|A Ripperologist Article|
|This article originally appeared in Ripperologist No. 60, July 2005. Ripperologist is the most respected Ripper periodical on the market and has garnered our highest recommendation for serious students of the case. For more information, view our Ripperologist page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripperologist for permission to reprint this article.|
Two of the most infamous creatures of the night – Jack the Ripper and Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula – stalked the foggy, gas-lit streets of Victorian England, shed their victims’ blood, took their lives and vanished into the night. More than a century later, their stories continue to fascinate and repel us.
In the autumn of 1888 an unknown number of prostitutes in Whitechapel, a maze of squalid tenements in London’s East End, were murdered by a serial killer (or killers) who came to be known as ‘Jack the Ripper.’1 The wanton brutality of these crimes, combined with the fiend’s blood-curdling pseudonym and the lingering mystery of his (or her) identity has intrigued generations of policemen, reporters and amateur detectives. Jack’s ‘trade name’ is taken from two taunting messages that were written in red ink and crayon and mailed to the press. A letter with the salutation ‘Dear Boss’ arrived on 27 September 1888. After chuckling about attempts to catch him, the author warned there would be more atrocities. ‘I am down on whores,’ he wrote, ‘and I shant [sic] quit ripping them till I do get buckled… How can they catch me now. [sic]’ It was signed with the immortal phrase: ‘Yours truly / Jack the Ripper.’ His letter was followed by a postcard in the same handwriting; then, a few weeks later, George Lusk received a battered cardboard box that contained a note with the return address ‘From hell’2 and half of a kidney which was said to have been torn from the most recent victim.The anonymous villain claimed he had fried and eaten the other piece. These messages were reproduced in newspapers and posted in police stations in the hope that someone would recognize the handwriting but, in spite of their crucial role in the history and myth of the Ripper, most investigators have concluded that one or more of them were created by an enterprising journalist (or journalists).3
The official dossier of the Whitechapel Murders contains eleven unsolved cases that began on 3 April 1888 and continued until 1891. ‘Leather Apron’s’4 contemporaries wondered if Emma Smith or Martha Tabram had surrendered their lives to Jack’s thirsty blade, but most Ripperologists believe he murdered five women. Their throats were slashed and, with the puzzling exception of Elizabeth Stride, their bodies were savagely mutilated. Constable Edward Watkins, who discovered Catherine Eddowes’s body, swore that it ‘looked like a pig in a butcher’s shop.’5 Jack’s ‘canonical’ victims are:
Mary Ann Nichols (aka Polly and Pretty Polly). 31 August, Buck’s Row Annie Chapman (aka Dark Annie). 8 September, 29 Hanbury Street Elizabeth Stride (aka Long Liz). 30 September, 40 Berner Street Catherine Eddowes. (aka Kate Conway). 30 September, Mitre Square Mary Jane Kelly (aka Marie Jeanette Kelly and Ginger). 9 November, Millers Court
When the killer continued to elude the police and vigilance committees that patrolled the slums each night, people from all walks of life began to create increasingly fantastic stories about who he was, what his motives were and, eventually, why the carnage seemed to come to an end as abruptly as it had began. The assumption that the fiend had some knowledge of anatomy and could be a medical student, a doctor or a butcher gave way to rumours about bizarre medical experiments, ritual killings and conspiracies by the police, the Masons or unnamed ‘people in authority.’ During the season of terror, the press often portrayed the murderer as an atavistic man monster. For instance, on 8 September The Star announced, ‘A nameless reprobate – half beast, half man – is at large’ and predicted that ‘the ghoul-like creature who stalks through the streets of London… is simply drunk with blood, and he will have more.’
The naive belief that these bizarre crimes had no precedent in mankind’s dark history of lies, thefts and murders led people to consult Robert Louis Stevenson’s rationalized werewolf story about Dr Henry Jekyll and his Darwinian alter ego for clues about the murders.6 The Pall Mall Gazette referred to the murderer as ‘the Mr Hyde of humanity’ and, on 8 September 1888 a letter to The Star remarked, ‘Of course, the lively imaginations of your readers will at once supply certain means of identification for the Dr Jekyll whose Mr Hyde seems daily growing in ferocious intensity.’ Consequently, the Lyceum’s production of The Strange Story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was forced to close because of the possibility it was inspiring the killer. People who had seen the play added to the controversy by saying that its star, Richard Mansfield, could be descending from the stage to act out his performance in the abyss of Whitechapel.7 In 1888, the Lyceum had been managed by Bram Stoker for ten years.8
Bram Stoker’s Original Foundation Notes & Data for His Dracula consists of hand-written and typed notes, photographs and a newspaper clipping9. These documents provide invaluable insights into his extensive planning and research, and chart important developments in the novel’s structure, plot and characters. There is no mention of the Ripper, but an early outline ends with the entry, ‘Gladstone/immortality,’ which may refer to the mysterious black leather bag that has become one of Jack’s most recognizable trademarks.10 The earliest dated note shows that Stoker had started to compose his symphony of terrors by 8 March 1890; while a marked-up calendar proves his opus is set in the year 1893. The discovery of these dates prompted Grigore Nandris to suggest that ‘To his [Stoker’s] reading on folklore the current press of his day could have added its contribution. The memories of Londoners at the time of Dracula’s gestation were haunted by the horror of the… criminal sex maniac, Jack the Ripper.’11 Stoker’s great nephew, Daniel Farson, took issue with Nandris, claiming, ‘…there is no hint in the novel or in any of his [Stoker’s] writings of either the Ripper’s violence or the subsequent panic.’12 Many years later, Carol Margaret Davison ventured, ‘…in a very loose way Dracula does, in fact, function as ‘a cryptic novelisation of the Jack the Ripper mystery’.’13
Everyone who read Dracula in 1897 could recall the atrocities that had happened nine years previously and may have seen these crimes re-enacted in its fulsome concoction of violence and eroticism. This possibility is borne out by an early review in The Stage which opined that Mr Stoker ‘brings in, mutatis mutandis, the stabbing of women recently notorious in London.’14
Chapters twelve to fifteen depict Lucy’s death, her resurrection as a vampiress and her final execution. Her erstwhile suitor, Dr Seward, records the gruesome tableau that awaited him and his mentor when they burst into Lucy’s bedroom:
On the bed lay two women, Lucy and her mother. The latter lay furthest in, and she was covered with a white sheet, the edge of which had been blown back by the draught through the broken window, showing the drawn, white face and the look of terror fixed upon it. By her side lay Lucy, with face white and still more drawn. The flowers which had been round her neck we found upon her mother’s bosom, and her throat was bare, showing the two little wounds we had noticed before, but looking horribly white and mangled [12:149].15
Unlike the unfortunate women of fin de siècle Whitechapel, Lucy’s suffering has not come to a tragic but merciful conclusion. After Professor Van Helsing discovers she has returned to life as a beautiful, undead ogre who preys on children, he brings her former suitors together to prevent more outrages and wrest Lucy’s soul from an eternity of darkness. To do so, the men must cut out her heart or drive a stake through it and then cut off her head. Lucy’s former fiancé Arthur Holmwood (aka Lord Godalming) delivers the coup de grâce:
Arthur placed the point over the heart, and as I looked I could see its dint in the white flesh. Then he struck with all his might.
The thing in the coffin writhed, and a hideous, blood-curdling screech came from the opened red lips. The body shook and quivered and twisted in wild contortions. The sharp white teeth champed together till the lips were cut, and the mouth was smeared with a crimson foam. But Arthur never faltered. He looked like a figure of Thor as his untrembling arm rose and fell, driving deeper and deeper the mercy-bearing stake, whilst the blood from the pierced heart welled and spurted up around it. His face was set, and high duty seemed to shine through it. The sight of it gave us courage so that our voices seemed to ring through the little vault.
And then the writhing and quivering of the body became less, and the teeth seemed to champ, and the face to quiver. Finally it lay still. The terrible task was over [16:220-221].16
After the hammer fell from Arthur’s hand, ‘sweetness and purity’ returned to Lucy’s face and a ‘holy calm’ descended on the group. No matter how justified, brave or heroic the men’s actions may be in the fantastic world of the novel, Rebecca Stott reminds us that ‘The rhythm of the passage betrays Seward’s voyeuristic and sadistic ‘delight’… [and] echoes the ritualistic killings of Jack the Ripper.’17
The most important indication of a connection between Drac’ n’ Jack surfaced in 1986 when Richard Dalby unearthed an ‘unknown’ preface that Bram Stoker had written for the Icelandic edition of Dracula in 1901.18 In contrast to the short, untitled introduction in most editions of his masterpiece,19 the author takes the reader aside and confides, ‘The strange and eerie tragedy which is portrayed here is completely true, as far as all external circumstances are concerned…’20 He then makes the shocking revelation that ‘Many people remember the strange series of crimes that comes into the story a little later – crimes which, at the time, appeared to be supernatural and seemed to originate from the same source and cause as much revulsion as the infamous murders of Jack the Ripper!’ Neither the manuscript nor the novel refers to the tragedies in Whitechapel per se, but the Count stores six of his coffins at ‘197, Chicksand Street, Mile End New Town’ [20:267]. Chicksand becomes Osborn Place which crosses Brick Lane to continue as the ill-famed Flower and Dean Street where three of Jack’s victims lived from time to time. A map of Whitechapel shows that his hideaway – which is marked with an ‘X’ – serves as a focal point for the five ‘canonical’ murders.
Stoker’s comment about associations with Jack the Ripper could have been an inside joke or a good-natured reminder not to take his bat-winged fantasy too seriously. Instead, it provides an essential clue to one of the earliest, hitherto unrecognized sources of inspiration for the world’s most famous vampire novel.
The Daily Telegraph referred to extraordinarily bad men as ‘vampires, of whom society has the right to be quickly rid, without too much attention to the theories of mental experts’ (10 September 1888). Then, on 16 September, George R Sims’s column in The Sunday Referee proclaimed that the story of the miscreant in Whitechapel ‘puts all the vampire stories of fiction to bed and tucks them up for the rest of their natural lives…’ Three weeks later, on 6 October 1888, an article with the intriguing headline A Thirst for Blood appeared on the front page of the East London Advertiser. The opening paragraph laments that ‘It is so impossible to account, on any ordinary hypothesis, for these revolting acts of blood, that the mind turns as it were instinctively to some theory of occult force, and the myths of the Dark Ages arise before the imagination. Ghouls, vampires, bloodsuckers… take form and seize control of the excited fancy.’21 Its anonymous author goes on to exclaim, ‘If anything were wanted to heighten the horrors of these tragedies it was the introduction of the supernatural element’ and hints that these grotesqueries ‘…form the material for a score of ‘shilling dreadfuls’.’ These words may have ignited Bram Stoker’s imagination, for Dracula can be interpreted as an ingenious attempt to make sense of the murders by turning fact into fiction and myth.
The reporter maintained that ‘… the most morbid imagination can conceive nothing worse than this terrible reality…’ and asked, rhetorically, ‘…what can be more appalling than the thought that there is a being in human shape stealthily moving about a great city, burning with the thirst for human blood?’ Placed in this context, many of Dracula’s most peculiar twists and turns can be seen as responses to the challenge: ‘What could be more terrifying than Jack the Ripper?’ To wit, on his first night at the castle Jonathan Harker notes the Count’s desire to ‘go through the crowded streets of your mighty London, to be in the midst of the whirl and rush of humanity, to share its life, its change, its death, and all that makes it what it is’ [2:20]. Eventually, he is horrified by the realization he has helped an ancient monster gain a foothold in London, ‘…where, perhaps, for centuries to come he might, amongst its teeming millions, satiate his lust for blood, and create a new and ever-widening circle of semi-demons to batten on the helpless’ [4:53]. As horror piles on horror, the primordial fear that the dead may arise from their graves and overthrow the kingdom of life is reawakened in us.
Dracula is not a simple, straightforward story by an omniscient narrator who knows the ‘truth.’ It unfolds in bits and pieces through diaries, letters, telegrams and newspaper clippings that were written by different people at different times. This technique creates suspense by presenting a series of interlocking puzzles that readers must solve by themselves. Stoker’s Notes show that he had intended to use this form of story-telling from the beginning. The epistolary technique imitates the way people learned of Jack’s crimes by piecing together scraps of information from the newspapers of the day and generates an abundance of idiosyncratic interpretations.
Jonathan Harker’s journey to meet a nobleman who has purchased an estate in England introduces us to Transylvania, Count Dracula and his ‘Brides.’ Our access to his journal informs about vampires long before the other important characters become aware that such creatures exist. The first line reads: ‘3 May. Bistritz. – Left Munich at 8.35pm on 1st May… ‘This will bring him to Transylvania on St George’s Day and initiate a terrifying ride through the Borgo Pass on Walpurgis Night when ‘all the evil things in the world will have full sway’ [1:5].
The opening paragraph continues with his observation: ‘The impression I had was that we were leaving the West and entering the East.’ Like ‘Once upon a time…’ this phrase serves as an invitation to leave the familiar, comfortable world of everyday life behind and accompany the narrator in an adventure. The warning that we will be travelling to an imaginary place where almost anything can happen is couched in his comment: ‘I was not able to light on any map or work giving the exact locality of the Castle Dracula…’ [1:2]. The ‘East’ is a source of terror in Dracula. The Count, who comes from the East (Transylvania), invades the east coast of England (Whitby) and establishes a stronghold at Carfax (near London, on the east side). The possibility that the East is an allegory for the notorious East End of London which, for most of the author’s friends and acquaintances, was as distant, foreign and foreboding as Eastern Europe, is fortified by Harker’s aside that many of the people he saw in the Carpathians were ‘just like the peasants at home’ [1:2]. It follows that the ‘awful women’ in Dracula’s castle may symbolize the prostitutes of Whitechapel, for they exhibit a similar open, aggressive and promiscuous sexuality. Contrary to popular belief, Bram Stoker never set foot in Transylvania. His compelling descriptions of the ‘Land beyond the Forest’ were taken from books that are cited in his Notes.
Harker arrives at the castle in chapter two, where his host greets him with one of the lines Bela Lugosi made famous: ‘I am Dracula…’ [2:17]. Most children can identify Dracula as a vampire who comes from Transylvania and do impromptu, often hilarious, impersonations of him. Would this have been possible if he had been called ‘Count Wampire’ of ‘Styria’ or his story had been titled The Dead UnDead? Fortunately, his name and the title were changed to Dracula before the novel was published. As David J Skal has observed, the word, Drac-u-la: ‘…the three sinister syllables that crack and undulate on the tongue, ambiguously foreign but somehow alluring, would be an undeniable component of the book’s initial and continued mystique.’22 Concomitantly, it has been said that the murders in Whitechapel received continuous, world-wide attention because of the evocative and chilling alias, ‘Jack the Ripper.’
It was commonly assumed that Jack was a foreigner or a Jew.23 McNally and Florescu remarked that one suspect was ‘an East European.’24 Another person of interest was described thus: ‘Age 37; height, 5ft 7in; rather dark beard and moustache. Dress-shirt, dark vest and trousers, black scarf, and black felt hat. Spoke with a foreign accent.’25 Parts of this description may have inspired Jonathan Harker’s portrait of the Count who, he tells us, was: ‘…clad in black from head to foot, without a single speck of colour about him anywhere… [and spoke] excellent English, but with a strange intonation’ [2:16]. Of course, the author’s addition of red eyes, a cruel mouth, long, sharp white teeth, pointed ears, ice-cold skin and fetid breath make Dracula a monster whose existence defies the boundaries of fact and fantasy.
The reporter’s attempt to determine what kind of person the murderer could be and where he may reside is a remarkable, early example of ‘profiling’ that was constructed years before tools such as blood-typing or fingerprinting were available to the police.26 His assumption that the fiend is endowed with a ‘diabolical astuteness’ leads him to question if the murderer is a ‘maniac in the narrow sense of the word’ or ‘a man with a maniacal tendency, but with quite sufficient control of himself… to mix in respectable society unquestioned by a single soul.’ He concludes that the murderer’s ‘ability to command solitude… seems to be the only requisite for concealing his crimes.’ The second and third chapters of Dracula endow the Count with each and every one of these qualities:
a) His diabolical astuteness is captured in the observation ‘…he would have made a wonderful solicitor, for there was nothing that he did not think of or foresee’ [3:23]. In his mortal life, Dracula possessed ‘learning beyond compare, and a heart that knew no fear and no remorse’ [23: 311]. Hence, once he decided to explore the modern world and establish a foothold in London, he planned every detail as carefully as a military campaign, studying politics, law and finance, and learning a foreign language and new social skills.
b) Unlike Renfield, who chews up the scenery as the slavering maniac many people associate with Jack the Ripper, Stoker’s anti-hero can conceal his lust for blood beneath a veneer of civilized behaviour. His self-control comes to the fore when Jonathan Harker cuts himself while shaving. Harker is startled to hear his host’s voice and feel his hand on his shoulder, for he had not seen his reflection in his mirror. With fresh blood trickling down his chin, he turns to find Dracula’s ‘…eyes blazed with a sort of demoniac fury, and he suddenly made a grab at my throat. I drew away and his hand touched the string of beads which held the crucifix. It made an instant change in him, for the fury passed so quickly that I could hardly believe that it was ever there’ [2:26].
c) Dracula realizes that, once he leaves Transylvania where he is a noble and a Boyar, his survival may depend on the ability to be inconspicuous. Hence, he worries, ‘Well, I know that, did I move and speak in your London, none there are who would not know me for a stranger. That is not enough for me’ [2:21], and instructs Harker to correct any small error in his speech.
d) Dracula’s castle and his estate in England are in isolated locations, but the Count’s lack of servants is one of the oddest features of the novel. Stoker’s Notes show that he had intended to give the vampire two servants in London, a dumb woman and a silent man, but neither of them appears in the final draft.27 Given that the presence of servants would not have changed the essence of the plot, the author must have made a conscious decision to delete them.
Every society has stories about monsters that eat human flesh or drink human blood. The origin of these tales is lost in time, but Douglas and Olshaker’s study of modern serial killers concludes that ‘…stories and legends about witches, werewolves and vampires… may have been a way of explaining outrages so hideous that no one in the small and close-knit towns of Europe and early America could comprehend such perversities.’28 Following a series of plagues and famines in the mid-eighteenth century, stories about corpses that rose from their graves spread throughout Europe. Many of these ‘resurrections’ can be traced to the improper diagnoses of wasting diseases and premature burials, but the church condemned these ‘revenants’ as corpses that had been reanimated by magic or possessed by the devil. The French theologian Dom Augustine Calmet collected some of these tales in his treatise of 1746. His study became the basis for a variety of poems in which vampires were transformed from mouldering peasants wrapped in their burial shrouds to a literary device for exploring life, death, and eroticism in daring new ways. In 1819, John Polidori’s novella about a vampire nobleman inspired a flood of plays and stories about vampiric lords and ladies. Modern horror literature takes the existence of these creatures for granted, but many of their most important characteristics originated in Bram Stoker’s pen.
There were many debates about why the murderer could not be caught. Arthur Conan Doyle speculated that the culprit could be disguising himself as a midwife or may, in fact, be a woman.29 And The British Daily Whig (8 October 1888) remarked that ‘His identity is as much hidden as though he possessed the invisible cap of Perseus.’ Common sense tells us that the perpetrator was ‘invisible’ because he did not stand out in any way; he may have been a labourer, a tradesman or a policeman. However, Jack’s uncanny ability to disappear ‘as if through a trapdoor in the earth’30 may have inspired Stoker to endow his monsters with supernatural powers that function as disguises or means of escape. Unlike the vampires of folklore, Dracula can transform himself into a bat, a wolf or a cloud of mist. He can also summon the rain and the wind. Few of his progeny have inherited the ability to become small or insubstantial enough to pass through any opening, but this would have been a useful talent in the busy streets, alleys and courtyards of the East End where thousands of men and women slept in crowded, common lodging houses.
According to Stoker’s Notes, Dracula can’t be painted or photographed. Portraits always look like somebody else while photographs portray him as ‘black or like skeleton corpse.’ He doesn’t cast a reflection in mirrors and has no shadow. It has been said that mirrors reflect the soul and vampires have no soul, but such innovations may have been inspired by conflicting descriptions of Jack the Ripper. As the murders continued, various witnesses saw a man (or men) with each of the victims before they were murdered, but their testimonies varied to such an extent that, as one newspaper observed: ‘they cannot refer to the same person…’ [while] ‘the descriptions are so confusing that they afford no guide to any officer.’31
In contrast to any previous vampire novel, Dracula features both male and female vampires. The three women in Dracula’s castle are introduced in a dream-like episode reminiscent of ‘Carmilla’ or ‘Clarimonde.’ After entering a version of the proverbial forbidden room, Harker finds himself on the verge of sleep when he realizes with a start:
I was not alone…. In the moonlight opposite me were three young women, ladies by their dress and manner. I thought at the time that I must be dreaming when I saw them, for, though the moonlight was behind them, they threw no shadow on the floor. They came close to me and looked at me for some time, and then whispered together…. All three had brilliant white teeth, that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips. There was something about them that made me uneasy, some longing and at the same time some deadly fear. I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips [3:38].
He is about to succumb to their cat-and-mouse ‘seduction’ when Dracula storms into the room and drives them off.
The passage in which the former solicitor’s clerk learns that the vampires plan to feed on him once he has served his purpose has a curious history. Harker is about to lie down when he hears voices in the corridor outside of his bedroom. He creeps to the door, listens carefully, and overhears the Count admonishing the women, ‘Wait. Have patience. To-morrow night, to-morrow night, is yours!’ [4:51]. Two years later, the first American edition made a small but significant change in the text. The Doubleday & McClure edition says: ‘Wait! Have patience! To-night is mine. To-morrow night is yours.’ This modification is the only indication that male vampires feed on men as well on women. We do not know which version conveys the author’s original intention or, indeed, who is responsible for the discrepancy or why the texts differ, but there is no doubt that the earlier version parallels the murders in Whitechapel where (as far as we know) all of the victims were women. Following the scandal that surrounded Oscar Wilde’s release from jail in 1897, Constable may have edited the text to avoid any suggestion of a homosexual relationship but, two years later and thousands of miles from the murders in Whitechapel, Doubleday’s editors may have changed the text to create more psycho-sexual possibilities.
Not knowing how to combat vampires, Harker has no choice but to summon his courage and execute a death-defying escape from the castle. His adventure in Transylvania completes the first octave of the myth, but the theme of human vs vampire will be retold in different ways as each of the protagonists confronts a monster in human form who has invaded their lives.
Chapter five takes us to England, where we meet Mina and Lucy who are not yet aware of Jonathan’s ordeal in Transylvania. Mina is awaiting news from her fiancée, while Lucy is gushing about receiving three proposals of marriage in one day. Their lives will take different paths after they encounter Dracula but, at this point, they are the virgins and the treasures of Stoker’s macabre fairy tale. In the previous chapter, Harker compared his fiancée to the women in the castle, exclaiming, ‘Faugh! Mina is a woman, and there is nought in common. They are devils of the Pit!’ [4:54]. As Gail B Griffin points out, Dracula’s Brides ‘…represent the worst nightmare and dearest fantasy of the Victorian male: the pure girl turned sexually ravenous beast.’32 The gulf that separates these three women from the idealized women in the West End of London is intimated by Lucy’s unusual surname, ‘Westenra.’
Like his contemporaries, the author of A Thirst for Blood had no rational explanation for the bloodbaths in Whitechapel. However, after consulting the works of prominent psychologists he was able to inform readers that:
Dr Savage gives a ghastly instance of a child who commenced his career… by pulling off the wings of flies. After a time this amusement palled, and the pleasing child took to baking frogs. He next turned his young intelligence to capturing birds and boring out their eyes. And later on nothing would satisfy him but ill-treating other children.
Even people who have never read Dracula may see this child as the prototype of Stoker’s fly-eating madman, R N Renfield, who tries to obtain immortality by eating his way up the evolutionary tree. In the novel, Dr Seward observes that his patient’s ‘…pets are of odd sorts. Just now his hobby is catching flies’ [6:70]. ‘He disgusted me much while with him, for when a horrid blowfly, bloated with some carrion food, buzzed into the room, he caught it, held it exultantly for a few moments between his finger and thumb, and before I knew what he was going to do, put it in his mouth and ate it’ [6:70-71]. Eventually, he… ‘managed to get a sparrow’ [6:71]. Like the unnamed child who progressed from flies to birds to acts of violence against his playmates, Renfield eventually escapes from his cell and attacks his custodian with a dinner knife, cutting his wrist.
One of the earliest drafts of Dracula is a cast of characters in Stoker’s Notes. The first entry in his Dramatis Personae reads: ‘Doctor of Madhouse… Seward;’ the second character is his fiancée, Lucy; while the third is a ‘Mad Patient.’ This list suggests that the dyad of doctor and patient was established at an early stage. ‘Jack Seward,’33 may be a variant of ‘George Savage,’ in much the same way that the name ‘Jonathan Harker’ was derived from ‘Joseph Harker.’34 However, his zoophagous patient was not christened until the final draft. In the manuscript, The Un-Dead, ‘the name of Renfield… has been typed only in the later portions of the novel. Prior to those appearances he is referred to variously as ‘The Flyman,’ ‘Renfold,’ or simply as a blank space reserved for the later insertion of his name.’35
If Jonathan Harker’s journey to Transylvania was our initiation into the dreamtime of myths and fairy tales, Dracula’s voyage to England awakens our nightmares. Just as we do not know how Jack chose his victims, we are never told how Dracula selected his ‘Brides’ or why he sailed to Whitby where he began to prey on Lucy Westenra. The choice of a woman whose best friend is Jonathan Harker’s fiancée cannot be construed as coincidence. The author’s failure to provide an explanation may have been an oversight, but ongoing tie-ins with the murders in Whitechapel create the possibility that he was trying to construct a literary copy cat killing. In fact, after Dracula arrives in England, he emerges from the shadows briefly and unpredictably. Every appearance is laden with menace. Like Jack the Ripper, he becomes ‘…a pervasive presence, a force rather than a ‘character.’ He is more dangerous when incorporeal than when visible.’36
A Thirst for Blood continues with a summary of Dr Benedikt’s theories about the criminal mind:
Professor Benedikt of Vienna, it appears, has been for some time making an exhaustive comparison of the brains of criminals, and has devoted especial attention to the cerebral development of murderers. He has… demonstrated satisfactorily that the brain of a murderer frequently resembles that of a lower animal ‘in certain definite ways.’
As Lucy continues to waste away from a mysterious illness, Dr Seward sends for his old friend and teacher, Dr Van Helsing. He soon discovers that she is being preyed on by a vampire, and proclaims her illness to be a matter of ‘life and death, perhaps more’ [9:115]. Other characters are often changed, marginalized or omitted in adaptations of Dracula, but Professor Abraham Van Helsing, MD, D.Ph, D.Lit, etc, etc, is an indispensable part of the trilogy of vampire, victim and vampire hunter. Memorable actors who have played this role in movies include Universal Pictures’ Edward Van Sloan, Hammer’s Peter Cushing, Laurence Olivier and Anthony Hopkins. It has been assumed that three characters who are present in the Notes but absent from the novel – a philosopher, a scientist and a detective – were amalgamated as the ‘highly respected scientist and scholar’ who leads the vampire hunters into battle. However, Stoker’s comment that ‘van [sic] Helsing is founded on a real character’37 means that he has a real-life counterpart. Moriz Benedikt, who was born in Hungary, became a professor at the University of Vienna where he lectured on criminal anthropology and hypnotism. These are two of Van Helsing’s most important credentials. He describes himself as a man who has ‘made my specialty the brain and all that belongs to him and all that follow from him! [14:187]. His conclusion that Dracula has a child-like brain and is of the ‘criminal type’ allows the vampire hunters to predict his actions. In the final part of the novel, Van Helsing puts the ‘wonderful Madam Mina’, whom he credits with ‘… a man’s brain – a brain that a man should have were he much gifted – and a woman’s heart’ [18:240] into a series of hypnotic trances that allow the hunters to track their quarry as he flees to the safety of his native soil.
Like other newspapers, The East End Advertiser doubted that ordinary methods of police work would be effective because the murders were not motivated by greed, jealousy or revenge. A madman who had no reverence for human life was culling victims from thousands of unfortunate women whose way of earning a living put them in jeopardy. The reporter predicted there would be more murders and the terror would increase unless a new type of ‘detective work of a specially superior and intellectual kind’ identified and apprehended the murderer. In essence, he is appealing for the equivalent of a modern task force that has special training, methods and equipment. In a similar vein, Van Helsing and his band of knights arm themselves with an assortment of natural and supernatural weapons. In addition to knives and guns they carry crosses, holy water and sacred wafers. And, in contrast to their enemies, they act as a united force that uses the most modern technology, including trains, typewriters, phonographs and telegraphs.
There was a great deal of speculation about which murders had been committed by the same person. Following the deaths of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes on 30 September, A Thirst for Blood declared that ‘The details of the two last crimes make it morally certain that they were committed by the same being who took the lives of the other unfortunate women.’ In a similar fashion, the Transylvania and Whitby narratives begin to come together when Jonathan and Mina return from Budapest and see Dracula in London. He is following ‘a very beautiful girl, in a big cart-wheel hat’ [13:175] who, we left to assume, has been chosen as a potential victim. In chapter 18, all the vampire hunters come face to face for the first time. They affirm that Count Dracula and the vampire who attacked Lucy are one and the same, and draw up a battle plan. Hence, the men break into Dracula’s residence at Carfax (which, by another whooper of a coincidence, is located next to Dr Seward’s asylum) where they find most of the coffins he has secreted about London.
The murders of Stride and Eddowes are often called the ‘double event.’ The question of why Elizabeth Stride’s body was not disfigured is debated to this day, but most investigators agree with the author of A Thirst for Blood who concluded that ‘… although mutilation did not occur in the case of the woman who was first killed, there is good reason for supposing that this was only because the murderer was interrupted in his ghastly task.’ The death of Elizabeth Stride set the stage for a singular event that merits no more than a footnote in criminal investigations but plays a crucial role in the evolution of the literary vampire. While ‘Long Liz’ was being murdered on Berner Street, Mary Malcolm was lying awake in bed, when, as she told the coroner’s inquest: ‘About twenty minutes past one on Sunday morning I felt a pressure on my breast and heard three distinct kisses. It was that which made me afterwards suspect that the woman who had been murdered was my sister’. Although her identification of the victim as her sister, Elizabeth Watts, proved to be erroneous, Bram Stoker may have reworked her testimony in an imaginative and dramatic way. In the twenty-first chapter of his masterpiece, the interruption of a ritual which includes three ‘kisses’ initiates the turning point of the novel. Before he died, Renfield told the vampire hunters that Dracula had been taking the life out of Mrs Harker. Fearing the worst, they rush to the sanatorium and break down the door of Mina’s bedroom where they find her in the Count’s loathsome embrace. Dr Seward describes the horror of 3 October:
Kneeling on the near edge of the bed facing outwards was the white-clad figure of his [Harker’s] wife. By her side stood a tall, thin man, clad in black. His face was turned from us, but the instant we saw it we all recognised the Count... With his left hand he held both Mrs Harker’s hands, keeping them away with her arms at full tension. His right hand gripped her by the back of the neck, forcing her face down on his bosom. Her white night-dress was smeared with blood, and a thin stream trickled down the man’s bare chest which was shown by his torn-open dress. The attitude of the two had a terrible resemblance to a child forcing a kitten’s nose into a saucer of milk to compel it to drink [21:289].
The men advance with their crucifixes and fend him off. Once Mina awakens and becomes aware of what has happened, she shudders and declares herself ‘unclean.’ When she describes her defilement from her point of view, we find that Dracula intends to avenge Lucy’s death by turning her, ‘their best beloved one,’ into a vampiress. This was the third time he had quenched his unholy thirst with Mina’s blood and, had he completed the ritual, she would have become his un-dead slave. Dracula is far from clear about how mortals become vampires, but the motif of ‘turning’ a human being by exchanging blood with them on three successive nights is one of Bram Stoker’s most important contributions to vampire literature. The similarities between Mina’s ordeal and two distinctive events that are associated with Elizabeth Stride’s death leave little doubt that this episode was inspired by them. The fact that Mina’s ‘baptism of blood’ took place three days after the Ripper was assumed to have been interrupted in his butcher’s work not only reinforces this assumption but indicates that parts of Dracula follow the timeline of the murders.
Following Mina’s ordeal, Van Helsing places a Sacred Wafer on her forehead. His blessing is cut short by a scream as it sears into her flesh, leaving a scar. Mina’s lament: ‘Unclean! Unclean! Even the Almighty shuns my polluted flesh! I must bear this mark of shame upon my forehead until the Judgment Day’ (22:305) recalls the leper of Leviticus 13:45, and reveals the depth of her despair. Her cry foreshadows the dark night of her soul and sets the tone of the rest of the novel. Most books on Jack the Ripper are dedicated to discovering his identity but, having identified the murderer, the final part of Dracula revolves round hunting him down and destroying him in an effort to halt Mina’s transformation into a creature of the night.
When the vampire hunters confront the Count at his house in Piccadilly, Harker slashes at him with his knife. Dracula is forced to flee again but, once he is safe, he turns to the men and taunts them: ‘My revenge is just begun! I spread it over centuries, and time is on my side. Your girls that you all love are mine already’ [23:315]. This threat against women combined with the boast that he cannot be stopped bears an uncanny resemblance to the infamous ‘Dear Boss’ letter. Its intentions are similar and it is delivered in a broken but compelling grammar and rhythm. Just as the murders in Whitechapel exposed the rift between socially sanctioned morality and private vices, Dracula’s threats suggest that the maidens the heroes have sworn to protect could become whores. The fact that this exchange takes place on 3 October, a scant six days after Jack’s first letter, is another example of how the novel follows the timing of the murders.
Confident that Dracula fears them, the men return to the house where Mina reminds them to do their duty with compassion for their enemy. Her admonishment, ‘That poor soul who has wrought all this misery is the saddest case of all… You must be pitiful to him, too, though it may not hold your hands from his destruction’ [23:317], transforms the novel from a supernatural thriller to a holy quest and elevates it to status few works of fiction have achieved. Mina makes the men promise to kill her if she endangers them in any way or becomes a vampiress, and has them read the burial service over her. Having died, symbolically, for the sake of others, she has proven herself ready to be reborn into a new state of consciousness that transcends the dualities of life and death.
Once the vampire hunters determine that Dracula is fleeing London, they decide to follow him to his native land and destroy him. After they reach the continent, Jonathan and Lucy’s former suitors try to intercept Dracula’s coffin while Van Helsing and Mina take a train to Veresti where they purchase a carriage and drive to the Borgo Pass by a route that duplicates Jonathan’s journey. Mina’s transformation continues and, when they near the castle, Dracula’s brides call out to her and ask her to join them. The next day, Van Helsing makes his way to the castle where he stakes each of the terrible women and sanctifies Dracula’s tomb.
The novel concludes in a flurry of action as the men close in on Dracula and his retainers who are racing towards the castle. As the sun sets, Dracula emerges from his coffin with a hellish look of triumph on his face. The belief that a stake was driven through the heart has been perpetuated in dozens of adaptations and parodies. However, Mina tells us that: On the instant, came the sweep and flash of Jonathan’s great knife. I shrieked as I saw it shear through [Dracula’s] throat. Whilst at the same moment Mr Morris’s bowie knife plunged into the heart.’ It was like a miracle, but before our very eyes, and almost in the drawing of a breath, the whole body crumbled into dust and passed from our sight’ [27:388].
Hence, Lucy and the brides were slain in the prescribed manner, but the Count was dispatched with two knives. Critics have routinely attributed this discrepancy to carelessness or seen it as proof that Bram Stoker intended to write a sequel to his only successful work. However, the ongoing connections with Jack the Ripper make this method of execution an appropriate and ironic form of punishment.
Upon Dracula’s death, Mina notes that his face had ‘…a look of peace, such as I never could have imagined might have rested there’ [27:388]. Before Quincey Morris dies from the wounds he received in the battle with Dracula’s gypsies, he rejoices to see that the scar on Mina’s forehead has disappeared. Her curse has been lifted.
Seven years later, the Harkers return to Transylvania. Jonathan tells us that life has retuned to normal. Arthur and Jack are both married, while he and Mina have a son named Quincey.
The novel opens less than a month after the death of Emma Smith38 and concludes three days before the date on which the Ripper claimed his last-known victim. When we combine these timeframe similarities to the atrocities in Whitechapel, there can be no doubt that Stoker used the Ripper’s crimes as a template for Dracula. This assumption provides plausible explanations for a wide range of discrepancies that have puzzled scholars for decades. We don’t know what material Bram Stoker read or when he read it. Nor can we tell if he worked from clippings he had cut from newspapers or from notes on various articles. Jonathan Harker’s remark that ‘Having some time at my disposal when in London, I had visited the British Museum, and made search among the books and maps in the library… ‘[1:1] may be a hint that the author obtained much of his information about Jack the Ripper from newspapers in the reading room. In addition, he may have discussed ideas with people who were interested in the murders or connected with them in various ways. His social circles included the most fascinating (and fantastic) suspects contemporary writers have identified as Jack the Ripper – notably, Prince Albert Christian Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale; the artist, Walter Richard Sickert, who toured with Henry Irving’s Lyceum Theatre Company; and Lord Randolph Churchill. Francis J Tumblety, whom Chief Inspector John G Littlefield identified as a suspect, was a friend of Hall Caine (aka ‘Hommy-Beg’), the author to whom Dracula is dedicated. Bram Stoker also corresponded with one of the detectives who investigated the murders. Paul Murray assumes that ‘Stoker was probably especially pleased at the plaudits he won from Sir Melville Macnaghten of Scotland Yard, who told him that he had revelled in Dracula: he was particularly interested in the werewolf aspect and was revolted by Mina being forced to drink Dracula’s blood.’39
It is possible that Bram Stoker began to compose a vampire novel and, at some point, hit upon the idea of using the murders in Whitechapel as a guideline, but he may have started to write a novel about the murders which became a vampire novel. If bats laid eggs… A Thirst for Blood does not enjoy the same provenance as the sources that he listed in his Notes, but the presence of three characters who seem to have worked their way into Dracula and an abundance of resonances suggest that this article was a primary source of inspiration.
Dracula is not Jack the Ripper. Although the novel may be based on the murders, it brings closure to them by identifying the perpetrator, bringing him to justice (putting an end to the killings) and offering him salvation. Critics who maintain that Dracula cannot be considered a ‘classic’ because it has little or no literary merit often admit they are baffled by its continuous, world-wide popularity. However, the reasons for Dracula’s success transcend the criteria of conventional literary criticism. Martin Tropp’s study of Frankenstein’s Monster, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and Count Dracula concludes that these stories have attained the status of modern myths because they help us make sense of a new, urban form of terror, the ‘Random, purposeless violence [which] is the ultimate horror of the city in the twentieth century, a horror made possible by urban anonymity and the loss of community.’40
Dracula transforms the atrocities of Jack the Ripper into a myth by giving them a structure, a conclusion and a meaning. Like a dream dreamt by a dream, Dracula is a myth about a myth that retells the age-old story of good versus evil in a new way. Van Helsing’s vow that: ‘The world will not be given over to monsters’ and Mina’s realization that ‘The world seems full of good men, even if there are monsters in it,’41 echo the teachings of our greatest myths.
Benedikt, Moriz. Anatomical Studies upon the Brains of Criminals: A Contribution to Anthropology, Medicine, Jurisprudence, and Psychology. New York: William Wood, 1881; Bloch, Robert. ‘Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper’ in Weird Tales 36:12 (July 1943). p83-95; The Book Sail 16th Anniversary Catalogue. Orange, CA: McLaughlin Press, 1984; Margaret L Carter, ed. Dracula: The Vampire and the Critics. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1988; Dalby, Richard, ed. Dracula and the Lair of the White Worm. London: W Foulsham, 1986; Davison, Carol Margaret: Blood Brothers: Dracula and Jack the Ripper in Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Sucking Through the Century 1897-1997 [sic], Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1997. p147-172; Douglas, John and Mark Olshaker. ‘Jack the Ripper’ in The Cases that Haunt Us. New York: Pocket Star, 2001. p3-92; Evans, Stewart P and Keith Skinner. Jack the Ripper: Letters from Hell. Phoenix Mill: Thrupp, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 2001 (a); The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Companion: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2001 (b); Farson, Daniel. The Man Who Wrote Dracula: A Biography of Bram Stoker. London: Michael Joseph, 1975; Griffin, Gail B. Your Girls that You All Love are Mine: Dracula and the Victorian Male Sexual Imagination in Carter, p137-148; Harker, Joseph. Studio and Stage, London: Nisbet, 1924; McNally, Raymond T and Radu Florescu. ed. The Essential Dracula. New York: Mayflower, 1979; In Search of Dracula: A True History of Dracula and Vampire Legends. Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1972; Miller, Elizabeth. Dracula: Sense & Nonsense. Westcliffe-on-Sea: Desert Island Books, 2000; Murray, Paul. From the Shadow of Dracula: A Life of Bram Stoker. London: Cape, 2004; Nandris, Grigore: The Historical Dracula: The Theme of His Legend in the Western and Eastern Literatures of Europe in Comparative Literature Studies 3:4 (1966). p367-396; Newman, Kim. Anno Dracula. London: Simon and Schuster, 1992; Randisi, Robert J. Curtains of Blood. New York: Leisure, 2002; Savage, George H. ‘Homicidal Mania’ in Fortnightly Review (October 1888). p448-463; Skal, David J. Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen. New York: Faber and Faber, 2004. 2nd revised edition; Starshine, Silvia, ed. Dracula: or, the Un-Dead: A Play in Prologue and Five Acts. Nottingham: Pumpkin Books, 1997; Stoddard, Jane [aka Lorna]: Mr Bram Stoker: A Chat with the Author of Dracula in British Weekly (July 1, 1897) p185; Stoker, Bram. ‘Author’s Preface’ in Dalby. p11-12; Bram Stoker’s Original Foundation Notes & Data for His Dracula, nd; Dracula. Westminster: Archibald Constable and Company, 1897; Dracula and The Lair of the White Worm; see: Dalby, ed.; Dracula: or, the Un-Dead; see: Starshine, ed.; The Essential Dracula, see: McNally and Florescu, ed.; Formáli höfundarins in Makt Mykranna. Reykjavik, Iceland: Nokkrir Prentarar, 1901. p3-4. Translated from the Icelandic by Silvia Sigurdson, Copyright 2004 by Transylvania Press, Inc.; Mr Bram Stoker: A Chat with the Author of Dracula; see: Stoddard; The Un-Dead; see: The Book Sail 16th Anniversary Catalogue; Stott, Rebecca. The Fabrication of the Late-Victorian Femme Fatale: The Kiss of Death. London: Macmillan, 1996; Sugden, Philip. The Complete History of Jack the Ripper. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1995. 2nd edition. Revised; A Thirst for Blood in The East End Advertiser 1314 (Saturday, October 6, 1888). p1. Columns 5-6; Tropp, Martin. Images of Fear: How Horror Stories Helped Shape Modern Culture (1818-1918). Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1990.
1 Paul Begg’s Jack the Ripper: The Facts, Stewart P Evans and Keith Skinner’s The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Companion and Philip Sugden’s The Complete History of Jack the Ripper are factual, reliable guides to the murders.
2 The final letter inspired Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell to create the graphic novel From Hell, which forms the basis of the movie starring Johnny Depp and Heather Graham.
3 For more information about the letters see: Evans and Skinner, 2001 (a), Olsen and Olshaker, p45-56 and Sugden, p259-277.
4 John Pizer (aka ‘Leather Apron’) was one of the suspects who were arrested and released without being charged after a number of women were threatened by a man in a leather apron.
5 Watkin’s comment is similar to Dracula’s mocking description of the vampire hunters: ‘…you with your pale faces all in a row, like sheep in a butcher’s’ [23:215].
6 The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde was published in 1886, two years before the murders began. For more information about the connections between Jekyll, Hyde and the Ripper, see: Tropp, p110-32.
7 Curtains of Blood is a fictional account of how Dracula was inspired by the Ripper murders. Randisi casts Henry Irving the star of the play and makes Bram Jack’s uneasy confidant.
8 The first public presentation of Dracula – Dracula: or, the Un-Dead – was performed at the Lyceum theatre on May 18th, 1897, shortly before the novel was published. Starshine presents us with a transcription of the play and details about its production.
9 These ‘Notes’ are now in the custody of the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia. For an overview, see Miller, p17-56.
10 Robert Bloch’s classic story, ‘Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper,’ depicts Jack as a sorcerer who, like most of the literary vampires that preceded Dracula, prolongs his life through periodic sacrifices.
11 Nandris. p378.
12 Farson. p152. Farson ignores the symbolism of fangs, the use of knives and the anxiety that besets each of the human protagonists when they learn that vampires exist.
13 Davison. p150-151.
14 Cited in Skal, p65.
15 Stoker, 1987. Most quotes from Dracula are identified by their chapter and page number(s).
16 In effect, Lucy becomes the first serial victim.
17 Stott. p86.
18 The first translation of the ‘Author’s Preface’ was published in Richard Dalby, ed. Dracula and the Lair of the White Worm. p11-12.
19 ie, eight lines of text which begin with: ‘How these papers have been placed in sequence will be made manifest in the reading of them.’
20 Stoker, 1901. p4. Translated by Silvia Sigurdson. Copyright 2004 by Transylvania Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
21 This quote was first cited in McNally and Florescu’s pioneering In Search of Dracula, which drew attention to the fact that Stoker took his Count’s name from a family of medieval warlords. p177-178. It has also been reprinted in an assortment of works about Dracula or Jack the Ripper.
22 Skal. p34.
23 ie, one of the many Jewish immigrants who had settled in the East End of London.
24 McNally and Florescu, 1979. p156. n. 239.
25 [London] Times (September 11, 1888).
26 In fact, it precedes Dr Thomas Bond’s profile of Mary Jane Kelly’s assailant by more than a month. See: Evans and Skinner, 2001 (b), p399-402.
27 Kim Newman’s vampire pastiche, Anno-Dracula, not only resurrects these servants, it plays with the building blocks of fiction and reality by casting Jack Seward as Jack the Ripper.
28 Douglas and Olshaker, p29-30.
29 A year later, he outlined how Holmes might have solved the mystery in the Portsmouth Evening News (July 4, 1894).
30 Cited in Sugden, p3.
31 Daily Telegraph (October 2, 1888).
32 Griffin, p143.
33 In chapter four, Lucy refers to him as: ‘Dr John Seward, the lunatic asylum man…’ The fact that Jack is a nickname may be the most subtle joke in the novel.
34 Joseph Harker, who was a stage designer at the Lyceum, notes that ‘My friend Bram Stoker… appropriated my surname for one of his characters in Dracula.’ p135.
35 The Book Sail 16th Anniversary Catalogue. np. [Part I: The Catacombs].
36 Griffin. p137.
37 Stoddard, p185. Freud’s teacher, Charcot, Cesare Lombroso, Max Nordau and Arminius Vambery have been championed by various auth-orities, but all of these candidates are cited in Dracula.
38 Originally, the first three chapters consisted of an exchange of letters between Dracula and his law firm and a story that was published post-humously as ‘Dracula’s Guest.’ This material may have put the opening closer to the date of the first murder.
39 Murray, p205.
40 Tropp, p130.
41 Mina’s comment recalls Miranda’s lines in The Tempest (Act 5: Scene 1): ‘O, wonder! / How many goodly creatures are there here! / How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world / That has such people in’t!’
Copyright (c) 2005 by Robert Eighteen-Bisang.