For many people around the world, 1816 was the oddest summer they ever lived through. Snow from the previous winter was still left in places well into the deep summer; rains and floods lashed central Europe; New England was cold and parched; and nearly everybody worried about what the anomalies were going to do to that season’s crops and foodstuffs. The effects of the strange weather ran deeper, however. It caused some people to be depressed and melancholy; others sought answers in prayers and religion; some, particularly in Europe, literally thought the end of the world was nigh. But everyone filtered the events through their own uniquely human experiences, reflecting a diverse range of reactions and world-views that our scientific understanding of the phenomenon can’t really communicate.
In this episode, the second in the series, you’ll experience a shocking midnight hallucination with Percy Bysshe Shelley; you’ll rub shoulders with recently-exhumed corpses in a New England cemetery; you’ll learn how making end-of-the-world predictions became a police matter in Italy; and you’ll ride along with a simple Massachusetts farmer as he tries to reap his stunted crops in a growing season where nothing was as it should have been. This episode contains threads that connect to various other SD installments, including Episode 14 (Down & Out at Harvard), 21 (Frankenstein), and 8 (Christmas 1814).