Poor old Carl Nelson, an innocent Armed Forces Network radio announcer, who, back in 1952, was the victim of a Halloween hoax so effective that he fainted live on air.
Stationed near the “real” Frankenstein castle, five kilometers outside of Darmstadt in Germany, Carl was told to report to the castle and broadcast live from the crypt at midnight. A crypt that had been rigged with a falling paper mache statue and a large soldier disguised as Frankenstein’s monster. Carl didn’t cope with the situation very well and this mp3 turns from being funny to heartbreaking as he tries to keep it together.
The castle, built around 1250 by Konrad Reiz Von Breuberg, has been subjected to many attempts to retro fit the Frankenstein story to it, but there’s no real link. Mary Shelly did travel through the region, whilst on her way to Geneva where the book was conceived, and some believe that she must have visited the castle or heard the local folklore. It’s true that a noble family named Frankenstein lived there hundreds of years before, and at some point they sold the castle to another family who kept the castle name.
Alchemist Johann Conrad Dippel (1673-1734) may be the strongest link. He was born and raised there and is also known to have occasionally added ‘Frankensteinensis’ to his signature, indicating the castle as his birth place. The story goes that Johann Dippel was also a body snatcher who would try to reanimate the dead and, though body snatching was not uncommon amongst some physicians, it’s a tale that has only come to light after Mary Shelly’s book.
It is true that Shelly passed the castle at night. It would have been pitch black if she had decided to stick her head out the carriage window. Nevertheless, something inspired her, over two hundred years ago, and she created one the great horror icons. Just ask Carl Nelson.
Tomorrow I have a spooky late night story from another doctor for you -Tom Baker.