"Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and Autumn moon is bright." Or so tells us this famous poem in the 1941 classic Wolfman written by Curt Siodmak.
Werewolves are one of the oldest legends of monsters in recorded history, even older than Vampires, sorry Lestat. One of the more famous and oldest of the reported Werewolves was Gilles Garnier, if you’ve ever watched a Werewolf documentary you have heard of him. But just as refresher let’s all have a brief history lesson.
Gilles Garnier was a French hermit during the day and by night, a cannibal serial killer who turned into a Werewolf and tormented the towns people in 1573 France. He earned the moniker The Werewolf of Dole after his crimes came to light. His Modus operandi (MO) seemed to be children as many went missing or were found dead after he moved into his isolation with his wife; it’s worth noting they didn’t have a happy marriage. But if his being a Werewolf had anything to do with that is unclear.
Anyway, the story is a little fuzzy on how Gilles was arrested for the crimes some say they came upon a wolf feeding and followed it back to his home where they saw it transform back into Gilles and others say one of the children recognized his eyes as she was being attacked by the wolf. The end result is the same though, Gilles was arrested, tortured and eventually burned at the stake for the crimes, all of which he confessed to.
More famous than Gilles was Peter Stumpp (or Stubbe) who committed his crimes over in Germany. The story goes that his neighbors caught ole’ Peter taking off a “wolf girdle” and they jumped him, arrested him and his family and they too were burned at the stake for his crimes. Guilt by association was big in Peter's time, the only one who wasn't killed at the stake for Peter's crimes was his daughter who was killed for being raped by him.
Since this is a brief history lesson though we have to go back even further to Ancient Rome to see where the origin of Werewolves seems to have started in 1 AD. Story goes that King Lycaon offended the Gods by serving them human flesh at a banquet so his punishment was to be a Werewolf the rest of his life. Nice, huh? This is where we get the name Lycanthropy from King Lycaon. Since this every story that tells of Werewolves has built one on top of the other adding to the myth.
How does it happen?
To review, all of these stories have a couple things in common but they are also missing a lot of information that we associate with Werewolves these days thanks to Hollywood.
In the first story I make no mention of how Gilles turned into a Werewolf to carry out his crimes. The history on that is a little fuzzy on how he did it exactly, some mentioned that he was associated with the Devil, the others that he wore a Wolf Girdle or that he didn’t turn at all and carried out his crimes as a man.
In the next story there is a reason mentioned on how Peter turned; by the Wolf girdle. In the last story the King was transformed to serve as his punishment for offending the Gods. In all the stories there is no mention of full moons or silver bullets (though logic says fire would do a good job.)
The Wolf Girdle is an interesting piece to talk about for a second, supposedly there was two ways to obtain one. One of them is a meeting with the Devil, some words are exchanged, promises are made and viola you are a Werewolf anytime you put the girdle on full moon or not. The second way is to obtain a wolf pelt and cast a spell under the light of a full moon. This is the only mention in the original tales
For further reading
Does it still happen?
Are Werewolves still reported today? You bet they are!
In 1936 Mr. Mark Schackelman was driving highway 18 close to Jefferson, in Southeastern Wisconsin when he saw a figure digging in an Indian Mound. His observation was the creature was over six feet tall and had dog like features with pointed ears and hands shriveled with three fully formed fingers and a thumb and forefinger. The next night he witnessed the same thing only this time it made what he described as ‘neo-human” sounds and growled at him. That’s a lot of detail for someone to make up.
October 31st 1991 a woman was driving on Bray Road, Wisconsin when she felt her right tire jump off the pavement as it will do when you hit something. When she stopped and looked she saw a dark hairy creature with a bulky chest racing towards her. As she tried to the flee the creature jumped on her trunk but eventually lost its grip. Later when she returned to the area with a friend they noticed a large shadow rise up on the side of the road.
For those of you who are skeptic think about this, what are these people gaining by coming forward and reporting their story? Sure, they might garner a little attention from the media but it’s not going to be the attention they want. People who hear of their neighbor reporting a werewolf sighting are more prone to think them crazy than anything else. What would someone from 1535 or 1936 have to gain? Granted, most are probably hoaxes or misunderstood known creature but the reports are far too many to think there are that many people out there who don’t know what a bear looks like.
© 2016 Chosen Shades