Introducing the Lycanthrope

You are driving down a country lane in the silvery light of the full moon when suddenly you round a curve and come upon a horrific sight. Something big, black and covered with fur hunkers in the roadway, its snout buried in an oozing heap of … what? Looks like a load of laundry that has been slimed by an oil spill. The beast rips away a chunk and stands up. It’s even bigger than you thought at first. It’s holding in its jaws a dangling, dripping limb of meat. Attached to the end is an obviously human hand.

The creature senses you and turns. Glowing red eyes pierce the night. You throw your car into a bootleg turn, the kind of skid that spins it around 180 degrees within the width of the road and sends it in the opposite direction, tires screaming. You look in the rear-view mirror. The creature is nowhere to be seen.

You hear a thump on the car roof, and a second later the hellish eyes are glaring at you through the windshield. Three-inch teeth gnash in front of your face. With a crash, your side window explodes, spraying shards of glass all over the car’s interior, and a hairy paw reaches in. Razor-sharp talons graze your cheek.

You stomp on the brake pedal with all your strength. Tires shriek. The monster careens forward off your car and lands in a curled-up ball of fur. You shove the accelerator to the floor and nearly succeed in running the thing down, but at the last minute it scrambles off into the woods by the side of the road and disappears with baritone yelps.

You turn back around and drive away from the scene as fast as you can, giving wide berth to the remains of the victim, whom you guess might have been a teenage girl. Several miles down the road, you breathe a sigh of relief that you’ve escaped whatever that was back there. You fumble for your cell phone and dial 911. As you hold the phone up against your cheek, waiting in vain for a signal, you notice that the claw scratches are starting to burn. Not just sting, but burn like the acid gangsters use to dissolve dead bodies. A smell of sulfur hangs in the air.

“Oh, jeez,” you think. “What now?”

But you really don’t want to know.

All this could have been avoided if you’d read this book earlier, understood the nature of the beast’ and known what to expect When Werewolves Attack .

Legends of Man-Beasts

If, as many religious teachers have believed, the body is only the vesture of the soul, some men clearly have souls of beasts.

–M ICHAEL L ORD , I NTRODUCTION TO T HE B OOK OF W EREWOLVES

Accounts of shapeshifters—humans who possess (or are possessed by) the power to transform into animals—come from almost every era since humankind first walked the earth. They have been recorded on every continent except Antarctica and, indeed, almost every country of the world.

Werewolves, also known by other names such as “lycanthrope” (Greek) and “loup-garou” (French), are by far the most widespread and well-known species of shapeshifter. They have inspired more tales of horror across the centuries and around the world than almost any other supernatural beings. The genesis of the werewolf is a convoluted and twisting tale. Steeped in folklore, reality and imagination, it is often very difficult to know where one tradition leaves off and another begins. The reports are, many times, a mixture of campfire legends, police reports, newspaper articles, family heritage and religion, all wrapped together in one giant ball of hairy string whose common denominators are fear and blood.

* * * *

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

The term werewolf is thought to be a combination of two Old English words—“wulf” or wolf in modern English and “wer” meaning man. An alternate etymology points to the Old English word “weri,” meaning “to wear,” which could mean wearing a wolfs skin.

The word lycanthrope , from the classic Greek “lycos” or wolf and “anthropos” or human being, means “one who possesses the power of magical transformation from human into beast and back again.” Modern mental health workers use the term lycanthropy to refer to a persons delusion that he or she has this power.

* * * *

The Werewolf Transformation

Since the dawn of mankind, werewolves have haunted our imaginations, our family tales, and our police blotters. Do the afflicted really change form? Curiously, this basic fact remains a mystery. Few witnesses have gotten close-enough looks at werewolves in action to register such details, and fewer yet have lived to tell about it. Firsthand accounts of werewolfery have most often come from accused wolf-men themselves, usually during

interrogation before their trials. Unfortunately, although the tortures used to loosen tongues in werewolf trials often proved effective in eliciting confessions, they did not ensure truthfulness.

The idea of a complete physical change into a four-legged superwolf may seem preposterous. A more moderate transformation—suddenly sprouting hair in unlikely places and growing fangs and claws—also calls for a stretch of the imagination, but it is more compatible with modern scientific possibilities because it merely exaggerates human anatomy.

It is easier to label evil if it looks like evil. A wolflike physical appearance may be in the mind of the victim, a witness or the werewolf himself. Hallucination? Madness? Mass hysteria? Maybe, but reports during the Middle Ages, especially, seem to suggest that something different may have been happening.

The purpose of the change into beastly form is ultimately the lust for the blood and flesh of other living beings. In effect, we are speaking of one of the greatest taboos in modern society—cannibalism. In our minds, cannibalism is an unnatural act, and somebody would have to “not be themselves” to be involved in such an atrocity. Yet the Jeffrey Dahmers of the world have done just that, and there are numerous reports of serial killers becoming animalistic and savage in their attacks upon their victims. Many serial killers believed they were possessed by, if not the soul, at least the spirit of an animal while they committed their violent crimes. It usually depended upon their geographic location as to what type of animal would take over the human form.

The term cannibalism derives from the name of the West Indian Carib tribe, first documented by the explorer Christopher Columbus. The Carib tribe was alleged to eat others—it remains unclear whether they did indeed do so. However, cannibalism, in all of its bloody glory, is a repulsive and repugnant action that sits heavy in one’s subconscious when speaking of werewolves. They are, after all, merely transformed men who will soon change back into human form. But during the time they are in wolf form, they will kill and, in most cases, eat the flesh of humans. No wonder werewolves are anguished personalities. Many times an innocent man is cursed through no fault of his own and is forced to endure this burden. We feel for him and yet are repulsed by him at the same time.

In The Vampire: His Kith and Kin , author Montague Summers postulates:

Primitive people so frequently aligned men and animals in their thinking that it is possible that human flesh was not considered significantly different from other foodstuffs. There is probably no instinctive aversion to eating it; the horror shown by civilized, and by many primitive, peoples was developed by convention, parallel to their aversion to eating other foods considered unorthodox, unclean, or unfit for human consumption, much as the pig and the dog are unclean for all Semitic peoples. The abhorrence of such foods is an extraordinarily deep emotion, not dictated by biological necessity.

Throughout history, a number of cultures have practiced cannibalism, but they’ve rarely felt good about it and have often used allegations of cannibalism to demonize others. Embodying one of the darkest aspects of human nature is what makes the werewolf the uncuddly figure that he is. (Well, that and the fact that he doesn’t smell all that good.)

Do the afflicted really change form? Can a man become a beast … physically? How do you save yourself from a fate such as this? You do it with knowledge, just the facts … as I believe them to be.

* * * *

WEREWOLVES ON ACID?

Many werewolves were rich noblemen who had no worries about being brought to justice. Most defendants in werewolf trials were poor and came from poor homesteads. Many were Gypsies and other immigrants. They knew their fate was sealed as scapegoats for the rich. A staple for poor families was rye bread. Ergot a fungus that grows on rye, is a powerful hallucinogenic used in modern times to make LSD. Some experts theorize that since most people involved in the mass werewolf hysteria of the 16th century, whether accused or accuser, were poor, much of their testimony may have been tainted by hallucinations from the rye fungus.

* * * *

Werewolf Attack Statistics

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics.

–M ARK T WAIN

If one is to believe that the genesis of the werewolf is swimming in the dark, convoluted, murky waters of history and folklore, it becomes no clearer in trying to decipher statistics concerning werewolf attacks. So many walls and hurdles are placed in the way of the discerning werewolf researcher that uncovering anything palpable is a miracle. Some of the most obvious problems are: the reluctance of local law enforcement agencies to acknowledge the existence of werewolves; the difference between random wild animal and wolf attacks and werewolf attacks; the repulsiveness of cannibalism in any form; family members who know secrets but are reluctant to divulge any information as it may reflect poorly upon their own heritage; and the willingness to try to see unsolved homicides in a different light. If we hide our heads in the sand concerning the reality of werewolves, we will be forced to go underground to find information on how to protect ourselves. Consider this book the first step on the path to werewolf education.

The best I can hope to supply the reader is a good approximation of the number and frequency of werewolf attacks throughout history. Those numbers vary by region and historical dating and record-keeping. There is also the problem of reporting prior to this age of Internet access and instant information. Things were written down (or not), lost, misread, mistranslated and unsubstantiated. So I merely ask that the reader understand where I am pulling my information from and honor that I am only making the best educated guess I can. Any source that wants to tell you something more definitive is pulling the wolfskin over your eyes.

Rashes of attacks may not entirely be attributed to werewolves. Some of the attacks were wild animals, some were homicides, some were suicides, some were societal ways of dealing with family traumas like infidelity, and some were cover-ups of one sort or another. But many were werewolf slaughters. Superstitious these people may have been, but stupid they weren’t. They knew the difference, but in many cases were not allowed to report the attacks in the official records. Much of what we now have is anecdotal, often the product of confessions coerced by torture.

According to one study, from 1800 until 1995 there were 399 solved serial killer incidents in the United States. Of these serial murderers, 337 were male and 62 were female. The gender is important, as when most reports or eyewitness accounts refer to werewolves, they tend to report it as a male. There were 300 international serial killers arrested or recognized during that same period by both genders. So the total number of known serial killers in the world between 1800 and 1995 is 699. However, a study from the Radford University Data Base states that there have been a total of 1,877 serial killers with 1,199 of them being from the United States and 668 of them being international. Obviously the werewolf has been underreported as he paraded about killing people and livestock.

Can those numbers even be close to correct? The number of people a criminal is required to kill to become acknowledged as a serial killer is a minimum of three. Realizing that most serial killers do not stop at three and, in fact, rarely stop unless captured or killed, I decided to use the low number five as my average figure. So that would explain the deaths of fewer than 10,000 people.

Wait! Let’s back up a moment. In France, during a 110-year period there were over 30,000 werewolf trials. These people could not have died from serial killers by any stretch of the imagination. This is only one country, not the whole of Europe. Add to this the mind-boggling thought that not every werewolf trial was for a werewolf who killed just one person. The majority were for multiple people’s deaths. Let’s knock our serial killer mean numbers for these back down from five to three people dead for each killer’s output as an average. That’s 90,000 citizens, peasants, shopkeepers, stable boys and royalty. That is also in only one country over a hundred years. The obvious hidden agendas and cover-ups that have prevailed for centuries can only cause our brain cells to sizzle in an attempt to put these statistics together.