With Halloween coming up, many Americans will be indulging in all things creepy and paranormal. But while most of us have heard of ghosts and goblins, not all of us know the entire mythos behind these creatures that go bump in the night. So, using my personal knowledge and the research of traditional texts and scholars, I plan to clarify this mythos all October long in celebration of Halloween.
Today, I am going to clarify the mythos for the king of vampires himself, Dracula, but before I do that, I need to establish some canon on what I mean by “vampire.”
You see, what I mean by “vampire” depends widely upon the time and the culture that vampire comes from. According to this article in Wikipedia, legends of vampiric entities exist in most cultures and date back to even ancient Mesopotamia. The differences in vampires from one culture to another vary so widely that they merit an article all on their own, so for the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on the legends of vampires that came from Eastern Europe around the 18th and 19th century, the era of Dracula.
In Eastern European folklore and other stories, vampires are undead creatures that feed on the essence of the living, usually in the form of blood. Hysteria over possible vampiric activity terrified Eastern Europe in the 18th century. News of it spread to Western Europe and inspired many stories including the mythos behind Bram Stoker’s classic book written in 1897. Dracula himself is based on Vlad the Impaler, a notoriously violent and cruel Wallachian king from the 15th century, according to this Wikipedia article.
To summarize the book of origin, in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Dracula is a wicked, manipulative, and conniving undead Transylvanian noble who decides to move to England all the while tormenting hapless young lawyer Jonathan Harker who temporarily becomes his prisoner when he visits him on behalf of his real estate firm and his loved ones who eventually team up with him and occult expert Van Helsing to stop Dracula for good. Thanks, Cliffnotes!
The book explains that, in life, Dracula “was in life a most wonderful man. Soldier, statesman, and alchemist. Which latter was the highest development of the science knowledge of his time. He had a mighty brain, a learning beyond compare, and a heart that knew no fear and no remorse… there was no branch of knowledge of his time that he did not essay.” It also said he studied magic implying that his vampiric state was gained through the study of the dark arts or a deal with the Devil.
Contrary to popular belief, as a vampire, Dracula may have the demeanor of the courteous, debonair gentleman with a nasty temper and bloodlust that is imagined in popular culture, but he looks nothing like Bela Lugosi.
Physically, Dracula is bizarre and monstrous in appearance. The book describes him as a “tall old man, clean shaven, save for a long white mustache and clad in black from head to foot, without a single speck of color about him anywhere.” That mustache isn’t thin either. It’s large and bushy as are his eyebrows. In addition, he has a “profuse head of dense, curly hair” and sharp white teeth, especially in the canines. So, as you can imagine, Dracula looks more like an undead demon than a gentleman you would meet at a fancy party.
And unfortunately for Harker and company, Dracula’s scary appearance is the least of their problems. As far as superpowered abilities go, Dracula is probably the most overpowered vampire of all time.
His abilities, as listed in Wikipedia and in the book, include: superhuman strength, imperviousness to knife attacks (at least at night), defying gravity, superhuman agility, climbing vertical surfaces like a lizard, hypnosis, telepathy, illusionary abilities, limited teleportation, immunity to fire damage, phasing through objects (to an extent), immortality, limited command over animals, weather manipulation, shapeshifting (into a bat, wolf, dog, mist, or fog), growing, shrinking, high intelligence from his centuries of life, traveling through moonlight through cracks and crevices, and of course, turning other people into vampires and controlling them that way.
However, besides not having a shadow or a reflection, Dracula has some notable weaknesses.
First, he must drink the blood of other humans to regain his youth and retain his power, or else, he will die. And if he uses his abilities too much, Dracula will grow weak. Furthermore, he cannot regenerate. He still bears scars from his injuries when he gets them.
Second, Dracula is not killed upon contact with sunlight, but he is considerably weaker during the daytime. For instance, during the day, he can only shapeshift at dawn, noon, and dusk. All his other abilities cease to exist until night time.
Third, Dracula is limited in his ability to travel. He can only cross running water at the low or high tide. Every other time, he can’t cross as a bat or mist or anything. Dracula can’t even step on a boat unless he is carried over by someone, most likely his loyal gypsy bodyguards.
Fourth, Dracula has an uncontrollable bloodlust. If he sees blood, he flies into a demonic frenzy and cannot control himself.
Fifth, Dracula can be repulsed with garlic, crucifixes, sacramental bread, mountain ash, and other sacred items. He cannot walk on hallowed ground such as a churchyard either. Placing a wild rose on his coffin will make him unable to escape it. Shooting a sacred bullet into said coffin will kill him.
Sixth, you can also kill him with a bowie knife through the heart if you decapitate him at the same time. That’s how our heroes defeat him in the book.
Seventh, he cannot enter a home unless he is invited in by someone in the house. Only then, can he enter and leave at will.
Eighth, and most importantly, although Dracula can be active during the day, he still needs his rest. When vampires rest after a long night of gorging on blood, they are in a deathlike sleep. They cannot move or act again until nighttime.
Remember all this and you might just survive an encounter with a real-life Dracula. Happy Halloween!