Tag Archives: Mary Shelley

Investigating the ‘Real Frankenstein Potential’ of Johann Conrad Dippel, Pt. 1

Dippel_portrait

This is Dippel’s portrait, though most early biographers felt the need to add that it didn’t actually resemble him very much.

A short while ago, I was in touch with a TV company shooting an infotainment series on mysterious manors. They were interested in Johann Conrad Dippel (1673-1734) as their picks included Castle Frankenstein near Darmstadt, Germany, where he is rumoured to have conducted all sorts of disgusting experiments involving human corpses and mutilated animals. According to Radu Florescu, the author of In Search of Frankenstein (1975; 1996 ed., pp. 76-92; a review may be found here), it was this very castle and the alchemist Dippel who inspired Mary Shelley’s famous novel, Frankenstein (1818). In spite of the fact that Florescu’s grounds for such a claim resemble conjecture and conspiracy theory rather than what would usually qualify as evidence, the identification took hold and is spread far and wide throughout the internet and elsewhere in popular culture. And by the same token, Dippel has come to appear as the ‘real Frankenstein’ to the Anglophone world at large. But if we consider historical and scholarly sources, how impressive is Dippel’s Real Frankenstein Potential actually?  Continue reading

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