Castle Frankenstein is a key element in the Frankenstein myth. In most adaptations, Castle Frankenstein is the gothic dwelling where the mysterious scientist performs his experiments and creates his infamous monster. However, there is no Castle Frankenstein within the text of Mary Shelley’s original novel. Many locations play important roles within the context of the novel, but a mysterious gothic castle is not one of them. In the novel, Dr. Frankenstein’s experiments take place in an apartment rather than in an extravagant castle. And yet, one cannot think of Frankenstein without thinking of the castle. It has become intrinsically tied to the story. As it turns out, there is an actual Castle Frankenstein in Germany that likely inspired Mary Shelley, though it is doubtful she ever visited. The thirteenth century castle is located in the Odenwald mountain range near the town of Darmstadt, Germany.
It is widely believed that Castle Frankenstein served as inspiration for Mary Shelley’s famous novel. Though she likely never visited the castle itself, it is known that she took a boat trip down the Rhine river in 1814, just four years before her novel was published, and would have passed very near it. It is likely that Shelley had at least heard of the castle, and as a Romantic, would have been interested in the ruins. Some academics rumor that Shelley did in fact visit the castle, but kept it a secret to protect her claim to originality.
One of the most compelling arguments for Shelley having been inspired by the castle is the story of Johann Conrad Dippell. Dippell was born in Frankenstein Castle in 1673. Later in life, he returned to the castle and worked as an alchemist. He created an animal oil which he claimed could cure any malady and has been called his version of the “elixir of life,” a famous pursuit of alchemists. Dippell was obsessed with the human soul and performed experiments attempting to transfer the soul of a dead animal into a living one. Dippell performed many experiments on animals and it is rumored that he eventually turned to experimenting on human corpses.
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