It’s been standing since the 14th century but looks nothing like its original layout. It on the lists of largest castles in Europe, Seven Wonders of Romania and most haunted places in Romania. It’s the Transylvanian castle where Vlad the Impaler allegedly went mad while imprisoned in its dungeon and forced to eat rats. It’s Romania’s Corvin Castle and it’s back in the news as modern architects using ground-penetrating radar are trying to peer back to its initial design before all of the many reconstructions and additions took place, and restore some of them to their original appearance. What mysterious new discoveries have they made about Castelul Corvinilor – did Vlad’s ghost give them a personal tour?
"In order to do a good job with our reconstruction, we need to know where all these pieces are."
This is no mere renovation to attract more tourists. Isabel Morris, a doctoral candidate with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Princeton University and a leading researcher in the use of non-destructive methods such as ground penetrating radar to aid architectural conservation efforts, presented the results of her Corvin Castle study this past week at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union held in Washington DC. (Washington DC? Why is Washington involved with Vlad the Impaler? Asking for a friend/conspiracist.)
In LiveScience, Morris describes the purpose of the project as a means to help scientists and historians exploring the castle, which underwent massive expansions in the 17th and 19th centuries, who are trying to work with conflicting and inaccurate maps and often no records at all. If nothing else, the new radar data will improve safety conditions at the castle, pointing out which areas are standing on solid bedrock versus ancient and unsturdy supports. Who wants to fall into Vlad’s dungeon cell? Or open a wall that may contain trapped ghosts?
Yes, the research has uncovered a previously unknown torture chamber but no evidence – physical or paranormal – of whether Vlad spent time there in it during an alleged 7-year imprisonment at the castle in the 1400s. There’s no real proof this is where a rat diet drove him to become the Impaler, but many believe they’ve felt the presence of his ghost. Or perhaps it’s the ghost of Bram Stoker trying to confuse those looking for evidence that this castle, not Bran Castle, was the inspiration for the one in his Dracula book.
Perhaps the ground-penetrating radar can resolve the legend of the three Turkish prisoners who allegedly dug through 30 meters of solid stone to find water in return for their freedom. A well is on the property today, along with the purported ghosts of the prisoners who were murdered instead of freed. Then there’s the monk said to have been sealed alive in a wall of the castle’s Capistrano Tower for spying on noblemen – the story has never been verified but his ghost is often reported in the tower. Can someone lift the radar gun and point it at the wall?
In fact, maybe the radar should be lifted on a crane so it can check out the entire place. There have been reports of ghosts appearing in many photographs taken at the castle and there’s a famous story of guards staying at the castle overnight who were found the next morning beaten and bloody and blaming it on torture-loving ghosts. Vlad? Is that you?
In any case, why not use some sophisticated scientific equipment to check out some interesting paranormal legends? Would YOU set foot in Dracula’s castle without a good ghost map?