Mary Shelley And Frankenstein

Frankenstein's monster. (smartboy10/Getty Images)

In 1816, the volcano Mount Tambora blew its top, creating what was known throughout the world as the "year without a summer" due to the ash that clouded the atmosphere and caused massive crop failures, fog, and frost across Asia and Europe. This dark and dreary landscape, filled with death and unrest, was the backdrop for many authors who went on to create great works of Gothic horror.

The notable poet Lord Byron invited a number of his young, artistic friends to a country manor in Switzerland but was met with the same miserable weather, so to amuse themselves, they devised a friendly ghost story contest. Initially, the 18-year-old Mary Shelley was nervous and couldn't come up with a story for days, but after a thunderous lightning storm kept her awake, she suddenly "saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life."