The Story

Mary Shelley’s “Introduction” to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein is the main source for She Made a Monster. Here is a very condensed version of the story in Mary’s own words:

In the summer of 1816, we visited Switzerland and became the neighbors of Lord Byron…It proved a wet, ungenial summer, and incessant rain often confined us for days to the house. Some volumes of ghost stories… fell into our hands. …

“We will each write a ghost story’ said Lord Byron, and his proposition was acceded to…I busied myself to think of a story—a story…which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature and awaken thrilling horror—one to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart… 

I thought and pondered—vainly… 

“Have you thought of a story?” I was asked each morning, and each morning I was forced to reply with a mortifying negative.”

Mary then goes on to recall the discussions that were happening during those stormy days and nights:

Many and long were the conversations between Lord Byron and Shelley, to which I was a devout but nearly silent listener. …Various philosophical doctrines were discussed, and among others the nature of the principle of life, and whether there was any probability of its ever being discovered… Perhaps a corpse would be re-animated; galvanism had given token of such things: perhaps the component parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and endued with vital warmth.

Night waned upon this talk, and even the witching hour had gone by, before we retired to rest. When I placed my head on my pillow, I did not sleep, nor could I be said to think… 

I saw, with shut eyes, but acute mental vision—I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then… show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion…

His success would terrify the artist; he would rush away from his odious handiwork, horror-stricken. He would hope that, left to itself, the slight spark of life which he had communicated would fade…and he might sleep in the belief that the silence of the grave would quench forever the transient existence of the hideous corpse…

He sleeps; but he is awakened; he opens his eyes; behold, the horrid thing stands at his bedside, opening his curtains and looking on him with yellow, watery, but speculative eyes.

I opened mine in terror… I must try to think of something else..I recurred to my ghost story—my tiresome, unlucky ghost story! O! If I could only contrive one which would frighten my reader as I myself had been frightened that night!

Swift as light and as cheering was the idea that broke in upon me. ‘I have found it!’ … On the morrow I announced that I had thought of a story

I began that day with the words ‘It was on a dreary night of November,’ making only a transcript of the grim terrors of my waking dream.

Want to read more?

Mary Shelley’s Introduction to Frankenstein (1831)

Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (1818)