This is the dark tale of Count Dracula, told through chilling journal entries. It starts with Jonathan Harker’s visit to the Count’s castle.
I went down to look at that room again in daylight, because I must know the truth. When I got to the doorway at the top of the stairs, it was closed. It had been so forcibly shut that part of the wooden doorframe was splintered. I could see that the door had been fastened shut from the inside.
I’m afraid it was no dream. I must take action.
There is surely no hope for me.
Last night, the Count casually asked me to write three letters. The first letter was supposed to say that my work here was nearly done and that I would be leaving for home soon. The second letter was supposed to say that I would be starting the journey back home the next morning. And the third letter was supposed to say that I had left the castle and I had arrived at Bistritz.
I wanted to refuse, but in this present state of things, I would have to be crazy to argue with the Count while I am so absolutely under his power. If I refused, it would make him suspicious and angry.
He knows that I know too much. He won’t let me live if he thinks I will do something rash. The only thing I can do is prolong time. By prolonging time, perhaps I can prolong my opportunities. Something may occur which will give me a chance to escape.
His eyes continue to hold a hint of wrath. The wrath that exploded from his eyes when he hurled that woman away from me.
He explained that the post system in this area was unreliable and slow, so I should write out my letters ahead of time. By preparing them ahead of time and holding them in Bistritz, they would be mailed out in a timely fashion and my friends wouldn’t be worried by late letters.
He explained it with such detail and certainty, that if I opposed, it would have looked suspicious. I therefore pretended to agree that his plan was a good idea. I asked him which dates I should write on the letters.
He calculated in his mind for a moment, and then said, “The first should be June 12th, the second should be June 19th, and the third June 29th.”
Now I know the span of my life. God help me!
There is a chance to escape! Or at any rate, a chance to send a message home. A band of Szgany travelers have come to the castle and are encamped in the courtyard. These Szgany are a group of nomads; I have notes about them in my book. They are rare in this part of the world, though they are allied with other nomads all over the world. There are thousands of these nomads in Hungary and Transylvania, and they are mostly outside of the law. They attach themselves to one of the nobles and call themselves by his name. They are fearless and without religion (though, they have superstitions) and they speak in their own varieties of the Romany language.
I shall write some letters home and try to get these travelers to mail my letters for me. I have already spoken to them through my window. They took their hats off and made some gestures and said some words that I couldn’t quite understand.
I have written the letters. I wrote Mina’s letter in code, and in Mr. Hawkins’s letter, I simply told him to get into contact with Mina. Mina’s letter explains my situation, but I left out the unimaginable horrors that would only shock and frighten her.
I have given the letters to the Szgany. I threw them through the bars of my window with a gold coin, and made gestures that I hope they understood. A man picked them up and pressed them to his heart and bowed. Then he put them into his cap.
There was nothing more for me to do. I went back to the library and began to read. The Count wasn’t here, so I wrote this diary.
The Count has come. He sat down beside me and said in his smoothest voice as he opened two letters, “The Szgany has given me these. I don’t know where they came from, but they seem important. See!”
He held up the letters in front of me, “one is from you, written to my friend Peter Hawkins. And the other,” he caught sight of the strange symbols as he opened the envelope and a dark look came over his face, “and the other letter is vile and terrible. There is no name signed on it. Well! It can’t be important if it isn’t even signed.” And he calmly held the letter and envelope in the flame of the lamp until it was consumed by fire.
Then he said, “The letter to Hawkins—I will, of course, send it. Your letters are important to me. Oh, pardon me, my friend, I broke the seal on the envelope. Would you seal it again, please?”
He held out the letter to me, and with a courteous bow, he handed me a new envelope. I could only do as he asked in silence. When he left the room I could hear the key turn softly. A mixture later, I went over and tried to open the door, but it was locked.
An hour or two later, the Cost came quietly back into the room. The sound woke me up because I had been asleep on the sofa.
He was very happy to see that I was tired. He said, “So, my friend, you are tired? Go to bed. Your bedroom is the best place to rest. I will not have the pleasure to talk tonight, because there are many things to do. But I hope you sleep well.”
I went to my room and got into bed. It’s strange to say, but I slept without dreaming. Despair can be calm.
This morning, when I woke up, I thought I should take some paper and envelopes from my bag and keep them in my pocket—you never know when another opportunity might arise—but again a surprise! And again a shock!
Every piece of paper was gone. And with it, all my notes, my memoranda, my notes about railways and travel, my letter of credit… in fact, everything that might become useful to me once I escape the castle are gone!
I sat and wondered awhile. Then, some thought occurred to me. I rushed to search the closet where I had placed my clothes. The suit in which I had traveled was gone. My overcoat and my travel blanket were also gone. I couldn’t find them anywhere.
Is this the next part of his villainous plan?
It is my first time writing this month.
This morning, as I was sitting on the edge of my bed thinking about what to do, I heard cracking whips and pounding horse feet. With joy, I hurried to the window and saw two great wagons, each drawn by eight horses, coming up the rocky path beyond the courtyard. Each wagon had a Slovak driving it, with wide hats, great belts, dirty sheepskin, and high boots.
I ran to the door, hoping to go down the stairs and join them in the main hall.
Again, a shock. My door was locked from the outside.
Then, I ran to the window and cried out to them. They looked up at me stupidly and pointed. One of the Szgany travelers came out of the castle and looked up to my window. He said something and the others laughed. After that, no matter how much I called out, they wouldn’t even look at me. They purposely turned away.
The wagons contained big square boxes with thick rope handles. They must have been empty because the Slovaks handled them with ease. When all the boxes were unloaded and piled up in a great heap in one corner of the yard, the Slovaks were given some money by the Szgany and spit on the coins for good luck. The Slovaks went back to their horses and rode away into the distance.
June 24th, before morning,
Last night, the Count left me early and locked himself into his own room. As soon as I dared, I ran up the winding staircase and looked out of the window that faced south. I thought I would wait and watch for the Count to climb down the wall, because he seemed to be planning something. The Szgany are sleeping somewhere in the castle and are doing work of some kind. I know that because now and then I hear a far-away sound of pickaxes and shovels. Whatever it is, it must be something ruthless and evil.
I had been at the window for less than half an hour when I saw something coming out of the Count’s window. I drew back and watched carefully, and I saw the whole man emerge. It was a new shock to me to find that he had on the suit that I had worn when I traveled here. And slung over his shoulder was the terrible bag which I had seen the women take away. I had no doubt what kind of quest he was on. But in my clothes! This must be the next step of his evil plot. He wants others to think that they saw me in the town. He wants to leave evidence that I had visited the town and perhaps he will even send off my letters now. Any wickedness that he may do in the town will be blamed on me.
How infuriating! There is nothing that I can do to stop this madness. I’m stuck in here, a prisoner! But I’m even worse than that, because at least criminals have basic rights and can hire a lawyer.
I thought I would watch for the Count to return, so I sat for a long time at the window. Then I began to notice that some strange little specks were floating in the rays of moonlight. They were like the tiniest grains of dust, and they whirled round and gathered in clusters. I watched them with a sense of relaxation, and I became calm. I leaned on the window sill in a more comfortable position so that I could enjoy the view of the beautiful swirling dust.
Something made me jump. A low howling of dogs from somewhere unseen—perhaps far below in the valley. Louder and louder the howling rang in my eyes. The floating dust began to take new shapes, seeming to dance to the song of the wolves. I felt myself struggling to force my body to move. My very soul was struggling. I couldn’t make any movement.
I was becoming hypnotized! The dust danced faster and faster, and the moonbeams seemed to quiver in the air.
More and more, the dust gathered until they seemed to create shapes. And then I jumped, fully awake. My senses became perfectly sharp and I starting screaming and running from the room. The phantom shapes in the moonbeams, which were starting to materialize, were the shapes of the three ghostly women that I have been seeing in my nightmares. I fled, and I felt somewhat safer in my own room, where there was no moonlight and where the lamp was burning brightly.
When a couple of hours had passed, I heard something moving in the Count’s room. It was something like a sharp scream that was quickly suppressed. And then, there was silence. It was a deep and awful silence, which chilled me. With a beating heart, I tried to open my bedroom door, but it was locked. I was locked again in my prison, and I couldn’t do anything. I sat down and simply cried.
As I sat, I heard a sound in the courtyard. It was the agonized cry of a woman. I rushed to the window and threw open the curtains. I peered out between the bars. There, indeed, was a woman. She had disheveled hair and she was holding her hands over her heart like someone who was distressed from running. She was leaning against a corner of the gateway. When she saw my face at the window, she threw herself forward and shouted in a terrible, angry voice:
“Monster! Give me my child!”
She threw herself on her knees and raised up her hands. “Give me my child! Give me my child! Monster! Monster!” Her voice wrung my heart. Then, she tore her hair and pounded on her chest. Her emotions had violently overwhelmed her. Finally, she threw herself forward towards the castle, where I could not see her. I could hear her, though, and I could hear her hands beating against the castle doors.
Somewhere high overhead, perhaps on the tower, I heard the voice of the Count. He was calling in a harsh, metallic whisper. His call seemed to be answered by howling wolves from far away. After a few minutes, a huge pack of wolves appeared. They poured in through the gateway and into the courtyard. The woman didn’t cry out. The wolves were quiet, too, as surrounded the woman. It was all out of my view, but moments later, they walked out of the courtyard, licking their lips.
I couldn’t feel sorry for the woman. I knew the fate of her child. Perhaps, she was better off dead than seeing what happened to her precious child.
What should I do? What can I do? What can I do to escape this dreadful place? How can I escape the darkness, the gloom, and the fear?
June 25th, morning,
Until you’ve truly suffered, you can never understand how sweet and wonderful the sunrise is. I am alive for at least another day.
When the sun rose high this morning and the rays shined over the courtyard and through my window, it felt like the dove from Noah’s Ark landed in front of me. My fear melted away, as if it was snow under the warm sunlight.
I can’t waste a day like this. I must take action while I have courage from the sun.
In only a few more days, the last of the post-marked letters will be sent. The letter that post-dated my life. June 29th.
No. I shouldn’t think about that. Action! I need to take action!
It has always been the case that I have been attacked or threatened at night. All the danger and fear occur when the sun is down. I have not yet seen the Count in the daylight. Could it be that he sleeps when others are awake? Is that his strategy? Does he want to be awake while others are sleeping?
If only I could get into his room! But it’s impossible. The door is always locked. There is no way in.
Well, there is a way. Yes, there is a way, if I dare to try it.
I’ve seen him do it. If he can do it… can’t I? I have seen him crawl from his window. What if I imitated him? What if I went in through his window?
It’s crazy. It’s absolutely crazy. But right now, I am desperate.
I will risk it. At worst, I die. That is the worst outcome.
God, help me. Help me with this crazy task.
Goodbye, Mina. If I fail, goodbye. Goodbye to my friends. Goodbye to my family. But most of all, goodbye Mina!
The same day, later,
I have made the effort. And, God helping me, I have come back safely to this room. I need to write down every detail in order.
I headed out while my courage was still fresh. I went straight to the window on the south side, and I wasted no time. I went out the window and stood on the narrow ledge of stone that runs around the castle walls. The stones are big and rough. The mortar between the stones has been worn down over time, so there are gaps all along the walls.
I took off my boots so that my feet could fit in the small gaps. I ventured out onto the wall, hanging onto the stones desperately. I looked down once on purpose. It was frightening, but I had to look down at least once so that the height didn’t surprise me later.
I knew the direction and distance to the Count’s window pretty well. I headed for it as well as I could.
I didn’t feel dizzy—perhaps I was too excited—and I reached the Count’s window in no time. I found myself standing on the window sill and trying to open the window wider. I couldn’t get the window up all the way, so I slid inside, feet first.
Once inside, I quickly scanned the room. It was a pleasant surprise that the Count was not there. The room was empty! In fact, it hardly had any furniture.
The room was furnished with only a few odd things, which seemed to have never been used. The furniture was the style as the furniture in the south rooms. Everything was covered in dust.
I looked around for a key, but there was no key in the lock, and I couldn’t find one anyway. The only thing I found was a big pile of gold coins in a corner of the room. There were all kinds of coins: Roman, British, Austrian, Hungarian, Greek, and Turkish. And they were also covered with dust, as though they had been on the ground for a long time. All the coins were incredibly old–at least 300 years old. There were also chains and jewels, but all of them were old and stained.
In another corner of the room, there was a heavy door. I tried to open it to search for a key. I found that it was unlocked, and it led to a stone passage. I followed the passage and came to a circular stairway, which went down steeply. As I descended the stairs, I stepped carefully because it was quite dark.
At the bottom of the staircase, there was a dark, tunnel-like passage. The odor hit me hard. It was a sickly smell of old dirt. I continued down the passage, and the smell grew stronger and stronger. At last, I came to a heavy door that was ajar. I pulled it open and I found myself in an old, ruined chapel, which seemed to have been used as a graveyard. The roof was broken, and in two places, there were steps that lead to vaults. But the ground had recently been dug over, and the dirt had been placed in big wooden boxes. (They must be the boxes that the Slovaks had brought.)
There was nobody around. I searched for more doors or passages, but there were none. I didn’t want to miss anything, so I examined every inch of the ground. I even swallowed my fear and went down to the dark vaults. In the first and second vault, there was nothing but dust and fragments of old coffins.
In the third vault, however, I made a discovery.
There were about fifty great boxes. In one of the boxes, on a pile of newly dug-up dirt, lay the Count! He was either dead or asleep. I wasn’t sure because his eyes were open and stony, but without the glassiness of death. His lips were as red as ever. But there was no sign of movement. No pulse. No breath. No beating heart.
I bent over him and tried to find any sign of life, but I found nothing. He couldn’t have been there for very long because the earthy smell was fresh. The cover was next to the box, and it had nail holes here and there.
I was desperate for the key, and I thought he might have it in his pockets. But when I reached out to touch his clothes, I saw his eyes. His eyes appeared dead, however, there was a look of deep hate. It was as if he were conscious of my presence. It was so frightening that I ran away. I ran all the way back up to his room and climbed out the window and back to my room. I threw myself on the bed and tried to control my breathing.
Now that I am back, I need to think…
Today is the date of my last letter.
It appears that the Count is doing everything possible to make it appear genuine. I saw him crawl out of the window and leave the castle while wearing my clothes. The people in town will believe that they saw me.
As he crawled down the wall like a lizard, I wished I had a gun or some lethal weapon so that I could shoot him. But I fear that no weapon made by humans could harm him.
Now that the Count left the castle, I felt afraid to be out. I retreated back to the library where I knew I was safe from those weird sisters. In the library, I read there until I fell asleep.
I was awakened by the Count, who looked at me grimly and said, “Tomorrow, my friend, we must part. You will return to your beautiful English, and I will return to my work. It will be our final goodbye. Your letter home has been sent out. Tomorrow, I will not be here at all, but everything will be ready for your journey. In the morning, the Szgany and Slovaks will come because they have some business here. When they are gone, my carriage will come for you and bring you to the Borgo Pass. There you can meet another carriage that is scheduled to go to Bistritz. If you ever get the chance to return to my castle, you will be welcome.”
I suspected him. This monster has never been honest with me, so I tested his sincerity by asking, “Why can’t I leave tonight?”
“Because my coachman and horses are away now.”
“Oh, but I wouldn’t mind walking. I would like to leave at once.”
He smiled. It was such a soft, smooth, diabolical smile that I knew that there was some trick. He said, “And your baggage?”
“I don’t care about it. I can send someone to pick it up another time.”
The Count stood up and replied in a voice that was so sweet and courteous that it made me rub my eyes. “You English have a saying which I love because it has the same spirit as my people: ‘Welcome the coming guest, hurry the departing guest.’ Come with me, my dear friend. I won’t hold you in my house for another hour. Although, I’m sad that you are leaving, and that you desire to leave so suddenly. Follow me!”
Without even a hint of humor or ill-will, he held up his lamp and led me down the stairs and along the hall. Suddenly he stopped and held up his hand.
Then, I heard it. Nearby was the howling of many wolves. It was almost as if the sound sprang up at the motion of his hand, like the sound of orchestra music starting up from the conductor’s baton.
He paused a moment, and then proceed. He led me to the castle door, pulled back the bolts, and unhooked the heavy chains. Then, he began to open it.
To my astonishment, I saw that it was unlocked. Suspiciously, I looked all around, but I couldn’t see a key of any kind.
As the door began to open, the howling of the wolves grew louder and angrier. Red jaws. Chomping teeth. Clawed feet. They jumped up towards the opening door.
I knew. I now knew that any struggle against the Count was useless. With these allies at his command, I could do nothing.
But still, the door continued to slowly open, and only the County’s body stood in the gap.
I realized that he was giving me a choice. Either I would be given to the wolves because of my request, or I would back down. This is the diabolical wickedness of the Count!
At the last moment, I cried out, “Shut the door! I will wait until morning!” I covered my face with my hands to hide my tears of bitter disappointment. With one sweep of his powerful arm, the Count threw the door shut. The great bolts clanged and echoed through the hall as they locked back into their places.
In silence, we returned to the library, and after a few minutes, I went to my own room. Count Dracula said goodnight to me with a red light of triumph in his eyes and a wicked smile. That was the last I saw of him.
When I was in my room and about to lie down, I thought I heard a whispering at my door. I tip-toed to the door as quietly as I could, and listened.
I heard the Count’s voice:
“Back! Get back to your own place! Your time has not come yet. Wait and have patience! Tonight is mine. Tomorrow night is yours!”
There was a low, sweet ripple of laughter. In a rage, I threw open the door and I saw the three terrible women licking their lips. When I appeared, they all continued their horrible laughter and they ran away.
I went back to my room and threw myself on my knees. Is the end so near? Tomorrow! Tomorrow! God, please help me! And help everyone who I love!
June 30th, morning,
These might be the last words I ever write in this diary. I slept until just before dawn, and when I woke up, I threw myself on my knees to pray.
I prayed until I felt a subtle change in the air that signaled morning had come. Then, I heard the cry of a rooster. The familiar sound of morning made me feel a sense of comfort.
With a wave of happiness, I opened my door and ran down the hall. Now that I knew the front door was unlocked, I could escape. With trembling hands, I unhooked the chains and drew back the bolts.
But the door would not move. Despair seized me. I pulled and pulled at the door. I shook it until it rattled. I looked through the crack to see that the door was locked. The Count must have locked it again during the night.
Then, a wild desire took over. I was determined to get that key at any risk, even scaling the wall to sneak into the Count’s room again. He might kill me, but now, death seemed like the better option. Without a pause, I rushed up to the east window and scrambled down the wall into the Count’s room. It was empty, as expected. I could not see a key anywhere, but there was still a heap of gold coins. I went through the door in the corner and down the winding staircase. I went along the dark passage to the old chapel where the monster sleeps.
The great box was in the same place, close against the wall, but the lid was on it. It wasn’t fastened down, but the nails were ready in their places. I knew I must search the body for the key, so I raised the lid, and laid it back against the wall. And then, I saw something which filled my soul with horror.
The Count laid there, but he looked as if his youth had been half renewed. His white hair and mustache were dark gray, like iron. His cheeks were fuller. His white skin seemed ruby-red underneath. His lips were redder than ever because they were wet with blood, which trickled from the corners of his mouth and ran down his chin and neck. Even his eyelids looked youthful and plump. It seemed as if the whole creature was simply bloated with blood, like a filthy leech.
I shuddered as I bent over to touch him. It revolted me, but I had to search for the key. I felt all over the body, but I couldn’t find any sign of a key. Then, I stopped and looked at the Count. There was a mocking smile on the bloated face. It drove me mad.
This is the client that I was helping move to London. London! For years—no, for centuries!—he might satisfy his bloodthirst by preying on the people of London. And then, he might create a new and bigger circle of demons to torture the helpless Londoners. This thought drove me mad. I had a terrible desire to rid the world of such a monster. I didn’t have any weapons, but I saw a shovel that had been left by the workmen. I seized the shovel and lifted it high. I struck down hard at the hateful face. But as I did so, the head turned and the eyes looked straight at me, filled with evil. The sight paralyzed me, and the shovel slipped in my hand, hitting his forehead. I pulled the shovel away, and the blade caught the edge of the lid, which fell over again. The lid covered the monster so that I couldn’t see that horrid face anymore.
I stood there, thinking. I thought and thought about what my next move should be, but my brain seemed to be on fire. As I waited, I heard a creepy song in the distance. A song of happy voices, coming closer, and the sound of heavy wheels and whips. The Count had said earlier that the Szgany and the Slovaks would be coming.
With a last look at the box, I ran back down the passage to the Count’s room. There, I strained my ears to listen. I heard the grinding of the key and the opening of the heavy front door. Then, I heard the sound of many feet coming closer. I waited next to the door, so that I could rush out the moment they opened it.
But the sound of feet changed direction, and it seemed to get farther away. I listened carefully and realized there must be another entrance to the dark passage. I turned and ran back down the stairs toward the vault room, where I might find the new passage. I saw a violent puff of wind and dust, where a door had swung shut. I ran to push it open, but I found that it was hopelessly stuck shut.
Yet another exit that I cannot pass through! I am still a hopeless prisoner!
As I write this diary, I can hear the sound of feet stomping below and the crash of heavy objects being moved—probably the boxes. There is a sound of hammering—the Count’s coffin? Now, I can hear the heavy feet stomping along the hall again.
The shutting of the door. The rattling of the chains. The grinding of the key in the lock. Then another door opens and shuts. Then the creaking of a lock and bolt.
I listen to them carrying boxes down the rocky way. I listen to the roll of heavy wheels, the crack of whips, and the singing of the Szgany as they ride off into the distance.
I am alone in the castle with those awful women. Ha! I cannot call them women! Mina is a woman and there is nothing in common. They are devils from Hell.
I won’t be alone with them! I will try to scale the castle wall farther than I have ever attempted. I will take some of the gold with me, in case I actually get out of this dreadful place.
And then, home! I’ll find the quickest and nearest train that will take me home! Get away from this cursed castle. This cursed land, where the devil and his children walk.
God’s mercy is better than the mercy of these monsters. I will climb these walls. And if I fall, at least I will fall as a man.
Goodbye, all! Mina!