The real story of Vlad III of Wallachia, better known as Vlad the Impaler and inspiration for Count Dracula, includes a period when he was held hostage in Tokat Castle in Tokat, Turkey. Archeologists restoring the castle have recently discovered two dungeons, a secret tunnel, storage rooms and more that they believe was used to imprison Vlad.
What’s interesting about this discovery is that it brings to light what may be one of the reasons Vlad went bad. This period of imprisonment occurred when Vlad II I was a young boy, not yet a teen, and is not the period when he was arrested and held prisoner in Hungary as an adult.
According to historians, Vlad III, son of Vlad II Dracul (“Dracul” means “dragon” and the title signified that Vlad II was a member of the Order of the Dragon, a chivalry group founded to defend Christianity in Eastern Europe against the Ottoman Empire) and his younger brother Radu, were held in one of the dungeons as hostages by the Ottomans to control their father. They were released upon his death in 1447, when Vlad returned to Wallachia to assume the throne. It’s believed that this imprisonment is what instilled the hatred of the Ottomans that led Vlad to his war with them when he was said to have killed over 20,000 people, impaled them and put them on display to discourage the enemy.
What happened to Vlad in that Tokat Castle dungeon to turn him into the killer who inspired Bram Stoker’s famous story? That remains to be discovered, says archeologist İbrahim Çetin.
The castle is completely surrounded by secret tunnels. It is very mysterious.
Mysterious indeed. Like all stories, legends and myths surrounding Vlad the Impaler, the mysteries only get deeper.