“It is true, we shall be monsters, cut off from all the world; but on that account we shall be more attached to one another.”
― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Vampires, witches, werewolves and goblins gather. Halloween is celebrated in countries around the world as a festival for the dead with origins in Celtic and Druid lore. The boundaries between the natural world and afterworld blurred as spirits roamed the earth freely to celebrate harvest season among the living. By dressing up as ghosts and zombies we control or eliminate some of the fear we may have with our own mortality. Like Dr. Frankenstein, we create our own monsters. The holiday allows us to celebrate the complex mystery of what terrifies us.
What frightens us so much about the story of Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus? Despite his brutish appearance, angry tormented attitude and intimidating eight foot stature formed from various stolen human and animal body parts, the novel's monster was portrayed as having a formidable intellect. His unrelenting request for the manufacturing of a romantic partner makes him appear needy rather than vicious. He scares us because he is us. At the time the novel was written, it was widely believed that humans could manipulate and mimic natural reproductive processes. 1818- biological science was still in it's infancy. Humanity's first breakthroughs came in the form of machines or monster machines created in a lab.
Mary Shelley was only nineteen years of age when she began writing the story of Frankenstein. The novel was finally completed and published anonymously at the age of twenty-one. The story began as a challenge by her soon to be husband writer Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Polidori and the author/poet George Gordon or Lord Byron. The highly creative eclectic group wanted to one up each other with scary horror stories. ( In the present day imagine Tim Burton, Helena Bonham-Carter and Johnny Depp). Since that time period, Frankenstein has inspired more than 130 films, beginning with the silent Frankenstein in 1910 and including the 1974, Mel Brooks crafted comedy classic, Young Frankenstein starring Gene Wilder.
It is said that the plot for Frankenstein came to Mary Shelley in a dream about a scientist who created a life form. Dr. Victor Frankenstein was based on a real person named Johann Dippel, who was an actual physician and kooky chemist obsessed with creating life through scientific means. His birthplace was Castle Frankenstein, which is near Darmstadt, Germany. So if you harvested and stitched together some old body parts like a mad scientist could you really create a modern day "Frankenstein" monster? The answer is no. When your heart stops, blood flow stops, cells run out of energy, and things fall apart. No amount of electric shocks can restore dead tissue, DNA isn't eternal and then there is the big brain dilemma. So we are all safe, for now. However, please feel free to dress up as your own favorite monster in a few weeks time.