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Werewolves: Legends, Cases, Theories

The wereanimal belief or legend is universal. In the European and American c

ultures, the predominant theme is that the werecreature is a wolf. In other cult
ures, there are were- panthers, werejaguars and werebears. Some societies believ
ed that the person shape shifted and appeared to be the animal while others beli
eved the person became the animal.
During the Middle Ages, people in Europe believed in werewolves. Some believ
ed the creature was a wolf whose body was possessed by a demon. Others believed
the devil put the person in a trance and transported the soul into a wolf's body
. Another theory was that a demon got into a wolf's body and charmed the person
into believing that he or she committed savage acts that were revealed in dreams
. Another theory believed that the person actually changed into a wolf and that
the devil substituted a human form in the werewolf's place.
The majority of werewolf cases come from Europe. They believed the wolf was
bloodthirsty and cunning and the animal was greatly feared. Between 1530 and 163
0, there were 30,000 cases of werewolves recorded in France alone. People in Nor
mandy believed in lupins or lubins, wolf like beings that talked at night in gra
veyards in an unknown language. They would flee from humans, but they also dug u
p graves and ate human bodies.
In court documents, the testimony did not vary much. The person made a pact
with the devil. They were given an ointment that transformed them into a wolf. S
ome were given a wolf pelt for protection.
Over the centuries, ideas began to change. Werewolf experts believed that th
e victims suffered from what they called lycanthropy. The victim was usually of
less than average intelligence and might have been under the influence of halluc
inatory drugs or delusions and believed he or she actually became a werewolf. Th
is was often accompanied by sadistic cravings. Beliefs and legends of those who
saw the werewolf might have made them think they saw a snarling four legged beas
t. The mind is a powerful thing.
During fits of lycanthropy, victims actually believe they are wolves and may
run around, as if on four legs, snarling, growling, howling and barking. Some m
ay desire human flesh and commit murders. This is rare in "modern" times. During
the 1600s, in Luc, Switzerland, men began to walk like dogs and bark. The cure
was a magical herb hung around their necks.
Some medical theorists believe werewolf sightings are those of people who ha
ve porphyria, a rare disease. The tissue of the hands and face is destroyed. The
y also suffer from lesions and are very sensitive to light. The combination of t
he disfigurement and the photosensitivity may cause some of them only to go out
at night.
There are also psychological theories. Victims could be suffering from schiz
ophrenic delusions. Another theory is that they are driven by subhuman urges and
they wish to escape and, in their minds, become animals to they can fulfill the
se desires without guilt. Lycanthropy is considered to be a mental illness in wh
ich the victims are driven to kill. Two psychiatrists, Frida G. Surawicz and Ric
hard Banta believe lycanthropy is a very severe form of depersonalization which
can be triggered by paranoid schizophrenia, drug abuse, brain damage or other ca
Cases and Sightings
In the 1500s, a hunter was attacked by a huge wolf and he cut off its paw. T
he wolf escaped. The hunter put the paw in his pouch and went to a friend's hous
e. When he pulled it out to show a friend, he found a woman's hand with a ring o
n it. His friend recognized the ring as his wife's. They found the wife and talk
ed to her, they discovered she had lost her hand. She confessed to attacking the
hunter, while she was in the form of a wolf. She was burned to death.
Pierre Bourgot of Poligny was brought to trial in 1521. The trial is recorde
He was a shepherd and confessed that 19 years earlier, there was a terrible
storm and his flock scattered. Three black horsemen appeared. Bourgot told them
what happened. A few days later, one of them returned and told him that if he wo
uld become a servant of the devil, he would be given wealth and protection. Bour
got agreed.
In the shapes of wolves, Bourgot and another werewolf, Michel Verdung roamed
the countryside and committed many savage murders. Their spree ended when Verdu
ng attacked a traveler who fought back and wounded him while in the form a wolf.
He loped into the woods. The traveler followed the trail of blood until he came
to a hut. He found Verdung in human form having the wound tended to by his wife
Bourgot, Verdung and a lesser werewolf were executed.
In 1573, a French village near Dole was terrorized. One day, a group of vill
agers surprised an enormous wolf horrifying a child. They noticed the facial res
emblance to a recluse, Gilles Garnier.
They apprehended him and brought him to trial. Garnier lived in poverty and
hunger. He admitted to having made a pact with the devil. He was burned to death
Jean Grenier, a homeless youth, tried in 1603. He confessed to hunting with
nine other werewolves. After he was incarcerated, he walked on all fours. He was
sentenced to confinement to a monastery.
In 1859, in Bedburg, Germany, a crowd of 4,000 people gathered to watch the
execution of Peter Stubb or Stump or Stubbe Peeter. He was described as a wicked
sorcerer who, in the form of a wolf, committed many murders over a period of 25
The townspeople were terrorized by what they thought to be a lone savage wol
f that occasionally killed sheep and cattle, but showed a definite preference fo
r humans.
Stubb, regarded as a brute, was a woodcutter. When he was caught, he was cor
nered in a ravine by a large party of hunters and their dogs. He scrambled on al
l fours, snarling and snapping like a wild animal. He fought with superhuman str
ength, but was overcome.
During his trial in Cologne, he gave, as testimony, the usual story of makin
g a pact with the devil. He said he was given a wolf's pelt to protect him went
he went on his murderous rampages.
1868, French police arrested Jacques Roulet, a beggar. He was hiding in a bu
sh, covered with blood, not far from the body of a mutilated boy. He confessed t
hat he killed the boy when he was a werewolf, a state induced by an ointment.
In a Roman garden, in 1949, people thought they saw a werewolf. They called
the police. What was actually seen was a young man, crawling around on all fours
and clawing the ground with long sharp fingernails. He was taken to a hospital
and confessed that he regularly lose consciousness during the full moon and, whe
n he regained awareness, he discovered he was prowling the streets, compelled by
a strange compulsion.
July, 1958, Mrs. Delbert Gregg, in Greggton, Texas, believed she saw one on
a night she was alone during a thunderstorm. She had just dozed off when she hea
rd scratching sounds on her screen. She woke up and saw a huge, shaggy, fanged w
olf like creature glaring at her through the screen. She grabbed a flashlight an
d jumped from the bed. The thing ran into bushes. She watched, waiting for an an
imal to appear, but, the figure of a man emerged from the bushes and walked down
the road.
In 1970, four youths in Gallup, New Mexico claimed to have seen a werewolf n
ear Whitewater. It ran alongside the car when the car was driven at 45 mph.
Between July and October, 1973, a number of residents in Toledo, Ohio saw a
tall human like figure with a wolf's head. It was said to have red glowing eyes
and smelled like limburger cheese.
Werewolves.... Psychiatric disorder on the part of the victim? This is based
in fact and evidence exists. Sightings? Could some of them be mass or individua
l hallucinations? This is possible, however, this does not account for all cases
. A reality we do not understand? Perhaps, this is the best theory. Then, there
is the well documented case of the Beast of Gevaudan....
Copyright © Jill Stefko

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