Frankenstein, Born Past the Witching
Hour & Under a Bright, Gibbous Moon
Since the waxing, gibbous moon will most definitely ruin the view of the Draconid meteor showers this weekend in the Northern Hemisphere, the next best thing is to find out who may have seen it from her window in the summer of 1816.
It turns out the author of one of the seminal pieces of horror literature, Mary Woollstonecraft Shelley, may have written her famous novel, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, in a warm, moonlit June night spent at Villa Diodati, on the shores of Lake Geneva.
That’s when Lord Byron famously challenged her, her future husband Percy, and John Polidori to each write a ghost tale. But no one succeeded like Mary, just 18 at that time.
Percy Shelley and Byron were well on their way to become legendary romantic poets, and Polidori is credited to have written the first vampire story in English, The Vampyre, which was published in 1819.
Frankenstein first appeared in print in 1818, but it took five years for it to be published under Mary Shelley’s name.
Last December, Sky and Telescope magazine sent a Texas State University team of researchers to Switzerland to do some detective work and verify her account on the preface of the 1831 edition, that the story had been inspired by a dream.
“I saw with shut eyes, but acute mental vision … I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life …”
The team poured through weather records and proved that “a bright, gibbous moon would have cleared the hillside” to shine into Shelley’s bedroom window just before 2 a.m. on June 16, 1816.
Other written documents placing Byron and Polidori at the villa on the 10 further confirmed her account, which some critics thought could have been fabricated to boost book sales.
The tragic tale of a man built up from pieces of corpses by a mad scientist proved to be one of literature’s most enduring, and caused a lasting impact in audiences even when it was made into a 1931 movie by James Whale, with Boris Karloff as the creature.
DRACO & THE MOON
For those still paying attention, what sets a waxing gibbous moon apart is that it appears high in the east at sunset, it’s more than half-lighted, but less than full.
The Draconid meteor showers, which originate in the Draco the Dragon constellation, was sadly expected to produce a record 1,000 meteor sights every hour.
But you probably won’t see any of that. Besides the moon, most of it will happen during daylight hours in the U.S.
It’s not in us, however, to discourage anyone to look at the sky above at any time, even if you have no idea what is the Big Dipper or don’t particularly care about meteors, or UFOs, for that matter.
Just the fact that since way before Shelley had her half-awaken dream, we’ve been searching and finding inspiration for our lives by just looking up at the stars, the moon and it all, should be reason enough to give us pause.
Believe us, for those who still dream, it’s been a good ride.