What are Dracula’s weaknesses? | Daylight, crosses and more

As one of horror's greatest monsters is reimagined for a new generation, it's time to recap how to defend yourself from a vampire attack

Dracula - episode 2

Dracula is about to be reborn on BBC One in a new series from Sherlock creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat.

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The latest actor to take on the iconic role is Danish talent Claes Bang, whose performance will include some of the character’s traditional tenets as well as some new twists.

He’s frighteningly powerful but far from invulnerable, as Moffat explains to RadioTimes.com: “He’s got so many disabilities, you just wonder how he gets through the day. It’s like the most galactic range of phobias.”

In preparation for the big premiere on New Year’s Day, let’s take a look at some of the Count’s weaknesses to see how one could hope to survive a vampiric encounter…

Stake to the heart

One of the most famous ways to fix your Dracula problem once and for all is through a stake to the heart, although notably this isn’t how he was killed in Bram Stoker’s original novel.

Throughout the book, a stake to the heart is referenced as an effective means of killing the Count, but ultimately he meets his demise as a knife plunges into his throat while another pierces through his heart. Morbid but true!

Dracula (Claes Bang) and Sister Agatha (Dolly Wells)
Dracula (Claes Bang) and Sister Agatha (Dolly Wells)

The book’s ending is tweaked in 1931’s film adaptation starring Bela Lugosi, which sees Van Helsing drive a stake through Dracula’s heart. The scene became instantly synonymous with the character, causing some to believe it also unfolds that way in the original story.

Of course, a stake through the heart isn’t a weakness exclusive to vampires – most of us would struggle to bounce back from such an attack, as writer Steven Moffat points out!

“He dies if he’s impaled on a giant cross, like anyone,” he says.

A stake through the heart is usually followed up with total decapitation, just to be safe.

Daylight

Daylight is an iconic weakness of vampires, referenced in countless films, television shows and novels, yet it too never occurred in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

In fact, the Count is seen gallivanting around in several places throughout the original book, including Whitby, Piccadilly and a zoological garden, without a care in the world.

Moffat said: “It’s a surprise when you read the book, because Dracula’s out in the daylight all the time, it’s not a problem for him.”

Dracula - episode 1
Episode 1 of the BBC’s Dracula

So where did this come from? Well, Stoker does make mention to daylight limiting some of Dracula’s supernatural abilities, with the idea later being adapted into a fatal reaction to sunlight in the 1922 silent film Nosferatu.

This crippling weakness reappeared in 1958’s Dracula adaptation, one of the most well-known of all time due in large part to Christopher Lee’s acclaimed performance.

Garlic

While an intense disgust to one of the world’s most delicious ingredients may seem odd at first, there is actually a historical explanation as to why vampires can’t stand garlic.

Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Romania and traditionally his celebration day was seen as a time of the year when evil spirits would roam the mortal world.

Hanging garlic from the windows and doors of your home was seen as an effective way of keeping spirits out, due to hundreds of years of folklore hailing its protective and remedial qualities.

Given Count Dracula’s title as a Transylvanian nobleman, it makes sense that Stoker folded this local legend into his vampire mythos.

Other theories have been made about the effectiveness of garlic against vampires, from an aversion to its strong smell to its tendency to repel a fellow bloodsucker, the always irritating mosquito.

However, the theory regarding Saint Andrew is likely to be the most relevant, given how vampires are deemed to be unholy in nature. On that note…

Crucifix or cross

A cross or crucifix is one of several religious symbols that have ben used as defence against vampiric attack, the others being holy water and Communion bread.

These items are all linked to Christianity rather than other major faiths, likely due to Stoker himself being Protestant and Eastern Europe being largely Christian at the time.

Sister Agatha in Dracula (BBC)
Sister Agatha in Dracula (BBC)

In Bram Stoker’s original novel, crucifixes are used to repel Count Dracula as he attacks, while in later stories crosses have burned vampires when in contact with their skin, a prominent weapon used in 1985’s Fright Night.

Count Dracula is believed to have gained his abilities through a deal with the Devil, so it adds up that he would be volatile to all things holy.

Death-like sleep

Although Dracula and his vampire brethren don’t feel the passage of time as humans do, they need to sleep regularly just like everybody else.

They are prone to some rest and relaxation within the confines of a comfy coffin, but by entering this so called “death sleep” they make themselves vulnerable to attack.

Unnervingly, vampires are often depicted as sleeping with their eyes wide open, as was the case with Count Dracula in Stoker’s original story.

In spite of this, they are often unresponsive to events happening around them while in their sleeping state, making it the perfect time to sharpen your stakes…

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Dracula airs at 9pm on BBC One on New Year’s Day