Castle Frankenstein

In 2002, I was working with the Department of Defense Finance & Accounting Service. About once a month, I would travel from Grafenwoehr, Germany to DFAS headquarters at Kaiserslautern to hand-deliver financial records for the US Army Transportation Management Center for Europe.

On one trip, I finished early and took the autobahn back home. I saw a sign around the Mannheim and Darmstadt area for Burg Frankenstein. This immediately piqued my interest. I had time to spare so I took a short excursion to the castle said to inspire Mary Shelley to write her gothic novel, The Modern Prometheus, in 1818. Today, we know this story through Halloween and classic hit movies as the story of a monster come to life by a mad scientist through the channeling of a lightning bolt.

But did you know that there really was a mad scientist?

Castle Frankenstein is all mostly in ruins now. In 2002, it was still quite large and stunning, however. I remember the stones being almost red. I remember walking through the ruins alone and up the stone steps to the towers. The place is supposed to be haunted.

The castle was built around 1250. It was sold in 1662 and used as a hospital for a while before falling into ruins. By the time Mary Shelley may have seen it in 1814 when she visited the Rhine region and a small town called Gernsheim, 10 miles away, the castle would have been in pretty bad shape. No one knows for sure if Mary Shelley went there but it is believed her stepmother, who was a translator for Brothers Grimm stories, had first heard the story of the mad scientist and passed the story on to Shelley.

Who is this mad scientist?

His name was Johann Konrad Dippel. He lived at the castle or near the castle sometime around 1673. He invented what he called an “elixer of life” that was said to cure many diseases. Johann was a professional alchemist, a medieval term for a chemist. According to rumor, Johann also did anatomy and some even speculated that he exhumed bodies for his research.

There are other fascinating and mysterious stories associated with the grounds around the castle. Supposedly, there is a fountain of youth nearby that turns old women into young girls on Walpurgis Nacht. There is also a story of a knight fighting a deadly dragon.

The most interesting story I found is located on Mt. Ibes. This is the location of a collection of magnetic stones. Compasses do not work on Mt. Ibes. It is a place supposedly where ancient rites, rituals, traditions take place according to the old ways of the Franks, the previous Germanic tribes that lived in this area. Frankenstein literally means “stone of the Franks” which could be related to this magnetic stone circle phenomenon. Mt. Ibes is supposed to be a sacred and respected place.

Sadly, I did not take pictures of the trip. This was 2002 prior to the arrival of the smartphone. and it was just a side excursion from the autobahn. It was one of those “spur of the moment” decisions that I will never regret. Some day it would be great to see the Castle Dracula too.

There is another place close nearby there along the border with France. The paranormal story from this place was called The Bleeding Nun and it is featured in another gothic classic written by Matthew Gregory Lewis called The Monk. The bleeding nun is an apparition that appears at Castle Lindenberg and warns you of giving in to lustful desires as it must have led to her demise. The Monk was published in 1796.

The only other story I really love from the Rhineland region is probably The Lorelei. She is a beautiful apparition that sits on the rocks just above a dangerous turn of the Rhine River. She was jilted by a faithless lover and committed suicide by casting herself into the waters of the Rhine at that spot and drowned. Now, she seeks revenge on sailors or other male travelers on the Rhine river. She sings a wondrous tune just like a siren. She is said to be exquisitely beautiful and also…..deadly. Men who see her, generally swim towards her….only to drown in the treacherous rapids below her. She became the inspiration for a portion of the small adventure book I wrote, Searching for Fire.

Here is a nice link to a BBC article with pictures of Castle Frankenstein. Thanks for reading this and have a gute nacht, freunde.

http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20161018-germanys-most-monstrous-castle

7th Gate

They had come back early from camping at Lake Clinton but it was now dark outside.  It was late October and the autumn breeze was cool on her face as they drove the Jeep Wrangler down the highway.  She held her brown hair back as the curls whipped here and there wildly in the wind.  They were listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers.  The volume was turned up quite a bit so they failed to notice anything out of the ordinary when they stopped at the little town named Stull.  No one lived there anymore.  It was just old buildings, forgotten and faded with time. 

They had heard the rumors about this place but they didn’t care.  They were young.  Why should they care?  As they pulled into the little gravel parking lot behind the abandoned old grocery store, she looked hesitantly, however, around in the dark.  He turned down the music.  She looked off to the north past the road to the crest of the hill where the ruins of the old church sat solitary and still in the dim moonlight.  She looked again at the dark around them and she shivered a little. 

“We might want to hurry..” she said with a twinge of uncertainty.  With the music turned off, she listened for any small noises around the vehicle.  It was hard to see much past 30 or 40 feet to her right.  Everything was so dark over there, pitch black almost.  The beams of the headlights shone on the exterior back of the old store.  Once again, she looked at the church, the 7th gateway to hell……..that’s what the locals said it was.  It was a secret portal according to the rumors.  Supposedly, if you threw a bottle against the wall of the church, it would not break.  The devil’s portal….just an urban legend she thought to herself. 

He got out of the jeep and rummaged among their bags in the back looking for his cell phone. 

“I know I left it in here,” he said as he dug through a camo green backpack.  He found it and returned to the driver seat. 

“Maybe we should put the hard top up,” he said to her. 

She just shrugged, hugging herself a little.  “I’d rather not do it here.”  She smiled feebily.  “Perhaps down the road a bit.”

He smiled at her then and nodded towards the old church.  “Nervous?” he asked with a slight smile. 

She didn’t say anything.  Just shrugged. 

“Relax, there’s nothing to worry about.  It’s just a dumb story.  Nobody even goes up there anymore.  It is fenced off.” He grabbed her chin and tugged her head slightly to the left.  He grinned at her.  “Calm down.”

She smiled bigger this time and leaned in to kiss him.  She closed her eyes as she felt his warm lips on hers.  He cupped her face in his gentle hands.  She placed her hand on his waist and he pulled her in deeper.  They pulled away for just a moment, enough for her to lean her forehead against his and say softly, “I had fun last night.” 

He grinned.  “I did too.” 

They embraced again.  This time with more youthful urgency and passion.  Eventually, he pulled reluctantly away and grinned.   He licked his lip slightly and took her hand in his.  He said, “We need to get back.”

She just watched him in the darkness.  She loved him.  She knew it. 

He turned to start the ignition of the Jeep.  She looked forward to the hill once more.  She shuddered.  As the engine started up and her boyfriend shifted gears, she looked casually to the right.

That’s when she saw it…in the darkness beyond….maybe not twenty feet from the car.  There in the darkness she saw the slight red light.  It was very small.  Silently, it was there…suspended in air.  She blinked.  She looked closer.  It was still there.  She knew instantly what it was.  She watched it more intently.  She kept watching.  She was staring now without blinking and she felt a sudden fear.  And then… it moved.  The light moved with intention, as if making its presence known only to her.  It was just a slight movement but just enough to let her know, they were not alone.    

A cigarette.  It was the light from a cigarette.  Someone was watching, had been watching them silently in the dark distance as they kissed.  Someone was standing right there. 

Her eyes flickered swiftly to the church and then back to that same spot.  The cigarette light was now gone.  Her boyfriend pulled the jeep out of the gravel parking lot and back onto the main road.  She watched that spot, the spot where the cigarette light emanated briefly.  She watched for it as long as she could until Stull and its eerie presence faded into the dark distance behind them.    

The Monster under the Bed

(This is a children’s poem I wrote for Halloween.)

Each night,

After Mom kisses me goodnight,

She turns off my light and closes the door.

I reach for the dust ruffle touching the floor.

And, in the quiet dark, beneath my bed,

With glowing eyes waits a monster and I call him Ted.

He crawls out, bumping his head.

And hesitantly I listen to what is to be said.

He puffs up his chest.

He proclaims he’s the best.

He declares

And he swears

That he’s the great Grimy

The Great Grimy Mimey

From far, far away Bimey.

Sometimes we play checkers

Or create triple deckers

Of pillows or blocks

Or all sorts of rocks

Sometimes we imagine

A fight with a dragon.

I climb on his back.

We charge and attack

An army of trolls,

Ogres, or witches with moles.

He roars a mighty roar

Meant to frighten gargoyles, werewolves, and more. 

But not hairy goblins,

They are our friends,

And we hold weekly teas

With Ishgroth, Mthgar, and Grends. 

Sometimes, if I’m lucky,

Be brave and be plucky,

He’ll even agree to dress up

Though he pouts more than a grown up.

Ted is not fond of ribbons and curls.

He growls, “They’re for girls!”

“Not ferocious monsters, 10 feet tall,

With fearsome fangs and sharp talon claws!” 

He huffs and he puffs,

Smoke comes out his nose,

As I give a pink pedicure to old crusty toes.

But he loves me,

And I love him.

When I tell a joke,

He’ll laugh with a grin.

He’s definitely not dim.

He does magic tricks and juggles balls

And climbs all the walls. 

We laugh through the night,

Till the dawn’s early light.

Till my head starts to sag,

My words slowly drag. 

Now, it’s time for my nap,

Cuddled soft in his lap. 

Beside his green fur,

As he lets out a purr.

He sings me to sleep,

A rumbling voice extra deep.

In words like gibberish,

His native Bimish.

“Og vhe ung shar tej un gung gish,

Sev rwang ver zwasig lish.”

A monster melody

Rich with sweet monster glee.

Then kissing my slumbering head,

He crawls back under my bed.

To wait till tomorrow and drift off to dreams,

Of shrieking humans and loud fright-filled screams.

And he smirks in his sleep,

With a devilish heap,

Of razor-sharp teeth,

Waiting till dark, my pet monster Ted. 

The Onset of October

Here’s a poem for October – the month of cooler Autumn breezes, falling leaves, football tailgates, candy corn, caramel apples, and pumpkin spice latte. There are lots of wonderful imagery surrounding October such as the delight of children on marvelous trick or treat nights.

And here now, is the poem. Happy October y’all!

A Foreboding Place

Near the old barn, unseen coyotes howl eerily together at the full moon.

Skeletons rise slowly from the cold dirt behind broken tombstones in the old country graveyard down the road.

They dance, ivory bones rattling and clacking.

A green lantern orb shines down the beaten path across the ridge and disappears abruptly into the hollow of darkness surrounding the low water bridge.

Bats, hanging upside down from a cave’s entrance, watch witches that swiftly ascend and descend across the midnight sky. 

A night hag’s cackle sounds in the distance.

A black cat crosses your path, silently shrouded in night. 

Yellow gleams from her half-slit eyes.

A screech owl responds in the wind. 

Stirring, he sits aloft a hidden branch of the rugged oak tree nestled in the shadow of the solitary weathered house. 

It is purported to be haunted, or so the locals say.

This place is ominous even to the wearily aged man standing behind the glass of the second story window overlooking the quiet gravel road. 

Moonbeams pierce through the chest and abdomen of the man revealing his ghostly presence.

He waits for Hallow’s Eve, for the night he’ll be released.

While down the road from the neighbor’s porch, a jack-o-lantern pumpkin grins wickedly.

His candle flickers in the Autumn breeze.