The 13th Floor

Visiting the Real Frankenstein’s Castle

When Frankenstein’s Castle was built sometime in the thirteenth century, it was just one of many castles in what is now Germany, at the bottom of the Odenwald mountain range. It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that Frankenstein became a household name with Mary Shelley’s novel. The historical link between the novel and the goings-on at Frankenstein Castle are tenuous at best, but it still makes for a good story. 

Johann Conrad Dippel is believed by some to be the inspiration for Victor Frankenstein. He was born in the castle in 1673. A theologian, alchemist, and physician, Dippel was best known for creating Dippel’s Oil, a dark tar-like liquid made from burned animal bones. Dippel believed it to be the “elixir of life,” but it was only useful as an insect repellent. As late as WWII, Dippel’s Oil was used to ruin an enemy’s well water during war. The terrible taste made the water undrinkable, but because it was non-toxic it didn’t breach the Geneva Convention. Dippel’s Oil was also important in the creation of Prussian Blue paint. 

Dippel was into a lot of experiments that were common amongst alchemists of the day, but sound like horror movie subplots. He was an avid dissector of animals; believed his elixir could be use to exorcize demons; and thought souls could be transferred from one corpse to another with a funnel. There is no explicit evidence that he actually tested his theory on human cadavers, but based on his writings, it doesn’t seem too farfetched. Locals spread rumors that he stole bodies from the cemetery to experiment on, sold his soul to the devil in exchange for secret knowledge, and even that he used lightening to bring monsters to life. 

Castle Frankenstein is home to plenty of other legends and rumors, too. One famous story says that a dragon lived at a well nearby. The peasants asked Lord Georg, who lived at Castle Frankenstein, to slay the beast for them. He did so, but with its dying breath the dragon stung Lord Georg with its poisonous spine. Lord Georg was barely able to make it back to the castle, where he died three days later. Other legends say that hidden behind the castle’s herb garden is a fountain of youth. Old women would sneak to it under a full moon and undergo tests of courage. Those who completed the tests would be returned to the age they were on the night of their wedding. In the forest behind Castle Frankenstein is a mountain called Mount Ilbes. A natural outcropping of magnetic stones causes compasses to be unusable on the mountain, which has led the site to be an important location for witchcraft ceremonies.

Nowadays, Castle Frankenstein is a tourist attraction, offering daily tours. Weddings can be held on the grounds. There is a restaurant at the castle that offers “Horror Dinners:” horror-comedy dinner theater with a variety of themes: Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Jack the Ripper. The castle is also home to the oldest Halloween festival in Germany.