Now, I want to tell you the tale of a bloke who spent his life trying to pierce the veil between the living and the dead. A bloke who many considered mad, and who was spoken in hushed tones by local villagers. A bloke born at a place called - get this - Frankenstein... /THREAD
Johann Conrad Dippel - though he often just went by Conrad - was born in 1673 in what is today the German state of Hesse. The place of his birth? Burg (or Castle) Frankenstein. A minor noble, he could afford a decent education, and trained as a theologian. /2
Dippel was a Pietist. This was a Lutheran movement that stressed personal faith above all else, & a metaphysical bent that mean that they came off as fervent, a little bit dangerous. Dippel was zealous in his beliefs, publishing pamphlets against other denominations. /3
Upon graduating from university, Dippel lectured across the German lands, at Giessen and Strasbourg, sharing and debating his beliefs with a young, intense crowd of theologians. Unfortunately, his time was cut short when he was accused of killing a man in a duel. /4
In need of money - & I suspect, something for his mind to chew on - Dippel decided to turn his mind to alchemy, a subject that enjoyed a fashionable, if slightly dangerous reputation at the time. He promised a few investors to transmute led into gold, but predictably failed. /5
Dippel then ended up in Berlin where his creditors couldn't find him. There he again switched his focus to creating some kind of universal cure. He had time to think on it, as he ended doing a seven year stint for the crime of 'heresy', linked to his writing. /6
During his time in Berlin, Dippel managed to stumble across a pigment that would later become known as 'Prussian Blue', and snapped up by dyers across the Continent. /7
Dippel also came up with the substance later known as 'Dippel's Oil', a rather noxious substance made up of a concoction of bone. It was used to make people sweat out a sickness. /8
By 1700, disillusioned and disenchanted by the world, as well as banned from several countries due to his theological ideas (and skivving his creditors), Dippel returned to Burg Frankenstein. There he would spend large parts of the rest of his life. /9
At Burg Frankenstein. Dippel devoted the rest of his days to refining a 'perfect cure', and learning the secrets of life. This involved bringing in animals for dissection, and rumours started to circulate that he was purchasing human cadavers for his experiments. /10
It's also rumoured that Dippel explored the theory of soul-transference - quite literally, transferring the 'soul' from one being to another. Most likely poppycock, although I'd like to think it looked a little like this. /11
Dippel would have needed the help of outsiders in bringing in supplies and 'resources' for his work, and had the reputation of being quite reclusive, so it's easy to see how stories spread around the nearby hills about the mad, bad Conrad Dippel. /12
Dippel died in 1734 from a stroke at age 61, while travelling. Dead and buried, surprisingly nobody has had a go at digging him up. /13
By now, you're probably thinking - 'Oh, that's where Mary Shelley got the idea for 'Frankenstein' from, right? Well, some argue that fervently. However, a number of locals discount the idea entirely. Check this blog post out. /14…
As for whether Dippel inspired the character of Victor Frankenstein, I leave that up to you to decide. Whatever the case, the castle ruins and a restaurant now trade on the novel's legacy quite heavily. /15
If you want to visit Burg Frankenstein, well, they'd be more than happy to have you. The wife tells me they do a bang-up Halloween party every year. /16
If you'd like to learn more about Conrad Dippel himself, well, the @RCSnews have a nice little profile (PDF) on their website. /17…
Was Conrad Dippel mad? No, I don't think so. By the standards of the age, his experiments were only slightly more full-on than many of the other gentleman alchemists and dabblers in the occult at the time. As for his theology - well, he was one of hundreds similar. /18
Dippel, due to his behavior, easily became more legend than a historical personage. While there is a number of his writings still around, his reclusive years at Burg Frankenstein made it easy for others to pin things on him, to make him larger than life. /19
I think Dippel was merely a curious soul at a time when the relationship between rationality and belief, science and faith was at a rolling boil. It's easy to get lost in that kind of atmosphere. I hope now, at least, he found what he was looking for. /FIN
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