First of all, the ending of the novel is ambiguous enough to suggest that Count Dracula may actually not have been destroyed. All through the book, the method of destruction is made clear: stake through heart plus decapitation. But when the moment comes, there is no wooden stake. Drac is despatched with two knives and it is not clear whether full decapitation took place. Then there's the fact that he could have shapeshifted into that pile of dust and made his getaway. And there's the "look of peace" on his face at the end - a smug sense of ultimate victory?
The uncertainty grows if one looks at the pre-publication stages of "Dracula."
Below you'll find an excerpt from my book Dracula: Sense & Nonsense (Desert Island Books, 2006) in which I address these issues. [If you find the tone of this passage provocative - believe me, that was my intention. The entire book is hard-hitting, as I attempt to ferret out all the nonsense written about Stoker and his novel. And there's plenty of it!]
(from Dracula: Sense & Nonsense - footnotes removed)
“Bram Stoker attempted to continue his horror story, which had captivated the reading public, by producing an unsuccessful sequel to Dracula.” (Grigore Nandris, “The Historical Dracula” 393)
Poppycock! Stoker did no such thing. To make matters worse, Nandris identifies the “sequel” as Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories (396, n64). Double poppycock!
Whether Stoker had planned to write a sequel is another matter. Author Roger Sherman Hoar is reported to have said that “Stoker told me he planned to bring Dracula over to America in another story” (Haining, Shades 135). This is, of course, hearsay. Eighteen-Bisang and Melton contend that the ending of the novel is less explicit than that of the dramatic reading, an indication that Stoker may have intended to leave open the possibility of a sequel (20). The dispatching of Count Dracula is rendered in the dramatic reading as follows: “Horsemen fight with Gypsies and Morris and Harker throw box from cart and prise it open. Count seen. Fades away as knives cut off his head. Sunset falls on group” (Starshine 192). In the novel, however, Dracula is dispatched by knives through the heart and the throat. For some, the switch from wooden stake to knives is an indication that Stoker was ambivalent about the ending.
We know that one section of the intended conclusion was excised. The published novel contains this sentence: “The Castle of Dracula now stood out against the red sky” (27:510). According to the typescript [publisher's copy], that line was originally to have been followed by this passage, which was deleted before publication:
As we looked there came a terrible convulsion of the earth so that we seemed to rock to and fro and fell to our knees. At the same moment with a roar which seemed to shake the very heavens the whole castle and the rock and even the hill on which it stood seemed to rise into the air and scatter in fragments while a mighty cloud of black and yellow smoke volume on volume in rolling grandeur was shot upwards with inconceivable rapidity.
Then there was a stillness in nature as the echoes of that thunderous report seemed to come as with the hollow boom of a thunder-clap -- the long reverberating roll which seems as though the floors of heaven shook. Then down in a mighty ruin falling whence they rose came the fragments that had been tossed skywards in the cataclysm.
From where we stood it seemed as though the one fierce volcano burst had satisfied the need of nature and that the castle and the structure of the hill had sunk again into the void. We were so appalled with the suddenness and the grandeur that we forgot to think of ourselves.
We may never know why this change was made, or even who made it -- Stoker or his editor. But this raises the possibility that Stoker had a sequel in mind. Belford suggests, “A series, perhaps, not unlike the Sherlock Holmes stories, with Van Helsing as psychic detective?” (268). But given that Stoker wrote no sequels to any of his other works (nor even reintroduces characters from one text to another), this is unlikely.