Frankenstein Moon: Astronomer Says It Really Happened
At Miskatonic Books we are all about the truth that antiquarian horrors have shown us about ourselves and our world. For generations, since Mary Shelley’s introduction to her book in 1831. Several versions of how the story occurred have been given based on Dr. Polidori’s diary, and other recollections and anecdotes from the members of the party over a few decades. Her’s was the most precise, most vivid, and most rejected – until now.
Letters and journals establish that Byron and Polidori arrived at Villa Diodati (Lake Geneva, Switzerland) on 10 June 1816. By no later than 13 June 1916, Byron had proposed his challenge. What happened next?
It was stated to be – of all things – a dark and stormy night. Mary who was then only 18 was with her future husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, her step-sister Claire Clairmont, Lord Byron, and Dr. John Polidori. For amusement, they read aloud to one another ghost stories aloud. Ever pompous, Byron challenged them to write a superb ghost story to transcend the maudlin efforts they had just read.
It seems clear that Polidori struggled for an idea. His diary entry for 17 June stated “The ghost-stories are begun by all but me.” He later came up with a vampire story which would have quickly vanished had it not briefly been thought to have been written by Byron. What about Mary? Could a mere lass have spontaneously created such a masterpiece in a few days? Scholars felt her story romanticized and glossed by her maturing age. Not so, as she declared in an edition of her book in 1831.
Temporarily unable to come up with an idea, a later conversation about the nature of life that lasted past midnight made her toss and turn. She experienced some sort of vivid nightmare, or maybe a sleep paralysis attack. In those waking REM moments, a mysterious man attempted to bring life to a cadaverous figure via a new type of science. When Mary Shelley finally came to herself, moonlight streamed in through her window. It was moment she would never forget to the end of her days. She woke that same morning and dove in to write her tale. But what day? How can we know for sure?
Texas astronomer, But Donald Olson, has uncovered the date for the “bright and shining moon” through her window. Extensive research into still-extant local weather records from June of 1816, coordinating geography, and using sophisticated programs they calculated that a bright, gibbous moon would have cleared the hillside to shine into Shelley’s bedroom window just before 2 a.m. on 16 June 1816.