GENTEEL British destination Bath is home to a monster attraction that offers the sights, sounds – and SMELLS – of a horror classic.
Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein, which opened last month, celebrates the life and achievements of the novelist in the town where she wrote much of her famous frightener.
In what is being touted as the world’s first Frankenstein attraction, Shelley’s tragic life is traced, but – let’s be honest – it’s her creature creation that is the big tourist draw here.
“I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel,” the monster famously reasoned in the novel. “If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!”
And when you come face to face with the 8ft monster, you’ll see exactly what it meant. Attraction organisers have been at pains to make it look just as Shelley described it.
The author’s own tragic past and radical scientific thinking fermented in her imagination before a 1815 trip to the Villa Diodati, near Geneva, where she said she had a ‘waking dream’ of the monster.
Mary, husband Percy and Lord Byron had a competition to see who could write the best horror story. Shelley was inspired to write Frankenstein after imagining a scientist who created life – and was horrified by what he had made.
The creature was frightening to behold but eloquent in its flawed humanity and heartbreaking quest to understand why man wages war and what it means to be human.
It was in 1816 that she wrote a lot of the book in Bath, and the immersive exhibition is sited in a house in Gay Street, where the exterior offers few clues to what lies inside.
Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus was published – initially anonymously – in 1818, and met with mixed reviews amid fevered speculation about the identity of the author. It wasn’t until 1823 that it was republished under her name.
Since then it has been acknowledged as a horror classic, with some arguing that it was the first real science fiction story, and has spawned countless movies, stage shows and spin-offs.
All this is reflected in the exhibition areas of the new attraction, but it’s the settings and surprises that set it apart. Organisers have gone big on Gothic atmosphere, with a spooky spin on things.
The decor and specially commissioned props on four floors are suitably sinister and, to make it a truly immersive experience, each room is infused with bespoke scents to heighten the senses.
And then there’s the dank basement underbelly of the house, which offers a walkthrough that will doubtless be debated on social media. I’m not going to offer spoilers but expect the unexpected.
You will, however, come face to face with the Modern Prometheus on your travels, both as Mary Shelley intended and in many other guises including the classic Hammer Horror creature.
Throughout, there are vintage memorabilia treasures, props, posters, and bizarre collector items (pinball, anybody?). Organisers say they intended to “blur the lines” between museum and immersive experience.
Early Tripadvisor reviews are favourable, one of which reads: “I went with my 13-year-old daughter. I’m an English teacher and was worried it would be all horror effects and lack decent historical information but it was the perfect balance.
“The interior of the museum is a mix of gothic horror, steam punk, weird science, quality special effects and lots of information panels – it’s all really stylish and well thought out.
“There’s lots of interactive things to play with. My daughter loved it and we enjoyed taking lots of photos. The cellar is pretty scary: very dark, hanging things, loud noises etc.
“I wouldn’t have taken my 5-year-old son as he would have been terrified. As it was, my daughter clung to me as we made our way through the basement rooms.”
The attraction website itself warns that it “contains ominous and foreboding audio effects, darkened environments and some scenes of a disturbing nature. Parents should use good judgement as to whether the house will be suitable for their children.”
Whatever your view, you should note that under-16s are not allowed in unless accompanied by an adult, and I rather agree with the Tripadvisor poster that younger children will be scared silly.
There are more scares to come, too. They’re currently setting up Victor’s Lair, an escape room strewn with equations and body parts in which you have an hour to unravel the ramblings of Victor Frankenstein’s deranged mind and get free.
And, of course, there’s the inevitable gift and merchandise shop, where items for sale – some from local suppliers – are placed on shelves alongside creepy props and stranger things in jars. Yes, of course they are (cue ghoulish laughter)…
Day ticket prices are £15.50 (adult), £12.50 (child) and family tickets are £38.30 (family of three) or £53 (family of four). If you’re just curious, allow an hour or so. If you’re a real horror movie fan, you’ll be there longer. See www.houseoffrankenstein.com