Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897)
Signet-Penguin, 1992

In Dracula, you might expect to find a traditional tale of fright, narrated by the guy sitting next to the campfire, who’s holding the end of the flashlight (er, torch) so that his face is illuminated in the spookiest way possible.

But, no. Bram Stoker’s tale is kaleidoscopic. It’s comprised of Dr. Seward’s notes on Renfield’s insanity, Lucy’s and Mina’s diaries, Jonathan Harker’s diary and letters, excerpts from papers like “The Pall Mall Gazette” and “The Escaped Wolf”, and telegrams. Multiple perspectives. (Although there didn’t seem to be much stylistic variation between characters, but perhaps I was too caught up in the story to notice those details.)

And that’s not all that surprised me about this story.

Did you know:

* Dracula is hairy?

“His face was a strong, a very strong, aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils, with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples but profusely elsewhere. His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion.”

Yup, somewhere it even said that he had hair growing out of his palms. How did I not know that?

* There is such a thing as a wholesome-looking puncture?

Nope, the following description is not of that sort, but the other sort, the unwholesome-looking sort, apparently.

“Just over the external jugular vein there were two punctures, not large, but not wholesome-looking. There was no sign of disease, but the edges were white and worn-looking, as if by some trituration.”

I’m really unsure how a puncture near the external jugular could be wholesome-looking, but I’m not experienced in these matters.

* The mere mention of white in a passage with a lot of red makes the red even redder, just like the horror victim’s white dress in the movies?

Blood. Red. White. Crimson. You’ll see…

“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 what really surprised me about this story?

It really did creep me out.

Not in an imagine-if-a-contemporary-writer-had-written-that-how-scary-it-would-have-been” way.

But in a plain-old-eerie-chilling-me way.

I’m not entirely sure that the parts that got to me were the parts that were supposed to be unsettling. But the old-fashioned atmospheric bits? Surely they’d have a wide appeal…

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“All was dark and silent, the black shadows thrown by the moonlight seeming full of a silent mystery of their own. Not a thing seemed to be stirring, but all to be grim and fixed as death or fate; so that a thin streak of white mist, that crept with almost imperceptible slowness across the grass towards the house, seemed to have a sentience and a vitality of its own.”

I don’t know if Dracula was originally published in October, but it would have been a great marketing tactic (and it really did feel like a book that was written to sell, not like a classic in the traditional sense).

It was definitely the perfect time of year to read this. (Oh, and not only does it count towards the RIP V Challenge, but the 1% Well Read Challenge too!)

Other thoughts?