The hidden identity of Van Helsing

Dr. Albert van Renterghem (1846-1939)
Dr. Albert van Renterghem (1846-1939)

The true identity of Profesor van Helsing is one of the best-kept secrets of Stoker's Dracula novel. in an 1897 interview with Jane Stoddart for the British Weekly, he claimed that the character of the Amsterdam professor was based on a real person. The same comment can be found in the preface to the Icelandic and Swedish versions of Dracula. Since then, many candidates have been proposed by fans and experts.


Already in 2012, just after my Ultimate Dracula had been released, I made an attempt to solve this mystery. A promising hint led me to two Amsterdam psychiatrists , Dr. Albert van Renterghem and Dr. Frederik van Eeden. In his biography, the Dutch-American filmmaker Tonny van Renterghem claimed that his grandfather Albert had been the true model for Stoker's "brain doctor"; his grandmother would have told him so.


I unearthed the 1000+ page autobiography of Albert van Renterghem in the Amsterdam City Archive and worked through hundreds of newspaper articles and letters from the Victorian Age. The two Dutch psychiatrists ran a clinic for hypnotic treatment in Amsterdam, that was well-known to professionals in the field of psychology and hypnosis. British magazines such as The Nineteenth Century, for which Stoker authored several articles, wrote about this Amsterdam clinic.


I found out that there were many persons that could have connected Bram Stoker to the Dutch hypnotists. Frederic Myers, the secretary of the S.P.R. (Society for Psychic Research) visited the Amsterdam clinic and also was a friend of Henry Irving and Bram Stoker, who had a lively interest in the work of the Society; literary editor Edmund Gosse hosted Frederik van Eeden when the latter visited London, and William Heinemann published a translation of Van Eeden's book De Kleine Johannes—Heinemann also was a friend and business partner of Bram Stoker. Charles Lloyd Tuckey was another vistor of the Amsterdam clinic and cooperated with Frederik van Eeden. At the same time, Tuckey was friends with Sir Richard Burton and treated Alice James, the sister of William James and novelist Henry James Jr; both belonged to the circle of Irving and Stoker.


Despite all these possible intermediaries, I could not find any hard proof that Stoker actually knew about the Amsterdam specialists, directly or indirectly. When Dacre Stoker told me that Bram's son Noel had been visiting a boarding school in Oxford since 1887 (see text on Carfax), I decided to take a closer look at another candidate, Professor Max Müller. Müller also wrote in The Nineteenth Century, he had been a guest at Stoker's Lyceum Theatre and Stoker had met him and his family during a visit to Oxford. I discovered that Müller had sent more letters to Stoker than hitherto known, and reconstructed the route from the Oxford trains station to Noel's school; it led directly through the university quarters. if Stoker picked up his son in Oxford for the holidays, or brought him back there, it would have been easy for him to shake hands with Müller.


Finally, I looked into possible links between Max Müller's name and the name "Max Windschoeffel" Stoker had used for the originally German professor that later became Van Helsing. As you can read in my essays on the matter, in Stoker's mind, "Windschoefel" may very well have been associated with "Müller" or "Miller."



  • "Heeft de Vampierbestrijder uit Bram Stoker’s Dracula echt bestaan? De Amsterdamse psychiater Albert van Renterghem en de hypnose." Article in the Dutch literary magazine De Parelduiker, Vol. 17, no. 6 of October 2012, pages 41-58. See Archive.
  •  "Dracula’s Best-Kept Secret—The Hidden Identity of Professor Van Helsing." published on 26 May 2018 (W.D.D. Special). Available via