Abraham Van Helsing

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Abraham Van Helsing
Dracula character
Van Helsing 1931.png
Created by Bram Stoker
Aliases Van Helsing
Dr. Van Helsing[1]
Professor Van Helsing[2]
Gender Male
Occupation Professor
Title Doctor of Medicine
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Letters
Spouse(s) Wife (estranged)
Children Son (deceased)
Religion Roman Catholic
Nationality Dutch

Professor Abraham Van Helsing is a character from the 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula. Van Helsing is an aged Dutch doctor with a wide range of interests and accomplishments, partly attested by the string of letters that follows his name: "M.D., D.Ph., D.Litt., etc, etc,"[4] indicating a wealth of experience, education and expertise. The character is best known throughout his many adaptations as a vampire hunter, monster hunter, and the archenemy of Count Dracula.


Main article: Dracula

In the novel, Van Helsing is called in by his former student, Dr. John Seward, to assist with the mysterious illness of Lucy Westenra. Van Helsing's friendship with Seward is based in part upon an unknown prior event in which Van Helsing suffered a grievous wound, and Seward saved his life by sucking out the gangrene. It is Van Helsing who first realizes that Lucy is the victim of a vampire, and he guides Dr. Seward and his friends in their efforts to save Lucy.

According to Leonard Wolf's annotations to the novel, Van Helsing had a son who died. Van Helsing says that his son, had he lived, would have had a similar appearance to another character, Arthur Holmwood. Consequently, Van Helsing developed a particular fondness for Holmwood. Van Helsing's wife went insane after their son's death, but as a Catholic, he refuses to divorce her ("with my poor wife dead to me, but alive by Church's law, though no wits, all gone, even I, who am faithful husband to this now-no-wife").[5]

Van Helsing is one of the few characters in the novel who is fully physically described in one place. In chapter 14, Mina describes him as:

a man of medium height, strongly built, with his shoulders set back over a broad, deep chest and a neck well balanced on the trunk as the head is on the neck. The poise of the head strikes me at once as indicative of thought and power. The head is noble, well-sized, broad, and large behind the ears. The face, clean-shaven, shows a hard, square chin, a large resolute, mobile mouth, a good-sized nose, rather straight, but with quick, sensitive nostrils, that seem to broaden as the big bushy brows come down and the mouth tightens. The forehead is broad and fine, rising at first almost straight and then sloping back above two bumps or ridges wide apart, such a forehead that the reddish hair cannot possibly tumble over it, but falls naturally back and to the sides. Big, dark blue eyes are set widely apart, and are quick and tender or stern with the man's moods.

— Mina Harker's Journal, Chapter 14, Dracula[6]

Van Helsing's personality is described by John Seward, his former student, thus:

He is a seemingly arbitrary man, this is because he knows what he is talking about better than any one else. He is a philosopher and a metaphysician, and one of the most advanced scientists of his day, and he has, I believe, an absolutely open mind. This, with an iron nerve, a temper of the ice-brook, and indomitable resolution, self-command, and toleration exalted from virtues to blessings, and the kindliest and truest heart that beats, these form his equipment for the noble work that he is doing for mankind, work both in theory and practice, for his views are as wide as his all-embracing sympathy.

— Letter From Dr Seward to Arthur Holmwood, Ch 9, Dracula[7]

In the novel Van Helsing is described with what is apparently a thick foreign accent, in that his English is broken, and he uses German phrases like, "Mein Gott" (My God).

Adaptations of the novel have tended to play up Van Helsing's role as the vampire professional-expert, sometimes to the extent that it is depicted as his major occupation. The novel, however, gives no support for such interpretations. Dr. Seward requests Van Helsing's assistance simply because Lucy's affliction has him baffled and Van Helsing "knows as much about obscure diseases as any one in the world". Indeed, Van Helsing takes too much time (weeks and months) to recognise Lucy's illness, and seems to have no practical knowledge about vampires. Until her funeral, he tells no one his theory of Lucy's death.


Count Dracula, having acquired ownership of England’s Carfax estate through solicitor Jonathan Harker, moved to the estate and began menacing England. His victims included Lucy Westenra, who is on holiday in Whitby. The aristocratic girl has suitors such as John Seward, Arthur Holmwood, and Quincey Morris, and has a best friend in Mina Murray, Jonathan Harker’s fiancée. Seward, who worked as a doctor in an insane asylum — where one of the patients, the incurably mad Renfield, has a psychic connection to Dracula — contacts Van Helsing about Lucy Westenra’s peculiar condition. Van Helsing, recognizing marks upon her neck, eventually deduces that she has been losing blood from a vampire bite. He administers blood transfusion multiple times to try to save her. Van Helsing, Seward and even Arthur all donate their blood to her but each night he realizes that she continues to loose blood. He prescribes her garlic and makes a necklace of garlic flowers for her then proceeds to hang garlic about the room. He also gave her a crucifix to wear around her neck as well. Lucy's demise were brought by her own mother who cleared the room of garlic and opened the window to give her fresh air; a home servant had stolen the gold crucifix from Lucy as well.[8] Lucy dies and after the funeral returns as a vampire seeking out children. Eventually, Van Helsing and a heartbroken Arthur free the undead Lucy from her vampiric curse with Quincy Morris and Dr. Seward as witnesses to the ordeal. After Arthur uses a hammer to drive the stake through the heart, Van Helsing operates on Lucy by detaching her head then places garlic in her mouth.

Mina Harker becomes increasingly worried about her husband's brain fever asking Dr. Seward for assistance to which Van helsing is referred. Unable to make sense of Johnathon Harker's journal, Mina gives it to Helsing to review. When Harker learns that his experiences in Transylvania were real, his health returns and both he and Mina assist join their friends at Seward's residence. Mina then discovers that each of the character's journals, diaries, letters and collection of news papers further provide intelligence on Dracula's movements. She types out copies and provides them to each of the other party members including Van Helsing. From the copies of text Mina prepared, they learn that that Dracula's residence in Carfax was right nearby Sewards; It is under Helsing's research of ancient folklore, superstitions and historical references to which the party learns of Dracula's weaknesses and strengths. Seward and Helsing also write to an acquaintance from their university to aid in further research into Dracula's past. Staying at Seward's residence to better plan strategies in their efforts to deal with Dracula, they have frequent meetings and each member is assigned duties.[9] It is later that a bat was seen at the window outside of one of these meetings as well.

As Van Helsing and the party investigate the location of Dracula in efforts to destroy and stop him from spreading any further evil, they have their first enounter as a group with Dracula at the residence in Carfax. They eventually discover that Dracula has been purchasing multiple properties throughout and around the perimeter of London; planning to transport each of his 50 boxes of Transylvanian earth to them; learning the boxes are used as graves and each property would be used as his lairs. As they discover each of his lairs and track down the location of the boxes of earth, they place sacramental bread within them to "sterilize" them. This repels Dracula from being able to use or transport them further.[10] Dracula learns that the group are plotting against him and entices Renfield to invite him in to Dr. Seward's residence. After hearing a loud noise coming from Renfield's room, Dr Seward and Helsing enter to find him critically injured on the floor with a broken back and severe damages to his head and limbs. Helsing operates on his head to keep him alive long enough for Renfield to tell them his testimony. Learning from this that Dracula went to see Mina, the group goes into Mina's room to see Harker in a hypnotic state, and Dracula giving Mina the 'Vampire's Baptism of Blood', cursing her and the group for plotting against him. When Van Helsing and the party hold out their sacred items to repel Dracula away, causing him to become a vapor and flee into a different room. Dracula then destroys all their copies of text which Mina had produced except one that was hidden and then breaks Renfield' neck before leaving the residence.

Helsing places a wafer of sacramental bread upon the forehead of Lucy to bless her but it burns her flesh as it touches her, leaving a scar. Mina, feeling that she is now connected with Dracula, asks Van Helsing to hypnotize her before Dawn as that would be the only time she feels could freely speak. Van Helsing learns that through conducting hypnotism on Mina that she has a telepathic link with Dracula;[11] could tell everything he hears and feels and use this gift to track his movements in the future. Mina also insists that none of the group tell her any plans they have in the future for fear that Dracula could easily read her thoughts and counter their plans. As the group continue to search for each of the boxes and residences of Dracula throughout London they have encounters with Dracula and continue to sterilize his graves. They manage to Find each of his residences and locate all of his boxes except for one; learning that the final grave is located on a boat, Van Helsing determines that Dracula is fleeing back to his Castle.[12]

When the party pursue Dracula back to Transylvania, they split up into separate groups of two. While Mina and Van Helsing team up to travel straight to Dracula's castle, the others attempt to track down and ambush the boat which Dracula is a passenger of. Van Helsing continues to hypnotize Mina but his ability to have influence over her diminishes each day. He notices Mina's behavior beginning to change as she starts sleeping more during the day, losing her appetite for food, and ceasing to write in her journal. One night he crumbles sacramental bread in a circle around her and asks her to come sit by him. As she was unable to, he learned that this could be a way to protect their camp from any vampires in the area. Later, he sees the Brides of Dracula approach his camp but they too are unable to cross into the circle of bread. Failing at their attempts to lure Helsing and Mina out of the circle, they flee just before sunrise back to Dracula's Castle. Helsing binds Mina at a small cave to keep her from danger as he goes into Dracula's Castle to kill any vampires he finds.

As Helsing runs throughout the castle searching its various rooms, he finds Dracula's empty tomb as well as the three female vampires he saw earlier. He begins to do his operation on the first vampire but finds himself entranced by her beauty and unable to bring himself to harm her. In his feelings of enchantment he even contemplates love for her. He is however broken out of this enchantment when he hears a 'soul wail' from Mina, awakening him.[13] he Proceeds to strike steaks into their hearts and sever their heads, one by one.

Upon the arrival of Van Helsing back to Mina's location from the Castle, they see the rest of their group as they chase a group of gypsies down Borgo Pass and corner them. Armed with knives and firearms they overtake the gypsies, open the final casket box of Dracula; Jonathan Harker brings his Kukri down on Dracula's throat as the bowie knife of Quincey Morris simultaneously impales Dracula's heart in the final moments of daylight. At this very moment, Dracula's body then crumbles to dust. After the struggle, Quincy is seen fatally wounded from the struggle.

6 years later, Van Helsing takes a grandfatherly role in regard to the young Quincey Harker, Jonathan and Mina's son.


Helsing is seen utilizing many tools to aid him and his party in fending off Dracula, warding off vampires and in general defeating the undead.

  • Skeleton Keys used for lock picking to open the doors to many of Dracula's lairs located throughout London
  • Wreath of withered Garlic Blossoms
  • Silver Crucifix
  • Sacred Wafer brought from Amsterdam contained in an envelope or crushed and sprinkled around him in a circle as a protective barrier
  • Electric Lamps which could be attached or secured against the chest
  • Revolver and knife for use against enemies weaker than Dracula[14]
  • The branch of a wild rose could be placed on top of a coffin containing a vampire; immobilizing it[15]
  • Mountain Ash used to repel the undead
  • Wooden stake and hammer to pierce a vampire's heart[16]
  • Golden crucifix necklace, given to Lucy

Film adaptations[edit]

Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror was the first film version of Dracula. Although it followed the same basic plot as the novel, names were changed: Van Helsing is Professor Bulwer and appears only in a few scenes. Unlike the book, he is a friend of Thomas Hutter (the film's version of Jonathan Harker) before he meets Count Orlok (a renamed Count Dracula) and never meets the vampire face to face.

Peter Cushing's character in the Hammer movies does not have the first name "Abraham" as his case reads J. van Helsing, as seen in The Brides of Dracula. In the series of Hammer Dracula films set in the 1970s, Dracula battles Lorrimar van Helsing, a grandson of the original vampire hunter, who appears as Lawrence van Helsing in the prologue to Dracula AD 1972. In The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires Cushing plays the original Van Helsing from the Hammer series.

Anthony Hopkins portrays van Helsing in Bram Stoker's Dracula in 1992. Already implied to be an experienced vampire hunter. He often comes across as insane, casually discussing how to kill the un-dead despite the brutal methods involved, as well as his ruthless methods when dispatching Dracula's brides, but he nevertheless leads the group to victory over Dracula's forces.

Christopher Plummer portrayed Professor Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula 2000 (he had previously appeared as a vampire hunter, Professor Paris Catalano, in Vampire in Venice). After defeating Count Dracula (Gerard Butler), van Helsing finds that the vampire lord cannot die in the conventional means of destroying a vampire and he only succeeded in paralysing him in a deathlike state. Knowing that Dracula would inevitably rise again, Van Helsing imprisoned the vampire beneath his Carfax Abbey estate, using leeches to dilute Dracula's blood and transfuse it into himself as a means of preserving his own life until he can find a means of destroying Dracula. This has the unintentional side-effect of creating a link between Dracula and van Helsing's daughter. When Dracula escapes after his coffin is stolen, van Helsing's daughter and his assistant are able to use this connection to deduce Dracula's true identity and defeat him after the elder van Helsing's death.

Hugh Jackman played Gabriel Van Helsing, the eponymous hero of Van Helsing (2004), loosely based on Bram Stoker's character. Having been found on the steps of a church seven years ago with total amnesia, Gabriel hunts monsters for a secret organization made up of the world's religions (known as the Knights of the Holy Order) to rid the world of evil "that the rest of mankind has no idea exists", although he is the most wanted man in Europe for his conspicuous actions. In the movie he is sent to Transylvania to kill Count Dracula. When he arrives, Dracula tells Gabriel that they have already met and have quite a history together, with Dracula revealing over the course of the film that Van Helsing was the one who originally murdered him, as well as claiming ownership of a distinctive ring that Van Helsing has worn as long as he can remember. It is implied that Gabriel is actually the angel Gabriel, with vague references to Dracula's murderer as the "Left Hand of God".

Notable actors to have portrayed Van Helsing in film adaptations of Dracula include:

Appearances in other media[edit]


  • In the 2009 Dacre Stoker novel Dracula the Un-dead, van Helsing is now a 75-year-old man with heart problems, having apparently been disgraced in the medical profession for deaths caused by improper blood transfusions (Although he defends his reputation by arguing that nobody knew about blood types until much later); he was also briefly a suspect in the Jack the Ripper murders due to his knowledge of anatomy and reputation for mutilating corpses for unspecified reasons. He later becomes a vampire himself after a battle with Dracula.
  • In Kim Newman's series Anno Dracula, van Helsing has failed to kill Dracula. As a result, the vampire lord has conquered the United Kingdom after marrying Queen Victoria and becoming her Prince Consort. Van Helsing, meanwhile, was killed at the hands of Dracula, and his head is displayed at Buckingham Palace.
  • P. N. Elrod's novel Quincey Morris, Vampire takes up the story almost immediately after the conclusion of Bram Stoker's Dracula, but in this story (which shows vampires in a more sympathetic light) van Helsing is unyielding and unwavering in his beliefs and hatred of vampires to the point where he eventually alienates his former friends and allies.
  • The comic novel Dracula's Diary by Michael Geare and Michael Corby (ISBN 978-0825301438) completely re-tells the Stoker novel, with the young Count Dracula (who has been learning to act like a true British gentleman) becoming a secret agent for Her Majesty's government and van Helsing an enemy agent for a foreign power who is continually thwarted by Dracula.
  • In The Dracula Tape (1975) by Fred Saberhagen, a psychotic, fanatical, bumbling van Helsing opposes the urbane, if ruthless, Dracula.
  • In Fangland by John Marks, the re-imagined van Helsing is split into two separate characters, namely Clementine Spence and Austen Trotta.
  • He also appears in the Department 19 series by Will Hill.


Dracula and Rachel van Helsing: The Tomb of Dracula #40 (Jan. 1976). Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer.

Abraham van Helsing was also portrayed in the The Tomb of Dracula Marvel Comics series, which was based on the characters of Bram Stoker's novel.

In the Marvel Comics miniseries X-Men: Apocalypse vs. Dracula, van Helsing joins forces with the immortal mutant Apocalypse and his worshipers, Clan Akkaba, in order to destroy Dracula, their common enemy. It is noted that van Helsing had encountered Apocalypse before and previously believed him a vampire.

In Italian comic book Martin Mystère, van Helsing's name is Richard. He became a vampire after being bitten by one, and after destroying Dracula he came to London to solve the case of Jack the Ripper.

In the comic series Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes vs Dracula the detective Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson are engaged by a maritime insurance company to investigate the deaths of the crew of the schooner the Demeter and cross paths with the characters who are searching for Dracula.

Media involving descendants of van Helsing[edit]

There have been numerous works of fiction depicting descendants of van Helsing carrying on the family tradition.



  • The 1990 series Dracula: The Series had Bernard Behrens as Gustav Helsing. He was looking after his two nephews, Christopher Townsend and Max Townsend. They fought Dracula, who in the contemporary world, had taken on the name of Alexander Lucard. In this version Gustav Helsing's son, Klaus Helsing (Geraint Wyn Davies), had been turned into a vampire by Alexander Lucard (Dracula).
  • The 2006 CBBC series, Young Dracula, featured Mr. Eric van Helsing — presumably the descendant of his more famous predecessor, though with none of his competence — trying to exterminate Count Dracula and his children, who had been chased out of Transylvania by an angry mob and were now living in rural Wales. Eric lives in a travel trailer with his son Jonathan. There are also references made to previous van Helsing vampire slayers.
  • The 2009 ITV series Demons follows Abraham's great grandson Luke Rutherford (Christian Cooke).
  • In the 2014 Showtime series Penny Dreadful, Van Helsing is a hematologist consulted by Victor Frankenstein. He eventually admits he has known about vampires for some time and offers to give Frankenstein some much-needed instruction in the area.
  • Syfy is developing a Van Helsing 13-episodic television series with Neil LaBute as creator.[17]

Books and stories[edit]


  • The comic book series The Tomb of Dracula featured Rachel van Helsing, granddaughter of Abraham, as a major member of the principal hunters. Minor characters were Abraham's wife Elizabeth and his brother Boris.
  • In the manga and anime, Hellsing, modern day descendant Integra Hellsing leads a British government strike force against supernatural menaces. The story also includes her father, Arthur and uncle Richard. It later turns out that the protagonist Alucard is in fact Dracula, and became a servant to the Helsing family after being defeated by Integra's grandfather, Abraham van Helsing.
  • The DC comic Night Force features Abraham's granddaughter Vanessa van Helsing.
  • Sword of Dracula is a comic book with Veronica "Ronnie" van Helsing.
  • Helsing is a Caliber Comics title about a Samantha Helsing and a John van Helsing.
  • The Vampirella comic books feature father-son vampire hunters Conrad and Adam van Helsing.



  1. ^ Stoker, Bram. Dracula (PDF). Johnathon Harker's Journal. p. 497. At nine o’clock Dr. Van Helsing, Dr. Seward and I call on Messrs 
  2. ^ Stoker, Bram. Dracula (PDF). Ch 26, Mina Harker's Journal. p. 508. HerJonathan interrupted him hotly, ‘Do you mean to say, Professor Van Helsing, that you would bring Mina, in her sad case and tainted as she is with that devil’s illness, right into the jaws of his deathtrap? 
  3. ^ Stoker, Bram. Dracula (PDF). Ch 13, Dr Seward's Driary. pp. 233–234. You forget that I am a lawyer as well as a doctor 
  4. ^ Stoker, Bram. Dracula (PDF). Ch 9, LETTER, ABRAHAM VAN HELSING, MD, DPh, D. Lit, ETC, ETC, TO DR. SEWARD 2 September. p. 162. 
  5. ^ Stoker, Bram. Dracula (PDF). Ch 13, Dr. Seward's Diary. p. 251. 
  6. ^ Stoker, Bram. Dracula (PDF). Ch 14, Mina Harker's Journal, 25 September. p. 259. 
  7. ^ Stoker, Bram. Dracula (PDF). Ch 9, Letter from Dr. Seward to Arthur Holmwood, 2 September. pp. 161–162. 
  8. ^ Stoker, Bram. Dracula (PDF). Ch 13, Dr Seward's Diary. p. 238. ‘Because,’ he said sternly, ‘it is too late, or too early. See!’ Here he held up the little golden crucifix. ‘This was stolen in the night.’ ‘How stolen, ‘I asked in wonder, ‘since you have it now?’ ‘Because get it back from the worthless wretch who stole it, from the woman who robbed the dead and the living. 
  9. ^ Stoker, Bram. Dracula (PDF). Ch. 18. 
  10. ^ Stoker, Bram. Dracula (PDF). Chapter 18, Dr. Seward's Diary. p. 346. 
  11. ^ Stoker, Bram. Dracula (PDF). Ch 23, Johnathon Harker's Journal, 3–4 October. p. 447. ‘I have an idea. I suppose it must have come in the night, and matured without my knowing it. He must hypnotize me before the dawn, and then I shall be able to speak." 
  12. ^ Stoker, Bram. Dracula (PDF). Ch 24, Mina Harker's Journal, 4–5 October, 5 P.M. p. 454. Dr. Van Helsing described what steps were taken during the day to discover on what boat and whither bound Count Dracula made his escape. ‘As I knew that he wanted to get back to Transylvania, I felt sure that he must go by the Danube mouth, or by somewhere in the Black Sea, since by that way he come. whither bound Count Dracula made his escape. ‘As I knew that he wanted to get back to Transylvania, I felt sure that he must go by the Danube mouth, or by somewhere in the Black Sea, since by that way he come. 
  13. ^ Stoker, Bram. Dracula (PDF). Ch 27, Van Helsing's Memorndum , 5 November. p. 530. She was so fair to look on, so radiantly beautiful, so exquisitely voluptuous, that the very instinct of man in me, which calls some of my sex to love and to protect one of hers, made my head whirl with new emotion. But God be thanked, that soul wail of my dear Madam Mina had not died out of my ears. And, before the spell could be wrought further upon me, 
  14. ^ Stoker, Bram. Dracula (PDF). Ch 19, Johnathon Harker's Journal. p. 356. 
  15. ^ Stoker, Bram. Dracula (PDF). Ch 24, Johnathon Harker's Journal,. p. 470. ‘We shall at the first board that ship. Then, when we have identified the box, we shall place a branch of the wild rose on it. This we shall fasten, for when it is there none can emerge, so that at least says the superstition. 
  16. ^ Stoker, Bram. Dracula (PDF). Ch 16, Dr. Seward's Diary. p. 308. ‘Take this stake in your left hand, ready to place to the point over the heart, and the hammer in your right. Then when we begin our prayer for the dead, I shall read him, I have here the book, and the others shall follow, strike in God’s name, that so all may be well with the dead that we love and that the UnDead pass away.’ 
  17. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (November 2, 2015). "‘Van Helsing’ Series Picked Up By Syfy". deadline.com. Retrieved November 3, 2015. 

External links[edit]