Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In Janesville: The death of Frankenstein June 18, 2021

Frankenstein in Janesville, MN. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

FOR THE GOOD FOLKS of Janesville, the fiery “death” of Frankenstein last Saturday morning equates the loss of a community icon.

The 20-foot tall fiberglass and steel interpretation of Mary Shelley’s monster loomed on a downtown street corner in this southern Minnesota town of some 2,500. Until the early morning hours of June 12, when a 35-year-old man who lives nearby allegedly torched Frankenstein. He’s been charged with felony arson and damage to property. Only the skeleton remains of the sculpture valued at an estimated $14,000.

A side view of Frankenstein photographed in 2016. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo.

Janesville’s Frankenstein, originally a Vulcan displayed at the 1988 St. Paul Winter Carnival, was reinvented as a Halloween attraction in the metro before a local businessman purchased him from an auction in 2012. I photographed Frankenstein in 2016, finding him an oddity in this small Waseca County town.

But “odd” isn’t new to Janesville. For decades, “The Doll in the Window” was Janesville’s noted attraction. The mannequin, positioned inside an attic window and visible from well-traveled U.S. Highway 14 (which now bypasses the town), was the stuff of creepy legends. The man who displayed the doll died long ago and, from what I found online, a lot of unknowns remain.

Whether Frankenstein is resurrected remains to be seen. For now, folks are honoring him with flowers and other mementos placed at the base of his skeleton, drawing attention once again to this rural Minnesota community.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


2 Responses to “In Janesville: The death of Frankenstein”

  1. Sandra Says:

    $14K????!!!! Interesting story. The Trinity playground fire comes to mind. I know it’s been restored to the neighborhood and school, any judgement? We have a Lutheran church playground a mile south of me that had their playground torched about a month ago. Because it is partially on city land, their insurance will pay, but it’ll never be rebuilt this summer for the kids. No arrests. How can those materials be so easily torched, beyond me obviously. Someone will see this story, help this nice town. Hard to replace Frankenstein. I remember we played them in something, probably softball. Town still has 3 churches! Good for you, sweet the citizens leaving flowers. Our news is full of….something else.

    • I don’t understand this vandalism either, Sandra, and I’m sorry to hear about the playground that was destroyed near you. These are not easy days. But we just keep trying to make the world a better place, right?

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