Johann Konrad Dippel was rumoured to create potions, perform electrical therapies, and partake in gruesome experiments involving stolen body parts from the graveyard.
Born in the Castle Frankenstein in 1673, it’s disputed whether or not he was the inspiration for Mary Shelley’s mad scientist of the same name, who did some cadaver experiments of his own.
What is sure about Dippel is his colourful career as an alchemist. He attached his name to Dippel’s Animal Oil, which he discovered from the destructive distillation of animal parts and claimed as a universal medicine.
The animal oil came at the end of a wave of popularity for Iatrochemistry, which had moved alchemy from the search for creating gold to finding new medicines.
The unpleasant taste and smell, as well as the progression of medicine, made Dippel’s oil fall into disrepute by the end of the 18th century. Dippel later helped set up a laboratory in Berlin for making gold and, at one point, he ended up in prison on a Danish island for seven years due to political activities.
In 1734, he finally had a stroke and died at the Castle Wittgenstein near Berleburg, although his friends claimed he was poisoned. By his own hand or that of another, it is unclear.
The Castle Frankenstein is now in ruins, with only two towers, a restaurant and a chapel remaining. However, the perhaps mythical connection to Mary Shelley’s novel “Frankenstein” keeps it a popular destination, especially for Halloween.
Even from the outside, the looming fortress known as Rocchetta Mattei looks like a cobbled together hodge podge of architectural influences, and the interior is even crazier thanks to the castle’s more-than-a-little eccentric creator Cesare Mattei who is best known as the father of “electrohomeopathy,” a medical practice said to cure cancer.
Since almost 1200 CE there has been a fortress sitting on the scenic hilltop in the Northern Apennines where the Rocchetta Mattei now stands.
Construction of the current castle began in 1850 at the behest of Count Cesare Mattei, a slightly unhinged, self-taught medicine man and politician who had developed his own system of healing that he said harnessed the life energy (electricity) of plants to heal all of Man’s ills, including cancer.
Envisioning his castle as the home of his medical revolution, Mattei constructed the “Rocchetta,” as he called it, with the enthusiasm and focus of a child.
Mixing medieval, Middle-Eastern, and gothic styles just to name a few, Massei simply seemed to create the rooms as the whims came to him.
The layout of the castle is no better, seemingly like a veritable labyrinth of arbitrarily interconnected rooms. Many of the features were also built from faked or disguised materials such as painted “stained glass.”
The rooms each seemed to serve their own strange purpose as well most notably the “Nineties Room” which Mattei specifically built to host a banquet that would occur on the occasion of his 90th birthday, celebrating he and his nonagenarian compatriots.
Unfortunately Massei would never get to host such a party, passing away at the age of 87.
After his death the castle changed hands a number of times, and was even once donated to the City of Bologna who declined the bizarre gift.
By the 1980s the castle was completely abandoned and falling into disrepair.
However an independent conservation group took control of the site in the 2000s and began repairing the site, opening some of it to the public.
Massei’s electrohomeopathy is still practiced in some corners of the world such as India and Pakistan, but the true testament to Massei’s genius/madness may be his beloved Rocchetta.