death by a three-man firing squad. To the disappointment of many a revolutionary, Ceaușescu's head is not mounted on a wall in the Museum of Hunting — he rests in Bucharest's Ghencea Cemetery.

Hunted and gathered:

Ella Morton is a writer working on The Atlas Obscura, a book about global wonders, curiosities, and esoterica adapted from Atlas Obscura. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The NFL Has No Business Punishing Players for Off-Field Conduct. Leave That to the Teams.

Meet the Allies the U.S. Won’t Admit It Needs in Its Fight Against ISIS

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.

Medical Examiner

How to Stop Ebola

Survivors might be immune. Let’s recruit them to care for the infected.

History

America in Africa

The tragic, misunderstood history of Liberia—and why the United States has a special obligation to help it fight the Ebola epidemic.

New GOP Claim: Hillary Clinton’s Wealth and Celebrity Are Tricks to Disguise Her Socialism

Why the Byzantine Hiring Process at Universities Drives Academics Batty

Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 3:29 PM The Fascinating Origins of Savannah, Georgia’s Distinctive Typeface
  News & Politics
History
Sept. 23 2014 11:45 PM America in Africa The tragic, misunderstood history of Liberia—and why the United States has a special obligation to help it fight the Ebola epidemic.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Education
Sept. 23 2014 11:45 PM Why Your Cousin With a Ph.D. Is a Basket Case  Understanding the Byzantine hiring process that drives academics up the wall.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 8:38 PM “No One in This World” Is One of Kutiman’s Best, Most Impressive Songs
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 23 2014 11:37 PM How to Stop Ebola Could survivors safely care for the infected?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 23 2014 7:27 PM You’re Fired, Roger Goodell If the commissioner gets the ax, the NFL would still need a better justice system. What would that look like?