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Thomas Hutter lives in the fictuous German ctiy of Wisbourg. His employer, Knock, sends Hutter to Transylvania to visit a new client named Count Orlok. Hutter entrusts his loving wife, Ellen to his good friend Harding and Harding's sister, Annie, before embarking on his long journey. Nearing his destination in the Carpathian mountains, Hutter stops at an inn for dinner. The locals become frightned by the mere mention of Orlok's name and discourage him from traveling to his castle at night, warning of a werwolf on the prowl. The next morning, Hutter takes a coach to a high mountain pass, but the coachmen decline to take him any futher than the bridge as nightfall is approaching. A black-swathed coach appears after Hutter crosses the bridge and the coeachman gestures for him to climb aboard. Hutter is welcomed at the castle by Count Orlok. When hutter is eating dinner and accidentally cuts his thumb, Orlok tries to suck the blood out, but his repulsed guest pulls his hand away.
Hutter wakes up to a deserted castle the morning after and notices fresh punctures on his neck, which he attributes to moesquitoes or spiders. That night, Orlok signs the documents to purchase the house across from Hutter's own home. Hutter writes a letter to his wife and gets a coachman to send it. Reading a book about vampires that he took from the local inn, Hutter starts to suspect that
orlok is Nosferatu, the "Bird of Death". He cowers in his room at midnight, but there is no way to bar the door, which opens by itself as Orlok enters, his true nature revealed, and Hutter falls unconsious. The next day, Hutter explores the castle. In its crypt, he finds the coffin in which Orlok is resting dormant. Hutter becomes horrified and dashes back to his room. Hours later, from the window he sees Orlok pilling coffins onto a coach then climbling into the last one before the coach departs. Hutter espapes the castle through the window, but is knocked unconsious by the fall and awakes in a hospital.
When he is suffciently recovered, he hurries home. Meanwhile, the conffins are shipped down river on a raft. They are transferred to a schooner, but not before one is opened by the crew, revealing a multitude of rats. The sailors on the slip get sick one by one; soon all but the captain and first mate are dead. Suspecting the truth, the first mate goes below to destroy the coffins. However, Orlok awakens and the horrified sailor jumps into the sea. Unaware of his danger, the captain becomes Orlok's next victim after he ties himself to the boats wheel. When the ship arrives in Wisbourg, Orlok leaves unobserved, carrying one of his coffins, and moves into the house he puchased. The next morning, when the ship is inspected, the captain is found dead. After examining the logbook, the doctors assume they are dealing with the pleague. The town is stricken with panic, and people are warned to stay in their homes.