Have You Heard the Legends of Tennessee’s Real Life Dr. Frankensteins?
Dr. Frankenstein may be a fictional character, but he has inspired a few real-life mad scientists.
Frankenstein is a novel from 1818 written by Mary Shelley that has since inspired countless horror movies, shows, books, and art. In fact, Frankenstein is the most celebrated horror novel and Frankenstein's monster has since gone on to become one of the most iconic monsters of all time.
In case you need a refresher, Britannica.com describes the plot for Mary Shelley's Frankenstein:
The book tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a Swiss student of natural science who creates an artificial man from pieces of corpses and brings his creature to life. Though it initially seeks affection, the monster inspires loathing in everyone who meets it. Lonely and miserable, the monster turns upon its creator, who eventually loses his life.
The monster was created by piecing together various body parts and running electricity through the body. This sounds pretty outlandish today, but the story of Frankenstein has actually inspired some real-life mad scientists.
Franklin's Dr. Frankenstein
In Franklin, Tennessee there is the legend of Franklin's Dr. Frankenstein that is still talked about to this day. This legend follows Dr. Ferdinand Stith in the year 1842, he was said to be obsessed with Mary Shelley's horror novel, Frankenstein, and wanted to see if he could actually recreate her monster.
The legend says Dr. Stith made a deal with a local inmate who was set to be executed soon, and the inmate allowed Dr. Smith to use his body for the experiment. I mean hey, what did he have to lose? SouthernGhostStories.com goes on to explain the experiment:
After the execution Dr. Stith brought the remains back to his office and placed the former prisoner on a table. The town doctor placed a primitive apparatus made of leather and metal on the former prisoner’s head. Dr. Stith hooked up a battery to the metal around the cadaver’s temples and flipped a switch that sent electricity surging through the recently-deceased body.
According to the account from Dr. Stith the inmate's body did twitch and move when electricity was run through it, but unfortunately (or maybe fortunately because we all know how the story of Frankenstein goes) the experiment did not bring the man back to life.
Dr. Stith isn't the Only Frankenstein Inspired Scientist
While the legend of Franklin's Dr. Frankenstein is a popular one, and one you can hear about in the Southern Ghost Stories book, there is another account of a Dr. Frankenstein-inspired account from Knoxville, Tennessee (what is it with Tennessee and their obsession with Frankenstein?).
In the late 1820s Dr. Stephen Foster from Knoxville, Tennessee was said to also have performed electrical experiments on the fresh corpse of an executed man. Like Franklin's Dr. Frankenstein, his experiments also failed. You can read the full account of Dr. Foster's Frankenstein experiments, from WBIR, here.
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