An Unbidden Vision and the Birth Of a Monster

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Mary Shelley went to bed that evening having accepted the challenge to write a ghost story.  Describing her sleeplessness during that stormy night at Lord Byron’s villa she wrote, “…my imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie.  I saw, with shut eyes but acute mental vision.”

I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts knelling beside the thing that he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion…his success would terrify the artist.”

The Doctor “…would rush away from his odious handiwork, horror-stricken.  He would hope that, left to itself, the spark of life which he had communicated would fade, that this thing, which had received such imperfect animation, would subside into dead matter. He hoped that he might sleep in the belief that the silence of the grave would quench forever the transient existence of that hideous thing.”

Dr. Frankenstein sleeps “…but he is awakened, he opens his eyes, and behold, the horrid thing stands at his bedside, opening the curtains and looking at him with yellow, watery but speculative eyes.”

Mary Shelley’s ghost story had begun and the tale of Frankenstein was born.   Now that her story has been told, I am ready to travel back to that blustery evening at the Villa Diodati.

It will be a dangerous night to travel to, but the food should be worth it.

Of Ghosts and a Metamorphosis

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Lord Byron and his guests spent the stormy evening in the Villa Diodati’s library immersed in conversation and the talk was of metaphysics and experiments in the reanimation of dead things using the newly discovered force of electricity.

Invoking darker horrors, they read stories of ghosts and tales of the dead from a book entitled Fantasmagoriana.

Minds were fertile with imagined terrors and as Lord Byron read aloud a haunting passage from Christabel by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Shelly suddenly leapt up and ran shrieking from the room.

In the smokey candlelight, Percy had hallucinated that Mary’s chest had metamorphosed into a pair of eyes coldly staring at him.