In Chapter 13 of Dracula, after Lucy Westenra has died and they are making funeral plans, Prof. Van Helsing mentions to Jack Seward that he plans to secretly cut off Lucy's head and remove her heart. Although he doesn't provide much explanation, this is obviously because he suspects she has been turned into a vampire and wants to prevent her from rising from the dead.

However, the next morning, he wakes Jack up and says he has changed his mind:

"You need not trouble about the knives; we shall not do it." "Why not?" I asked. For his solemnity of the night before had greatly impressed me. "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."

I don't understand why Van Helsing has changed his mind, or how the stolen crucifix relates to his plan. From the events that transpire shortly afterwards, it seems his suspicion about Lucy was justified, and some trouble could have been saved by following through with the plan.

(please note that I am still reading the book and would prefer to avoid spoilers, if the reasoning is explained at a later point)

  • it seems to me that he simply couldnt do it before what he was trying to prevent did indeed happen
    – user20367
    Mar 1 at 0:17
  • @user20367 maybe. Although, what Van Helsing was trying to prevent was Lucy rising as a vampire, which doesn't seem to have happened by that point in the narrative?
    – Time4Tea
    Mar 1 at 10:59

1 Answer 1


The question you ask is excellent, and remains unresolved in the novel. The gloss to this scene in The Annotated Dracula says:

There is something of a mystery here. Van Helsing placed the large gold crucifix over Lucy's mouth and arranged garlic flowers around her even though she was the victim of a vampire. One would suppose that the spiritual damage to Lucy was already done, yet in Stoker's mythmaking, we are to understand that there was still more evil for Dracula to accomplish and that the theft of the crucifix enabled him to achieve it.

Stoker, Bram. Dracula. 1897. The Annotated Dracula. Introduction, Notes, and Bibliography by Leonard Wolf. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1975. p. 152, n. 3. Retrieved from archive.org 29 February 2024.

So how the crucifix matters is not explained in the novel, and is rather a loose end. Sorry for the unsatisfactory answer, but at least you needn't worry about spoilers.

  • Thanks for your answer. I'm currently reading 'The New Annotated Dracula' (Leslie S. Klinger), but he doesn't seem to make any helpful comments about that scene. One thought I had is that perhaps Van Helsing might have thought the funeral would be closed-casket but then realized he was mistaken. Perhaps I will add that as a suggestion in my question (or even attempt my own answer).
    – Time4Tea
    Mar 1 at 3:17
  • Having read a bit more of the book now (up to around Chapter 16), the mythology that Stoker is establishing seems to imply that 'someone that is killed by a vampire will become a vampire themself'. Therefore, since at the point in the book that I referenced in my question, Lucy has already been killed by Dracula, it would seem to be a given that she would rise again as a vampire. So, it certainly seems unclear what 'further evil' Dracula could do to Lucy by stealing the crucifix ...
    – Time4Tea
    Mar 5 at 16:57

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