Character   Overview   Appearances   Actor    
Dr. Helen Magnus
Helen Magnus Sanctuary For None part 2
Full Name
Helen Magnus
Helen Bancroft[1]
Female   Female
Physically 35 / Chronologically 274 (because of time travel)
Birth date
August 27th, 1850
Longevity and higher IQ (polymath)
  ●   Mother: 
  ●   Father: 
  ●   Spouse: 
John Druitt (ex-fiancé)
  ●   Daughter(s): 
  ●   Son(s): 
Henry Foss (non-biological)
  ●   Granddaughter: 
Alice Foss-Myers (non-biological)
Portrayed by
(Young Helen) Emily Tennant
First Appearance
  ●   Web Series: 
  ●   TV Series: 

Dr. Helen Magnus is an English born physician and scientist specializing in a variety of medicine and biological sciences. Over 274 years old and "blessed" with apparent eternal youth thanks to a vampire blood-based serum, she is the founder and elected leader of the Sanctuary Network.


Early Life

Helen Magnus was born in the middle of the 19th century [2] to Gregory Magnus and Patricia Heathering.[3] Her father was regarded as a controversial medical researcher of his time, and exposed his daughter to his profession when she was a child.[4] Years later, she helped form a secret group known as "the Five", along with John Druitt, Nikola Tesla, James Watson and Nigel Griffin at Oxford University. Each member voluntarily injected themselves with a serum Helen derived from a source vial of pure vampire blood, a species that had become extinct centuries before. This granted each member unique abilities. Magnus' ability was longevity, allowing her to live several times longer than any normal human.[5] At this point she entered a relationship with Druitt, whose ability is personal teleportation. However, he became insane and murdered several prostitutes, thereby becoming Jack the Ripper. They did conceive a child, Magnus later took the embryo and froze it.[6] Louis Pasteur, a close friend of Gregory, was her godfather.[7] She was an intelligent young woman, unwilling to accept the limitations for women of her era. After she had been denied a position as a medical doctor, Gregory introduced her to the secrets she believed he was hiding from her beneath his mansion. Showing her his secret, and thus she learned of the Abnormals. Gregory also used his influence and standing in society to allow Helen the chance to study at Oxford. While this was the chance of a lifetime Helen was essentially isolated as she was the only female student at the school and would be looked down upon by the other students. Despite this, Helen was able to earn the respect and friendship of four students. James Watson, Montague John Druitt, Nikola Tesla and Nigel Griffin all became dear and close friends of Helen's and had greater respect for her than any other men, and it was with them she formed the Five.

The Five
Helen Magnus 19th century

Helen Magnus in the 19th century

Some time before her father disappeared on an expedition to Mecca, Helen formed The Five, a group of extraordinary minds that included herself, James Watson, John Druitt, Nikola Tesla, and Nigel Griffin.[5] Like herself, the others could be considered geniuses ahead of their time, and in this group Helen and the others felt like they were a part of something more, and not outcasts because of their views of the world. During her time with group Helen was able to acquire a sample of pure, untainted Vampire blood before the species was exterminated by the Church. Helen devised a serum from the blood that was discovered to possess unique properties and the group's curiosity about humanity's potential to evolve led them to each take an injection of the blood. Helen volunteered to go first, to make sure the serum was safe despite her friends' warnings that the side effects of the blood were completely unknown. Helen survived the injection, though the awakening of her longevity abnormality was quite painful. The other members then took an injection of the blood and also gained their own unique abilities. It is unknown if the other members of the Five were aware of abnormals beforehand.

Helen, for the most part, had to help the others adjust to their new found powers. Nikola Tesla's exposure to the blood led to the awakening of dormant Vampire genes that had been passed on to him from an ancestor, and Helen had to develop a special medication for him to allow him to rein in his less desirable vampire instincts such as the thirst for blood. James' enhanced intellect required him to have something to keep his mind occupied until he adjusted completely, lest his powers drive him mad.

Nigel Griffin's ability was his molecular structure became photo-sensitive, meaning he could turn invisible at will although it took him a while to get the hang of it.

The only member of The Five she was unable to help, to her great regret, was her lover and fiance John Druitt, whose exposure to the source blood had the unforeseen side effect of driving him insane and led to the creation of the most notorious killer in history - Jack the Ripper. Helen tried one last time after the rest of the Five had given up on John to appeal to his better nature and to accept her help. However by this time John's insanity had all but consumed the man he once was and he tried to attack Helen, forcing her to defend herself and leading him to vanish from her life for a long time.

Though the Five would never admit it, Magnus could be considered the group's de facto leader. This is mostly because she is able to keep them in line and keep them focused on the bigger picture. Each man respected her enough to know not to make her mad. James and John even hinted to Will she may have been their leader when they jokingly asked him what its like to follow the orders of a woman without having lived through the traditions of the 19th century.

She was briefly engaged to Druitt, her lover and first patient. She also had a daughter with him, Ashley Magnus, who was originally conceived in the late 1880s. She froze the embryo for almost a century before loneliness and the thought that Druitt was gone for good allowed her to carry her to term.

Leader of Sanctuary

For over a century, Magnus has run the Sanctuary Network, where she tracks, protects and learns from the extraordinary and/or paranormal creatures that inhabit our world. She serves both as House Head of the Old City Sanctuary, and as elected head of the global network.[8]

Magnus personally knew many great figures of history, including H.G. Wells, and Jules Verne, as well as U.S. presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and at least one of The Beatles. She was aboard the Titanic when it hit an iceberg and sank in 1912[9], and was in the room when the Nazis surrendered at the end of World War II, mainly because Eisenhower refused to be in the same room as Alfred Jodl. There are also pictures of her with Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart, and Mahātmā Ghandi.[10]

Return of Druitt
Helen and John

Helen and John

While working on a case involving the Abnormal boy Alexei, Helen was confronted with her former fiance and father of her daughter John Druitt. He had managed to infiltrate the Sanctuary by pretending to be unconscious in order to get to Helen.

While John, like the rest of the Five, had gained some form of longevity, he had recently relapsed with a disease that his own Source-blood-altered physiology couldn't handle. Only Helen's pure Longevity-causing blood could cure him, as it had in the past.

Helen however did not want to cure him in the beginning because she believed it would only prolong his suffering with his insanity and tried to offer him help first; not liking that John had teleported Ashley away from her and into the SHU with a dangerous abnormal in hopes of getting her to comply. This was a perfect example of how deranged John had become if he was putting his own daughter in harms way. John became enraged when Helen revealed that she never told Ashley the truth about who her father was; letting her believe he was dead.

In the end Helen appeared to relent and fetched a sample of her blood for John to inject. Satisfied, John took the injection but moments later John's power began to turn on him. Helen had poisoned him, although she obviously felt sorry for her action. But John was not going to go quietly as he looked her in the eye and said "The Five... the others... will come" before teleporting away with the belief that his old comrades would avenge him. Helen however thought he wouldn't survive for very much longer and would die. It wasn't until later on in Rome that she learned he wasn't dead as she had initially expected.

Pursuing Adam Worth in 1898
Helen in 1898

Helen Magnus in 1898

In the year 2011, Helen Magnus follows Adam Worth back in time through his time portal and pursues him throughout London in 1898 to stop him from curing his daughter Imogene, who is naturally meant to die in the timeline from a rare form of Leukemia. During her pursuit, Helen tries her best to avoid encountering her past self and is ultimately successful, albeit coming extremely close to getting caught by Past Helen a few times. Despite this however, Magnus ends up completely failing to stop herself from also encountering Past James Watson, who quickly discovers that she is from the future and promises to keep quiet for the sake of preserving the timeline. When Future Adam tries to kill Future Helen after she tracks him down to his small lab, he accidentally kills Imogene instead, restoring the natural order of the timeline. After killing Future Worth from 2011, to avoid herself inadvertently changing the timeline by her mere presence in the past with her sheer knowledge of future historical events, Magnus accepts the advice she was given from Past James and ends up supposedly taking a long "vacation" in a known secluded part of the world; hiding on a mountain top in Nepal for the next 113 years before she can resurface and rejoin the timeline to help Will in the present dealing with the mass amounts of Hollow Earth Abnormals invading the surface from the three caldera sites.


Helen Magnus in 2011

It is revealed later however that Helen had instead been secretly working with several important figures of the 20th century, including Albert Einstein and Buckminster Fuller amongst others, in order to build a new underground Sanctuary.[1]

Personal Life

It is revealed that Helen is very wealthy and goes to a villa she owns every seven years for a long weekend.[9]


Helen has a known affinity for aviation, so much so that she owns a private fleet of several helicopters[9] and planes[11][12][13]. She is seen in a photograph to have, at the very least, met historical flight figure Amelia Earhart. In Helen's entire flight career for the last hundred years or so she has only ever been in three crashes; one of which she was a passenger. All three accidents however were not the direct result of pilot error, but that of Abnormal interference beyond her control.[11][9][14]


Aside from primarily being an M.D., she also holds a doctorate degree (D) in teratology (T), crypto-zoology (C), xenobiology (X), and biology (B) according to the letters printed on her Sanctuary business card.[15][16]

Graduate school and medical board certification wasn't easy to come by for Helen as she had to constantly fight against the social era she lived in and the stigma of her father working on "outlandish theories".

Being a woman, the influence of Gregory's connections and reputation initially helped allow her to gain entrance into the Royal College of Surgeons in London. Though Helen had graduated at the top of her class, the board intentionally blacklisted her by repeatedly denying her license to practice medicine even though she passed the board exam three separate times with outstanding marks higher than anyone else each time. Severely frustrated, she went and sought council with her father about her situation. Gregory noted that she knew more about the subject matter than the professors writing the tests, and saw this constant denial for his daughter to have a career as a medical professional as a way for the board to punish him for his fringe work rather than it being a grievance against her specifically. At her insistent plea to get some standing in the Medical and Scientific Community, Gregory officially brought Helen into his world of studying abnormals.[17]

At Oxford University in the late 1800's, she was one of the first woman to ever attend the institution, however, it was initially under the pretense that she could only audit/orate classes as no women were allowed to enroll at the time; a rule she railed against with a vengeance.[18] It wasn't until the year 1921 (as seen in the opening title sequence) that she was able to officially graduate with her M.D. certificate.

During Helen's time reliving the past, to build credit to the name 'Helen Bancroft', she went through graduate school again.[1]

By the year 1916, she had:

  • Graduated from the University of London with a Doctor in Science degree in Medical Science; becoming a visiting professor there.
  • Gained a PhD in Global Health from Lahore University in Pakistan; becoming the professor of Global Health at Lahore, its Executive Director of Health Science, and their Director of Medical Fellowship.
  • Became an honorary professor at Queensland University in Australia.

During the summer semester of 1948, she taught a course at Black Mountain University in North Carolina to share an office with Fuller.


The injection of the Source Blood serum occurred in the Spring of 1886, making Helen's physical age that of essentially being 35 for the rest of her seemingly eternal life.[18]

Helen is known to be 157 in Episode 1x01 - "Sanctuary For All, Part I" through Episode 1x07 - "The Five".

Helen says she is 159 in Episode 3x08 - "For King and Country".

Due to Helen leaving from the year 2011 at the age of 160 (a few months before her 161st birthday that year) to travel back through time to the year 1898 (forcing her to relive 113 years of her life), it means that she is 273 years old when she eventually returns back to the same point in time in the year 2011 when she rejoins the Sanctuary at the end of Episode 4x02 - "Uprising" a few hours after her 160-year-old self went through the portal.

Off-screen, Helen turned 274 at some point during Season 4 before the two-part episode series finale as her age is mentioned by Abby in a deleted scene.[1]

To help clarify, for current and future birthdays on August 27th, she will now turn i.e.:

  • 274 in 2011 instead of 161
  • 275 in 2012 instead of 162
  • 276 in 2013 instead of 163
  • 277 in 2014 instead of 164
  • 278 in 2015 instead of 165
  • 279 in 2016 instead of 166
  • 280 in 2017 instead of 167
  • 281 in 2018 instead of 168
  • 282 in 2019 instead of 169
  • 283 in 2020 instead of 170

Character and Traits

Magnus is bold and straightforward, brave and no-nonsense, yet she remains proudly true to her formal Victorian English sensibilities.

Magnus' past is long and colorful, as one would expect from a life lasting 274 years. However, she proves that living forever is not the best of things and finds it hard at times, calling longevity a curse[19] and admits that "dinner parties are hell"[7] as she can't relate to anyone. She has had to bury countless friends, colleagues, and lovers, making her somewhat reluctant to let new people into her heart as she's learned to not get too close to people anymore over the course of the last century. On more than one occasion, Helen has searched for a way to try to reverse the effects of the source blood as she is so often tired of outliving the one's that she loves.[20]

Presumably due to the source blood, Helen seems to require a lot less sleep than a normal human being does. She frequently stays up very late at night[21], saying that she rarely sleeps unless her patients do too.[22]

Helen is a person who prefers to stay busy and can only tolerate a "long weekend doing nothing" once every seven years.[9]

Magnus is bisexual.[23]

Helen is a polymath.

1x13 The group looking at the Key map

Helen and Watson decipher Gregory's key map that's written in Latin.

Helen is fluent in Latin[24], being that she is a medical doctor/scientist and it's her father's favorite language. She speaks a vast number of languages, including:

Magnus is also able to understand: 

  • Arabic[31][26]
  • Hindi[32] (has knowledge of its ancient Urdu dialect) [26]
  • German and can identify its Bavarian dialect(s)[29]

She is also good at reading and translating other ancient and rare languages, such as: 

Weapons and Fighting

On more than one occasion she is shown to be skilled in hand-to-hand combat.

3x08 Helen after shooting Adam in the shoulder

Helen warning Adam to stay down after having just shot him in the shoulder.

Magnus is abundantly seen to be very comfortable in holding and being adept at using a wide variety of weaponry, including but not limited to:

  • Pistols (revolvers[16][27][37][1] and semi-automatics) 
  • Rifle(s)[38][27]
  • RPG launcher[14]
  • Knives (fixed blade[20], diving[9], folding[3], switchblade[37], and butterfly[37][12]; includes being "quite deft with a scalpel"[3])
  • Multitude of improvised melee weapons (spear[20], staff[38], chain[38], baton(s)[38][37], and hammer[38]; less efficient with a rock[34] and a broken off metal bar[34])
  • Tranquilizer guns (semi-autos firing tranq bullets[21][39]; an airsoft rifle firing tranq darts[33])
  • Two types of Praxian energy weapons ("whip"[40] and "vaporizer"[37]
  • All sorts of tech gizmos that Henry whips up in his weapons lab 
  • She was able to create a bomb/explosion out of lit stores of jet fuel[23]
  • Used the automated assist mechanism to kill intruders[1]

With a brief glance, Magnus can specify weapons, such as Starstreak missiles.[41]

2x13 Magnus and Henry prepping to fire the sonic weapon

Helen and Henry attempting to disable Big Bertha from a helicopter.

Helen possesses is the ability to operate almost any type of vehicle; she is able to drive/fly/pilot: 


She is technologically savvy: 

  • Able to use and repair a range of analogue and digital devices 
  • Familiar with the Sanctuary's computer system[36]
  • Can perform piggy-backed hacks[47]
  • Can get severely damaged and parted computer systems to operate again powered with car batteries[20]
  • Able to boost a crashed helicopter's radio distress signal using the inside walls of the borehole of an abandoned oil rig[9]
  • Can send a long-wave transmission out of old disused radios attached to solar panels [41]
  • Can quickly figure out the UI of both Praxian[35][40][36] and Vampire technologies[34]
3x18 Magnus working on the time node

Magnus replicating Worth's time node out of scraped parts from old household appliances.

One of Helen's most impressive talents is the ability to recreate tech devices after only seeing and handling them for a brief period of time: she was able to have Henry recreate the stunner weapon she encountered in the Guardian's alternate timeline[20]. When Helen and Will were trapped in Carentan, she was able to successfully recreate a jerry-rigged version of Adam Worth's time nodes to nullify the time dilation bubble even though she never actually physically spent time working on one of Adam's nodes (Henry and Nikola did; whom the audience can infer relayed their findings to her).

3x19 Magnus and her paintings put together

Helen looks at the "complete pattern" of her paintings after Will assembles them together.

In an implanted perfect dream world, Magnus is an at-home freelance painter[43] who doesn't show her work publicly at art galleries, but instead prefers to sell her work privately to buyers through her agent.



Magnus and Druitt in a rare moment of peace

John Druitt
It is implied on more than one occasion that John is the the only man Magnus has ever truly loved. His activities as "Jack the Ripper", and his betrayal of her trust, caused her terrible pain, but she still has obvious feelings for him, and chose him as the only man whose child she was willing to have.
Ashley Magnus
Magnus loved her daughter with all her heart, and was very protective of her. Sometimes, this led her to keeping certain things from Ashley, like the identity of her father. Ashley's death was possibly the most terrible thing that ever happened to Magnus, rivaled only by John Druitt's betrayal, even making her try to find a way to end her life.
Will Zimmerman
After saving his life when he was a little kid, Magnus has always watched over Will, and has now become his mentor. Even though he irritates her at times, she grooms him as her replacement should her eternal life come to an end.
Henry Foss
Magnus took charge of Henry when she found him as an orphan boy on the Moors. Realizing he was a werewolf, she helped him suppress his abnormal nature until he was ready to embrace it as an adult. Since raising him like a son alongside her daughter Ashley, Helen was very visibly upset when she thought she had lost him to a creature through a dimensional rift (seemingly as if she just lost a second child); she was seen not wanting to physically let go of Henry once Nikola had finally returned him to her.[48] Helen was also seen to act like a knowing parent to Henry when she assigned Kate to make sure he didn't get distracted by technological things while down in Praxis.[40] Helen is seen to off-and-on tease Henry, preying on his gullibility to easily believe her word about historical events and places, such as the real location of Area 51, about the true nature of the Pentagon[48], and Henry's continued outspoken hope for the existence of aliens. When Henry starts to recount a wild dream he had involving Erika dressed as Princess Leia and him using his light saber (his wording easily inferable to be a possible sexual fantasy), Helen lets out a shocked gasp and stops him before he could say more.[36] This familial closeness between her and Henry grants Helen the role of being Henry's future daughter Alice's non-biological grandmother.
Bigfoot has been with Magnus for the last third of her long life, and has become one of her most trusted companions.
Nikola Tesla
Magnus's relationship to Tesla is very complex and at times has been difficult; although she acknowledges his genius and clearly enjoys their verbal sparring, his continuous amorous and sexual advances have gotten on her nerves for decades. But Helen really enjoys that relationship more then she is willing to admit. Like most others who knew him, she considered him "an obnoxious ass" back in their Oxford days, but she didn't, however, give up on him, helping him realize that his aspirations of ancient vampire grandeur were doomed to fail. After the disappearance(s) of John Druitt their relationship develops; she comforts him when he is 'de-vamped' and even kisses him in the main lab during the Abnormal Insurgency invasion of the Sanctuary. However despite their differences they both love each other deeply even though they both loath to admit it .

Background, Notes, and Trivia

  • Helen's birthday of August 27th is directly based off of Amanda Tapping's August 28th birthday, just moved slightly earlier to occur on the day before.

Media Gallery | Photos and Video

References, External Links, and Websites

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Episode 4x13 - "Sanctuary For None, Part II"
  2. Wagner, Curt (September 6, 2010). "Exclusive from inside 'Sanctuary': Helen Magnus turned 160 on Aug. 27". RedEye. Tribune Company. Retrieved on August 6, 2011.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Episode 1x10 - "Warriors"
  4. "Sanctuary Cast, Dr. Helen Magnus". SyFy. Retrieved on August 6, 2011.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Episode 1x07 - "The Five"
  6. Episode 1x02 - "Sanctuary For All, Part II"
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Episode 1x09 - "Requiem"
  8. Episode 3x02 - "Firewall"
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 Episode 2x08 - "Next Tuesday"
  10. A different person appears on a photo with Magnus in the opening credits of every season.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Episode 1x05 - "Kush"
  12. 12.0 12.1 Episode 4x03 - "Untouchable"
  13. 13.0 13.1 Episode 4x10 - "Acolyte"
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Episode 3x01 - "Kali, Part III"
  15. Webisode 1
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Episode 1x01 - "Sanctuary For All, Part I"
  17. Webisode 6
  18. 18.0 18.1 Episode 1x12 - "Revelations, Part I"
  19. Webisode 7
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 Episode 2x05 - "Pavor Nocturnus"
  21. 21.0 21.1 Episode 1x06 - "Nubbins"
  22. Episode 1x03 - "Fata Morgana"
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Episode 4x04 - "Monsoon"
  24. Episode 1x13 - "Revelations, Part II"
  25. Episode 2x11 - "Haunted"
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Episode 2x12 - "Kali, Part I"
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 Episode 3x08 - "For King and Country"
  28. 28.0 28.1 Episode 3x09 - "Vigilante"
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 Episode 3x17 - "Normandy"
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 Episode 4x10 - "Acolyte"
  31. Episode 2x01 - "End of Nights, Part I"
  32. 32.0 32.1 Episode 2x13 - "Kali, Part II"
  33. 33.0 33.1 Episode 3x14 - "Metamorphosis"
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 34.3 Episode 3x16 - "Awakening"
  35. 35.0 35.1 Episode 3x06 - "Animus"
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 36.3 Episode 4x09 - "Chimera"
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 37.3 37.4 Episode 4x01 - "Tempus"
  38. 38.0 38.1 38.2 38.3 38.4 Episode 3x07 - "Breach"
  39. Episode 2x10 - "Sleepers"
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2 Episode 3x11 - "Pax Romana"
  41. 41.0 41.1 Episode 3x18 - "Carentan"
  42. Episode 2x09 - "Penance"
  43. 43.0 43.1 Episode 3x19 - "Out of The Blue"
  44. 44.0 44.1 Episode 4x12 - "Sanctuary For None, Part I"
  45. Episode 1x04 - "Folding Man"
  46. Episode 2x03 - "Eulogy"
  47. Episode 4x02 - "Uprising"
  48. 48.0 48.1 Episode 4x05 - "Resistance"
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