Tuesday, October 30

A Nightmare, a Competition, and a Teenage Girl

"We will each write a ghost story," said Lord Byron, and his proposition was acceded to. There were four of us....I busied myself to think of a story - a story to rival those which had excited us to this task. One which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature and awaken thrilling horror - one to make the reader dread to look around, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart. If I did not accomplish these things, my ghost story would be unworthy of its name."

                                                    ~from Author's Introduction, FRANKENSTEIN

Talk about a challenge, issued by Lord Byron himself! Quite the writing group and next door neighbors: 18-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, physician John Pollidori, and Lord George Gordon Byron. The setting was Switzerland in the summer of 1816 when the now historical challenge was issued. However, writer's block can prove to be a dread in itself. Every morning, Mary was asked the same question, "Have you thought of a story?", and every morning the answer was no...until the nightmare. In her dream, Mary saw a "pale student" kneeling over what was described as a hideous sleeping corpse until...his eyes open and he stands!

Mary opened her own eyes in terror, and thus began the creation of the horror novel FRANKENSTEIN, now celebrating its 200th year of publication! Mary's quote from the book's introduction breathes life into the idea that still surrounds the story today, "I have found it! What terrified me will terrify others; and I need only describe the spectre which had haunted my midnight pillow."

The next morning Mary announced that she had "thought of a story", the first line beginning with the words, "It was on a dreary night in November." The book was published in 1818, and just like the scientist who brought the monster to life, FRANKENSTEIN was a fully-formed work of fiction at its creation.

The Forest Public Library is saluting the teenage girl who first introduced us to THE MODERN PROMETHUS with a FRANKENFEST program for teens on Tuesday, October 30, from 7:00-9:00 p.m. The Back Door event features a costume contest, frightening "finger" foods, and the showing of the original 1931 FRANKENSTEIN movie produced by Universal Pictures. The created monster is played by Boris Karloff in the film, and no one remembers who plays the scientist Dr. Frankenstein. (Trivia note from an over-zealous librarian - Colin Clive plays the scientist.)

According to various internet sources, the film was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in the United States National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant." The film begins with a warning of caution:

     How do you do? Mr. Carl Laemmie feels it would be a little unkind to present this picture without just a word of friendly warning. We are about to unfold the story of Frankenstein, a man of science who sought to create a man after his own image without reckoning upon God. It is one of the strangest tales ever told. It deals with the two great mysteries of creation: life and death. I think it will thrill you. It may shock you. It might even horrify you. So, if any of you feel that you do not care to subject your nerves to such a strain, now's your chance to uh, well ---WE WARNED YOU!! (Another note of trivia: Carl Laemmie was an American filmaker and a founder of Universal Studios.). 

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley received no formal education but spent her years as a young girl in a library. What a fitting way to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the author's most famous literary work and the horror genre she helped to create than in a library with a group of teens. Join us from 7:00-9:00 p.m on Tuesday, October 30th, as we serve up the heart of  FRANKENSTEIN, along with a few fingers and a couple of eyeballs.


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