June 16th, 1816 – Horror Stories from Byron


On the night of June 16th, 1816Lord Byron read Fantasmagoriana to his four house guests at the Villa Diodati: Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Claire Clairmont, and John Polidori. The reading inspired his challenge that each guest write a ghost story, which culminated in Mary Shelley writing the novel Frankenstein, John Polidori writing the short story The Vampyre, and Byron writing the poem Darkness.

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Fantasmagoriana is a French anthology of German ghost stories, translated anonymously by Jean-Baptiste Benoît Eyriès and published in 1813. 


Eyriès chose a selection of eight German ghost stories to translate for a French audience. The first story (“L’Amour Muet”) was from Johann Karl August Musäus‘ satirical retellings of traditional folk tales Volksmärchen der Deutschen (1786). The next (“Portraits de Famille”) was by Johann August Apel, first published in 1805, but reprinted in his anthology Cicaden (1810). Of the remaining six tales, five were from the first two volumes of Apel and Laun‘s Gespensterbuch (1811), and one (“La Chambre Grise”) was by the highly popular author Heinrich Clauren, which had been parodied by Apel in one of his Gespensterbuch stories (“La Chambre Noire”).

In 1986, British director Ken Russell released the film Gothic, starring Gabriel Byrne, Julian Sands, and Natasha Richardson, that presents a horror movie dramatization of that fateful night . . .


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