Reality and Fiction Intersect in…
The year 2018 will herald the 200th anniversary of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. The timing seems right for the story of a real monster. German-born immigrant Anton Probst arrived in New York in 1863. Within two hours of his arrival, he enlisted in the Union Army. During the American Civil War, Probst bore witness to mankind’s brutality. Afterwards, he became an inmate at the disreputable Blockley Almshouse in Philadelphia.
Frankenstein was first conceived by Shelley in 1816. Her monster was an embodiment of abandonment and loneliness, feelings Shelley shared. In despair, the creature resorted to violence. Fifty years after Frankenstein’s conception, Anton Probst adopted characteristics of Shelley’s monstrous creation. He became Philadelphia’s first mass-murderer when he slaughtered members of the Christopher Dearing family.
After his death, Probst’s story continued. The creature that he had become left a deep impression on the people of Philadelphia and New York. Researchers used Anton Probst’s body to show the effects of galvanization, the same means by which Frankenstein’s monster stirred to life. Incredibly, similarities surface between Shelley and her circle, her monster, and events that transpired when the blood of innocents was shed an ocean away. One defining difference is present. Unlike Shelley,s creature, the story of America’s monster is very real.
“This book is like a marvelous dream-catcher, with threads that seem far apart yet which intersect under Ms. Abbot’s hand and diligent study. It can be hard to read about murder this foul, when you know it really happened. The gruesome details after the crime are perhaps worse than the central deed itself. But this is a terrific book, one you can enjoy and then keep around to win trivia games and deepen your own knowledge of history.”
“Each part of the book is well researched and well written (some of the events are mentioned more than once to elaborate a point but justifiably so) and its overall argument is a compelling one”
“This book is the kind of tale that grips you and shows you something, the way you would expect from a novel. Yet it is also a textbook, simply packed with well-researched information and tons of scholarly notes.”
“I’d recommend this book to readers interested in Frankenstein and Mary Shelley’s work and life, also to people interested in true crime, in particular, XIX century crime in the US. As a writer, I thought this book would be of great interest to writers researching crime enforcement and serial killers in XIX century America, emigration, and also the social history of the time.”
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About author Patricia Earnest Suter
I am a graduate of the University of New Mexico. To date, I have written The Hanging Of Susanna Cox: Pennsylvania’s Most Notorious Infanticide And The Legend That’s Kept It Alive; Peter Montelius: Printer and Teacher, Teacher and Printer; The Forgotten Nephew: D.E. Lick; and now The Face Of A Monster: America’s Frankenstein. I frequently contribute to Passed Time, a website devoted to establishing a dialogue based on primary resources as a means of preserving the history and looking at it from the perspective of those who lived it. Additionally, I run the Earnest Archives and Library, a privately held library with a focus on the contributions of Pennsylvania Germans to American history.
Visit www.patriciasuter.com to…
-Learn more about the book
-Check out its bibliography
-Find out about her upcoming projects