The Hairy Killer: Werewolf Legend
The elusive werewolf does not easily fall on any evolution chart. But this begs the question, where did the werewolf come from?
This is not so easy to answer. Why? Because it’s reliant on our ancestors’ testimony.
We all know this truth. Our ancestors were perhaps not the most learned people.
Our ancestors the commoners were largely uneducated with barely a second grade education which is probably overshooting it. Second graders are cute and all, but the stories they tell can be quite interesting.
The doctors were well read, educated in philosophy, and understood logic argument. They weren’t exactly the most efficient physicians though in terms of healing their patients.
Raise your hand if you would like to be treated by leeches so your illness is sucked out? Look, even if I thought they might do me good, these critters are not cute people.
And does anyone want your doctor to remove your infected hand? If you lived in the right century, in the right place, you might get something to deaden the pain but probably not. Plan on biting a towel and just know, your ancestors couldn’t see the germ, so it didn’t exist.
Besides the commoners, physicians, and we also had scholars who recorded history. They had a formal education and were intelligent.
The historian recorders, however, were not CNN reporters nor had they ever seen a CSI TV show. They did not quite appreciate the importance of gathering multiple accounts, or understand that eyewitness testimony is biased. The people who recorded our history sometimes never went to the site where it happened. Rather they often took the oral tales told to them and simply recorded it.
Not to mention our record keepers were chauvinist men and extremely superstitious believing every tiny thing that went wrong in their city was the fault of a woman and obviously a witch.
Name the horrid event and you’ll find a nasty witch behind each one. A plague? Damnable witches. A drought- yup, witches. A famine…witches again. Pope has diarrhea, who else, the shitty witches.
A village attack at night and a body found mangled, and it’s the third time this has happened in a month? Hmmm…witches do spells but don’t eat flesh so it can’t be them. Ok, maybe not a witch this time. Got it. A werewolf who consorts with witches. Yeah, that’s it.
In today’s world, when we hear of a string of murders in our community, we think psychopath and serial killer. Our minds conjure up the fictional Hannibal Lecter, and then move on to non-fiction people like Ted Bundy or Jeffery Dahmer.
If we see on TV a person who has hair growing all over their body we don’t gasp, point at the screen and shout, “Werewolf!” No, we understand there’s a condition called Hypertrichosis that causes excessive facial and body hair growth.
When we read in the paper about an eighteen year-old who claims to be a vampire, or werewolf, or something supernatural, we don’t automatically take his word. Rather, the words “crazy” or “insane” pop in our head. If you’ve taken some psychology courses then the words, Delusional or Schizophrenia come to mind.
I say all this before I go into old historical accounts of werewolves to give you an objective lens.
I don’t say all this to be boring or make an argument against werewolves…heavens no. I’d love to find me a werewolf as much as the next guy.
But I’m an educated and pragmatic guy, and very weary of falling into the superstitious trap who accepts everything without questioning the evidence in front of them. We need to rely on deductive reasoning and be mindful there are multiple perspectives to every event and be skeptical of such things as werewolves until we have more evidence to suggest otherwise.
Eyewitness Testimony is Not Fact
It takes tons of data and personal accounts to come to a solid logical conclusion, and in the psychologist world, you never know if you are one hundred percent right.
A piece of evidence does not give you an open-shut conclusion.
If you and your peers are nosy and hypothesize your professor is cheating you are more likely to confirm your hypothesis with the smallest of details. Suppose you hear from a good friend he was seen kissing a strange man you’ve never seen. You conclude he must be cheating.
You start telling everyone that Professor Joe is cheating on his long time husband. The bombshell comes a week a later…you find out your professor’s brother was visiting and in your professor’s culture it is customary to give a kiss.
We should always have to take stories from once upon a time with a grain of salt.
To get a valid account of a story we need to gather information from several sources such eyewitnesses and piece them together.
After the JFK assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested but he too was assassinated soon after. The details of what actually happen on November 22, 1963 was not clear to anyone.
The official word from the government – there was only the lone gunner. The public believed otherwise. The Warren Commission reported to President Johnson one year later that there was only the lone gunman. Their reports and interviews, however, were chalked full of holes and discrepancies fueling already established conspiracy theories..
What happened that day?
How many shots were fired…three, four, five? Was it just one guy or were there teams? Did anyone see a shooter on the third floor book depository? Was there a shooter on the grassy knoll? Could a bullet that went through President Kennedy and Governor John Connally actually end up in pristine condition?
They conducted interviews, gathered evidence from personal accounts, and re-watched hundreds of home videos.
Amazingly, after all this, there were more questions than conclusions. Was there more than one shooter?
This doubt was followed a few years later by yet another group of experts collecting more evidence to come yet to another set of conclusions. This is all in the twentieth-first century friends, not the Medieval times. We had videos, audio recorders, trained interviewers, and the most intelligent people investigating this.
The point…history is filled with tales. We shall never know the true accurate, comprehensive accounts.
Werewolf accounts in our history are more often than not stories that are warped and biased by the people who witnessed them. The stories are further exaggerated and twisted around by an oral tradition.
There is no doubt that there were innocent people who were simply mentally ill. They claimed to be all sorts of things and were tried as werewolves.
Not mention there are undoubtedly people who took revenge on their enemies and accused them of witchcraft or being a werewolf.
Superstitions ruled the day, not rational thought.
The idea that people had mental health problems was a foreign idea just like there being something called “a germ” that was invisible to the eye.
Not to mention, there were probably serials killers who viciously tortured and killed their victims and were called by the people-werewolves.
Why would any average villager kill so viciously? Never mind the Church’s propensity to sadistically torture. That was in God’s name. And never mind the terrifying Armies that committed unspeakable atrocities. That was in defense of one’s country.
A villager was supposed to be peaceful, and not rip people apart regardless if that villager found himself in a violent culture.
Lastly, there were probably real wolves that preyed on humans. I’m going to say it’s also possible there was a mutant-dog species, or wolf-mutant species that once existed but we’ve never seen.
Why can this not be true for wolves too?
Now, as for a human mutant who turned into a wolf? Uhm, well, okay, I’ll let you decide.
The word Lycanthropy means humans who are shape-shifters and turn into an animal. Lyko is a compound Greek word with lyko meaning wolf and anthropos means man.
We can start with the Roman Ancient myth King Lycaon in 1 A.D. There are different versions told of this story.
One is that King Lycaon and his twenty-one sons were notoriously cruel to their people, and disrespectful of the Gods.
Zeus came to Earth to see this for himself, but he came as a commoner. Zeus made it known he had come to Earth and looked like a common person. Word spread and Lycaon heard that Zeus was coming to each house.
Zeus came to Lycaon’s dwelling. Lycaon tested Zeus’s omnipotence by serving him a plate of sheep entrails with human meat. Zeus was offended by this and transformed Lycaon and his sons to werewolves.
In the second century a Greek surgeon, Galen of Pergamon, came across patients who were convinced they could transform to an animal. He described this psychiatric condition as “clinical lyncanthropy”.
Political Target or Hairy-Killing Machine?
It was not unheard of people convicted of not just being a werewolf, but practicing witchcraft. The Church was a political force given the full rights to search, arrest, prosecute, and sentence all persons engaged in witchcraft practices.
In this endeavor, the Church needed examples to bolster their political stance. They had scores, if not thousands, of potential victims ready to torture to get confessions.
The Church’s efficiency and diligence ensured that the populace understood who held power.
There is no doubt that many people who were tried as werewolves or witches were either victims of mental illness or part of some political ruse.
In regards to mental illness, one mental disorder that causes delusions is Schizophrenia. This disorder includes bizarre, in-depth delusions; not to mention hallucinations of seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there.
One probable victim of mental illness is Hans the Werewolf. He was an eighteen year-old Estonian youth targeted by the Church. He admitted to being a werewolf at his trial. The boy said he bore a scar from a dog on his arm which he said he received as a werewolf. He was executed.
The case of the Frenchman Burgot in 1521, could into the category of mental illness, serial killer, or both as it’s unclear whether he actually killed or just made stories. He claimed while he was herding his sheep that three demon horsemen dressed in black accosted him.
The demon horsemen granted him the ability to change into a werewolf so he may protect his sheep.
Burgot later admitted as a werewolf he attacked children and committed other atrocities.
A woman named Claudia Gaillard was known as the Werewolf of Burgundy. She was accused of being a werewolf and it was claimed she often hid in a bush in the form a wolf with no tail. Claudia was put her on the stake where she was burned alive.
The case of Stubbe (aka as Stuppe, Stumpp, or Stumpf) was probably a case of political powers at work. Stubbe was a widower who had a daughter and son, was a wealthy Protestant, and a farmer who lived outside Bedburg, Germany. The time period was 1589 during the Holy Roman Empire which occupied present-day Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, and Italy to name only a few.
Religious war had ravaged the area and the political details are convoluted and would require a historian to guide us through it all. For simplicity sake we can say the Catholic and Protestants were warring against one another, and Stubbe’s area was held by Catholic forces. It is very likely that Stubbe was targeted due to his religious-political beliefs.
Stubbe was arrested and interrogated on suspicion of being a werewolf. He had a partially amputated arm which the authorities claimed he received as a werewolf. This detail was used as evidence to later convict Stubbe.
Stubbe was placed on the rack and his muscles and ligaments were excruciatingly torn while he was interrogated.
Under pain of torture Stubbe admitted to practicing black magic since he was twelve years old. He told his confessioners the Devil gave him a magical belt that enabled him to metamorphose into a powerful wolf. He confessed to killing and eating two pregnant women and fourteen children one of which included his own son. He also admitted to having sex with his daughter.
Stubbe was convicted and executed which was not a pretty sight. He was placed on the wheel and his flesh torn away by heated pincers, his limbs broken by blunt side of an axehead so he’d not able to return from the grave, then he was beheaded and burned. His daughter, and girlfriend who was distant relative, were both burned alive at the stake for incest.
The townspeople later erected the wheel used in the execution in the middle of town. There was a wolf sketched on it, and on top of the wheel, was Stubbe’s severed head.
Did the head serve a warning to would-be witches and werewolves? Or Protestants?
WEREWOLF, AKA SERIAL KILLER
We have the mentally ill and then we have the serial killers. We recognize notorious names from our modern-day killers such as Jack the Ripper to BTK killer (Bound-Torture-Killer).
In Dole, France in 1560s/ 70s children started going missing. Eye witness accounts say that someone saw a werewolf near a village. A man was arrested, Gilllies Garnier, who later became known as The Werewolf of Dole.
Garnier admitted to killing four children between the ages of 9 and 12 years old. He said, in fact, he had eaten the children and brought home some fresh flesh for his wife. Garnier was convicted of being a werewolf and involved in witchcraft, and burned at the stake in 1573.
In 1598, a fifteen year-old boy was said to be eaten by the werewolf of Caude. The werewolf of Caude was also known as Jacques Rollet. The story is that Rollet was found lying in the forest, naked with long-matted body hair, and he was holding a lump of raw flesh.
In Rollet’s trial he described how he slaughtered various people including lawyers and bailiffs. Rollet was fortunate in that he was not killed but sentenced to an insane asylum where he only remained for two years.
EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS OF THE BEAST
In America we no longer hear stories of beasts killing people.
Sure, there’s the occasional story about some moron at the zoo jumping into the lion’s enclosure to pet the nice kitty only to find himself mauled.
But back in the day it happened a few times that villages would occasionally find themselves preyed on by a stray, wild beast.
The Beast of Gevaudan in central France was such a predator.
It was said the creature roamed the Gevaudan province between the period of 1764 and 1767. We have only eyewitness testimony, there was no iPhone snap shots. Descriptions say the creature looked similar to a wolf that had reddish fur, dreadful teeth, and thick, long tail.
The beast was said to have killed 98 people who were mutilated and partially eaten.
One eyewitness was a woman who was tending her cattle in 1764. She said she saw a beast that looked like a wolf that was the size of a cow. The cattle used their horns to drive the beast away allowing her to tell her tale.
Two hunters claimed to have shot it from thirty feet, but the beast escaped into the forest.
A few days later the attacks continued. King Louis XV sent in a troop of his cavalry and Captain Duhamel claims his men wounded the beast. They never found the body. Presuming they had killed the beast the cavalry left the area but only to find the beast once again return.
In 1767, another expedition was put together comprising of several hundred hunters that divided into small bands that set off over the countryside. One small group located the beast.
Jean Chastel was the guy credited for shooting the animal. The wounded animal laid on the ground dead. When they examined the creature they found its stomach contained the collarbone of a young girl.
The beast’s body was displayed in the local village and later sent to Versailles where it was buried in the countryside.
Modern day analysis suggests it was a mere beast, but this was different era. First, the village had spent a decade of being terrorized. Then of course there was superstition in the air. The Church was busy torching people convicted of witchcraft fueling the fear of werewolves and witches.
It’d only make sense that the legend of the werewolf would be borne. Interesting point, it was later discovered that the heroic Jean Chastel shot and killed the beast with silver bullets.
In very recent times, like as in 1989, a woman who was driving along Bray Road near Dalavan, Wisconsin reported seeing a figure hunched by the side of the road. When she passed the creature she late recalled, it had grayish-brown hair and big fangs, its face was “…long and snoutly, like a wolf.”
That wasn’t the end to reports.
When she stopped the car to look back she saw a dark, hairy form running toward her. She raced off in her car, but the creature leapt up onto the back trunk.
Fortunately the car was slippery and it fell off. In this same area a driver reported seeing a creature five to eight feet tall that was feeding off road kill.
One man gave testimony that a creature tried to pull a deer carcass from the bed of his truck.
Over-sized wolf, mutant-wolf or werewolf?
Whatever you decide, the Legend of the Werewolf will remain alive and well for years to come.
In the mean time, I’m pretty sure some of us wouldn’t mind being visited by a particular werewolf pack (Hint: See below)…
Howl, Howl to More Links
Bryce B. Summers is a psychologist who earned his Ph.D. from the University of Houston. He’s presently employed at the Dallas Veteran Affairs Medical Center. Bryce is the author of the Young Adult Dark Fantasy (Sci-Fi) series AMEN to ROT, a story that pits young people against a sinister force, but also takes a look at learning what your capable of accomplishing when facing impossible challenges. The novel Nyte God will conclude this series and will be available in 2015.
Be on the look out for a ROTVILLE, a Sci-Fi Thriller (Horror) that will be published by DAMNATION BOOKS and be available in 2015. A story about an experiment gone awry, they wanted to create the perfect soldier, but instead, a hero was born…
Also be on the look for FRESH MEAT, a Paranormal (Horror with Multicultural & Gay Themes) and is about a sociopathic’s inner journey from evil to salvation.Bryce is also a blog writer for the Human Rights Campaign.