June 16, 1816 - It was on this rainy night that a bunch of friends gathered at a summer house near Lake Geneva. The owner of the house was the poet, Lord Byron, and his guests included Mary Godwin, Percy Shelley, John Polidori and Claire Clairmont.
As the friends traded ghost stories late into the night, the creative wheels started turning. Mary Godwin came up with the initial idea behind her 1818 novel, Frankenstein. Polidori was inspired by one of Byron's poems to write his short story, The Vampyre, which would lay the groundwork for countless vampire tales to follow.
The crappy weather that kept Byron and his guests indoors was not simply a case of June gloom. It was actually a catastrophic climatic event, mainly caused by an awesome volcanic eruption on Mount Tambora. The massive fallout from the volcano coincided with an unusually mild period in the solar cycle.
Temperatures plunged around the world and frost would kill off vital crops. It's estimated that the resulting famines killed over 200,000 people.
Byron channeled the gloom into one of his most famous poems, Darkness. It's a story about the last man on earth.
I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air...