Newly-discovered tunnels and dungeons in Tokat Castle, Turkey

Archaeologists believe they have found dungeons that held 'Dracula'


Archaeologists in Turkey have uncovered a secret tunnel, storage rooms, a military shelter, and two dungeons during restoration work on Tokat Castle, where Vlad III the Impaler, who served as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s character Dracula, is believed to have been held captive in the early 15 th century.

According to Hurriyet Daily News , restoration works were first initiated in 2009, with the latest project having been carried out over the last ten weeks to restore and reinforce its defensive bastions. It was during the most recent excavations 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 100-metre tunnel in the northern façade, which is said to have been used by the king’s daughters to reach the Roman bath near the castle.

Tunnel unearthed in Tokat Castle

Tunnel unearthed in Tokat Castle, which is said to have been used by the king’s daughters to reach the Roman bath near the castle. Image source .

Tokat is a town and province in the western region of Pontus. It was conquered by the Seljuk Turks at the end of the 12th century and was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1392. Among the most landmarks of Tokat is the ruined citadel lying on a steep hills above the city, often identified as Tokat Castle or the fortress Dazimon. It is here where historians say that Prince Vlad III and his brother Radu were held captive in 1442.

Tokat Castle, Turkey

Tokat Castle, Turkey. Image source: Travel Photo Report

Vlad III is the 15th century Prince upon whom Bram Stoker based his 1897 gothic novel ‘Dracula’.  Vlad was born sometime between 1428 and 1431, probably in Sighişaora, Transylvania. His patronymic, ‘Dracul’, means Dragon, derived from the membership of his father, Vlad II Dracul, in the Order of the Dragon. This was an order of chivalry founded by Sigismund, the King of Hungary, for the defence of Christianity in Eastern Europe against the Ottoman Empire.

The Ambras Castle Portrait of Vlad III

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

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. It is during this time that historians say the young Princes were held in Tokat Castle. 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. 

It is during his childhood years in captivity, that 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 eventually 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 is unknown, but is believed to have taken place between October and December 1476, when he disappeared in battle against the Ottomans.

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

By April Holloway


This story is so very wrong, and has been wrong for centuries! Vlad Tepes was a brave Domn for his era, he was no more, nor less cruel that many others of that time. He did what ever was necessary in order to rule efficiently his kingdom which was infested with 'vermin' of all sorts! As for the bloody story of being of vampire. I can say that I am amongst the very few in this entire world who possesses the secret of Vlad Tepes being a vampire. No, am not willing to share that with narrow minded people and people who do not understand military strategy.

They chose the dragon as their symbol because their patron was St. George, who is said to have defeated a dragon.

Why a dragon? It is a curious creature to use for such a group so its use is up for interpretation. The Wikipedia article is quite good ( and reasonably accurate). Order of the Dragon.. good place to start. Without digging my books out I believe they also fought under Sigismund in Bohemia against the Hussites and lost heavily.

Great story. Love it. But I'm intrigued to hear if anyone knows more about the Order of the Dragon - what was their interpretation of a 'dragon'? Are we talking about the mythical creature and if we are, it's very interesting for me to learn that they used the creature - whether believed it or not - as the name and emblem for their society. Does anyone know how the dragon was seen in this culture? Are there any passages I ought to search down to find out more about folklore surrounding dragons? Because here I was, thinking of dragons only as a fantasy invention, and they appear in history all the way back to the Ottoman Empire. It shows me that I know very little about folklore and need to read a little more!



Next article