Corporeal transference is the transference of one’s mind into the body of another, so that one can gain control of that body.
Materialisation is the unusual or paranormal appearance of an object or person; this phenomenon is often reported to happen during a séance.
An astral body is something between the corporeal body and the soul, a sort of dream-like body composed of subtle material that can move independently of the physical body (astral projection).
These are all paranormal concepts that science typically rejects. Ideas such as these were very popular in the Victorian period.
Methuselah is a biblical figure, grandfather of Noah and son of Enoch, and the oldest person whose age is recorded in the Hebrew Bible:
And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died.(Genesis, 5:27)
Thomas Parr was a man reportedly born near Shrewsbury in 1483 who died in 1635. He is buried in the south transept of Westminster Abbey.
Van Helsing seems to be half-remembering a story from many decades before:
The sexton of the church of St Eustace, at Paris, amazed to find frequently a particular lamp extinct early, and yet the oil consumed only, sat up several nights to discover the cause. At length he detected that a spider of surprising size came down the cord to drink the oil. A still more extraordinary instance of the same kind occurred during the year 1751, in the Cathedral of Milan. A vast spider was observed there, which fed on the oil of the lamps... This spider, of four pounds weight, was sent to the Emperor of Austria, and placed in the Imperial Museum.
Van Helsing is referring to a remarkable but largely forgotten phenomenon: live frogs and toads supposedly found alive inside stones and coal. More than 210 cases have been reported, but no satisfactory scientific explanation has been proposed.
During the nineteenth century, regular stories about entombed amphibians appeared in the British press and scientific journals, so Bram Stoker's readers would have been well aware of the phenomenon. Benjamin Franklin and Charles Dickens both wrote about the subject. In the 1820s, geologist William Buckland ran a series of experiments to test the idea that toads could survive indefinitely in rock. He sealed a number of toads in holes in blocks of sandstone and limestone. After a year, the toads in the sandstone were all dead, but some of those in the more porous limestone were still alive. After a second year, all were dead.
A fakir is a Muslim or Hindu ascetic. Denying themselves material comforts, some fakirs are said to possess remarkable powers including levitation and inedia, the ability to live without food.
Van Helsing may be thinking of a famous fakir, Sadhu Haridas, who in 1837 was buried underground for 40 days without food or water. He survived the experience.
This is a reference to a line from Canto I of Byron’s poem Don Juan (1819-24):
I can't tell how, or why, or what suspicion
Could enter into Don Alfonso's head;
But for a cavalier of his condition
It surely was exceedingly ill-bred,
Without a word of previous admonition,
To hold a levee round his lady's bed,
And summon lackeys, arm'd with fire and sword,
To prove himself the thing he most abhorr'd.
Jack Straw's Castle, on the edge of Hampstead Heath, was said to be the highest pub in London. It was probably named after one of the leaders of the Peasants' Revolt (1381), who addressed rebels on Hampstead Heath from a hay wagon known as "Jack Straw's Castle".
Bram Stoker was a regular at the pub, as was Charles Dickens in his day. The building they knew (pictured) suffered extensive WW2 bomb damage and the pub was rebuilt in a very different style. It has now been shut down and converted into residential flats.
The "churchyard at Kingstead" does not exist, but there is an extremely famous cemetery nearby that Stoker probably had in mind. Highgate Cemetery lies just across Hampstead Heath from Jack Straw's Castle, and is world famous as the resting place of Karl Marx, George Eliot, Michael Faraday and Douglas Adams, among many other famous deceased.
A spring lock has a spring-loaded bolt which shoots automatically into place on closing a door. Accidental entombment would be a risk with such a lock, given that tombs generally do not require keyholes on the internal side of the door.
We can't find any description of a "falling lock", but presumably – like a deadbolt – it cannot be locked without a key. Further information would be very welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The "sperm" is spermaceti, a hard white oily substance taken from the head of a sperm whale. During the 18th and 19th centuries, oils from a range of whales were used to fuel lamps and make candle wax. About three tons of oil could be obtained from the head of a single sperm whale. Spermaceti was extracted from the oil via an industrial process.
The use of whale oil in lighting began to decline in the second half of the 19th century as kerosene from coal, and then petroleum products, became available.
Curiously, spermaceti candles inspired an architectural style of cast-iron columns in New York: "sperm-candle style".
The Spaniards Inn is one of the oldest pubs in London. Built in 1585, it also features in Dickens' The Pickwick Papers, and is thought to have been a favourite haunt of numerous highwaymen, including Dick Turpin.
Spaniards Road cuts through the northwest part of Hampstead Heath.
In this extract from The Land Beyond the Forest, Victorian writer Emily Gerard records local superstition concerning the vampire, noting that there are two different types, then describing how a vampire can be destroyed:
"There are two sorts of vampires - living and dead. The living vampire is, in general, the illegitimate offspring of two illegitimate persons, but even a flawless pedigree will not ensure anyone against the intrusion of a vampire into his family vault, since every person killed by a nosferatu becomes likewise a vampire after death, and will continue to suck the blood of other innocent people till the spirit has been exorcised, either by opening the grave of the person suspected and driving a stake through the corpse, or firing a pistol shot into the coffin. In very obstinate cases it is further recommended to cut off the head and replace it in the coffin with the mouth filled with garlic, or to extract the heart and burn it, strewing the ashes over the grave.
That such remedies are often resorted to, even in our enlightened days, is a well-attested fact, and there are probably few Roumenian villages where such has not taken place within the memory of the inhabitants."
The most common method of killing a vampire in Eastern European folklore is a stake through the heart. A stake is a piece of wood or metal sharpened at one end, which is driven into the ground as a marker or peg. For killing vampires, wood is usually preferred. Different woods were considered more appropriate in different cultures, with ash, hawthorn and oak some of the favourites. In Russia and northern Germany, the stake might be driven through the mouth instead, and in some parts of Serbia the stomach was targeted. Piercing a bloated corpse was another method of preventing it from becoming a vampire. In some cultures, particularly Romania, the head might also be removed and stuffed with garlic.
Though the stake-through-the-heart method is generally adhered to in adaptations of Dracula, it is often ignored in other vampire fiction, with beheading or burning being more popular options. Many such stories will make a point of dismissing this, along with other elements of vampire folklore such as aversion to garlic and holy objects, lack of reflection, vulnerability to sunlight, etc. A notable exception is Buffy (the vampire slayer) who regularly stakes vampires and even carries around her own personal, trusty stake named ‘Mr. Pointy’, which has been passed on to her by another slayer.
Variants of this phrase can be found far beyond Scotland. It derives from a con trick, whereby an unsuspecting customer bought what they thought was a pig in a sealed bag ("poke"). On opening it, they would discover they had actually purchased a less valuable cat or dog.
The French equivalent is acheter un chat en poche (to buy a cat in a bag).
This same con trick is also the origin of another well-known expression: to let the cat out of the bag.
‘The Host’ is the consecrated communion bread (actually more like a wafer) used in the Christian ritual of the Eucharist. Some Christians believe that during the rite the bread is changed into the flesh of Christ (and the wine becomes his blood); others believe they simply represent his body and blood. Either way, the communion bread and wine are sacred substances. Here, Van Helsing uses communion wafer mixed with dough to seal up the tomb, creating a holy barrier that the vampire Lucy will not be able to cross.
An indulgence is defined as "the remission before God of the temporal punishment due for sins already forgiven as far as their guilt is concerned." Indulgences may be partial or plenary. A partial indulgence removes part of the punishment; a plenary indulgence removes all of it. The punishment may be in this life, or in the next life, in purgatory.
Indulgences were sold by the Church until 1567. They continued to be granted without financial transaction until they fell out of favour in the 1960s. However it appears they have recently been reinstated.
The Tuscan, or "graveyard", cypress has long been associated with mourning, and is found in cemeteries across Europe. In classical mythology, the cypress is associated with Hades, god of the Underworld.
The yew's leaves are highly poisonous, which may have led to associations with death. Yew trees live a long time, with some trees dated at over a thousand years old. They are frequently found in English and French churchyards. In the British Isles, sacred associations may have predated the arrival of Christianity, and some churches are thought to have been built beside already venerated yews.
Junipers belong to the cypress family. Juniper trees are not commonly associated with churches or funerals, however some older specimens can look painfully contorted and half-dead, which may be what Stoker has in mind.