Did you know that there really was a Frankenstein, who built a castle in Germany? Did you know there really was a mad scientist who lived there? Did you know that you can visit the ruins of Frankenstein Castle today?
And last, but not least - did you know that you can party there on Halloween? Could there be a cooler place for All Hallows Eve? 🙂The real Frankenstein castle. Who knows what monsters lurk within?
Frankenstein, the Castle
In the mid-1200s, Konrad II Reiz von Breuberg built Frankenstein Castle on a hill near Darmstadt, Germany, and gave himself the title Lord Konrad von und zu Frankenstein. From what I can tell, it's really a case of "somebody built a castle then named themselves Frankenstein", rather than "somebody named Frankenstein built a castle". But nevertheless, there really was a Frankenstein who built this castle.
For the next few centuries, many generations of lords and knights of Frankenstein continued to live in this castle. Knights of Frankenstein? Really, it's true. I'm surprised they never made a movie with that name. After all, we had Bride of Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, Ghost of Frankenstein... Knights would have been an logical addition to the genre. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
In the 1700s, the castle was made into a military hospital and prison. Eventually it was abandoned in 1742, and sank into ruin. What remains today is an evocative shell of a castle. Most of the walls have crumbled and the great halls are open to the sky. The tower is still standing though, and the views out over the Rhine River Valley are as stunning as ever. You can tour the castle and get a good look at what's left. Most of the time, there aren't any monsters - just eerie remains.
The castle also has an intact chapel, that dates back to 1193. The chapel is still used for weddings. What goes through your mind when your fiancee suggests holding the wedding at Frankenstein's Castle?
Frankenstein, the Monster
Frankenstein is best known from Mary Shelley's novel of the same name - her tragic tale of the crazed doctor and the monster he creates. It's one of the top horror stories of all time, and has been recast and retold hundreds of times on film.Boris Karloff as the monster, in the trailer for Bride of Frankenstein
So what's the connection between Mary Shelley's story and the real Frankenstein castle? Experts don't all agree, but here are the basics.
In 1673, a true-life mad scientist named Johann Conrad Dippel was born at Frankenstein Castle. Dippel was well known during his lifetime, and he pursued alchemy experiments to turn things into gold, without success. He also created Dippel’s Animal Oil, a rather gruesome distillation of various animal parts. Though he claimed it was a universal cure-all, it seems that didn't work, either.
Rumors were that Dippel also stole human body parts from a local graveyard for his experiments, and that an area priest warned that Dippel had created a monster. This is uncertain, but it's easy to see how such rumors could have gotten started.
Over a century later, in 1814, Mary Shelley took a trip on the Rhine River, and she passed near Frankenstein Castle. Did she hear about the infamous Dr. Dippel while she was here?
Soon after, Shelley entered into a competition with Lord Byron and others, to see who could write the best horror novel. She said the storyline came to her in a dream, and turned into the novel Frankenstein (published in 1818). Were Mary Shelley's dreams influenced by tales of the mad scientist from Frankenstein Castle? It seems probable, though we may never really know.
Frankenstein, the Halloween Party
So now you know... There really is a Frankenstein Castle, and there really was a mad scientist who lived there. In fact, they say that Dippel's ghost clatters around the place, and especially likes to sit on the chapel roof between Christmas and New Year's Day.
The castle is open to visitors any time of year, and if you're in the area it makes an interesting stop. But wouldn't this be the coolest place ever for a Halloween party?
That's what a bunch of American soldiers stationed nearby after World War II decided. They began to hold a yearly Halloween party at the castle, and the tradition continues today.
Yes, you really can party the night away, on Halloween in the real Frankenstein Castle.
Note: Unfortunately, these sites are not in English, but you can use the handy Google Translate tool to read them.