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Turns out there’s an actual Frankenstein Castle in Germany—complete with legendary mad scientist.

Emily Temple

October 25, 2022, 1:20pm

Today I learned that not only is there a real Frankenstein Castle (in Mühltal, Germany), but that is was the birthplace of a 17th century alchemist named Johann Konrad Dipple, who was obsessed with finding the secret to immortality and was, among other things, rumored to perform macabre experiments on bodies from the graveyard, even writing about “his belief in the ability to transfer the soul from one corpse to another with the use of a funnel, hose and lubricant.” Hmm… Where have I heard about that before? And yet, the question of whether Mary Shelley was inspired by the castle and/or the Dipple legend—or even knew about them—remains open.

We do know that Shelley took a tour along the Rhine in 1814, writes Zita Ballinger Fletcher at HistoryNet, visiting the town of Gernsheim, about ten miles from Frankenstein Castle. While it’s at least plausible the novelist-to-be heard about Dipple and Frankenstein Castle from the locals on that trip, the government website about the castle insists that she was never there, and describes any connection as “a fantasy.” (These days, the castle hosts legendary Halloween parties (and weddings!), and is home to a restaurant with a vegan and kid-friendly menu. Spooky!)

But only two years after her trip, in the summer of 1816, Mary Shelley was inspired to write her famous novel, now considered a classic of gothic literature and one of the earliest examples of the horror novel. (In fact, astronomers have determined the exact hour that inspiration struck.) Is it possible it was only a coincidence? Well—yes. It’s a common name in Germany, and Shelley never mentioned any kind of connection. On the other hand…

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