Penny Dreadful Wiki

There are things within us all that can never be unleashed.
— Vanessa to Dorian[src]

Vanessa Ives is the female lead character of Penny Dreadful. She is poised, mysterious, and utterly composed, Vanessa is a seductive and formidable beauty full of secrets and danger. She is keenly observant - clairvoyant even - as well as an expert medium, and has lent her talents to Sir Malcolm Murray in his search for his daughter, Vanessa's childhood friend Mina Murray. Her supernatural gifts are powerful and useful to those around her, but they are also a heavy burden. Her inner demons are very real to her and everyone around her, and they threaten to destroy her relationships, her sanity and her very life.


Vanessa was born to Gordon and Claire Ives, a wealthy family who were neighbours to the Murray Family. As a child, she had an extremely close relationship with the Murray girl Mina, a relationship with a bond closer than sisters. Vanessa also had a close relationship with Mina's older brother Peter Murray, whom she intended to marry when she was older.

Vanessa's innocence was forever ripped away when she witnessed Sir Malcolm and her mother in one of their sexual escapades, and this became the start of a bitter falling out between the two families. She grew to resent Mina for all her good fortune and began to demonstrate some scandalous habits, having kissed Peter out of turn and having a sexual escapade of her own with Mina's fiancé. Her downward spiral became most evident when she fell victim to the possession of an evil spirit, which eventually led to the death of her mother.[1]

Vanessa then spent a considerable amount of time with Joan Clayton, the Cut-Wife of Ballentree Moor, a witch who began tutoring her in the ways of the daywalkers. She grew to have a deep bond with her mentor, to such a point that Vanessa walked with Joan as she was led to the tree in front of her hovel to be burned alive due to the machinations of Evelyn Poole. Joan reciprocated this by leaving the hovel and everything in it to Vanessa and preparing her for the coming battle against the nightcomers.[2]

In 1891, Vanessa visited the Wildwest Show and grew interested in its primary performer Ethan Chandler. Intending to employ him as an armed assistant, she met him in a bar and presented him with an offer to do some night work. Deducing that his entire performance as the Wildwest show was a lie, she made a few accurate comments about his appearance and behaviour. She was pleased by his acceptance of her offer, and provided an address for their meeting that very night.

Vanessa was surprised to see that Ethan was on time. She escorted him into a building on the nearby street, which was an opium den. There, she greeted Sir Malcolm Murray and introduced Chandler as their accomplice. Sir Malcolm took them underground where three suspicious men stood. The men attacked, and amidst the fighting, Vanessa heard tormented wails and sought desperately for their source.[3]

Appearance and Personality

Vanessa is a seductive and formidable beauty full of secrets and danger. She is keenly observant -- clairvoyant even -- as well as an expert medium. Her supernatural gifts are powerful and useful to those around her, but they are also a heavy burden. Her inner demons just may be more real than emotional, and they threaten to destroy her relationships, her sanity, and her very life.[4]

True to her personality, Vanessa primarily appears dressed in a stately, polished manner and maintains an air of refinement and inscrutability. When her inner demon is in ascendance, however, she becomes much more instinctive and much less restrained as her behaviour grows increasingly wild. Although she is brave and steadfast, there are times when even she is afraid when confronted with the most terrifying forms of evil. However, upon being released from the demon's possession, Vanessa exhibited a less brooding and more personable attitude.

Vanessa assists Sir Malcolm Murray in his mission to save his daughter Mina, with whom she had shared a close friendship. She is as disgusted with some of his past acts as he is with hers, yet they have a mutual recognition of each other's talents, and she occasionally turned to him as a father figure. Vanessa respects Malcolm as a leader, and reconciles with him following the events of the first season, but begins to doubt him after he lightheartedly shakes off the news of his wife's death. However, when Malcolm was in danger, Vanessa did not hesitate to return and even enter enemy territory alone to rescue him.[5] Vanessa stayed by Malcolm's side as he grieved Sembene's death, and reassured him that he need not worry about her when he leaves to return Sembene to his home in Africa.[6]

Vanessa, despite her outward appearance, is a kind and compassionate woman who is very far from incapable of friendship and courtesy. She has since established a close bond with John Clare after meeting him while working in the shelter for cholera patients. She discussed falling in love and religion with John Clare, complimented his eyes, has a shared fascination of poetry with him, taught him to how to dance, and sorrowfully declined his invitation to leave London with him forever, not wanting her friend to be burdened by her. She is one of the few people, if not the only person, who did not cower at his appearance, was not bothered by his cold touch, and treated him with true kindness.

She is also quite friendly with Dr. Victor Frankenstein, as he trusted her to help him purchase appropriate clothing for Lily and even introduced Lily to her first. In her interaction with the doctor, Vanessa displays a capacity for playful banter. Vanessa trusted Victor enough to give him and him alone the address to where she and Ethan would be staying if in case she was needed and reminded him to be patient with Lily before parting.

She has strong feelings for Ethan Chandler, as she has repeatedly made it clear that she is more than willing to accept him for who and what he is. She wanted him to stay with her after surviving the battle with Mrs. Poole and her coven, being reminded of the comfort Vanessa felt with Ethan by her side. She reassured him that he will feel better about himself like she did with him.

The memory of the tragic death of Joan Clayton, the Cut-Wife of Ballentree Moor, one who took her in and accepted her in a time of great need, pushed Vanessa to do the unthinkable and use the darkest of magics to avenge her former mentor.[7] She even helped Ethan murder Warren Roper, who came looking for Ethan to bring him home to his father. Despite this, she was able to emerge victorious by the end of the struggle against the nightcomers, albeit deeply affected by that confrontation.

However, Vanessa's most defining traits are her incredible inner strength and unwavering faith in her God, Who she turns to in her time of need and believes in no matter what the circumstances. She has displayed an unshakable belief that her soul is her own and fought for it on more than several occasions. However, she had done most terrible things along the way and it deeply wounded her. Since then, she began to lose faith in her absolution and the hope that the God she so fervently believed in would be there for her. However, she has not lost herself in her struggles and chooses to keep going, even if it means she has to do it alone.[8]

In her youth, Vanessa had an intense fear of dolls, but would play with them for fear of being called a deviant. Her mother had a collection of dolls placed in Vanessa's bedroom but she would knock them over at night and put them all back in the morning. She disliked the dolls' eyes, staring at her and waiting to attack. However, in the final struggle against the nightcomers, she was confronted with a doll made in her own likeness and emerged victoriously, showing that she has already conquered this fear.

Vanessa also has a disparaging view of her tutelage in the social graces, calling the ritual of serving tea "painstaking", decorum at balls "tedious", and social banter "meaningless". However, one thing that she enjoys partaking in is dancing, though she recalls being the "curse of her class" when she learned. She enjoyed tutoring both John Clare and Ethan Chandler, most especially the latter.

After the conclusion of the battle with the Nightcomers, Vanessa was left in a deep depression, leaving her home in shambles and leaving her room only to eat the food left at the back door. However, after a visit to the Alienist, Dr. Seward, and following her prescriptions, she began to recover. Upon returning home, she began cleaning up her home and putting back all of her cosmetics and feminine essentials where they can be easily taken for use. She even feels hopeful despite having lost so much in the recent battles she had fought.

Vanessa has expressed a fierce determination to confront her most recent suitor, Dracula, by allowing herself to go through hypnosis to determine his intent and meeting with the Thanatologist, Catriona Hartdegen, to learn more about him. Even when facing both Lucifer and Dracula in her visions of the past, she has shown an immense strength of faith in the God she once thought she lost and managed to banish them from her mind.

Powers and Abilities

Vanessa's nature was unclear for most of the first season, having been at first thought of as a psychic afflicted by the possession of evil spirits. However, the second season revealed that Vanessa is a witch, specifically a daywalker, having learned the arts of tarot and herbalism, and taught the Verbis Diablo by Joan Clayton. Her mentor, one of considerable strength herself, acknowledged that she has never encountered a daywalker as powerful as Vanessa.

  • Divination: The act of divining future, past, and present events based off of extrasensory perception.
    • Cartomancy: The practice of divination through the use of tarot cards.
    • Clairvoyance: The practice of divination through the perception of emotions, objects, people, or physical phenomena.
    • Intuition: The practice of divination through the use of instinctive knowledge.
    • Mediumship: The practice of divination through the communication of spirits.
    • Psychometry: The practice of divination through contact with or proximity to a certain object or person.
    • Tasseomancy: The practice of divination based on the positions and symbols of tea leaves.
  • Mediumship: The ability to channel spirits and supernatural beings. A number of powerful spirits have used Vanessa as a medium, including spirits claiming to be the ancient Egyptian goddess Amunet and the Christian Devil
  • Verbis Diablo: Vanessa has become quite fluent in the Devil's tongue despite having been taught very little in it by Joan Clayton. She has since used the language to banish a nightcomer who attacked her and Ethan (repeating the same spell when she was attacked in her home), command the hunting hounds of Sir Geoffrey Hawkes to maul him to death (the only time she is shown reading it from a book), and overcome the fallen angel housed in a fetish made in her likeness in the final battle against the nightcomers. She has recently used the Verbis Diablo once again, this time in expelling both Lucifer and Dracula from her mind while she was in a hypnotic trance.
  • Apotropaic Magic: The practice of creating mystic wards to block evil. Vanessa used her own personal scorpion totem, painted with her own blood around the mansion in order to protect it. Hecate Poole was the only one seen, notably in the penultimate episode of the second season, to breach her defences.
  • Herbalist: Vanessa possesses a comprehensive knowledge of plants and their properties when applied to the human body having been taught by the Cut-Wife.
  • Occult Knowledge: Vanessa, despite never having made a fetish, was well aware of them, their uses and how they were made. She was also the only one in the group with prior knowledge of the nightcomers and speaking the Verbis Diablo.
  • Marksmanship: Vanessa has shown a surprising skill in handling firearms, able to shoot down bottles from a distance and in mid-air, all in her first try and with considerable accuracy.


Season 1
Season 2
Season 3

Memorable Quotes

Ethan Chandler: That sounds like a warning.

Vanessa Ives: It's an invitation.

-Night Work

Vanessa Ives: We here have been brutalized with loss. It has made us brutal in return.


Vanessa Ives (to Sir Malcolm Murray): I’m not the only one in this house she has a reason to hate. I betrayed your daughter once. You ignored her your entire life. So have the courage to face your own sin before you cite mine so easily.


Vanessa Ives: Have you imagined for one moment what this has been for me? An unforgivable transgression that has marked me for life. You think you've suffered? You think you know blood? You think you've walked on corpses? Spread them from here to the horizon, and I have walked further! You weak, foul, lustful, vainglorious felon! How dare you presume to speak to me of death!

Sir Malcolm Murray: Then we shall speak of it together.

-Closer Than Sisters

Vanessa Ives: There are things within us all that can never be unleashed.

-Closer Than Sisters

Vanessa Ives: Post-script your father loves you very much and would do anything to save you, but I love you in a different way. I love you enough to kill you.

-Closer Than Sisters

Vanessa Ives (to Dorian Gray): I think, Mr. Gray, there are tremors around us. Like the vibrations of a note of music. Hidden music. Some might be more attuned to them than others. What do those people do, those who have been chosen?

-What Death Can Join Together

Vanessa Ives (to Dorian Gray): If you want to do a thing, do it because it is your desire, not my allowance. You must risk rejection.

-What Death Can Join Together

Vanessa Ives (to Ethan Chandler): Don’t let me hurt anyone. They won’t stop me, they haven’t the heart for it. But you do. When the moment comes, look into my eyes… and pull the trigger.


Vanessa Ives (to Demon): If your goal is to have me surrender to you, that day will never come.


Demon: You can’t resist me forever, darlin’.

Vanessa Ives: But I can, now. My soul remains my own.


Vanessa Ives (to Dorian Gray): Not everyone (has a future). Some people only have a past.

-Grand Guignol

Vanessa Ives (to Dorian Gray): Mr. Gray. I am not the woman you think I am. And with you, I am not the woman I want to be.

-Grand Guignol

Vanessa Ives (to herself): Those in service of the demon are irrevocably marked.

-Fresh Hell

Vanessa Ives (to Lucifer): You offer me a normal life. Why do you think I want that any more?

-And They Were Enemies

Vanessa Ives (to Lucifer): Beloved, know your master.

-And They Were Enemies

Vanessa Ives (to Dr Seward): Such things have a name. They are witches. They are vampires. They are Lucifer. They are all those things which walk in your nightmares. Shall we walk together?

- Good and Evil Braided Be

Vanessa Ives (To Lucifer and Dracula): So I see you clear now. Two brothers fallen from grace: the spirit and the animal. You seek my soul, you my body, but both are promised to Another. He Who vanquished you. He Who is my Protector and Who stands with me even now.

- A Blade of Grass

Vanessa Ives (To Lucifer and Dracula): I am nothing. I am no more than a blade of grass. But, I am. You think you know evil? Here it stands.

- A Blade of Grass





  • A small running gag in the second season is how Vanessa would scold both Joan Clayton and Ethan Chandler on two separate occasions for putting too much salt in the food she was preparing. Despite that, Joan and Ethan would put in the salt anyway.
  • On Penny Dreadful:The Awakening Issue 2.3,Sir Ferdinand Lyle revealing one of the biggest fans questions:How Vanessa can channel the spirit of Amunet