Victorian readers were very familiar with hypnotism. Scottish surgeon James Braid introduced the concept of neuro-hypnotism (neural sleep) in 1841, and by the 1890s it was being used to treat the widespread disorder of hysteria. While Stoker was writing Dracula, Sigmund Freud was developing the practice of regression hypnotherapy.
At the same time, hypnosis was already in demand on the stage. Indeed James Braid took his inspiration from a "mesmerism" show.
A capstan is a rotating device on the deck of a ship used to wind a rope or cable around a vertical axis, like a winch. Capstans were needed to raise large sails and anchors. Sailors used bars inserted through the top of the capstan to turn the drum. A ratchet maintained the tension.
Presumably by "check" Mina means the pawl that drops into the ratchet wheel.
London has been a significant maritime trading port since Roman times. With the growth of the British Empire, it became the busiest port in the world during the 18th and 19th centuries. For nearly two millenia, most loading and unloading took place in the Pool of London, the stretch of the River Thames from London Bridge to Rotherhithe. But by the end of the 18th century, demand for quayside space had outstripped capacity, and throughout the 19th century private companies constructed new enclosed docks in what became known as Docklands.
Although Docklands was very heavily bombed in World War II, and has now been redeveloped for office and residential use, London remains one of the largest ports in Britain, with new docks further downriver. Its capacity will increase considerably with the completion of the massive deep-water port at London Gateway.
‘Tally Ho’ is the traditional cry of the fox-hunter. Fox-hunting was a sport enjoyed by the upper classes in Britain until a ban on the activity in 2005 (though it is still practised in many other countries).
A group of hunters riding horses would follow a pack of hounds trained to track and chase foxes. A red coat is traditional fox-hunting attire.
The image of the supernatural hand writing a message on the wall comes from the Book of Daniel in the Bible, in which divine writing appears during a feast foretelling the fall of the Babylonian empire.
‘That which is not known is enchanting’ (Latin). From Tacitus’ Agricola, chapter 30, an account of the Roman general who conquered much of Britain in the 1st century AD.
Lloyd's of London is the world's leading specialist insurance market, with a long heritage in shipping. It began as Lloyd's Coffee House in 1688, where shipping news was shared between merchants and owners, and insurance deals started to be struck. In 1774, a committee was formed and the new Society of Lloyd's was moved to the Royal Exchange. This was its home at the time of Dracula. Lloyd's moved to its own building on Leadenhall Street in 1928, and is now housed in the otherworldly Lloyd's Building on the same site.
There are indeed some fine caves in Transylvania. Romania as a whole boasts over 12,000 caves, many of them in the Carpathians.
For the adventurous who want to explore them, here are a couple of options:
“Knights of the Cross” may refer to a specific order of knights whose emblem was a cross, such as the Teutonic Knights, who helped Christians on their pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and who set up hospitals there, or the Knights Templar, a Christian military order which fought in the Crusades. However, it seems more likely that Van Helsing is referring to all knights who fought in the various Christian Crusades in the Holy Land in and near Jerusalem.
The Crusades were a series of medieval religious wars sanctioned and blessed by the Pope, with the aim of reasserting Christian control of the holy sites at Jerusalem. In other words, Van Helsing believes that they are on a mission from God to rid the world of Dracula’s evil.
‘Ptomaines’ are nitrogenous substances formed by the process of bacterial metabolism or putrefaction of protein. In the 19th century these were thought to be the cause of food poisoning. Later studies have shown that these substances are produced in the human intestine in the process of digesting proteins, without harmful effects.
Winchesters are repeating rifles, made in the 19th century by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company of the United States. The 1873 model was known as ‘the Gun that Won the West’. A lever action mechanism allowed several shots to be fired before having to reload.
The fictional vampire and demon hunters in the TV series Supernatural – Sam and Dean Winchester – are named after these guns.
In Jewish, Christian and Islamic belief, the Recording Angel is one or more angels who record the prayers and actions of humans and report these back to God. Gabriel is one of the main Recording Angels in Judeo-Christian belief.
In Islam, the Kiraman Katibin are two angels called Raqib and Atid who record a person’s actions and thoughts. One sits on the right shoulder and records all good deeds, the other on the left shoulder recording the bad.
A Guardian Angel may also be a Recording Angel.