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5 Things You Didn't Know About Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

On March 11, 1818, a new book was published by an anonymous author. Several years later, that book, Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, was reprinted with the true author's name on it: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Here are five things you might not have known about the book that began it all for science fiction.

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The Name of the Monster is Not Named Frankenstein # This is one of the most common misconceptions about Frankenstein.  Though many today incorrectly refer to the monster as “Frankenstein,” that’s actually the name of the creator. The scientist is named Victor Frankenstein, and the creation itself has no name. Among the eponymous titles used by the creature, one is “The Adam of your labors.”  The monster is called other various names, including “monster” (obviously), “demon” and the good old “it,” but never “Frankenstein.”

Frankenstein Exists Because of a Writing Contest The book was the result of a contest in which Shelley, her husband, and a group of friends were going to see who could write the best ghost story. Mary Shelley, her husband Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and John Polidori competed against each other to see who could write the best horror story. Needless to say, Mary Shelley won the match.  It is said that the plot came to Mary Shelley in a dream about a scientist who created life.

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Thomas Edison Made It Into A Movie In 1910, Thomas Edison and his studio, Edison Manufacturing Company, released a 16-minute short film that was a loose interpretation of Mary Shelley’s now infamous novel Frankenstein.  Frankenstein was filmed at Edison Motion Picture Studios located on the corner of Decatur Avenue and Oliver Place in the Bronx, New York. The film was seen as sacrilegious and was considered lost until discovered in the 1950s by a private collector. 

The Modern Vampire Story Came From The Same Contest Vampire legends are very old, but vampire fiction got a real boost at the same ghost story contest that led to Frankenstein. In fact, Lord Byron, the famous British poet, may have provided the original idea. He was not the writer, though; that was John Polidori, another attendee at the ghost story gathering. Polidori was inspired by Lord Byron's idea and wrote out an entire story called The Vampyre, which is thought to be the first real piece of vampire literature. Interestingly, both The Vampyre and Frankenstein were initially published anonymously. Polidori was revealed as the author of his book a few years later, but Mary Shelley didn't get full printed credit for her story until the 1830s.

There Is a Real Castle Frankenstein # The image of Frankenstein's monster from the 1931 movie has become an enduring symbol of monster-hood. Photo source: CHRISTO DRUMMKOPF/Flickr. Mary Shelley said the name of Frankenstein came in her dream but in Germany there is a Castle Frankenstein, which Shelley visited it in 1814. The castle is near the city of Darmstadt. While the castle is partly in ruins now, its caretakers have taken to the Frankenstein fame well, holding large Halloween parties at the site. When the castle was in better shape, it was occupied by a man named Dippel, an alchemist who thought he could create an oil that would confer health from every ailment and make people live decades longer. He didn't succeed, of course, but his reputation—and his apparent belief that the deliberate transfer of souls between bodies was possible—may have influenced Shelley. However, she had never named Dippel as a direct inspiration for her story.