A young English lawyer, Jonathan Harker, travels to Transylvania. He is going there to meet with a nobleman named Count Dracula, in order to conclude a real estate transaction. As he travels through the country to make his way to Count Dracula’s estate, he enjoys the picturesque Eastern European landscape. The local peasants try to warn him off going to see Count Dracula. They give him charms against evil, such as crucifixes, and use puzzling words that we later find translate to “vampire.”
Harker is frightened but he is still determined to meet with the count. The plan is to meet the count’s carriage, and he does so. The experience of getting to the castle is a harrowing one. Vicious wolves almost attack the carriage along the way. When they get to the dilapidated old castle, Harker discovers that Dracula is a well-educated and elderly gentleman. He seems very hospitable. However, only a few days pass before Harder realizes that he has effectively become the nobleman’s prisoner.
Harker’s sense of unease grows stronger as he investigates the nature of his apparent imprisonment. He recognizes that the count has not only supernatural powers but diabolical intentions. He is almost attacked one evening but three seductively beautiful female vampires. The count defends him from them, telling these vampires that Harker belongs to him. Harker is fearful for his life, and he tries to escape the castle by climbing down its walls.
Harker’s fiancée, who is back in England, is called Mina Murray. She corresponds with a friend called Lucy Westenra. We find that three men have proposed to Lucy. They are Arthur Holmwood, Dr. John Seward, and Quincey Morris, an American. Lucy accepts the proposal of Arthur Holmwood, feeling sad that she has to reject the two other suitors.
Mina goes to Whitby, a seaside town, to visit Lucy. There is a Russian ship that is wrecked on the shore in close proximity to the town. The captain is dead, and all the crew is missing. Only a large dog seems to be alive on the ship. It disappears into the countryside onshore. The ship’s only cargo is comprised of fifty boxes full of earth. They have been shipped from Count Dracula. Quite soon after this, Lucy starts to sleepwalk. On one occasion, Mina discovers Lucy in the town cemetery. She thinks she sees a dark form with red glowing eyes. It is bending over Lucy. Lucy becomes pale and is ill. There is a pair of tiny red marks on her throat. These cannot be explained by Mina or Dr. Seward. Dr. Seward sends for Professor Van Helsing, his old mentor, to help him reach a diagnosis.
Harker is now in the city of Buda-Pest. He has a brain fever. Mina travels there to join him. Van Helsing gets to Whitby and examines Lucy. He soon says that her chambers must be covered with garlic, which is a traditional charm used in warding off vampires. This seems to help alleviate Lucy’s illness for a while. Her mother, however, does not understand why the garlic is there and removes the strong-smelling plants. This means that Lucy is vulnerable to another attack.
Van Helsing and Seward devote several days in their attempt to revive Lucy. They carry out four blood transfusions, but all their efforts are ineffective. The men let their guard down just momentarily one night, and a wolf gets into the Westenra house. Lucy’s mother has a heart attack and dies as a result of the shock. The wolf attacks and kills Lucy.
Van Helsing brings Holmwood, Quincey Morris, and Seward to Lucy’s tomb. Van Helsing tells the other men that Lucy is a member of the “Un-Dead.” This means that she has become a vampire, like Dracula. The men aren’t convinced of this until they witness Lucy preying on a child. They decide that she will have to be destroyed. The men agree that the ritual of vampire slaying will have to be followed, to make sure that Lucy’s soul will finally have eternal rest. Holmwood plunges a stake through the heart of the undead Lucy while she sleeps. After this, they cut off her head and stuff garlic in her mouth. After doing this, they pledge to ensure the destruction of Dracula.
Mina and Jonathan are now married. When they return to England, they join with the others on their mission. Mina assists Van Helsing in collecting the many diary and journals entries written by Seward, Harker, and others in order to put together a narrative that will bring them to Count Dracula. They find out everything they can about the count’s affairs and find the boxes of earth that serve as a sanctuary for the count at night. It seems like their efforts are going well. However, a man called Renfield, who is one of Dr. Seward’s mental patients, allows Dracula to come into the asylum where the group is staying. This allows him to prey upon Mina.
Mina slowly starts to transform into a vampire. As this happens, the men force Dracula to seek the safety of his native country by sterilizing the boxes of earth. The men leave in pursuit of him. They split into smaller groups and follow Dracula over land and sea. Van Helsing and Mina cleanse the count’s castle, Castle Dracula. They do this by destroying the three female vampires and using sacred objects to seal the entrances. The others track down the count as he closes in on his castle. Quincey and Jonathan destroy him with their knives.