Burg Frankenstein: Lore and gore this Halloween
High on a hill outside Darmstadt is a seemingly ordinary castle ruin with a name and past shrouded in mystery. Legend has it that a former tenant and his mad science experiments with human body parts may have inspired the world’s first horror novel that still incites fear today.
With Halloween just around the corner, read further about the legendary story of Dr. Johann Konrad Dippel, the controversial alchemist of Burg Frankenstein. Then, before the chills subside, grab some fearless friends and head to that very castle for one of Germany’s scariest events, Burg Frankenstein’s Haunted Halloween Festival. Be prepared to meet the old monster incarnate himself and 99 of his ghoulish friends. Let’s hope you live another day to tell of your frightfully fun experience.
Germany’s connection to Frankenstein
Mary Shelley and her travel companions, poets Lord Byron and Shelley’s then-fiancé Percy B. Shelley, made a six-week summer tour in 1816 through Germany and Switzerland. At their final destination, Lake Geneva, Shelley and her companions spent late evenings recounting German and French horror stories they’d read or heard along their journey. It was here in Geneva where Shelley began to write her famous novel, “Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus.” Many literary historians believe that Burg Frankenstein and its notorious Dr. Dippel inspired Shelley to write her gruesome, Gothic tale of a mad scientist and the monster he creates.
The novel & Dr. Dippel
The story, set at Lake Geneva, is of shunned scientist Dr. Victor Frankenstein whose latest creation brings death and destruction to the lakeside village. After crudely stitching together cadaver body parts, he harnesses electricity from a lightning bolt to bring the creature to life. When the meek monster learns he will never be loved, only feared, due to his unholy “birth,” he reigns deadly rage over the doctor and townspeople.
Many likenesses of Shelley’s fictitious Frankenstein and real alchemist Dr. Dippel are eerily similar. Born at Burg Frankenstein in 1673, Dippel left to study theology, philosophy and alchemy only to return to the burg, shunned a “devil” by theologians and professors due to unorthodox alchemic experiments.
His dissertation, “Maladies and Remedies of the Life of the Flesh,” discussed his belief of soul transference between cadavers using a funnel device and his self-proclaimed, life-sustaining “Elixir of Life,” made of ground bones and flesh of questionable origin. Like Frankenstein, Dippel’s own creation may have also killed him. Although found dead in 1734 by what appeared to be a stroke, his contemporaries suspected he slowly poisoned himself with his vile elixir.
Although Shelley never named who, or what, inspired her monstrous tale, she did document how she traveled along the Rhine River and may have visited Burg Frankenstein during her travels; locals would likely have told Shelley stories about Dippel and his unusual cadaver experiments.
Halloween festival at Burg Frankenstein
Whether or not you believe the tales, Burg Frankenstein’s Halloween Festival is real cause to be frightened. The event is one of the largest Halloween festivals in Europe, crawling with creatures ready to give you the scare of your life.
The Haunted House opens at 7 p.m. and closes at midnight. Bypass the long lines and enjoy a free dinner buffet with a ticket to the VIP Lounge. VIP price includes entry to the festival, a specialty lunch or dinner buffet with salads, tapas, hot entrees, desserts and a Halloween-themed cocktail. Children under 14 are not permitted to the night events, but Burg Frankenstein offers a children’s event for kids 7 years old and up every Sunday during the Halloween festival. The event runs from 12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.frankenstein-halloween.de.
If you would like to visit the castle, but not during Halloween, Burg Frankenstein has a lovely restaurant with beautiful views that is open from March to December, Wednesday-Sunday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Visit http://frankenstein-restaurant.de for more information.