‘Monster’ run lives on in Darmstadt

Runners start the 2007 Frankenstein Castle Run, which was expected to be the last in a series that began 30 years earlier. However, two German running club — with advice from the last U.S. military unit remaining in the Darmstadt area — have resurrected the race for another run on Halloween.


By KEVIN DOUGHERTY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 12, 2008

Victor Frankenstein, the fictitious mad scientist of book and movie lore, would get a charge out of this.

Declared all but dead a year ago, the annual Frankenstein Castle Run has been resurrected by the city of Darmstadt, filling the void left by the departure of the U.S. Army earlier this year.

Better yet, the German city intends to hold the popular flight of foot on Halloween, costumes encouraged.

"There is still a lot of interest," said Richard Smith, an Air Force veteran, Darmstadt resident and an organizer of the event.

Up until a few weeks ago, that interest seemed to be lagging.

Inaugurated in 1977 by the 440th Signal Company, the eight-mile run from Cambrai-Fritsch Kaserne south to Frankenstein castle was held every year but two. When the Army announced in April 2007 it would vacate Darmstadt this year, organizers and supporters alike came to view the 2007 run as the final link in the chain.

But popular events such as this don’t always die so easily.

A couple of weeks ago, Smith was in Switzerland with the mayor of Darmstadt when the latter received a call from his office.

Apparently an effort to resuscitate this monster of a run — the course goes quite vertical over the last mile — was going nowhere and the mayor’s staff was contemplating pulling the plug.

Smith, a member of a German sports club in nearby Eberstadt, stepped in and said his organization would co-host the event with another club in the area.

Smith called Lt. Col. Ivory Freeman, commander of the 105th Military Intelligence Battalion, the only remaining unit in the vicinity, and asked for a little guidance.

Freeman said Friday his unit’s role will be purely advisory, working with the city and two sports clubs as they prepare to take over the run for good next year.

Calling 2008 "a transition year," organizers plan to limit the number of participants to about 200. Both Freeman and Smith said scores of American military personnel are expected to participate.

If we skip a year, "we lose continuity," Freeman said. "It’s also a unique opportunity, with Halloween being on Friday."

Unlike past years, the event won’t be a competitive run centered on trophies. Instead, it’s being billed as a "fun run" in which participants can jog or walk with or without a costume. The registration fee is 15 euros to cover the T-shirt and refreshments, and the deadline to sign up is Oct. 17.

"We’re trying to find someone to run in a Frankenstein costume," Freeman said. "We’re going to keep working that."

Assuming they are successful, look for a likeness of Victor Frankenstein’s monster at the casern’s north gate on Ludwigshöhstrasse. For additional information,
e-mail 105funrun@mi.army.mil.