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A Tampa ghost hunter investigated Dracula’s castle. Did he speak to her?

Whether you believe the results depends on whether you believe in paranormal investigations.
Bran Castle is the Transylvanian fortress connected to the Dracula myth.
Bran Castle is the Transylvanian fortress connected to the Dracula myth. [ Courtesy of Peggy Maguire ]
Published Oct. 18
Updated Oct. 18

TAMPA — Historians have long debated whether Vlad Tepes, the inspiration for Dracula, ever spent time in the castle on which the character’s residence is based.

A Tampa ghost hunter says she might have gotten the answer directly from the man himself.

On Sept. 25, Peggy Maguire led a ghost hunt in the Transylvanian castle connected to the myth of history’s most famous vampire.

Whether you believe the results depends on whether you believe in paranormal investigations. But that was the point of her work.

It was part of the fifth annual World’s Largest Ghost Hunt, which has the goal of bringing public awareness to paranormal investigations.

“We want to show people how it is done,” Maguire said.

In September, Tampa's Peggy Maguire led a paranormal investigation of the Transylvanian castle connected to the Dracula myth.
In September, Tampa's Peggy Maguire led a paranormal investigation of the Transylvanian castle connected to the Dracula myth. [ Paul Guzzo ]

Teams around the world investigated 125 sites on the same day.

Eight teams live-streamed a portion of their work, including Maguire in Transylvania and those investigating the Rhode Island house that inspired the Conjuring movie and Gettysburg’s Tillie Pierce House Inn, allegedly haunted by Civil War ghosts.

Maguire believes her assignment was the most exciting.

“There are hundreds of years of history there,” she said.

Related: I tried to spend the night in Tampa’s most haunted building

Known as Bran Castle, the 15,000-square-foot stone structure now serves as a museum to Queen Marie of Romania.

According to the museum’s website, the castle was completed in 1388, served as a military and commercial outpost through the 1800s, and was Queen Marie’s part-time residence from 1920 through her death in 1938.

Bram Stoker, the author who published Dracula in 1897, “never visited Romania,” says the website. He used descriptions of Bran Castle to create Dracula’s castle.

The Dracula character was based on Tepes, who in the 1400s was the ruler of Wallachia.

Tepes had two nicknames: One was Vlad the Impaler, due to his violent means. The other was Vlad Dracula.

Dracul means dragon in Romanian, and Tepes’ father was known as Vlad Dracul. Dracula means the son of the dragon.

Some historians believe Tepes used Bran Castle as an outpost after capturing it. Others say enemies imprisoned him there for months.

Maguire, a ghost hunter for nearly 40 years who now leads the Spirit Bridge Project paranormal team, said she was awarded the assignment because she participated in two previous World’s Largest Ghost Hunt events.

The four-person team made up of investigators from throughout Florida had three members — including Maguire — who claim to have the ability to sense and feel ghosts.

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Their investigative equipment included a spirit box and dowsing rods. Spirit boxes are radio-like devices that create white noise through which ghosts can supposedly broadcast their voices. A dowsing rod is a metal stick attached to a metal handle. The rod spins when manipulated by a person, blown by wind or, as paranormal investigators believe, moved by a ghost’s energy.

While live-streaming two hours of their six-hour investigation, the team claimed to feel the ghosts’ sadness and grief and asked questions about how they experience time and how the living can make better contact with the spirit world.

Voices emanated from the spirit box. The words were in Romanian. Maguire said they are seeking translations.

But the big live-streaming moment took place in the torture room, filled with devices like a rack and iron maiden dating to the 1400s.

Tampa's Peggy Maguire using dowsing rods during a paranormal investigation of the Transylvanian castle connected to the Dracula myth. Supposedly, the real-life man who inspired Dracula was using his spirit energy to move the rods to answer questions.
Tampa's Peggy Maguire using dowsing rods during a paranormal investigation of the Transylvanian castle connected to the Dracula myth. Supposedly, the real-life man who inspired Dracula was using his spirit energy to move the rods to answer questions. [ Courtesy of Peggy Maguire ]

Holding a dowsing rod in each hand, Maguire asked a series of yes-or-no questions. Spread the dousing rods outward for yes and move them inward for no, she told the ghosts.

Is Tepes there, she asked. Tepes’ spirit allegedly answered yes.

Maguire asked Tepes to spin the rods if he was once imprisoned there. The rods spun fast.

She asked Tepes to answer yes or no to whether he used the castle as a military outpost. The rods moved inward.

So, there you have it, Maguire said, Tepes was only imprisoned there.

Asked if she believes that was Tepes’ ghost communicating with her, Maguire said, “I think it’s a good possibility. Yes.”