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9 more Frankenstein facts (like #5: how did Darwin get into the book?)

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Halloween is nearly upon us... and there's no better time to take a look at one of the most famous horror stories in literary history: Frankenstein!

In this two-part article, we'll discover some truths (and dispel some myths) about Dr. Frankenstein and The Monster. Yesterday, in Part I, we reviewed the story's influence in movies, TV, music, and pop culture. Today, in Part II, we'll focus on Mary Shelley's original novel.

THE BOOK:

Q: What event halfway around the world helped spawn Frankenstein?

A: The eruption of Mount Tambora in present-day Indonesia. The atmospheric dust the volcano spewed out blocked the Sun's rays, resulting in unseasonably cold weather during the summer of 1816. Mary went to Switzerland along with poet (and husband-to-be) Percy Shelley that May, as houseguests of fellow poet Lord Byron. Unable to enjoy outdoor activities due to the conditions, the group thought it would be fun to challenge each other to write the scariest ghost story imaginable. While Percy and Byron abandoned the project early on, Mary was so struck by a nightmare she'd had that she kept writing. She finished the book the following year, and it was first published in 1818.

Q: How did a book about the creation of a living being manage to escape the wrath of the religious?

Lots more after the jump...

Mary ShelleyA: Initially, the book was published anonymously. The fact that it was dedicated to William Godwin led most to assume it had been written by Percy Shelley, his son-in-law. Some people still believe that it was.

Even after the author's identity was revealed, it would have been difficult to accuse her of heresy. After all, the story came from a dream and was written with the obvious intent of being, well, spooky. Plus, the perspective of the book was so twisted that it was a tale of a tale of a tale. The content was compiled from letters written from Robert Walton to his sister, Margaret Saville. These letters contained Walton's recollections from the story he had been told verbally by Victor Frankenstein. Who's to say how the story changed in the translation, or if Dr. Frankenstein was just a madman with a vivid imagination? Or, perhaps it was Walton himself. He reveals feelings of isolation and profound loneliness in his letters to his sister, so he could have written the story to give himself something to do.

Q: The book is subtitled The Modern Prometheus. Why? And who's Prometheus?

A: It's a reference to Prometheus Unbound: A Lyrical Drama in Four Acts, written in 1818 by Mary's lover, Percy Bysshe Shelley. His work was a reinvention of a long-lost, fifth-century BCE play by dramatist Aeschylus, known as "the father of Greek tragedy."

Now, to answer the question, Prometheus was a Greek mythological character "“ a Titan "“ who was said to have designed and created mortal humans. He "borrowed" fire from the gods and gave it to the humans to help them along. This displeased Zeus, who chained the Titan to a rock where he was preyed upon by an eagle until Hercules came along to rescue him.

So "The Modern Prometheus" referenced Dr. Frankenstein, who created his own human being.

Q: Does Shelley mention Charles Darwin in the book's preface?

A: No. (He was born in 1809, several years after the events in the book.) The preface text reads: "The event on which this fiction is founded has been supposed "¦ by Dr. Darwin "¦ as not of the impossible occurrence." But the reference here is to British physiologist Erasmus Darwin, Charles' grandfather. Although Charles' work was inspired by Erasmus' early writings on evolution, the elder Darwin approached the topic much more carefully, treading a line between fiction and non-fiction by penning some of his theories in prose and even poetry.

Q: Per Shelley's novel, in what region of Europe is The Monster brought to life?

University of IngolstadtA: No, not Transylvania. Bavaria. More specifically, in a lab at the University of Ingolstadt. Frankenstein is set in the 1700s, according to the dates of the letters within. An advanced laboratory was constructed near the college grounds in 1778, which could well coincide with the novel's timeline.

The school had been closed nearly 20 years when Shelley's book was published in 1818, giving her license to use it as the setting of the Monster's creation (and perhaps injecting a bit of reality into an otherwise quite unbelievable story).

Q: What character's background was changed after the original publication of Frankenstein?

A: Elizabeth Lavenza, Victor's bride-to-be. In the first printing, she was his first cousin (the daughter of his father's sister). In 1831, the text was revamped to introduce her as an Italian orphan who had been living with foster parents. Victor's mother found her in Milan, and was so enraptured by her that she took the child home as a "gift" for Victor, who described her as "a distinct species, a being heaven-sent."The Frankenstein family adopted the girl.

Q: Who's alive at the conclusion of Frankenstein: Dr. Victor Frankenstein or The Monster?

A: The Monster. Remorseful after the death of his creator, he leaves to lose himself in the frozen arctic wasteland. His death is presumed, but not specified.

Q: In all, how many deaths was The Monster directly (or indirectly) responsible for?

A: Six. William Frankenstein (Victor's brother), Justine Moritz (mistakenly executed for killing William), Henry Clerval (Victor's friend), Elizabeth Lavenza (Victor's fiancée), Alphonse Frankenstein (Victor's father, heartbroken over the recent deaths), and Victor.

And all but one of Victor's sled dogs also perished in the arctic, worked to death in his vain attempt to catch up to The Monster.

Q: How tall is The Monster in the original book?

A: Eight feet. That means only one living man "“ Ukraine's Leonid Stadnykm "“ could look down on him. At eight feet, five inches tall (and still growing!), Stadnykm's extreme height came about in a fashion similar to The Monster: under the knife of a surgeon. He owes his extreme height to a brain operation he underwent as a teenager, which stimulated his pituitary gland and led to his incredible growth.

Q: And was he green, with bolts on his neck and such?

A: No. Victor had designed the creature carefully, making sure the proportions were correct and that his features would be attractive. But when he saw the living Monster for the first time, he was horrified, describing him as having yellowish eyes and long, flowing black hair. Victor noted how his pearly-white teeth contrasted with his "shriveled complexion and straight black lips." And the creature's yellow skin "scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath."

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Space
Google Street View Now Lets You Explore the International Space Station

Google Street View covers some amazing locations (Antarctica, the Grand Canyon, and Stonehenge, to name a few), but it’s taken until now for the tool to venture into the final frontier. As TechCrunch reports, you can now use Street View to explore the inside of the International Space Station.

The scenes, photographed by astronauts living on the ISS, include all 15 modules of the massive satellite. Viewers will be treated to true 360-degree views of the rooms and equipment onboard. Through the windows, you can see Earth from an astronaut's perspective and a SpaceX Dragon craft delivering supplies to the crew.

Because the imagery was captured in zero gravity, it’s easy to lose sense of your bearings. Get a taste of what ISS residents experience on a daily basis here.

[h/t TechCrunch]

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6 East Coast Castles to Visit for a Fairy Tale Road Trip
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Once the stuff of fairy tales and legends, a variety of former castles have been repurposed today as museums and event spaces. Enough of them dot the East Coast that you can plan a summer road trip to visit half a dozen in a week or two, starting in or near New York City. See our turrent-rich itinerary below.

STOP 1: BANNERMAN CASTLE // BEACON, NEW YORK

59 miles from New York City

The crumbling exterior of Bannerman Castle
Garrett Ziegler, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Bannerman Castle can be found on its very own island in the Hudson River. Although the castle has fallen into ruins, the crumbling shell adds visual interest to the stunning Hudson Highlands views, and can be visited via walking or boat tours from May to October. The man who built the castle, Scottish immigrant Frank Bannerman, accumulated a fortune shortly after the Civil War in his Brooklyn store known as Bannerman’s. He eventually built the Scottish-style castle as both a residence and a military weapons storehouse starting in 1901. The island remained in his family until 1967, when it was given to the Taconic Park Commission; two years later it was partially destroyed by a mysterious fire, which led to its ruined appearance.

STOP 2. GILLETTE CASTLE STATE PARK // EAST HADDAM, CONNECTICUT

116 miles from Beacon, New York

William Gillette was an actor best known for playing Sherlock Holmes, which may have something to do with where he got the idea to install a series of hidden mirrors in his castle, using them to watch guests coming and going. The unusual-looking stone structure was built starting in 1914 on a chain of hills known as the Seven Sisters. Gillette designed many of the castle’s interior features (which feature a secret room), and also installed a railroad on the property so he could take his guests for rides. When he died in 1937 without designating any heirs, his will forbade the possession of his home by any "blithering sap-head who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.” The castle is now managed by the State of Connecticut as Gillette Castle State Park.

STOP 3. BELCOURT CASTLE // NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

74 miles from East Haddam, Connecticut

The exterior of Belcourt castle
Jenna Rose Robbins, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Prominent architect Richard Morris Hunt designed Belcourt Castle for congressman and socialite Oliver Belmont in 1891. Hunt was known for his ornate style, having designed the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, but Belmont had some unusual requests. He was less interested in a building that would entertain people and more in one that would allow him to spend time with his horses—the entire first floor was designed around a carriage room and stables. Despite its grand scale, there was only one bedroom. Construction cost $3.2 million in 1894, a figure of approximately $80 million today. But around the time it was finished, Belmont was hospitalized following a mugging. It took an entire year before he saw his completed mansion.

STOP 4. HAMMOND CASTLE MUSEUM // GLOUCESTER, MASSACHUSETTS

111 miles from Newport, Rhode Island

Part of the exterior of Hammond castle
Robert Linsdell, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Inventor John Hays Hammond Jr. built his medieval-style castle between 1926 and 1929 as both his home and a showcase for his historical artifacts. But Hammond was not only interested in recreating visions of the past; he also helped shape the future. The castle was home to the Hammond Research Corporation, from which Hammond produced over 400 patents and came up with the ideas for over 800 inventions, including remote control via radio waves—which earned him the title "the Father of Remote Control." Visitors can take a self-guided tour of many of the castle’s rooms, including the great hall, indoor courtyard, Renaissance dining room, guest bedrooms, inventions exhibit room, library, and kitchens.

STOP 5. BOLDT CASTLE // ALEXANDRIA BAY, THOUSAND ISLANDS, NEW YORK

430 miles from Gloucester, Massachusetts

It's a long drive from Gloucester and only accessible by water, but it's worth it. The German-style castle on Heart Island was built in 1900 by millionaire hotel magnate George C. Boldt, who created the extravagant structure as a summer dream home for his wife Louise. Sadly, she passed away just months before the place was completed. The heartbroken Boldt stopped construction, leaving the property empty for over 70 years. It's now in the midst of an extensive renovation, but the ballroom, library, and several bedrooms have been recreated, and the gardens feature thousands of plants.

STOP 6. FONTHILL CASTLE // DOYLESTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA

327 miles from Alexandria Bay, New York

Part of the exterior of Fonthill castle

In the mood for more castles? Head south to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where Fonthill Castle was the home of the early 20th century American archeologist, anthropologist, and antiquarian Henry Chapman Mercer. Mercer was a man of many interests, including paleontology, tile-making, and architecture, and his interest in the latter led him to design Fonthill Castle as a place to display his colorful tile and print collection. The inspired home is notable for its Medieval, Gothic, and Byzantine architectural styles, and with 44 rooms, there's plenty of well-decorated nooks and crannies to explore.

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