Castle Dracula

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Dracula climbing down the wall of his castle, book cover 1916

Castle Dracula is the fictitious Transylvanian residence of Count Dracula, the vampire antagonist in Bram Stoker's 1897 horror novel Dracula.

In Stoker's narrative, Castle Dracula is the single most important location. The first and the last part of the plot take place here. The inaccessible stronghold, which initially symbolises the vampire's power, finally becomes the scene of his extermination.

The novel's events taking place in or near the Castle[edit]

In the novel's first chapters, the young English solicitor Jonathan Harker, travelling from London via Paris, Munich, Vienna, Budapest, Klausenburg and Bistritz, arrives at the Castle after being picked up in the Borgo Pass by a mysterious driver, whom Harker later recognises as his host, Count Dracula, himself. During the trip, he apparently falls asleep, but wakes up when the calèche reaches the stronghold. The driver disappears and Harker thinks himself lost, until the door opens and the Count bids him welcome. After some tasty meals, which Harker always enjoys alone, and various conversations about the property Carfax near Purfleet, which his host wishes to purchase, Harker discovers that his patron has some disturbing habits, like climbing down the walls of the building like a lizard. Harker finds himself a prisoner in the Castle. One night, when he falls asleep in a forbidden room, he is harassed by the three vampire sisters, who are interrupted by a furious Count, claiming the guest for himself. Apart from the scene with the female vampires however, who provoke a strange desire in him to be kissed by those red lips, Harker is not attacked in any way. The Count induces him to stay for a much longer time than planned and write some letters home (predated 12 June 19 and 29 June), to appease his employer and his fiancée Mina Murray. Harker scales the walls of the Castle himself, enters the Count's empty room and discovers a crypt in the chapel, wherein fifty boxes with earth are stored; in one of them he finds the Count, who has just fed on blood. Harker tries to hit him with a shovel, but the blow is diverted by the Count's hypnotic powers. In this box, the Count is later transported, to be shipped to England later on. Harker remains in the Castle with the seductive female vampires, but finally manages to escape to Budapest, where he is taken care of by Sister Agatha.

All events are recorded in Harker's journal, which later serves his friends as a report about the vampire and as a travel guide. After Lucy Westenra, Mina Murray's old school friend, has died from a mysterious illness, Professor Abraham Van Helsing visits Mina and reads the diary, which he confirms to be a realistic account of the unbelievable circumstances Jonathan was confronted with.

In the final chapters, the vampire hunters chase the Count, who returns to his homeland by ship. Dracula tricks them by directing the vessel to Galatz, while Van Helsing and his friends are waiting for the Czarina Catherine to show up in Varna. In Galatz, the party splits in three couplings: Van Helsing and Mina travel by train to Veresți near Suceava and continue with a purchased horse carriage over Bukovinan territory to the east end of the Borgo Pass; Jonathan Harker and Arthur Holmwood buy a steam launch to follow the Count's box, transported by Slovak boatmen via the Sereth and the Bistrița River, while Dr. John Seward and Quincey Morris head in the same direction by horse. The box with the Count is taken over from the Slovaks by Szgany (Gypsies), who transport it by leiter wagon. The routes of the Szgany and the three couplings finally converge at a place in the immediate neighbourhood of the Castle, where Van Helsing and his men force the convoy to stop. Harker manages to decapitate the vampire with his Kukri knife, while Morris plunges his Bowie knife into the heart.

The only person to actually enter the Castle during this episode is Prof. Abraham van Helsing, who leaves the night camp shared with Mina to do away with the vampire sisters. Mina is already affected by her "blood wedding" with the vampire and left within a circle of Holy Bread.

In a final note, written seven years after their dramatic adventures, Harker reports on the group's return to Transylvania:

The castle stood as before, reared high above a waste of desolation.(Chapter 27, Jonathan Harker's Final Note)

Physical characteristics and lay-out of the Castle[edit]

The first description is given by Jonathan Harker when the calèche reaches the courtyard of the Castle:

We kept on ascending, with occasional periods of quick descent, but in the main always ascending. Suddenly, I became conscious of the fact that the driver was in the act of pulling up the horses in the courtyard of a vast ruined castle, from whose tall black windows came no ray of light, and whose broken battlements showed a jagged line against the sky. (Chapter 1, last paragraph)

The ruined state of the castle is confirmed by the Count's words:

Moreover, the walls of my castle are broken. The shadows are many, and the wind breathes cold through the broken battlements and casements. (Chapter 2, Jonathan Harker's Journal, Entry for 7 May)

The interior decoration, on the other hand, is still in good shape and the library is well equipped:

The table service is of gold, and so beautifully wrought that it must be of immense value. The curtains and upholstery of the chairs and sofas and the hangings of my bed are of the costliest and most beautiful fabrics, and must have been of fabulous value when they were made, for they are centuries old, though in excellent order. (Chapter 2, Jonathan Harker's Journal, Entry for 7 May)

Harker's window opens into the courtyard, but soon he sets out for a little expedition:

After breakfast I did a little exploring in the castle. I went out on the stairs, and found a room looking towards the South. The view was magnificent, and from where I stood there was every opportunity of seeing it. The castle is on the very edge of a terrific precipice. A stone falling from the window would fall a thousand feet without touching anything! As far as the eye can reach is a sea of green tree tops, with occasionally a deep rift where there is a chasm. Here and there are silver threads where the rivers wind in deep gorges through the forests. (Chapter 2, Jonathan Harker's Journal, Entry for 8 May)

All other doors are locked, however. The Count warns him not to sleep outside the rooms he already knows, including the library and the dining room; it seems as if the Castle has a life of its own:

Let me advise you, my dear young friend. Nay, let me warn you with all seriousness, that should you leave these rooms you will not by any chance go to sleep in any other part of the castle. It is old, and has many memories, and there are bad dreams for those who sleep unwisely. Be warned! (Chapter 3, Jonathan Harker's Journal, Entry for 12 May)

When Harker finds another open door, though, he ignores this warning and falls asleep in the forbidden chambers:

I was now in a wing of the castle further to the right than the rooms I knew and a storey lower down. From the windows I could see that the suite of rooms lay along to the south of the castle, the windows of the end room looking out both west and south. On the latter side, as well as to the former, there was a great precipice. The castle was built on the corner of a great rock, so that on three sides it was quite impregnable, and great windows were placed here where sling, or bow, or culverin could not reach, and consequently light and comfort, impossible to a position which had to be guarded, were secured. To the west was a great valley, and then, rising far away, great jagged mountain fastnesses, rising peak on peak, the sheer rock studded with mountain ash and thorn, whose roots clung in cracks and crevices and crannies of the stone. This was evidently the portion of the castle occupied by the ladies in bygone days, for the furniture had more an air of comfort than any I had seen. (Chapter 3, Jonathan Harker's Journal, Entry for 16 May, morning)

In this room, indeed, the Ladies of the Castle pay him their tantalising visit. The Count's room is also one storey below Harker's own room; from there, a staircase and a tunnel lead to the chapel with the boxes:

I descended, minding carefully where I went for the stairs were dark, being only lit by loopholes in the heavy masonry. At the bottom there was a dark, tunnel-like passage, through which came a deathly, sickly odour, the odour of old earth newly turned. As I went through the passage the smell grew closer and heavier. At last I pulled open a heavy door which stood ajar, and found myself in an old ruined chapel, which had evidently been used as a graveyard. The roof was broken, and in two places were steps leading to vaults, but the ground had recently been dug over, and the earth placed in great wooden boxes, manifestly those which had been brought by the Slovaks. (Chapter 4, Jonathan Harker's Journal, Entry for 25 June, continued)

Sources of inspiration[edit]

Castle at Törzburg, ill. from Charles Boner

In her book The Essential Dracula, Clare Haword-Maden opined the castle of Count Dracula was inspired by Slains Castle, at which Bram Stoker was a guest of the 19th Earl of Erroll.[1] According to Miller, he first visited Cruden Bay in 1893, three years after work on Dracula had begun. Haining and Tremaine maintain that during this visit, Stoker was especially impressed by Slains Castle's interior and the surrounding landscape. Miller and Leatherdale question the stringency of this connection.[2] Possibly, Stoker was not inspired by a real edifice at all, but by Jules Vernes's novel The Castle of the Carpathians or Anne Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794).[3] A third possibility is that he copied information about a castle at Vécs from one of his sources on Transylvania, the book by Major E.C. Johnson.[4] A further option is that Stoker saw an illustration of Castle Bran (Törzburg) in the book on Transylvania by Charles Boner, or read about it in the books by Mazuchelli or Crosse.[5]

The location of the Castle[edit]

The site of the Vampire's home has always been one of the greatest mysteries of the novel. The route descriptions hardly mention any recognisable landmarks, but focus on evocations of a wild and snow-covered landscape, haunted by howling wolves and lit by supernatural blue flames at night. Because of this conspicuous vagueness, the annotated Dracula editions by Leonard Wolf,[6] Clive Leatherdale[7] and Leslie Klinger[8] simply assume Bram Stoker had no specific location in mind and place the Castle in or immediately next to the Borgo Pass. As a consequence, these editions take for granted that the Count's men, pursued by Harker, Holmwood, Morris and Seward, follow the Bistrița River all the way up to Vatra Dornei and then travel the route through the Borgo Pass already taken by Van Helsing and Mina. The same view is adopted by Andrew Connell in his Google Map mark-ups.[9] These theories ignore or misinterpret Stoker's hint that around the 47th Parallel, the Count's men are supposed to leave the river and cross-over to Transylvanian territory:

We took it, that somewhere about the 47th degree, north latitude, would be the place chosen for crossing the country between the river and the Carpathians. (Chapter 26, Jonathan Harker's Journal, Entry for 30 October)[10]

Only recently, the Dutch author Hans Corneel de Roos discovered[clarification needed] the site the Irish novelist really had in mind while shaping his narrative: an empty mountain top in the Transylvanian Călimani Mountains near the former border with Moldavia, ca. 20 miles south-east of the Borgo Pass.[11] De Roos also explains why Stoker chose to obscure this location in his novel and compares the vampire's fortress to the Grail Castle as its anti-Christian antipole: It cannot be found on purpose, only by guidance. Harker is brought there by the Count himself, while Van Helsing and Mina – equally nodding off – rely on the instinct of their horses and the mounted men arrive there by following the Gypsies.

Deleted paragraphs picturing the destruction of Castle Dracula[edit]

Three paragraphs from the original manuscript, in which the building itself is swallowed by a volcanic cataclysm, do not appear in the printed version. Possible reasons mentioned are that Stoker wanted to leave the option of a sequel open, or that this dramatic finale reminded too much of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher":

As we looked there came a terrible convulsion of the earth so that we seemed to rock to and fro and fell to our knees. At the same moment with a roar which seemed to shake the very heavens the whole castle and the rock and even the hill on which it stood seemed to rise into the air and scatter in fragments while a mighty cloud of black and yellow smoke volume on volume in rolling grandeur was shot upwards with inconceivable rapidity.

Then there was a stillness in nature as the echoes of that thunderous report seemed to come as with the hollow boom of a thunder-clap – the long reverberating roll which seems as though the floors of heaven shook. Then down in a mighty ruin falling whence they rose came the fragments that had been tossed skywards in the cataclysm. From where we stood it seemed as though the one fierce volcano burst had satisfied the need of nature and that the castle and the structure of the hill had sunk again into the void. We were so appalled with the suddenness and the grandeur that we forgot to think of ourselves.[12]

In his annotated Dracula edition, Leslie Klinger suggests as part of his conceit in considering Dracula a collection of true documents that these lines were part of Count Dracula's efforts to "cover up" the truth about the vampire's continuing activities, but that Stoker sabotaged the Count's editorial intervention by deleting these lines.[13]

Castle Dracula as a tourist attraction[edit]

Since 1997, the Bran Castle in Bran (Törzburg) near Brașov has been marketed as "Dracula's Castle".[14] The website promoting it claims it was one of Vlad the Impaler's temporary residences. Since Van Helsing and Mina in Chapter 25 do not identify Count Dracula as the historical Vlad III Dracula (Vlad Țepeş or Vlad the Impaler) but as a nameless "other of [the Dracula] race", living "in a later age", this claim – true or not – does not support the identification of Stoker's fictitious building with the Bran Castle.[15] However, in Chapter 18, Van Helsing confirms Dracula and Vlad are one and the same: "He must, indeed, have been that Voivode Dracula who won his name against the Turk, over the great river on the very frontier of Turkey-land." For the same reason, the Poenari Castle in Argeș County does not qualify as the "real" Dracula Castle; Stoker never heard of the Poenari fortress. Both the Bran Castle and the Poenari Castle are more than 100 miles away from the site Stoker actually selected and took down in a cryptic handwritten note. The Hotel Castel Dracula, located in Piâtra Fântânele in the Borgo Pass, which promotes itself as being constructed at the place of Stoker's Castle, at least is located at the point where Harker left the post carriage from Bistritz to Bukovina to be picked up by the Count; their route must have led over the former watchpost of Dornișoara towards the Călimani Mountains peaks in the south-east.

Castle Dracula in popular culture[edit]

Because of its outstanding role in one of the best-known works of fiction of all time, Castle Dracula appears in numerous movies like Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969) (with John Carradine as the butler and Alexander D'Arcy as Count Dracula) and other Dracula-based films. There are video games called Dracula's Castle (Game Pac Adventure), Escape Dracula's Castle (Fun Flash Games),Restore Dracula's Castle and Demon Castle Dracula (Akumajō Dracula); the latter is best known to the west as Castlevania. A prosecco produced by a descendant of the Bassarab dynasty bears the name Castle of Dracula.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Haword-Maden, Clare. The Essential Dracula. London: Bison Books, 1992
  2. ^ Haining, Peter and Tremayne, Peter. The Un-Dead: The Legend of Bram Stoker and Dracila. London: Constable 1997, quoted by Miller, Elizabeth. Dracula – Sense & Nonsense, 2nd ed. Westcliff-on-Sea, UK: Desert Island Books, 2006, p. 19. See also Leatherdale, Clive. Dracula Unearthed. Westcliff-on-Sea, UK: Desert Island Books, 1998, p. 13
  3. ^ Elizabeth Miller, Dracula: Sense & Nonsense. 2nd ed. Westcliff-on-Sea, UK: Desert Island Books, 2006, p. 141
  4. ^ Major E.C. Johnson, On the Track of the Crescent: Erratic Notes from the Piraeus to Pesth. London: Hurst and Blackett, 1885. p. 256-257, quoted by Marius Crișan, The Models for Castle Dracula in Stoker’s Sources on Transylvania, Journal of Dracula Studies Nr 10 (2008); also referred to by Miller, 2006, p. 141
  5. ^ Charles Boner, Transylvania: Its Products and Its People. London: Longmans, 1865. Referred to by Marius Crișan, The Models for Castle Dracula in Stoker’s Sources on Transylvania, Journal of Dracula Studies Nr 10 (2008). As indicated by Crişan, Crosse's book . Round About the Carpathians and Mazuchelli's Magyarland describe Törzburg as well.
  6. ^ Leonard Wolf, The Essential Dracula, New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1975, followed by The Essential Dracula: The Definitive Annotated Edition, Penguin, 1993
  7. ^ Clive Leatherdale, Dracula Unearthed, Westcliff-on-Sea, UK: Desert Island Books, 1998
  8. ^ Leslie Klinger, The New Annotated Dracula, W. W. Norton & Company, 2008
  9. ^ See
  10. ^ Leonard Wolf first states that Cimpolung Moldovenesc (Câmpulung) would be situated approximately at the 47th Parallel, three pages later that "Veresci just a few miles north of the 47° Latitude" would be the place addressed by Harker's remark, on the next page that the 47th Parallel would run through Dorna-Watra (Vatra Dornei), still two pages later he gives the location of Straja as 47° N. , In fact, Câmpulung is located at 47°32', Veresti even at 47°36' North, 67 km north of the 47th Parallel, in effect nearer to the 48th Parallel. If Veresţi would have been the place to leave the river, this would have been the Sireth, not the Bistriţa. See Wolf, opus cit., p. 417, footnote 29; p. 420, footnote 35; p. 421, footnote 38, p. 423, footnote 41.
  11. ^ Hans Corneel de Roos, The Dracula Maps, in: The Ultimate Dracula, Moonlake Editions, Munich, 2012.
  12. ^ Online source: website DraculasInfo
  13. ^ Leslie Klinger, The New Annotated Dracula, W.W. Norton & Co., 2008. p. 499f., footnote 53.
  14. ^ See
  15. ^ Hans Corneel de Roos, Bram Stoker's Vampire Trap: Vlad the Impaler and his nameless Double, in: The Ultimate Dracula, Moonlake Editions, Munich, 2012.


  • Boner, Charles. Transylvania: Its Product and Its People. London: Longmans, 1865
  • Crișan, Marius Mircea The Models for Castle Dracula in Stoker’s Sources on Transylvania, Journal of Dracula Studies Nr. 10 (2008)
  • Crosse, Andrew F. Round About the Carpathians. Edinburgh and London: Blackwood, 1878
  • De Roos, Hans Corneel. The Ultimate Dracula, Moonlake Editions, Munich, 2012, ISBN 978-3-943559-00-2
  • Eighteen-Bisang, Robert and Miller, Elizabeth. Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition Toronto: McFarland, 2008, ISBN 978-0-7864-3410-7
  • Leatherdale, Clive.Dracula Unearthed, Westcliff-on-Sea, UK: Desert Island Books, 1998
  • [Mazuchelli, Nina Elizabeth] A Fellow of the Carpathian Society. Magyarland: Being the Narrative of Out Travels Through the Highlands and Lowlands of Hungary. 2 vol. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington, 1881
  • Johnson, Major E.C. On the Track of the Crescent: Erratic Notes from the Piraeus to Pesth. London: Hurst and Blackett, 1885
  • Miller, Elizabeth. Dracula: Sense & Nonsense. 2nd ed. Westcliff-on-Sea, UK: Desert Island Books, 2006. ISBN 1-905328-15-X
  • Stoker, Bram. Dracula – A Mystery Story. London-Westminster: Arch. Constable & Sons, 1897
  • Wolf, Leonard. The Essential Dracula, New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1975, followed by The Essential Dracula: The Definitive Annotated Edition, Penguin, 1993
  • Klinger, Leslie S. The New Annotated Dracula. W.W. Norton & Co., 2008. ISBN 0-393-06450-6