Frankenstein is alive on Jewett Street thanks to one man’s dedication to science and Halloween tradition

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Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein may be more famous but Chris Chagaris’ Frankenstein on Jewett Street is a Halloween tradition in these parts. Photo/Jason Palmer

MANCHESTER, NH – It’s the evening before Halloween and at 159 Jewett St. in Manchester, the iconic monster first penned by Mary Shelley – and later immortalized on the big screen in 1931 by director James Whale and actor Boris Karloff – is starting to stir.

Thunder claps in the background and sparks leap from the authentic Tesla coils. The monster who was made from Man meddling with the acts of God slowly sits up in its gurney.

The display was created by Manchester native Chris Chagaris, who said the idea to transform his garage into a high-voltage replica of Henry Frankenstein’s laboratory—the character of Victor Frankenstein’s name was changed to “Henry” in Peggy Webling’s film adaptation—first occurred to him roughly 15 years ago.

“One year it struck me that I had all of these Tesla coils and The Jacob’s Ladders that I was using for science demonstrations at schools and decided to put them together for a little show for the kids,” said Chagaris, a Class of ’73 Manchester Memorial alumnus.

Free of charge, the general public can view the display through portals looking into the garage from 7-10 p.m. each night until Nov. 6.

Each year Chris Chagaris adds a new special effect to his Frankenstein display. Photo/Jason Palmer

A senior systems engineer for Light Steering Technologies in Manchester, Chagaris is self-taught in the sciences.

“I’m very curious about how things are done,” he said. “One year they demonstrated some Tesla coils in school, and I told myself that I had to find out how they worked.”

And he did.

Chagaris—who is also a licensed pyro-technician who dabbles in theatrical make-up—built his first Tesla coil for a science fair as a student at Southside Middle School and continued to pursue his interests into adulthood.

The entire display, from the hand-wound Tesla coils to the monster itself, which is a Styrofoam body and head with a mask, is constructed by Chagaris. And each year he tries to add a new special effect.

“It’s an homage to the early ‘Frankenstein’ films,” said Chagaris, who is an aficionado of classic horror films. “I do it for anyone who will enjoy it, especially those people who are also fans of the old films. Most people have never seen anything like it.”

And the people who return to view Frankenstein’s Jewett Street laboratory have passed down by word-of-mouth through generations now. Some of the older kids who first viewed the display are now bringing their own children to enjoy the show, Chagaris said.

“When the kids ask me how I’m able to do it, I simply tell them that I paid attention in science class,” he said. “The kids are fascinated by it.”

Some years, the crowds on Halloween night will line both sides of Jewett Street in front of Chagaris’s home—the display is outside, thus remained unimpeded by the pandemic—to view the monster stir.

But for Chagaris, who sometimes needs to invest in more candy than the average house on the block, it is worth it.

“I enjoy it,” he said. “I’m trying to spread some joy and maybe give people a little scare.”

The public is welcome to stop by Chris Chagaris’ house, Henry Frankenstein’s lab at 159 Jewett St. and peer inside… if you dare. Photo/Jason Palmer

 

About this Author

nathan-graziano

Nathan Graziano

Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester with his wife and kids. He's the author of nine collections of fiction and poetry. His most recent book, Fly Like The Seagull was published by Luchador Press in 2020. He's a high school teacher and freelance writer, and in his free time, he writes bios about himself in the third person. For more information, visit his website: http://www.nathangraziano.com