It is sometimes said that there is a long-standing debate between zombie enthusiasts about whether or not Frankenstein is a zombie. Not really. There’s no debate that we’re aware of, at least not between two sane people who can form a logical train of thought.

Mary Shelley’s monster is not a zombie.

Though Dr. Frankenstein uses scientific means to create his creature in Shelley’s novel, he’s not a reanimated corpse. In fact, he’s not a corpse at all, but a collection of body parts stolen from different corpses and brought together to form a single new entity. Frankenstein is also not a reanimated corpse in the sense of being undead. He has a heartbeat and is fully alive in the classical sense of being a living creature.

He is brought to life rather than reanimated. Frankenstein is furthermore not relentlessly aggressive. He’s quite a sensitive and thoughtful guy. He even tries to learn how to read and desires, above all, to be loved. He’s driven to anger and destructiveness through his mistreatment by humans, who discriminate against him largely because of his appearance.

Finally, the process by which he was made to exist does not involve an infection. He doesn’t eat and/or bite people to spread his condition. In fact, he doesn’t have a “condition” at all, except for the tragedy of his loneliness. When you’re attacked or killed by Frankenstein you don’t turn into Frankenstein!

Later Hollywood versions of Frankenstein make him less sympathetic and more predatory, but his essential problem remains: he just doesn’t fit in with others.

Not a zombie. Not even close.


  1. In Mary Shelley’s novel, he is not a reanimated creature at all, nor was his body composed of parts and pieces of dead corpses. He was created, and the technique for this was never disclosed. The zombie-like version is completely the rendition of Universal Studios. The book is far different from the movie, please read it and you will find that this debate is redundant.

  2. Logical train of thought?

    Zombies were originally reanimated through magic. Infection and all of that is just made up along the wsy. It’s Haitian folklore to begin with.

    There are no zombie “facts” and it’s up to each and everyone to decide what a zombie is to them. This is exactly how the zombie you are taking for granted came to be.
    There’s always going to be someone smarter than you… so just stop playing smart!

    Logical train of thought… BAH!

  3. Well for heavens sake, who could possibly have been confused about this important issue?? You gotta BUILD F’nkstinian gizmos, by carefully adding spare parts from here and there; for the timely development of zombies, you just subtract things, and then wait patiently around. That’s why kindergarten kids make poor zombies in their art classes: they have little patience for waiting around, and take the cold pieces off too early. This of course produces few high end Zombies, only low rent and low wattage things suitable only for jobs like Congress. Where nobody then even notices them, among all their less talented colleagues.

  4. I believe that some people are missing the big picture. First, zombies fall into several different categories in movies. (1) In “White Zombie” (and films prior to about 1968) zombies were created by the use of hypnosis, black magic or voodoo. They were regular people under a trance of some sort who had little if any will of their own. (2) Then in 1968 George A. Romero popularized the way zombies are normally seen today by making a virus of sorts responsible for reanimating dead corpses who then run amuck eating flesh and making more creatures in their image. (3) Then there is the use of certain chemicals which can create zombies as well (i.e. “Toxic Zombies”). That said I see little distinction between MAKING a zombie (as in Case #1) through hypnosis and the method chosen by Dr. Frankenstein in reassembling body parts to essentially reanimate the dead tissues of a sewn-together corpse via electricity and/or chemical components. Therefore, the movie “Frankenstein” is similar to movies like “Night Life” except for the fact that the monster created by Dr. Frankenstein somewhat obeyed commands whereas the zombies in the second movie had minds of their own. In other words, in order to fully reconcile the definition of what is–or is not–a zombie we have to understand how movies portrayed them through history and accept the fact that George A. Romero’s version doesn’t necessarily negate everything else. In summation, Frankenstein was a zombie as were the creatures created by Bela Lugosi in “White Zombie” just as much as those created by radiation, chemicals and viruses.

  5. Replying to a few comments here …

    First to David Mosley:
    1. The Creature was made from several corpses yes but was then brought back to life, so is therefore no longer a corpse in any way. (you might as well say that a person revived by CPR is dead.)

    2. Undead – was dead, Still dead but moving. (again read the CPR comment above) so the creature is not undead, he is alive.

    3. No, zombies do not have heartbeats, same as vampires, mummies, ghosts, wights, ghouls, nor any other form of undead. Neither do they breathe nor eat. Zombies are reanimated dead bodies brought back by a voodoo priest basically as slave labor (short version). Modern “Zombies” as presented by the father of the modern zombie George Romero are actually Ghouls which are an undead form of Djinn that hangs out in graveyards and eats corpses, although they have no qualm if the corpse they eat is alive when they start munching down. The original Haitian Zombie very well may have a very slow heartbeat as in reality zombies are “Made” by giving a living person a strong hallucinogenic drug made from puffer-fish venom and so are not really dead.

    4. Yes, the creature has anger issues, who wouldn’t with what he goes through? but anger is different from aggression and the creature doesn’t strike out from his anger. the violence he deals out is very calculated and against very specific people that are tied to Victor Frankenstein in some way. He even plants evidence on someone else to throw everyone else off the track.

    5. Ghouls (modern zombies) are infectious real zombies are not.

    Frankenstein’s creature can be considered a human that has been revived or can also be considered a Golem … but is in no way a Zombie real or modern.

    To Jeff:

    “Frankenstein” is very correctly referred to as the monster. I am talking about the man Victor von Frankenstein … NOT the creature. Frankenstein was a student (not a doctor) that discovered the means to bring the dead back to life. His first experiment is successful and what does he do? he turns from it and abandons it to fend for itself when for all intents and purposes the creature is a newborn. he had no memories nor knowledge, he wasn’t even clothed, he had to steal some of Frankenstein’s castoffs at the lab as it was very cold and the creature didn’t understand what cold was. That abuse and neglect would get Frankenstein a lot of grief if done today but showed himself to be the real monster.

    Just a few points to clarify this article but hey it is all about imagination so you are free to think what you want about it, not that my saying so has any bearing whatsoever.

  6. Frankenstein’s monster is basically just a child who wants to be accepted. If you tell him that the zombies are trying to kill his friends he will turn all his rage loose and tear the zombies limb from limb! Since the monster is virtually impossible to destroy the zombies’ attacks won’t affect the monster at all.

  7. This argument makes splits a lot of hairs makes some assumptions on zombies that don’t stand up. And to my mind answers the question i never had “Is Frankenstein’s monster a zombie?” with a pretty solid “Yes he was”
    1. the monster is a corpse, completely a corpse, made entirely from corpses. (Might as well say a dress isn’t a dress because it’s patch work.)
    2. Undead – was dead, now not. That ticks the undead box for me.
    3. Zombies don’t have heart beats? Evidence for this in zombie lore please? Pretty sure the modern zombie is give a very fast heart beat.
    4. Aggression levels, think it’s fair to say although he may come down on the moderate side in zombie politics he has anger issues.
    5. Does a zombie need to be infectious? The modern take yes. In the past it has been evil entering the now dead body. But if the monster kills you you don’t arise as a zombie it’s true. And that’s because in the book Dr Frankenstein is the monster, man and his arrogance are the source of the evil and it is this taint that creates this early take on a zombie. Are zombies in voodoo lore infectious? I think not.

    Actually a zombie, past even close resemblance.

  8. Ok, but “Frankenstein” is also not Frankenstein. Frankenstein refers to the doctor; it’s his surname. The creature itself is not named. From Wikipedia:

    The name “Frankenstein” is often incorrectly used to refer to the monster itself. In the novel, the monster is identified via words such as “creature,” “monster”, “fiend”, “wretch”, “vile insect”, “daemon”, and “it”; The monster refers to himself speaking to Dr. Frankenstein as “the Adam of your labors”, and elsewhere as someone who “would have” been “your Adam”, but is instead your “fallen angel.”

    Part of Frankenstein’s rejection of his creation is the fact that he does not give it a name, which gives it a lack of identity. Instead it is referred to by words such as “monster”, “demon”, “devil”, “fiend”, “wretch” and “it”. When Frankenstein converses with the monster in Chapter 10, he addresses it as “vile insect”, “abhorred monster”, “fiend”, “wretched devil” and “abhorred devil”.

    During a telling of Frankenstein, Shelley referred to the creature as “Adam”…The creature has often been mistakenly called “Frankenstein”. In 1908 one author said “It is strange to note how well-nigh universally the term “Frankenstein” is misused, even by intelligent people, as describing some hideous monster…”

    • Yes, you are correct. That is why in the article we say, “Though Dr. Frankenstein uses scientific means to create his creature…”

      But you’d have to agree that the term “Frankenstein” is commonly used when referring to Dr. Frankenstein’s monster. And we thought that the title “The Creature Commonly Referred to as Frankenstein is Not a Zombie” wasn’t super catchy.

    • But the monster identified himself as son to the doctor… And in our society, sons take the name of their father. If he has a name, it is Frankenstein.

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