One of the most surreal “adult” moments is having to explain urban legends and folklore to a child, particularly if they’ve awoken at 3 a.m. screaming about witches, vampires, werewolves, and the things that go bump in the night. While many of us were raised on the friendlier version of werewolves care of movies like Teen Wolf, the adorable Oz as the token Werewolf on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a super buff Scott Speedman in Underworld, or even Jacob Black in the Twilight series, the idea of a real werewolf is actually quite terrifying.
Werewolves, who are also known as lycanthropes, are shape-shifting mythological creatures who are part-human and part-wolf. Many of the believed transformations happen by the light of a full moon. Werewolves are believed to have sharp claws, and a strength that exceeds that of both wolf and man combined. They are also portrayed as out of control killing machines. A werewolf is quite literally a wolf in sheep’s clothing, which is part of what makes it so freaking scary. Until modern time, as recently as up to the 20
Until modern times, as recently as up to the 20th Century, humans reported werewolf attacks as a real threat in Europe. So where do these myths about Werewolves come from, and which of them hold some water?
15. Shape-Shifting, Psychiatric Disorders & The Werewolf
Some shape-shifters are believed to be able to switch into werewolf form no matter what the moon is up to. Transformation can happen on demand, and sometimes by anger or rage (like the Incredible Hulk) can cause an unwanted or unintentional transformation into the wolf form. It is also thought that shape-shifters are born this way, and not through a bite from another werewolf. The most common type of shape-shifting is called therianthropy and is when a human turns into an animal and vice versa. A person believing that they are a shape-shifter has even been diagnosed as a psychiatric disorder and psychiatrists report that this type of delusion is most likely to happen among people who believe in reincarnation. Whether it’s in someone’s head or not, someone who believes they are a werewolf is a terrifying threat to themselves and others.
14. The Wolf Man & Loss Of Humanity
Most werewolf legends describe a werewolf as a creature who is physically half-man and half-wolf. Usually the creature’s body is human-shaped, but often broader and more muscular. The werewolf generally stands on two legs but is covered in wolf fur, and has sharp claws and teeth. This affliction is often known as the “curse of the werewolf”, and in some legends comes care of a bite from another werewolf. Most of the time the man begins transforming into a wolf-man only when there is a full moon, but then this curse increases to every night, eventually with the wolf taking over permanently. In the wolf-man, the level of control over transformation is believed to degrade as he becomes more wolf and less man, eventually to the point of no return where there is no longer any humanity left.
13. The Revenge Of The White Wolf
There once was a butcher named Bill Wilson. When the wolf population in his town became unbearably dangerous he decided to take matters into his own hands. The butcher closed up his shop permanently and became a professional hunter. He was successful in his mission and killed over 500 wolves, and earned $500,000 for his hunting. Bill felt some level of guilt for earning so much money killing wolves and retired. One day, a farmer described a giant white wolf that he’d unsuccessfully tried to shoot. This white wolf began terrorizing townsfolk, killing livestock, and attacked Bill’s pet cow. Bill decided to come out of retirement, bought a lamb for bait which he tied to a tree, and waited with a gun for the white wolf. After weeks unseen, friends went to check on Bill. They found him leaning against the tree with his throat ripped to shreds; the lamb was untouched. No one in the town ever saw the white wolf again.
12. The Terrifying Tale Of The Woodsman & His Stolen Bride
There was a terrible woodsman who was obsessed with a beautiful young woman. He tried to talk her into being his, and things got heated. The woman screamed for help, and she was saved by her fiancé who warned the woodsman that if he didn’t back off there would be terrible consequences. The woodsman was angry and wanted revenge, so he waited until their wedding day, transformed into a werewolf attacking the young dancing bride, and dragged her out into the woods. Search parties sought out the bride, but they could not locate her. Sometime later the husband found a wolf in a cave, alongside his wife’s body. The man killed the wolf and sat with the body of his wife for hours. The husband went mad with grief, ranted to townspeople about what had happened, and descended further and further into insanity before dying four days after he discovered his bride.
11. The Demon Tailor Of Châlon
In the late 1590s there was a tailor from Chalon, France who was tried for a number of terrifying crimes, for which he was found guilty and burned at the stake. It was common to burn those who were believed to be werewolves or witches during this time, which the tailor was said to be. The tailor was charged with luring children into his shop, torturing them, abusing them, killing them by way of slitting their throats and then eating them for supper. Some believed this was simply cannibalism, except others believed that he was able to capture additional children for his meals by taking the form of a wolf and stalking them in the woods nearby. After dozens of children went missing the tailor became a suspect and was charged. When the investigators searched his store they found barrels filled with bleached bones.
10. The Navajo Skinwalker
Black magic and the occult are often linked to legends of Werewolves. In Navajo folklore the skinwalker is often seen as a sort of werewolf or witch who turns into an animal with the intent to harm others. The Skinwalker, also called ‘yee naaldlooshi’ in the Navajo language, roughly translates to, “by means of it (he or she) goes on all fours.” The creature is a human who is either magical or cursed, and often a shaman who has taken part in a ceremony that was meant to summon evil and mystical forces to enable him to take on characteristics of animals. This animal can take the form of many different creatures including wolves, bears, or birds. It’s believed that if the shaman stays in the animal form for too long he may lose his humanity altogether, adding to the danger he is capable of.
9. The Greifswald Werewolves Meet Silver Bullets
Old records indicate that in the 1640s the city of Greifswald Germany was overrun with a large population of werewolves. There were so many wolves in the area that anyone who went outside after eight o’clock was in danger of being attacked by the terrible monsters, with the highest concentration of incidents on Rokover Street. A group of students decided to take the town back from the beasts and unsuccessfully tried to defeat them. They later regrouped, and melted down all of the silver they could find (goblets, plates, and even buttons) to turn them into bullets. They then went out again into the night and successfully defeated the wolves. Some sources suggest this is one of the earliest legends that suggests silver bullets is the best way to defeat a werewolf.
8. The Morbach Monster
Morbach was a munitions site that was situated on the outskirts of the village of Wittlich, the last town where a werewolf was killed. There is a shrine just outside of the town where a candle is constantly burning, and there is a legend that if the candle ever goes out the werewolf will come back. In 1988, a group of nighttime security police noticed the candle was out at the shrine on their way back to Morbach. They joked with one another about the return of the terrible monster. That same night, alarms went off on a fence sensor and when security investigated they say they saw a huge dog-like animal stand up on its hind legs and then jump over the seven and a half foot fence. A military dog was brought into the area to track the creature, but the dog went berserk at the scent and refused to track the creature.
7. The Legend Of The She-Wolf & The Lamb
There once lived a widow named Trine. She lived in poverty, but somehow was always able to offer her guests fresh meat. One time a family member came to visit her and inquired as to how she was able to afford the food. The woman offered to show her guest, and instructed him to climb onto the roof and watch. As the man stood he saw a herd of sheep in the distance. All of a sudden a wolf appeared from the bush and attacked the sheep, and defended itself against the working shepherd who was protecting his flock. When the man called out the woman’s name, Trine turned back into her true form, and the Shepherd began to strike her with intensity. She was barely able to drag herself back home.
6. The Werewolf Of Klein-Krams & Red Riding Hood Origins
Near a town called Ludwigslust there were lush forests that were so well known for having an abundance of game that the royal dukes would come from near and far to hold great hunts. During these excursions they usually came across a wolf who, even though he was well within shooting distance, no one was ever able to kill or wound. Sometimes the cheeky wolf would even take some of their game as its trophy.
One time a hussar from Ludwigslust traveled into the Feeg home. As he entered the house, a big group of children ran outside of the house screaming. When he asked them what was wrong, they told him that no one else was in the home except for the young Feeg boy; and he chose this time to transform into a werewolf. The children were running away from the wolf who was trying to bite them. A moment later, the child appeared and was questioned by the hussar who was finally able to get the boy to show him how he could put on his grandmother’s strap and become a wolf. The boy even showed the man. The man told a local forester, who was frequently on the hunt, and the man decided he would get the wolf on their next hunt. The wolf showed himself and the forester shot him with a silver bullet. The wolf was wounded and ran towards the village and into the Feeg home. The huntsmen ran to the house and discovered the wolf in the grandmother’s bed. Injured, the grandmother had forgotten to take off the strap and her secret was known.
5. The Wolf Trials Of The Middle Ages
People believing in witches happened in parallel to those believing in werewolves, most notably during the late Middle Ages. Just like witchcraft trials, there were werewolf trials, which began in an area now known as Switzerland in the early 15th Century, and spreading in popularity and frequency throughout Europe before ending sometime in the 18th Century. Werewolf trials were far less common than witchcraft ones with some charges involving transformation into a wolf, or being a charmer or rider of the majestic creatures. At one time, the werewolf was not always thought of as evil. In the Baltic an 80-year-old confessed to being a werewolf, who would go to hell three times each year to fight against the witches and wizards of Satan, in order to provide a good harvest for the people. The court tried to make the man confess he had made a pact with the devil, but he would not.
4. Satanic Werewolf Rituals
Some people believe that modern man is suppressing important natural urges and primal desires, which is why the myth of being able to transform into a creature like a werewolf, who is at the mercy of such urges, can seem empowering and liberating. The Church of Satan even has visualizations and exercises available online for those who wish to transform and practice lycanthropy to increase their power and prowess. The moon is described as a powerful focal point during transformation, but not considered necessary for metamorphosis. While many associate werewolves with the moon; real wolves do not howl at the moon. This can be dangerous for them, so they only howl when they need to and to share their location with the rest of the pack.
3. The Haunting Howl Defense
Wolves have a defense mechanism, and it’s their howl. A small group of wolves is able to seem like a large pack when they change the pitch of their howls quickly. This often makes the enemy think they have been completely surrounded. Ulysses S. Grant said that during the Civil War at one time he believed he was surrounded by over 20 wolves who were waiting to attack him, only to discover it was only two wolves, making their howls sound as if they were coming from all around. If younger, lower ranking wolves in a particular pack decide to howl at inappropriate times they can be punished handsomely by their pack for this misdeed. Sometimes they are even killed so they don’t jeopardize the safety of the entire pack.
2. The Opportunistic Hunter Who Needs To Eat
There is no record as to whether or not the dog was purposely domesticated, or if they did this themselves in order to obtain food scraps, something that happened with gray wolves who became friendly with human camps. Wolves will eat just about anything they can sink their teeth into, even their own. They’ll eat one of their own pack if it’s sick, dying or dead, even if it’s been caught in a hunter’s trap. Wolves are usually about 100 lbs but can grow as big as 190 pounds depending on their food sources. Many believe you can’t become a werewolf without being bit by one, and wolf bites can be quite a painful ordeal, just ask National Geographic. They report that a wolf can bite with around 400 pounds per square inch of force, whereas lions and sharks bite at around 600 pounds per square inch.
1. Werewolf At The Window
A man from Arkansas recounted a childhood tale from his rural, secluded home involving a large, hairy, wolf-like creature. In the early 1970s, when the man was just seven or eight years old, he was being watched by what he believed to be a werewolf. The creature was silently staring into the boy’s bedroom one stormy night with yellow eyes. The creature never snarled, it just stared, twitching slightly. When the boy started screaming to wake up his grandmother, the creature slowly stepped away and the grandmother claimed she never saw it. The boy found giant muddy footprints outside his home shortly thereafter, and after his grandfather told a story about a run-in with a similar beast, his grandmother finally admitted to seeing the creature the night of the storm.
Sources: University of Pittsburgh