Chapter V consists of several letters and a diary entry. In England, Mina Murray and her friend, Lucy Westenra, exchange letters about their respective romances. Mina is an assistant schoolmistress whose desire to be useful to her future husband has led her to study shorthand and typewriting. She happily reports that her fiancé, Jonathan Harker, has written that he is on his way home. Lucy replies with tales of her own marriage prospects. She has entertained proposals from several men, including Dr. John Seward—the director of a lunatic asylum in London—and a rich American named Quincey Morris. Her heart, however, belongs to a gentleman named Arthur Holmwood, whose proposal she has accepted.
The women’s correspondence is followed by a diary entry, on phonograph, by Dr. Seward. The doctor admits his unhappiness at Lucy’s rebuff, but occupies himself with an interesting new patient, a man named Renfield. Following this entry is a congratulatory letter from Quincey Morris to Arthur Holmwood.
In her journal, Mina describes her visit with Lucy in the picturesque town of Whitby, on the northeast coast of England, and the ruined abbey there that is reputed to be haunted. Mr. Swales, an elderly resident who befriends the two girls and tells them stories about the town, scoffs at such legends. Mr. Swales asserts that most of the graves in the Whitby churchyard are empty, as their supposed occupants were lost at sea. After Swales departs, Mina listens to Lucy’s wedding plans and notes sadly that she has not heard from Jonathan for a month.
John Seward continues to report the curious case of Renfield in his diary. The patient has the curious habit of consuming living creatures. He uses sugar to trap flies, uses flies to trap spiders, and uses spiders to trap sparrows. He delights as one creature consumes another and believes that he himself draws strength by eating these creatures. Seward classifies Renfield as a “zoöphagous”—or life-eating—maniac who desires to “absorb as many lives as he can.”
Meanwhile, Mina expresses anxiety over her missing fiancé and over Lucy, who has begun to sleepwalk during the night. Although she seems healthy, Lucy exhibits an “odd concentration” that Mina does not understand. While out walking one day, Mina encounters Mr. Swales, who tells her that he senses his own death is likely not far off. He assures her that he is not afraid of dying and that death is “all that we can rightly depend on.” Mina and Mr. Swales see a ship drifting about offshore as if no one were at the helm. Guessing the vessel to be “Russian, by the look of her,” Mr. Swales assures Mina that they will surely hear more about it.
Two newspaper clippings indicate that the ship Mina and Mr. Swales have seen, a vessel called the Demeter, later washes up on the shore at Whitby during a terrific storm. Its crew is nowhere to be found, while its captain, dead and clasping a crucifix, is discovered tied to the wheel. When the ship runs aground, a huge dog leaps from the hold and disappears into the countryside. The Demeter’s only cargo is a number of large wooden boxes, which are delivered to a Whitby solicitor.