The Real-Life Places That Inspired Frankenstein

How Mary Shelley used ideas, events and places to invent her famous monster

(John S. Dykes)
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From a volcano in Indonesia to a frog in Bologna, a ghoulishly large number of ideas and events wormed into Mary Shelley's dazzling mind as she imagined the "hideous phantasm of a man" at the throbbing heart of Frankenstein, first published two centuries ago and twitching back to life this month in the new Steampunkish movie Victor Frankenstein. Here are some key connections to Shelley's cautionary novel.

Castle Frankenstein, Germany

The 13th-century Castle Frankenstein, in the Odenwald, where Johann Dippel (b. 1673), alchemist and grave robber, is said to have experimented with reviving corpses—and, some believe, inspired Shelley. Though it's unclear whether she knew about Castle Frankenstein, it's easy see how Dippel conjures the image of a mad scientist. He was an avid dissector, claimed to have discovered an elixir of life, and peddled a variety of oils and potions concocted from animal flesh and bones.


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