Frankenstein’s Castle looks exactly as you might expect. Located high in the mountains overlooking the village of Darmstadt, Germany, it seems just a menacing as anything that Hollywood might conjure.
The original owners – – the Frank family – – was made up of a group of brave knights and warriors. It is said that one of them fought side by side with another character of horror lore, Vlad the Impaler.
Once war died down, the Franks retreated to Darmstadt and took up home near what was once a Roman quarry. It was then that they took on the name Frankenstein, which means “stone of the Franks.”
The first member of the family to take up the new name was Arbogast von Frankenstein. The castle, which he is credited with building even though that is debatable, was located atop a mountain where the family could overlook the Rhine Valley and the surrounding area. It gave them a secure post for easy defense because they could literally see the enemy approaching from any point.
Arbogast died unfortunately; not in battle, but by accident. Supposedly, he was hurrying back to the castle to meet his beautiful young fiancée when he fell from his horse and broke his neck. Many believe that both he and his fiancée continue to haunt the castle because their love was left unfulfilled.
However, Arbogast was not the most famous Frankenstein knight. That distinct honor fell to a relative of his, Georg Frankenstein. He was supposedly beloved among the people of the area for both his bravery and his compassion. His legend lives on still today.
It is said that the valiant knight died in combat with a dragon that dared to threaten the village. Unfortunately, the dragon in question possessed a poisonous spiked tail that easily pierced the knight’s armor and struck his skin. Because he couldn’t get out of his armor in time to remove the poison, it was that which was meant to protect him that ultimately led to the knight’s death.
Eventually, the Frankenstein family died out and others took over the castle. The most notable among them was Johann Konrad Dipple. He eventually took on the Frankenstein name, extending his own to Johann Konrad Dipple von Frankenstein. In truth, however, he had no Frankenstein blood in his veins.
Dipple went on to develop his own reputation; one that would forever be connected with the castle and with a book written by Mary Shelley (See my article on that subject). Konrad was an alchemist who was heavily involved in searching for the Philosopher’s Stone (see my article on that subject for more information). He also claimed to have developed a life-extending potion that he called the Elixir of Life.
It is known that Dipple conducted experiments on dead bodies. What isn’t understood, however, is the nature of the experiments that he conducted. Some claimed that he attempted to reanimate the corpses. Others say that he used parts from the dead bodies to develop his potion. Whatever the truth might have been, one thing can be certain, it was controversial in nature for that period in time.
Some claimed that Dipple had ties to the dark arts while others “pooh poohed” those rumors. They say that he was a former priest who remained true to his vow of celibacy. But his love for science and exploration into places that the church considered areas of God alone, made him powerful enemies that sought to destroy him.
Dipple failed to make a real Elixir of Life as he intended. However, he did leave something behind for science; a solution of distilled animal bones, blood, and other bodily fluids that became known as Dipple’s Oil. Although not the life extending potion he had hoped for, it is reported that the “oil” contained a powerful muscle stimulant that was widely used until the turn of the 19th Century.
After Dipple’s death, the castle could not find another buyer. People were too conscious of the controversy surrounding the structure and all of the events that supposedly happened there. It fell into ruin during the 18th Century.
Today, what is left of the castle still stands. It is the home of Germany’s Halloween festival, which runs for several weeks in late October and early November. It is also home to a popular restaurant that is open year ’round.