Although he is one of literature's most enduring monsters, Frankenstein was not his original name.
In Mary Shelley's
1818 horror story, Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus
, Frankenstein was a Swiss student who discovered a way to create a living man. His "monster" was actually timid and gentle, only turning to murder when people, repulsed by its ugly appearance, attacked it.
One of history's most successful thrillers, Frankenstein
was written because of a contest between Mary Shelley; her husband, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley
; and their friend, writer Lord George Byron
, to see who could create the best ghost story.
While they can be beneficial, negative, or neutral, ghosts—the spirits of dead people—are often tragic. Ghosts often haunt a location or someone living, and they sometimes appear as a warning. Ghosts can also be invoked to help the living, sometimes with mixed results.
In the late 19th century, the Paiute
Indians of North America practiced a ghost dance, including trances, lasting five days. Believing it would stop the westward expansion of white settlers other tribes adopted the ghost dance. Just before their tragic 1890 battle with the U.S. cavalry at Wounded Knee
, South Dakota, Sioux
warriors performed the ceremony, and entered battle wearing ghost shirts to protect them against bullets. Nonetheless, they died by the score.
Other western ghosts populate "ghost towns," once-thriving communities that have been abandoned by the living. Virginia City, Nevada; Silver City, Idaho; and St. Elmo, Colorado are famous towns where the inhabitants are all ghosts busily maintaining the traditions of a happier time.
According to Middle Eastern
mythology, ghouls are evil female spirits of the desert.