"Son of Frankenstein:" Peter Bebergal takes childhood refuge in his favorite monsters

In a beautifully crafted essay for the literary journal VQR, author Peter Bebergal (Season of the Witch, Strange Frequencies, Appendix N, and here at Boing Boing) delves into the peculiar solace monsters often offer adolescence. He eloquently recounts how plastic monster model kits, Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, and horror films, especially Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, offered him a unique kind of sanctuary from some of the mysteries, anxieties, and trials of his youth.

It was unusual for me to beg my parents for a toy, but the Frankenstein model gripped me in its cold resurrected hand. And while I don't remember the day it was given to me, I do recall being in the backroom of my father's store when I emptied the box of plastic pieces, molded in the shapes of arms, torso, legs, feet, and head. Something was different, then. A gloom had settled over the store. My father's voice had taken on the quality of a persistent whisper, quiet words spoken to customers and to others on the phone. 

Soon thereafter I was given the news that my grandfather had died after a long illness. My awareness of my parents' worries and anguish, of having to juggle the practical with the abstract, details of funeral and cemeteries along with the effects of death and loss, was seen as if through a telescope. I could hear their muffled crying done furtively behind closed doors. Strangers came to the house with food and flowers. His loss was a crater for my father, an only child, who now had the responsibility of managing the shop on his own. I didn't then know how he died, or exactly when, only that somewhere there was a corpse, an unliving body not yet in the grave. 

The model was unpainted, all the pieces the same pale tones. It snapped together without glue and could be posed. Someone else in my family, likely a sister, eventually painted the model for me, and it stood proudly on my bedroom shelf, a knowable quantity. He had a story, a tragic one. I could hold his body in my hands, understand both his mad creation and his poignant destruction. The gloom and seriousness of Frankenstein was a resting place for my unease, formed in the crucible of the perplexing lives (and unfathomable deaths) of all the adults in my house whose lives were secretive, at least insofar as they kept me at a remove from it all. 

Read the rest here.