takes the form of a series of documents, most of them extracted from diaries and journals, the remainder being letters and a handful of press cuttings. The early chapters, from Jonathan Harker’s journal, record his journey to the Carpathian mountain region of Transylvania and his meeting with Count Dracula, who wishes to purchase the Carfax estate at Purfleet near London. Once the papers are signed, Jonathan finds that he is a prisoner. He discovers that the count has supernatural powers and nearly falls victim to three female vampires, but he manages to escape.
The next few chapters introduce Jonathan’s fiancée, Mina Murray, who is becoming anxious for his safety, and her friend Lucy Westenra, who has received three proposals of marriage: from Dr. John Seward, from his American friend Quincey P. Morris, and from Arthur Holmwood. Seward is the proprietor of a lunatic asylum situated at the edge of the Carfax estate; the earliest entries from his diary inserted into the text concern the eccentric carnivorous activities of a patient named Renfield, who is awaiting the advent of his "Master."
Mina collects some press cuttings dealing with the arrival of a sinister deserted ship in Whitby, where she and Lucy are staying. Shortly thereafter, Lucy begins to act strangely. She falls ill and must be returned to Dr. Seward’s care. Mina is buoyed up, however, by news from Budapest that Jonathan is alive, although stricken with a "violent brain fever," and she sets off to bring him home.
Seward, baffled by Lucy’s curious symptoms, asks Professor Abraham van Helsing for help.
Van Helsing realizes that Lucy is the victim of a vampire, but he is unable to save her. Mina and Jonathan arrive back in England to find that she appears to be dead. Lucy has actually become a vampire, however, and soon begins a predatory career of her own. Her three suitors must go to her tomb with van Helsing to drive a stake through her heart.
Jonathan’s testimony allows van Helsing to identify the enemy and make plans to thwart him, but they fail to locate all the boxes of earth that Dracula has brought with him to England to serve as his resting places. Dracula diverts his predatory attentions to Mina, while van Helsing uses every device that he can to protect her. Renfield is persuaded to help Seward’s friends, and the search for the remaining boxes continues.
When the Count has only one secure resting place remaining, he takes flight and returns to Transylvania. He is pursued to his lair by van Helsing, Holmwood (now Lord Godalming), and Harker, who have the half-captivated Mina with them. Seward and Quincey Morris follow in their train, delayed by Gypsies who are the Count’s loyal followers. In the end, their superior weapons prevail. Dracula is destroyed by the mortally wounded Quincey Morris, and Mina is saved.