Istanbul: A winding maze of secret dungeons and tunnels have been discovered beneath Tokat Castle in Turkey. And these hidden cells may have been where Vlad the Impaler – credited as being the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula – was held hostage during the 15th century. Alongside ‘Dracula’s dungeon’, builders also discovered a secret tunnel leading to a military shelter beyond the ruined citadel, and an open terrace. The discoveries were made during restoration works on the site, located in the northern Turkish town of Tokat. ‘The castle is completely surrounded by secret tunnels. It is very mysterious,’ archaeologist ?brahim Çetin told Hurriyet Daily News.–DM

 Towards the end of the 12th century, the town was conquered by the Seljuk Turks and became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1392. Vlad the Impaler, officially known as Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, was born in 1431 to Vlad II Dracul. Vlad II was granted the surname Dracul, which means dragon, when he became a member of the Christian military Order of the Dragon. During a diplomatic meeting in 1442 with Sultan Murad II, Vlad II’s sons Vlad and Radu were taken hostage. It is during this time that the brothers were believed to have been held captive at Tokat Castle. They were freed following the death of their father and older brother Mircea in 1447. In 1462, Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia is believed to have impaled the bodies of 20,000 people outside the Romanian city of Targoviste, to ward off Ottoman forces. This led to him receiving the nickname Vlad the Impaler, posthumously. Vlad the Impaler was arrested for the murders, and held in prison for 12 years, although the exact location and length of this captivity is disputed. The general consensus is that he was imprisoned in Romania, between 1462 and 1474, although other reports claims he was held in Turkey.  Vlad the Impaler was killed during a battle against the Ottomans in 1476. It was the accounts of these crimes, as well as other reports of cruelty and bloody acts that were said to have been the inspiration for author Bram Stoker’s 1897 gothic novel ‘Dracula’. ‘We try to shed light on history with the structure layers we unearth,’ continued Mr Çetin. ‘Dracula stayed here. It is hard to estimate in which room Dracula was kept, but he was around here,’ he said.  Previous work at the castle uncovered a 328ft (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.