Since Halloween is less than two weeks away, I decided there was no better time to read one of the original classics that helped spawn the entire genre of horror literature- Bram Stoker’s vision of Dracula.
The author’s work, originally published in 1897, relied heavily on local superstition as the author created a series of characters that represented archetypes of good and evil in a battle of supremacy. So chilling were the characters and scenes designed for this classic, that it has been imitated and referenced in countless plays, movies, and television series and books today.
As told through a collection of journal entries made from different points of view, added to by “newspaper clippings” and eyewitness accounts, the story from the first page reads like a dry and rambling travelogue, but the reader is quickly drawn in as each successive entry gives clues to the dawning realization that circumstances are far from normal.
Johnathan Harker, a name that will be familiar to any who have read or seen any version of the story of Dracula, is a new solicitor whose current assignment is to travel to Transylvania to deliver papers to the Count, whose has just purchased a property in London with the intention of relocating to Britain. Johnathan through observation and accident discovers clues about the Count’s true nature and is imprisoned in the castle, left to his fate amongst three female vampires when Dracula leaves for London.
Johnathan escapes, and manages to return to England separately, but very ill with “brain fever,” in reality a state of shock and denial, for what he has learned. Mina Murray, his fiancée, is summoned to his side to tend to him, and leaves her friend Lucy, whom she had been caring for, in the care of Dr. Seward and Professor Van Helsing.
Lucy has exhibited symptoms of an illness, including severe and recurrent loss of blood and sleep-walking, which defies conventional explanation. It is only when Van Helsing begins to put together clues from Lucy’s dreams, with accounts from the Harkers’ experiences, unusual behavior from one of Dr. Seward’s patients at the asylum, and reports of inexplicable events around London, that he begins to realize the truth.
The quest to stop the vampire will lead the company on a perilous adventure through graveyards, abandoned churches, and finally on a journey back to the Count’s lair in Transylvania to save the soul of his latest victim.
This novel, though written more than one hundred years ago, still contains the power to terrify readers today. The language, though somewhat affected by the vernacular of the time, is not difficult to follow, and the essence of the story is so chilling that it is no wonder it has become a classic that is much imitated today. The original version of Dracula deserves five stars for its timeless appeal to readers of the horror and paranormal genres. Give it a read!