Literary Archeology

Just outside of Darmstadt in Germany is a medieval ruin which would have little to distinguish it from any of the other hundreds of medieval ruins in Germany except for a short story contest held in Switzerland by a few friends staying in a cabin for the summer.

The friends were Lord Byron and the Shelleys (Percy, known for Ozymandias, among other poems, and Mary, who is the heroine of this tale). To pass the time, Byron apparently suggested that they each write a ghost story-- his and Percy's have been lost (they were probably no good anyhow) but Mary's has been remembered.

If you're wondering what all of this has to do with the aforementioned medieval ruin in Germany, you're asking the right question.

The reason this lonely castle has not been completely forgotten (although it has been almost completely forgotten) is that the tale Mary Shelley wrote that night borrows its name: Frankenstein. And thus Frankenstein Castle, un-notable in its own right, became the namesake of a great work. And thus, Frankenstein, the name of a small German noble family, became a name synonymous with terrifying monstrosities-- not perhaps the way Konrad Reiz von Breuberg wanted to be remembered, but a way to be remembered (or forgotten while your name is remembered and completely divorced from you and your history) nonetheless.

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