Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Is Undeniably The Best Work Of Horror Fiction

Kelsie Foreman
Oct 30, 2020

Often regarded as the first work of horror/science fiction, Frankenstein has been adapted countless times and is referenced in Halloween movies, decor, costumes, and more every year. Since October 30th has long been regarded as National Frankenstein day, what better way to celebrate than by reading the cult classic and then indulging in a film?

As you dive into the wonderful adaptations of the novel, keep an eye out for references that are still used in pop culture today. For example, the depiction of today’s mad scientist labs—the ones with flashing lights and hundreds of buttons–actually were inspired by the first depiction of Frankenstein’s lab (see which one below!).

Not only did Frankenstein pave the way for an entire generation dedicated to horror, the novel also inspired writers like Sarah Maria Griffin and Dean Koontz to take aspects of the Frankenstein story and weave them into their own tales of horror and depravity. Even more impressive, this novel was written by a woman in a time when female authors were rare because manuscripts written by women were rarely accepted and then published.

 In fact, during its first publication run, Shelley’s work was published anonymously. Only a few years later, when it was republished in 1823 did Shelley receive credit on the title page.

The second edition of Frankenstein, complete with Shelley's byline.

A brief history of Frankenstein

Written by Mary Shelley, perhaps the most endearing aspect of Frankenstein is that the premise of the novel was dreamt up by Mary, her husband, their friend Lord Byron (yes, that Lord Byron), and his mistress Claire Clairmont during an 1816 summer vacation to Geneva, Switzerland. The group had been forced inside as it was incredibly rainy for the duration of the trip. To cope with being forced indoors, the group passed the time by challenging one another to come up with their most haunting ghost story and then write it down.

At first, Mary was challenged by the idea of writing a ghost story and would constantly ask the other members of the group if they had any ideas for their own stories.  After one especially rainy evening, Shelley asked again if anyone had any ideas. When they responded no, Shelley thought aloud, "Perhaps a corpse would be re-animated. Galvanism had given token of such things."

Later, in the wee hours of the morning, Shelley was woken by the grim details of her idea and immediately took pen to paper. It’s been said that the name “Frankenstein” came to her this night when she awoke. Encouraged by her husband and the rest of the group to complete the story, she finished her draft and published it only a few years later, in 1818 while living at her home in Bath, England.


Mary Shelley

Full of dark themes of sublime nature, the risk of too much knowledge, secrecy, and more, Shelley leaves a warning at the introduction of her novel, “Frightful as it must be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.”

However, despite Shelley’s success as an author (she ended up writing several other books and edited her husband’s poetry collections heavily) she is most well-known for Frankenstein, which has been adapted into 30+ movies, tv shows, or plays. Find some of our favorite adaptations below, just in time for the spookiest night of the year. 

The freakiest Frankenstein adaptations for National Frankenstein Day

Frankenstein (1910)

The 1910 movie was the very first adaptation of Shelley’s story into film. Though it’s in black and white and completely silent, this is always a great film to indulge in if you like to compare differences in cinematography and storytelling. This is also one of the only films where Frankenstein’s monster is created inside of a cauldron. 

A screengrab from the 1910 adaptation of Frankenstein
Frankenstein (1931)

Often referred to as the film that launched the horror-film genre, this classic from Universal Studios is always a good watch, even if it’s almost a hundred years old! Pay special attention to the details of the lab in this film—as was mentioned above, a lot of these aspects are used in Halloween decor today. Be sure to catch the sequel, “Bride Of Frankenstein,” just as soon as you are done watching the first. 

In The Spirit of The Beehive (1973) 

When a young girl becomes traumatized after watching Frankenstein, she’s swept up into her own fantasies, which may be worse than anything depicted in Shelley’s Frankenstein ever was. The unique metaphors, stunning cinematography, and haunting themes make this one of the most interesting adaptations of the story on the list. 

Van Helsing (2004)

A more modern take on a classic tale, the plotline of Van Helsing combines elements of the two most famous horror stories of all time with story elements inspired by both Frankenstein and Dracula. Even better, watch for a tribute to the 1931 adaptation of the story in the opening credits of the film. It’s a can’t miss.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

An absolute cult-classic, this film is best screened in front of an audience who loves ridiculous movies. Follow Doctor Frankenfurter (played by Tim Curry, no less!) as he attempts to create a horrific monster that rivals even Shelley’s darkest descriptions in the town of Transsexual, Transylvania. 

No matter which of these adaptations you choose to watch this National Frankenstein Day, we recommend doing so with a wine, cheese, and fruit tray. These foods are mentioned frequently throughout Frankenstein and it’s always fun to truly immerse yourself in the story. Just be sure to leave the light on when you head to bed…

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