One black night.. almost two centuries ago. Incidently, this night is stormy. Four writers staying in chateau ‘Villa Deodati’ on Lake Geneva pose a writing challenge. Our four, Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron and John Polidori set forth to manifest their darkest nightmares on paper. Who, they wonder, can create the most spine-tingling tongue-crawling horror tale? Imagine the heavy hideous jeevies that hung and sank in the air as Shelley conjured Gothic masterpiece ‘Frankenstein’, and Polidori concocted the first known vampire tale written in English; ‘The Vampyre’.
‘Summer’, 1816. The unusual enduring cold coins infamy. 1816 is to be forever known as the ‘year without a summer’. The Shelley couple, Lord Byron and John Polidori settle in for the evening after a sunshiny day on arrival at the Chateau by the lake. A sudden shift in the sky breeds thunder and lightning storms. Strewn inside by the fire, the conversation moves from galvanism and Darwinian theory to the supernatural and ghostly. A copy of German horror short-stories ‘Fantasmagoria’ materialises and the group begin reading macabre tales aloud. Inspired and possessed by mood, they strike their mutual writing challenge. Hence, the horror begins!
Days pass. Shelley is struggling to conceive an idea. Meanwhile, Percy, composing ‘The Burial’ has freaked. He’s hallucinating over supper and running about screaming in terror. Who would have thought.. of the author of ‘Ozymandias‘! One wretched night, following a fearful fit from Percy, Shelley jolts awake well past midnight. She is saturated and horrified by her dream. The dream of Frankenstein.
Now, we could go on forever here… Of the next two years during which Shelley developed the initial manuscript of 100 pages for publication, of the innumerable adaption and influence in modern popular culture, of the socially challenging nature of the novel during the era of The Romantic Movement, of the inherent feminist influence of Shelley’s mother (author of ‘The Vindication of the Rights of Women’) and of Shelley’s other works, including apocalyptic science fiction novel ‘The Last Man’. Or we could investigate the sad tale of The Monster. A sensitive creature rejected due to his ghastly appearance. We could delve into Polidori’s, ‘The Vampyre’, which provided inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
But today this is enough.
The icy ‘summer’ of 1816, nights that sparked dark dreams to remember and ideas that would shape horror to come.
‘Frankenstein’ (1994) Francis Ford Cappola
‘Frankenstein’ (1931) Boris Karloff
It’s Alive, It’s Alive It’s ALLLIVVVE!!!