Villa Diodati – Cologny, Switzerland - Atlas Obscura

Villa Diodati

Where Mary Shelley’s "Frankenstein" and John William Polidori's "The Vampyre" were born. 


During a stretch of cold, dismal summer days brought about by an environmental catastrophe, two of the most influential Gothic horror stories were born within the walls of this villa.  

The year 1816 went down in history as “the year without summer.” The volcano Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted in 1815, causing climate abnormalities all around the globe. The severe levels of sulfur dioxide pollution in the atmosphere made the global average temperature plummet for three years. Floods, crop failures, extreme rain and snowfall, and a general lack of sunshine wreaked havoc around the globe. 

During this terrible summer of 1816, Lord Byron came from England and rented the Villa Diodati to escape the scandals some of his love affairs had provoked back home. He spent many days and nights with his friends, among them John William Polidori, Claire Clairmont, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (later Mary Shelley).

Influenced by the apocalyptic climate and social disasters, the friends started to exchange ideas on occultism and philosophy. Lord Byron also encouraged them to try their hands at writing horror stories to pass the time and reflect the mood of the dreary days. Some of those ghoulish tales were later turned into famous fiction novels.

The very first draft of the manuscript for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus was written inside Villa Diodati. The author penned the book when she was just 18. It was published in 1818. During that dreadful summer, Byron and Polidori also began working on The Vampyre, the first work related to the Romantic paradigm of vampire novels.

Know Before You Go

The village of Cologny has a bus connection with Geneva. Unfortunately, the villa is in private hands and can only be visited from outside a massive security fence.

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