Newly-discovered tunnels and dungeons in Tokat Castle

Turkish castle where 'Dracula' was imprisoned will open to the public

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The dungeons in Turkey where Vlad the Impaler is believed to have been held will now open to the public. Vlad was the notorious 15th century Prince of Wallachia from Transylvania, and the model for Bram Stoker’s title character in the novel Dracula.

Archaeologists in Turkey uncovered a secret tunnel, storage rooms, a military shelter, and two dungeons during restoration work on Tokat Castle, where Vlad III the Impaler is believed to have been held captive in the early 15th century.

“The castle served as a prison in the Ottoman era, and many famous figures was kept there,” provincial culture and tourism Director Adburrahman Akyuz told Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News . He said Dracula was imprisoned in the castle. “The castle has great potential for tourism. Such a steep castle is very rare in any city center in Turkey.”

Tokat Castle, Turkey

Tokat Castle, Turkey. ( Wikimedia Commons )

The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead by J. Gordon Melton says Vlad’s captivity in Turkey deeply affected him. It says he learned the Turkish language and customs. “But his treatment ingrained the cynicism so evident in his approach to life and infused in him a Machiavellian attitude toward political matters” and made him seek revenge against any who wronged him, Melton wrote.

In 1442, Vlad and his brother Radu, who were only children at the time, were taken as hostages by the Ottomans to ensure the loyalty of their father, Vlad Dracul, prince of Wallachia. During this time the young princes were held in Tokat Castle, said Çetin.

Çetin said that Vlad was probably kept inside one of the newly-discovered dungeons. “It is hard to estimate in which room Dracula was kept, but he was around here,” he said. 

During his childhood years in captivity Vlad was said to have developed an intense hatred for the Ottomans, leading to his later brutality against them. It is said that as Vlad retreated from a battle against the Ottomans in 1462, he impaled and put on display some 20,000 people outside the city of Targoviste as a deterrent to the pursuing Ottoman forces. This psychological attack worked, as it is claimed that the sight was so repulsive that the Ottomans, after seeing the scale of Vlad's carnage and the thousands of decaying bodies being picked apart by crows, turned back and retreated to Constantinople

Vlad III, or Vlad the Impaler, as he came to be known, was later arrested and held in prison for 12 years. After his brother’s death in 1475, he managed to reclaim the Wallachian throne.  The exact date, cause and location of Vlad’s death are unknown. Historians believe he died between October and December 1476, when he disappeared in battle against the Ottomans.

The Ambras Castle Portrait of Vlad III.

The Ambras Castle Portrait of Vlad III. Photo source: Wikimedia

“Vlad was denounced by his contemporaries, and those in the next several generations who wrote of him published numerous tales of his cruelty,” The Vampire Book states. The number of his victims has been conservatively estimated at about 40,000 in his six-year reign, the book says, during which he ruled fewer than 500,000 people. “Above and beyond the number who died as a result of his policies … Vlad refined the use of torture and death to a degree that shocked his contemporaries.”

Restoration works on Tokat Castle began in 2009. The latest project, now underway, has been to restore and reinforce defensive bastions. It was during the most recent excavations in 2014 that archaeologists unearthed the secret tunnels and dungeons. “The castle is completely surrounded by secret tunnels. It is very mysterious,” said archaeologist İbrahim Çetin, who is working on the excavations.  

Previous work at the castle uncovered a 350-foot (100 meter) tunnel in the northern façade, which is said to have been used by a king’s daughters to reach the Roman Pervane Bath near the castle.

Archaeologists have set up a rail system to haul out debris as they excavate. The next goal is to clear the tunnel to the city center.

Featured image: Newly-discovered tunnels and dungeons in Tokat Castle, Turkey. Credit: Doğan News Agency

By Mark Miller


Roberto Peron's picture

Excellent article and historically accurate.  Vlad may not have been treated well by the Ottomans especially in times when the Ottomans may have suspected his father might be plotting rebellion against their rule be that suspicion real or imagined.  Vlad and his brother were prisoners and the Ottomans did not treat prisoners so kindly no matter what their age.  

rbflooringinstall's picture

Awesome article. That is one gnarly looking castle. I hope they can find out more information on Vlad as the excavations progress.

Peace and Love,


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