Whether or not or not you consider Mary Shelley’s 1818 gothic novel or Mel Brooks’ 1974 movie spoof, the identify “Frankenstein” inevitably conjures up photos of a mad scientist and a monster spawned from ghastly experiments on the lifeless. It could possibly be written off as a piece of full horror fiction, in fact—aside from the truth that there may be truly a Frankenstein fortress (Burg Frankenstein) situated in Hesse, Germany. Is there a historic connection?
The Mad Scientist
The fortress was the birthplace of Johann Konrad Dippel, who would definitely qualify as “mad scientist.” The son of a preacher, Dippel was schooled in theology however ventured into alchemy after deciding that he roughly hated organized faith. After dabbling in alchemy in Strasbourg for a 12 months from 1695-6 he grew to become satisfied he might flip silver and mercury into gold—which he tried and did not make a residing at doing in Berlin from 1704 to 1707.
Dippel spent the remainder of his life as solely a mad scientist might—making an attempt to mix science with occultism, making an attempt to create a “common remedy,” turning into infamous for ugly dissection experiments and penning pamphlets about his purported esoteric information. In considered one of his papers, he claimed that he might transfer life from one corpse to a different by utilizing a funnel. He was rumored to have robbed graves to hold out his experiments.
For sure Dippel made many enemies—most likely sufficient to storm his castle with torches and pitchforks, identical to you would possibly count on in any Frankenstein-themed film. He had turn into a relatively notorious character in Germany. Whereas some intellectuals admired him for his experiments and summary musings, most extraordinary folks considered him as an evil sorcerer.
However Dippel’s life ended with none excessive gothic drama. Shortly after declaring that he would dwell till the age of 135, he was discovered lifeless in mattress, and was alleged by lots of his contemporaries to have been poisoned.
The place does Mary Shelley Come In?
In 1814, the famed author-to-be of Frankenstein, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, took a tour along the Rhine accompanied by her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley. Mary visited the city of Gernsheim, situated about 10 miles from Frankenstein fortress, and traveled across the surrounding area, interacting with locals.
Many individuals, together with biographers of Mary Shelley, regard it as potential that she might have heard ghastly tales about Dippel from native folks. Others theorize that she could have heard about him from the Brothers Grimm through her folklorist stepmother Mary Jane Clairmont, however this appears far much less seemingly.
In any case, the truth that Shelley produced her well-known monster novel 4 years after visiting Gernsheim doesn’t appear to be a whole coincidence. Nonetheless Shelley never claimed that Dippel was a direct inspiration for her story.
A few of the tales about Dippel which have been repeated over time have been embroidered into myths. Though some have claimed that he used Frankenstein fortress as a base to conduct medical experiments, there isn’t any proof proving that Dippel returned there after his alchemy research.
The Hessian authorities webpage devoted to native castles seeks to present a more dignified view of Burg Frankenstein and distance the place—if that have been potential—from the wild horror tales. (Not fairly to the extent of “It’s pronounced Frankensteen” –however the web site does state firmly that, “Novelist Shelley was by no means there” and implies that the concept of the fortress inspiring her novel is a “fantasy.”)
The fortress has nonetheless remained most related to Dippel and Shelley’s novel, and has capitalized on this affiliation over time. American servicemen stationed in Germany within the a long time following World Battle II discovered the fortress a great spot for Halloween gatherings. The spooky events there took on a lifetime of their very own after the mid-Seventies, and the fortress grew to become the venue for one of Europe’s largest Halloween festivals.
Thus due to Shelley’s monster—and the creepy tales nonetheless circulating about Dippel—the place has turn into, in response to Germany’s Hessenschau information, “one of the crucial essential cultural websites in southern Hesse.”
That custom is on the rocks, nonetheless. The fortress’s partitions are crumbling. Each the fortress and its restaurant are because of undergo extensive renovations, which is able to imply that the famed Halloween events will stop indefinitely from 2024.