Murnau’s Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens is a 1922 horror movie. It is a masterpiece of early cinema, and a key work of the Expressionist school. It uses silent movie conventions, lighting and composition, SFX, etc. to convey its Dracula-like story in a novel and striking way.

I’ve done some heavy interpretation to make this fly, and keep it compatible with the obviously-reliable text which is read throughout the movie. Pushing beyond even this, I’ve done a little fiddling by putting Castle Orlok in another dimension, emphasizing the “home soil” issue, and explaining the effects used in the travel sequences.

Oh, and Stabilization is from a cut scene described in the History. Yes, it’s absurd, but it plays on some of the right themes, and serves to separate Orlok from his more Stoker-derived brethren.


  • Real Name: Count Orlok (or “Graf Orlok” in some Germanophone and adjacent areas).
  • Other Aliases: “Bringer of Plague” (translation via the Slavic word “nosufuratu,” from the Greek “nosophoros”).
  • Marital Status: Unrevealed, presumed widowed.
  • Known Relatives: Various unnamed ancestors.
  • Group Affiliation: None.
  • Base Of Operations: Transylvania, in the Carpathian Mountains, circa 1840.
  • Height: 6’3” Weight: 150lbs.
  • Eyes: Red Hair: Bald


Powers and Abilities

Despite Orlok’s appearance and general movements, he is phenomenally strong and far faster than he might otherwise display. Along similar lines, he is capable of vaulting up to high windows with little effort, and his long fingers are adorned with sharp claws.

And, of course, being a vampire, using the sharp fangs hanging near the front of his mouth, he can drain the blood of a human with ease. In fact, Orlok needs this blood, as he has none of his own. Through his veins flow, of all things, molten gold.


As a “creature of the night,” the Count is a frightening individual, almost literally radiating fear. That terrifies even trained horses and lesser-willed people who, even unknowingly, find themselves in his presence.

Thematically appropriate, his vision is also far superior to that of normal humans. It allows him not only to see clearly in darkness, but also to utilize the vision and perspective of some of his night brethren.

Finally, Orlok is a master of manipulating the weak of will. In most, he is able to at least lull them into a false sense of security, much like a cobra might hypnotize a victim. To those already with destructive tendencies (“whosoever lusts after blood without reason”), however, Orlok can apply that and gain much stronger control.

When combined with the intimacy of vampirism, however, this last ability sometimes changes into a different form, binding the Count to some of those with whom his victim is intimate.



Graf Orlok derives nutrients solely from blood (and, most likely, exclusively that of humans). Thus, while he may eat food along with his guests, it does him little good. This also means that the Count’s DC Heroes RPG Loss Vulnerability, depriving him of his Vampirism Power, may very well kill him over time due to starvation.

On the flipside, however, Orlok is sufficiently well-versed with the desire to kill that he can leverage such urges when using his Hypnosis. It is assumed that this is how he managed to so thoroughly enchant Knock, his real estate agent.

The Land Beyond the Forest, part 1

Count Orlok’s Transylvania is not the Transylvania of the real world. Nor is this merely stating the obvious about a part of the world described in fiction.

It is, in Hutter’s words, a far-away country “of blood-red mountains where there are bandits and ghosts still.” While Orlok’s castle is clearly visible from the mountain trails, it seems to be inaccessible to mundane travelers.

In fact, it appears that only the Count’s coach is capable of conveniently traversing the peculiar white forest that separates the castle grounds from the rest of Transylvania.

Thus, it seems reasonable to assume that Orlok actually resides in another dimension, one only slightly separated from our world (Travel Value: 01). So close, in fact, that one can be seen from the other.

The driver of Hutter’s hired carriage, in fact, patently refuses to enter the “land of the phantoms,” perhaps giving an indication that other things are visible at this dimensional interface, and perhaps indicating that the driver was unable to make the journey, as well as unwilling.

The Land Beyond the Forest, part 2

Regardless, the trip between dimensions, is quite unlike that between most worlds found in fiction. The travelers (the coach, in most cases) are quite visible from both sides of the transfer.

However, time appears to run differently for the travelers, as all movement looks extremely fast, and all movement jerky and too quick to follow, but also subject to sudden stops ; it also took Hutter until after midnight to make that traversal, despite the speed the coach traveled.

The view from within is, if possible, even more peculiar, with visions of a world turned upside-down. Travel seems smoother to the occupant of the coach, but the forest is a stark, glowing white, with individual trees that seem to be aware and watching the way… sometimes even cruelly smiling.

Then, passing over a bridge inhabited by many ghosts at the end of the long journey, the passenger returns to a more rational world.

Meanwhile, from both within and without, ghostly images appear, duplicate, and vanish.

The Land Beyond the Forest, part 3

Whether it is the transition which produces these effects, or if it is simply the process of adjustment between the two worlds, is unknown. As the Encyclopedia Obscura (defunct website) put it, however, this effect “may not look much today, but in 1922, this was just as impressive and terrifying as Jar Jar Binks was in ’99.”

There seem to be more mundane, if far more dangerous, routes out of Castle Orlok. Thomas Hutter, for example, was able to return home after climbing/falling down a steep cliff out the window of his bedroom.

Perhaps, like many dimensions, Castle Orlok more completely “overlaps” our world at certain points, negating the need for special abilities, but still terribly hazardous.

Of Vampires, Terrible Ghosts, Magic and the Seven Deadly Sins

“Men do not always recognize the dangers that beasts can sense at certain times…”

From the bloody sins of mankind a creature will be born which will seek revenge for the sin committed by the parents and visited on their children and children’s children. Whosoever lusts after blood without reason is under his spell, the spell of the vampire Nosferatu, grown up on his native soil—from which alone he draws his powers.

Night is the vampire’s element. He can see in the dark which is a wonderful ability to have in this world, half of which is night. We humans, however, are helpless and blind at night.

Nosferatu drinks the blood of the young, the blood necessary to his own existence. The vampire must also sleep in earth from the graveyards of the Black Death.

Only if a chaste woman can fearlessly make him miss the first crowing of the cock will he disintegrate in the light of dawn.


Nothing is known of Orlok’s origins, except that he is a Count of the Carpathian region Transylvania. He is well-known in the area, both for his political status and his fear-inspiring abilities.

It is thought by some that he might very well be born directly from the blood of slaughter, a vengeful beast revisiting the sins of the parents on their descendants under dark of night, when mankind is most helpless and blind.

Perhaps Orlok is the last of a race exterminated by the forces of Transylvania, drawing power from his home soil to avenge himself on the killers of his people. Or, perhaps he’s not.

To Germany

What is known is that, in the 1830s, Count Graf Orlok felt the need to extend his reach. He contacted a House Agent in Wisborg, Germany, Mr. Knock. Under the creature’s thrall, Knock found Orlok a beautiful manor in which he might make his new base of operations. Knock also found a beautiful woman living nearby, pure and innocent of heart.

Knock also saw to it that the woman’s husband, Thomas Hutter was the man dispatched (on promises of a hefty real estate commission) to visit Orlok. Hutter would further ensure that the house (across the road from his) was in a condition for the Count and his “pets.”

Hutter, therefore, placed Ellen with his friends (Lord Harding and Harding’s sister Anny Westrenka) and traveled to the Carpathians. Stopping at an inn, sees the fear that the Count had inspired in his people.

After a restless night, he chartered a carriage to take him to the outskirts of Orlok’s land. From there, as the coachman would drive no further, the Count sent his own carriage to bring Hutter to the castle.

Visiting Orlok

Arriving near midnight, long after the servants had retired, Hutter found himself greeted by Count Orlok, himself. The Count prepared a meal for the traveler, and the two reviewed the papers sent by Knock as they ate.

Very quickly, Orlok nearly gave up his secret as Hutter managed to slice his thumb with a butter knife. But, despite the shock of the Count suckling at his wound, Orlok was able to appease the buffoon and convince him to stay up for a chat until sunrise.

Quickly, Hutter fell asleep in his chair, and became a preliminary target for Orlok. Before sunrise, the Count withdrew into the castle’s shadows, leaving Hutter to wake in his chair the next morning with two “mosquito bites” sore on his neck.

The following evening, Orlok returned. Over dinner, he spied a cameo of Ellen carried by Thomas and became entranced. After complimenting the man’s wife, Orlok happily declares that he has decided to buy the offered house and become a neighbor to the Hutters.

After the contract had been signed, Hutter retires to his bedroom, it slowly dawning on him that he had been seduced by a vampire.


Turning to check on his suspicions, Hutter glances out the door to take a close look at Orlok and his resemblance to a vampire. But he’s noticed by the Count. His cover blown, Orlok chases Hutter back to the latter’s bed and attacks him.

However, a sudden psychic connection with Ellen gives the woman insight into the situation. Her screams, fueled by her love for her husband, stagger the vampire and send him running away. But this also puts Ellen in a state of shock.

Waking the next morning drained, hoping the previous night had been merely been a nightmare, Mr. Hutter searches the castle. He comes to a dark, inner room with a coffin in the center. Opening the coffin, Hutter verifies his dream, finding the lifeless body of the vampire packed in dirt. Barely recovering from the shock, Hutter runs back to hide in his room.

When Orlok awakes, he realizes that his cover was entirely shot among the Hutters. At top speed, he loads the carriage with coffin-like crates of local soil and races away. Once in the “outer world,” he takes a raft to the cargo ship Demeter, hiding in one of the coffins.


At Varna, an inspector refuses to believe the manifest for “garden soil for experimental purposes”. He opens one of the cartons, only to find the described soil, and letting loose dozens of plague-carrying rats.

From Varna to the Dardanelles to Whitby the plague spreads, and from Whitby to Galaz to Constantinople. In the chaos caused by the spread of the plague, Orlok is easily able to sneak out and kill quite a few women at each port.

Outside of Constantinople, the sailors become suspicious. One by one, they are killed by the Count, ending with the captain. Orlok thus takes control of the ship and heads directly for Wisborg. His approach is sensed by both Ellen Hutter and Mr. Knock.

Meanwhile, Thomas manages to escape from the castle. He falls down a cliff but gets treated at a nearby hospital. From there, over land, he somehow made his way back to Wisborg around the same time that the Demeter pulled into the harbor.

And Hutter, tired though he was, was ecstatic to be reunited with his wife… who was waiting for him… on the beach… staring out at the ship in the harbor.


As the Hutters walk back to their home for their reunion, Orlok, no longer in need of the Demeter, runs her crudely aground. Quickly, he moves the coffins from the cargo hold to the deck. Carrying them under his arm one by one, he ferries them to his new house. By evening, he has settled in, and prepares for the night to come.

Meanwhile, Harding and his men search the Demeter to find out what had happened. The log-book, indicating the spread of plague and the systematic death of the crew suggest danger. Therefore, all of Wisborg is placed under curfew. The sick are even denied treatment at hospitals to limit the spread of plague.

The people of Wisborg mark their houses as under siege by the Black Death, and the siege victims are buried en masse. Meanwhile, Ellen finds the book on vampires that Thomas had brought from Transylvania. She fights hard against her own fear to read it, and learn what she must do. But meanwhile, Orlok kills her friend Anny Westrenka.

“Only if a chaste woman can fearlessly make him miss the first crow of the cock will he disintegrate in the light of dawn,” Ellen reads. She now understands the part she must play.

As Orlok continued to prey on the town, he finds himself attacked (in a scene cut from the final print of the movie) in the street by a thief. After the vampire is stabbed in the heart, the assailant’s surprise at the tumbling gold coins does not last long. He finds himself, ironically, Orlok’s victim.

Ellen’s stand

Later that night, Knock occupies the townspeople with a wild chase outside of tow. Sensing Orlok’s approach, Ellen sends Thomas to fetch Professor Bulwer (a local expert on aberrant feeding habits in animals and plants). Alone in the house, violently struggling with her own fears, Ellen throws open her bedroom window to wait for the Count.

Up Orlok leaps to the window, and across the room he moves. The vampire stalks Ellen as little more than prey, matching her movements, step by step, to her bed.

Strangling her and clawing her arms, the vampire attacks the woman, drunk with pleasure. Fighting all urge to resist, Ellen pulls Orlok yet closer, delaying and occupying him as long as possible. And then, from off in the distance, she hears the sign that she has won. It is the crow of the rooster, followed by the first morning flickers of sunlight.

Soon enough, it is over. With the bed bathed in sunlight, Orlok finds himself in intense pain, clutching his heart, trying to block the sun, and trying to regain his balance and composure. But he dissolves into a cloud of dust and smoke.

Too late for Orlok, however, was too late for Ellen. Drained of blood as she was, she at least died knowing that her sacrifice was not in vain. She is able to reunite with her husband one final time before collapsing.

Meanwhile, the rats, lacking a master, quickly spread throughout Wisborg and much of Europe, causing untold damage from the plague.


Unlike the typical vampire of popular lore, Graf Orlok is a tall, gaunt, spidery figure of nightmare. He has a bulbous, bald, waxy head and long, crooked, taloned fingers, both emphasized greatly in the shadows.

Additionally, he has big, pointed ears, pale skin, bushy eyebrows, a long, semi-V-shaped chin, and hunched, vastly extended shoulders.

In further deviation from what is now the “traditional” look of the vampire, Orlok’s fangs are prominent and forward, more like those of a rodent (a rat, in particular) than a canine. The teeth are particularly visible when the Count smiles, which is invariably something of a polite, excited grimace.

These features, in fact, seem to become yet more exaggerated as the movie progresses. By the final scene, in fact, he is little more than an ugly, rat-like creature, while earlier, he might have easily been mistaken for an old Jamie “Klinger” Farr.

Count Orlok, of course, moves with the grace one would expect of the nobility. But there is something vaguely rat-like and eager about his movements when he does not believe he is being observed.

Perhaps noteworthy is that Graf Orlok, when he is seen, is frequently seen in doorways or in rectangular enclosures emphasizing his appearance. To some, he may in fact look to be well over seven feet tall due to warped perspective. It may or may not also be noteworthy that concept art and posters depict a shadowy figure of approximately Schreck’s dimensions.


To an outside observer knowing Orlok’s nature, his behavior is not entirely surprising. As a “civilian,” the Count is an absolute gentleman, as befits his noble ancestry. Apart from humanity, however, Count Orlok seems quite sad at times, and disturbingly intense at others.

When hunting, though, Orlok is a skittish predator, often becoming quite desperate. Again, comparisons to rodents would not be out of place, here. The Nosferatu moves in very similar ways to a rat. But unlike the organic movements of a rat, the vampire is quite stiff. His movements betray possible pain with even the most subtle motion.

While he will, in the end, kill anyone in his way, Graf Orlok does have a preference for the blood of young women. This might indicate a difference in energy, or perhaps simply a personal bias.


“Shall we stay up together for a little while ? It’s a long time to go ’til sunrise, and during the day I am always out and about.”

“What a beautiful throat your wife has…I shall buy the house, the handsome deserted house opposite yours !”

DC Universe History

Unless, like Dracula, “he always comes back,” then Orlok is essentially “stranded” in the early 1800s (and perhaps prior). There, he surely would have encountered Lady Johanna Constantine (oddly, the only DC character apparently wandering Europe in those days).

In the Americas, Graf Orlok might have inspired certain legends in Gotham City. And perhaps inspired or helped Jacob Stockman with the so-called “Ceremony of the Bat” in the 1760s.

Logic might dictate, of course, that Orlok did, indeed come back, perhaps posing as one “Max Schreck” in the 1920s, only to play himself in Murnau’s film.

Of course, logic would then dictate that he survived to modern times (perhaps posing as Klaus Kinski in the 1970s to remake his role under Werner Herzog… hmmm… maybe he even funded this version, since that Dracula was far more sympathetic a character), posing as Willem Defoe playing Orlok playing Max Schreck playing Orlok in Merhige’s Shadow of the Vampire.

After all, “Defoe” can’t be any more real a surname than “Schreck,” now, can it…?

If the Count did manage to survive to today, it is very likely that he finds himself stuck as something of a comedic character. He’d get taunted by the likes of Blue Beetle about his resemblance to a certain other European vampire and, thus, his status as a “ripoff.”

Alternatively, perhaps the “borderlands” between Castle Orlok and the surrounding land are somehow connected to the Nightshade Dimension or the Meta-Zone. While not directly connecting Orlok to the DCU, this would give occasion for Nightshade, Shade the Changing Man, and/or their associates to contact the Count.

Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG

Tell me more about the game stats

Der Nosferatu

Dex: 04 Str: 07 Bod: 04 Motivation: Nihilist
Int: 06 Wil: 06 Min: 05 Occupation: Nobleman, Investor
Inf: 07 Aur: 05 Spi: 03 Resources {or Wealth}: 022
Init: 015 HP: 035

Aura of Fear: 01, Claws: 02, Eye of the Cat: 12, Hypnosis: 03, Jumping: 02, Superspeed: 06, Telepathy: 20, Ultra Vision: 02, Vampirism: 02

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Eye of the Cat works through Hyenas, Ravens, and Wolves.
  • Hypnosis is Always On ; if Orlok has no intention, it compels the victim to stare at him. Orlok also receives a +1CS Penalty to OV/RV of Hypnosis attempts, if attempting to instill anything other than passivity or sleep. He, however, receives a +1CS Bonus to AV/EV, if the victim is feeling a thirst for blood of his own.
  • At times, Orlok may use Telepathy as the “carrier” for Hypnotic commands; this costs him 10HPs per command, and requires Telepathy to be active.
  • Telepathy can only receive, and even then can only “follow” a victim’s bond of true love, when using Vampirism against that victim; this is automatic, rather than under Orlok’s control.
  • The effects of Vampirism, with the exception of the bite marks on the victim’s neck, greatly resemble the plague carried by his rats.

Artist (Cooking): 02, Charisma*: 07, Vehicles (Sea, Land): 03

Expansive Headquarters (Castle Orlok), Language (Qaballistic Transylvanian, German), Stabilization.

Real Estate (“House”) Agent Knock [High].


  • Secret Identity.
  • Strange Appearance.
  • MIA (Blood).
  • CIA (Beautiful, Pure of Heart Women).
  • MIF (his Telepathy Power).
  • Loss Vulnerability (Being away from his homeland’s plague-ridden soil for more than 24 hours).
  • Fatal Vulnerability (Dawn Sunlight).
  • Misc (Discussion of Orlok or anything about him makes people uneasy).

COACH (and Coachman) [BODY 06, Dimension Travel: 02, Running: 06, Superspeed: 04.]
This allows travel between Count Orlok’s castle grounds and the world without. It is a black carriage with no wheels, lead by two black horses that look like griffins. Their legs are invisible, covered by a black funeral cloth, and their eyes appear as darkly-twinkling stars. Puffs of steam from their open mouths, revealing white teeth.

The coachman is wrapped up in black cloth. His face pale as death, and his eyes intently staring at his charges at all times. When arriving to pick up a passenger, it invariably makes an inviting gesture that, somehow, comes off more commanding than friendly.

The whole carriage comes racing along, turns as if moved by a hidden force and moves jerkily, frequently coming to sudden stops. And, once passengers have mounted or dismounted, the direction reverses (occasionally circling with a flourish) and the carriage is gone the way it came.

Hausermakler Knock

“Count Orlok, his Grace from Transylvania, wants to buy a beautiful house in our little town. You could make a nice bit of money. It will take some effort, however—a few drops of sweat and…perhaps a little blood.”

“Blood is life ! Blood is life !!!!”

“I must go to him. He is coming !! The master is near…the master is near !”


Dex: 02 Str: 01 Bod: 01 Motivation: Uphold Orlok
Int: 02 Wil: 02 Min: 01 Occupation: House Agent
Inf: 01 Aur: 01 Spi: 01 Resources {or Wealth}: 009
Init: 004 HP: 000

Language (Qaballistic Transylvanian).

Real Estate Community [Low].

CPI (Belief that he has become a vampire).

Knock is a spindly hunch-backed figure, with gray hair. His weather-beaten face is full of wrinkles. Around his mouth throbs the ugly tic of the epileptic, and in his eyes burns a somber fire.

It is Knock who employed young Hutter, and arranged for the house to be available for sale to the Count. He has been driven patently insane by his association with Orlok.

He serves his master diligently, but has come to believe that he, too, is a vampire like his master. He feels the need to jump along rooftops, to drink blood (of insects, due to his weak condition), and generally raves like a maniac until he is captured and committed.

He later escapes and occupies the townsfolk on behalf of Count Orlok, but is recaptured and again placed in an asylum.

Rats (many)

(Stats derived from “The Law of Darkness” Adventure)

Dex: 02 Str: 01 Bod: 01
Int: 00 Wil: 00 Min: 01
Inf: 01 Aur: 00 Spi: 01
Init: 005 HP: 00

Claws: 03, Poison Touch: 07, Shrinking: 07

Bonuses and Limitations:
All Powers are Always On.

Lightning Reflexes.

By John Colagioia.

Source of Character: Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens/”Nosferatu, a Symphony of Terror” (1922), played by Max Schreck.