Museum of… Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein, Bath
At 37 Gay Street in Bath, a short distance from where Mary Shelley once lived.
“We tell the full story behind the genesis of the 1818 novel Frankenstein and celebrate the legacy of Mary’s work across four floors,” says Jonathan Willis, the co-founder of the museum that opened last July. One floor retraces her past, including her radical scientific thinking, while other displays delve into Dr Frankenstein’s creature as Mary imagined and the story in popular culture.
The museum is full of wonderful, intriguing oddities and rare items, says Willis. “In our section on Frankenstein’s influence on pop culture we have a marvellous light-up pinball machine, but our collection also contains a rare, beautifully bound and inscribed 19th-century copy of Percy Shelley’s [Mary’s husband] collected poems,” he says.
“Frankenstein became a cultural sensation through the 19th century, with numerous theatre productions and references in letters and politics, and we cover it all.”
“The highlight of our collection is our realistic 8ft Frankenstein’s creature animatronic,” says Willis. It is heavily inspired by the author’s own description in the book. “We worked with director Kate Walshe and graphic artist Chris Goodman, both from the Bafta award-winning special effects company Millennium FX, to create as true a representation as we could of Shelley’s vision.”
Help at hand
Eight dedicated hosts administer tickets and retail sales as well as interact with guests, guided by a general manager and assistant general manager. “During peak times we will also incorporate actors into some of the themed rooms to further enhance the experience and to help manage the flow of guests safely around the building,” says Willis.
The museum is as scary as you want it to be. “It can be traversed with a minimum of fright if you want to just learn about Mary and her novel,” says Willis. “But other rooms offer real scares. The museum is theatrically dressed and each room has its own unique light-scape, soundscape, and aroma-scape, creating a multi-sensory experience.
“And in the basement there is our horror walkthrough experience, which is designed for the more daring guest. We also have an escape room for those who enjoy a more challenging scare, as well as a cinema room for those who like their scares to remain screen-based.”
“Following conception, we surveyed tourists and Bath locals using a clipboard, on which was displayed the top 10 attractions in the city. We sneakily inserted Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein, which of course did not then exist, but it came third, after the Roman Baths and the Abbey,” says Willis. “That gave us the confidence to press ahead with raising funds and locating the best venue.”
The museum hopes to attract more than 160,000 paying guests (adults £15.50, children £12.50) a year.
“We have an exciting roll-out of eight Frankenstein-themed treats over the next year,” says Willis. “But I have to hold my cards close to my chest and say only that they will include gastronomy, accommodation, tech, currency, performance, an event and a challenge.”