We are here at Frankenstein's castle above the village of Eberstadt, Germany, where Halloween held a special meaning before Columbus brought trick-or-treating to the New World. Mary Shelley only performed an early day transplant in 1818 by placing her monster in Transylvania far to the east of his true home in Germany's spooky Odenwald. The legends that Mary Shelley heard on her cruise up the Rhine remain alive and well this Halloween at a gothic castle brooding below drifting clouds in the late autumn moonlight.
Frankenstein's monster, however, has not weathered the centuries quite so well as the legend or his castle. On a recent visit to the monster's birthplace we sought out Frankenstein to see how his business of terrorizing villagers was going. He did not paint a pretty picture of life for a 21st century monster.
"I won't leave the castle this Halloween," he confided with a long sigh, perhaps remembering the bygone excitement of shuffling through the cobbled alleyways as the villagers cowered. "Who can terrorize anybody nowadays? I get taken for one of those musician guys, or girls -- I can't tell the difference -- and the groupies want to know who does my hair.
"It was terrifying. I got so scared that I ran. This does nothing for my image. I'm avoiding the whole scene this year. In the old days I would just shamble down the hillside and the villagers would scream and run and gather up their children and bolt their doors. Ach! Those were the good times."
He then inquired: "Do you see what I have to cross to reach the village now? " He pointed to the four lanes of superhighway slicing through the forest between Eberstadt and his castle. "Have you seen German drivers in action? I'd rather terrorize Indianapolis on race day!"
Then he pointed to the legendary electrodes poking from his head. "Know what these are good for now?"
I stammered something about attracting bolts of lightning and adding to the general image of terror. He cut me short with a sweep of his enormous hand.
"The electrodes pick up Radio Luxembourg and every screaming musical performer from Seoul to Stuttgart, plus somebody named Siri answering I-phone questions," he whined. I hate to hear an 8-foot monster cry, but I could indeed hear the faint beat of an old Beatles album and some bars from "God Save the Queen." It must be some kind of thrill to have your ears chime the hour from Big Ben followed by a BBC news summary.
After all these years shambling through darkness in swap-meet high-tops, his feet longed for sensible shoes. Indeed, his entire wardrobe cried for updating. Here at his leisure he wore lederhosen and propped his size-16 Hush Puppies on a Danish teak desk.
On the other hand, the centuries had been kind. The late-night movies would keep his legend alive and lure tourists to this mountaintop to purchase bratwurst and postcards. An occasional foray down the hillside should satisfy the historical purists, even if the tourists never bother to look up from their entertainment centers anymore.
In his own secret mind, the monster confessed one Halloween goal remaining:
"I'd love to go trick-or-treating. Incognito. Maybe I could wear dark glasses or something."