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No monsters roam this Castle Frankenstein

By Catholic Online
November 12th, 2010
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Those who visit Castle Frankenstein in Darmstadt, Germany will not be greeted by green-faced brutes with rivets on their necks or crackling electrical laboratories - only ruins of a once great palace remain. However - Castle Frankenstein remains a popular Halloween destination and has a fascinating connection to the classic monster of literature.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The connection to author Mary Shelley's classic tale resides in the fact that a former resident at the castle was a notorious alchemist. Johann Konrad Dippel was rumored to create potions, perform electrical therapies, and partake in gruesome experiments involving stolen body parts from the graveyard. Born in the Castle Frankenstein in 1673, the connection between Shelley's grave robbing mad scientists is still contested - although her choice of a surname for her scientist, and later monster cannot be overlooked.

Dippel did have a colorful career as an alchemist. He attached his name to Dippel's Animal Oil, which he discovered from the destructive distillation of animal parts and claimed as a universal medicine. The oil discovery came at the end of a wave of popularity for Iatrochemistry, which had moved alchemy from the search for creating gold to finding new medicines.

Dippel later helped set up a laboratory in Berlin for making gold and, at one point, ended up in prison on a Danish island for seven years due to political activities. In 1734, he finally had a stroke and died at the Castle Wittgenstein near Berleburg. It's rumored that he was poisoned - whether at his own hands or by another's has never been proven.

The Castle Frankenstein is now in ruins, with only two towers and a chapel remaining. A popular annual party at Halloween was started there by American soldiers stationed near the castle in World War II.

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