The Search for Castle Dracula

Despite Castle Dracula being a fictional place, the question of which castle inspired Castle Dracula holds a surprising amount of contention.

Bran Castle - Photo by  Daniel Tellman Timisoara
Bran Castle – Photo by Daniel Tellman Timisoara

While Bran Castle claims to be the inspiration for the site and markets itself as such, it’s hard to say which castle is the closest contender for the title. Though located within Transylvania–a region inside modern-day Romania–the castle also stands more than 200 miles away from the only real directions offered within Bram Stoker’s novel, meaning that while it may have served visual inspiration, it couldn’t possibly bear anything more.

Borgo Pass is the clearest clue provided in the actual text of the book. The place refers to Tihuța Pass, located in the Eastern Carpathian mountains. There were two castles in the region, but Bistrita castle was in ruins long before Dracula was a twinkle in Stoker’s eye. Aside from location, there’s little to tie the castle to the Dracula myth; it was built and occupied by John Hunyadi–a contemporary of Vlad the Impaler, who is well known as a source of inspiration for Dracula–but that connection is weak and tangential at best.

Though Poenari Castle is often held as a contender for the “real” Castle Dracula, it’s even farther from Tihuța Pass than Bran Castle, and its only claim to Dracula fame is that it was home to Vlad III. Weaker still is the claim that Corvin Castle served as the inspiration, latching on to the story of Vlad III’s imprisonment as a way to somehow connect the castle to the Dracula tale.

And of course, we can’t forget Orava Castle, which isn’t even in Romania, but Slovakia. Regardless of where Castle Dracula was supposed to be, Orava Castle was the site of filming for Nosferatu, creating a visual that sticks with vampires to this day.

It is possible to delve deeper, however, and discover that Stoker’s own hand-penned research notes indicated the castle was meant to be situated in the Călimani Mountains, on a very particular mountaintop. Considering that Tihuța Pass was mentioned at all indicates that the placement of the castle was what was most important, meaning the best claim to Castle Dracula is simply looking at the peak of Izvorul Calimanului and imagining what could be.

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