Frankenstein Castle (German: Burg Frankenstein) is a real hilltop castle in the Odenwald overlooking the city of Darmstadt in Germany. Claims exist that this castle may have been an inspiration for Mary Shelley when she wrote her monster novel Frankenstein. It has been well known for this reason for many decades, but became internationally even more famous when the SyFy TV-Show Ghost Hunters International made a whole episode about the castle and testified it would have "significant paranormal activity".
Before 1250, Lord Conrad II Reiz of Breuberg built Frankenstein Castle and thereafter himself von und zu Frankenstein. The first document proving the existence of the castle in 1252 bears his name. He was the founder of the free imperial Barony of Frankenstein, which was subject only to the jurisdiction of the emperor, with possessions in Nieder-Beerbach, Darmstadt, Ockstadt, Wetterau and Hesse. Additionally the Frankensteins held other possession and sovereignty rights as burgraves in Zwingenberg (Auerbach (Bensheim)), in Darmstadt, Groß-Gerau, Frankfurt am Main and Bensheim. The hill on which the castle stands was probably occupied by another castle from the 11th century, which fell into ruins after Frankenstein Castle was built a short distance away to the northwest. Claims of an even older predecessor upon the hill are widespread, but historically unlikely.
In 1363, the castle was split into two parts and owned by two different families of the lords and knights of Frankenstein. At the beginning of the 15th century, the castle was enlarged and modernized. The Frankenstein knights became independent of the counts of Katzenelnbogen again.
Being both strong opponents of the reformation and following territorial conflicts, connected disputes with the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt, as well as the adherence to the Roman Catholic faith and the associated "right of patronage", the family head Lord John I decided to sell the lordship to the Landgraves of Hesse-Darmstadt in 1662, after various lawsuits at the Imperial Chamber Court.
The castle was used as refuge and a hospital afterward, falling into ruins in the 18th century. The two towers that are so distinctive today are a historically inaccurate restoration carried out in the mid-19th century.
Halloween on Frankenstein Castle
In 1978, American airmen from the 435th Transportation Squadron stationed at Rhine-Main Air Base started an annual Halloween festival at the castle, which became one of the biggest Halloween festivals in Europe. In 1977, the 440th Signal Battalion organized a 13 km running competition routed along steep forest trails from Cambrai-Fritsch Army Housing Site in Darmstadt to the castle. The Frankenstein Castle Run was held until 2008 when all American forces left Darmstadt. The city of Darmstadt organized a final race in October 2008.
Legends and Mystery
Johann C. Dippel, Mary Shelley and the Monster
In 1673, the alchemist Johann Conrad Dippel was born at the castle. He was very famous during his lifetime. There have been claims of Dippel influencing Mary Shelley to write her Frankenstein novel, though there is no mention of the castle in Mary's journals from the time. It is known that in 1814, prior to writing the famous novel, Mary took a journey on the river Rhine. She spent a few hours in the town of Gernsheim, which is located about ten miles away from the castle. Several nonfiction books on the life of Mary Shelley claim Dippel as a possible influence.
Frankenstein Castle is rich in legends. One of the most famous legends is about Lord Georg and a dragon, by August Nodnagel (1803-1853). It is said that long ago a dangerous dragon lived near the well at Frankenstein. The peasants of a neighbouring village (Nieder-Beerbach) went to Lord Georg of Frankenstein, a brave knight, and poured out their troubles and he promised to help. So he put on his armour and rode to the well where the dragon was taking a rest in the sun. Lord Georg got off his horse and attacked the enemy. The dragon fought for his life, puffed and spewed out fire and steam. Finally the knight was victorious. But as the beast struggled in agony, it coiled its tail with the poisonous spine around the knight’s leg and stung. Lord Georg reached his castle with great difficulty and died from his wound three days later. Nowadays you can still visit his tomb in the church of Nieder Beerbach, in the valley on the east side of the castle.
Phenomena around the castle
In a remote part of the forest behind Frankenstein Castle compasses do not work properly due to magnetic stone formations of natural origin. Local nature enthusiasts and witchcraft practioners are said to perform rituals at these magnetic places on special occasions.
Frankenstein Castle is located on the spurs of the Odenwald at the southern outskirts of Darmstadt. It is easily accessible via Autobahn A5. The site of the castle is 35km (20mi) from Frankfurt International Airport away. The public transport system of Darmstadt serves tram stop "Frankenstein" (located at the foot of the mountain range) with tram lines 6, 7 and 8.
Notes and references
- http://www.eberstadt-frankenstein.de/content/066_Any_monster_at_home_English_version.pdf Frankenstein - the monster's home?
- SyFy - Ghost Hunters International Website  Retrieved 19 April 2014
- http://www.graf-von-katzenelnbogen.de/ The History of the County of Katzenelnbogen and the First Riesling of the World
- Hobbler, Dorthy and Thomas. The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein. Back Bay Books; August 20, 2007
- Garrett, Martin. Mary Shelley. Oxford University Press, 2002
- Seymour, Miranda. Mary Shelley. Atlanta, GA: Grove Press, 2002. pg 110-111
- Art. "Frankenstein", in: Hessen, hg. v. Georg W. Sante, Stuttgart 1960 (= Handbuch der historischen Stätten Deutschlands, 4. Bd.), p. 117
- Nieder-Beerbach, in: Georg Dehio, Handbuch der Deutschen Kunstdenkmäler: Hessen, bearb. v. Magnus Backes, 1966, p. 622
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Burg Frankenstein (Bergstraße).|
- Website der Burg-Frankenstein
- Halloween Burg-Frankenstein
- Information Paper
- Private Website about Frankenstein Castle