In the weird darkness of 1816, when a volcanic winter yielded a "year without a summer," Mary Wollestonecraft Godwin began writing the novel Frankenstein on the shore of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. But the true story of Frankenstein began months earlier when Mary, alongside future husband Percy Shelley and stepsister Clair Clairmont, approached a strange castle in the German wilderness while en route to Switzerland. Castle Frankenstein, some one hundred years earlier, had been home to Johann Conrad Dippel, whose experiments included the independent invention of nitroglycerin, a distillation of the elixir of life, and the transfer of a live soul into an awful accretion of human body parts. Mary never spoke of having entered the real Castle Frankenstein, but she did, and was never the same again... because something was haunting that tower, and Mary met it there Fear, death and alchemy: the modern age is created here, in lost moments in a ruined castle on a day never recorded.
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