Werewolves are fictional creatures which are primarily considered to be human beings with the capability to convert themselves into the form and character of wolves at will. At times it is an involuntary act of shape shifting caused by a curse or infection through a bite or scratch of a werewolf. Werewolves are considered to be stronger and faster than both human beings and wolves. They are not vulnerable to injury by conventional arms. Only a silver bullet is believed to be effective in killing them as it appears in the movie The Wolf Man. Even the touch of silver may burn their skin. The act of transformation from human to the wolf form is associated with the appearance of the full moon. Werewolves are considered European characters, but their occurrence is not restricted to Europe only as they are found almost worldwide in one or the other form and name. In some cultures they can transform not only into wolves but also into the form of many other animals. Werewolves have been mentioned in Old English literature. Richard Verstegen in his writing Restitution of Decayed Intelligence published in 1628 defined ‘The werewolves are certayne sorcerers’¦not only unto the view of others they seem as wolves, but to their own thinking they have both the shape and nature of wolves.’
1. The Neuri Werewolves
The Neuri Werewolves belong to a big tribe which lived along the southern Bug River somewhere in or around current Poland. Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian, who lived from 484 BC to 425 BC is considered one of the few first sources of information about werewolves. In his Histories of Herodotus, he wrote about the Neuri people; ‘It seems that these people are conjurers: for both the Scythians and the Greeks who dwell in Scythia say that every Neurian once a year becomes a wolf for a few days at the end of which he is restored to his proper shape.’ Herodotus also mentioned that the Neuri tribe was displaced from their land by serpents.
2. The Werewolf of Dole
Gillies Garnier, The Werewolf of Dole, also known as The Hermit of St. Bonnot, and The Werewolf of Dole, died on January 18, 1573 while his date of birth is not known exactly. He was a French recluse. He lived in the outskirts of Dole in France. He was a cannibalistic serial killer and was convicted of being a werewolf. After children were reportedly disappearing, the government encouraged folks to kill the responsible werewolf. Villagers one night saw a wolf-like creature and, on approaching it, recognized him as the recluse along with the body of a victim being a child. Garnier confessed during the trial that he had killed and eaten four children ages 9 to 12 years old, the first victim being a girl. He also brought home some flesh for his wife. He was apprehended by the villagers. He was found guilty of being a werewolf and involved in witchcraft and, therefore, was burned at the stake.
Lycaon was the king of Arcadia and, according a popular myth in Greek mythology, Lycaon planned to test Zeus to ensure if he was the mightiest god. For this purpose he slaughtered his son and presented the offering in a dish to Zeus who, in return, blessed him by transforming him into a werewolf. Zeus in Greek mythology is the ruler of Mount Olympus and is also considered the god of the sky and thunder. There are many different versions of how Lycaon became a werewolf. According to Pausanias, Lycaon was transformed into a werewolf immediately after presenting the offering and sprinkling blood on the altar.
4. The Wawkalak
The Wawkalak is a Russian version of werewolf. He was punished by the evil ones who transformed him into a werewolf. He is very restless and cannot stay in one place. He is not social and avoids company. Russians call the werewolf an Oborot or bodark, meaning ‘the transformed one.’ A recipe to become an oborot suggests ‘He who desires to become an oborot, let him seek in the forest a hewn-down tree, let him stab it with a small, copper knife, and walk around the tree and repeat the following incantation: ‘On the sea, on the ocean, on the island, on Bujan”¦ then he springs thrice over the tree and runs into the forest transformed into an oborot.’
5. Thiess of Kaltenbrun
Thiess of Kaltenbrun, also called Thies and very often known as the Livonian werewolf, belonged to Swedish Livonia and was put on a trial for his beliefs in Jurgensburg in 1692. He was in his 80s at the time of the trial. The cause of the trial was his proclamation that he was a werewolf and that he had visited hell to fight the devil and his companions in order to recover the livestock and grain stolen from the Earth. He claimed that he was the Hound of God, but the court found him guilty of misleading the people and keeping them away from Christianity. He was punished with flogging and was banished for life.
6. The Beast of Gevaudan
The Beast of Gevaudan was a man-eating animal resembling a wolf. This animal had terrorized the Gevaudan province of central France during the period 1764 to 1767. Many eyewitnesses mentioned having seen the dreadful teeth and extraordinary thick and long tail. The animal was reported to have reddish and highly malodorous fur. It was estimated that the beast victimized more than 112 persons of which 98 were killed and were found with their bodies eaten partially. All sorts of manpower, including hunters, common folk, and the army were assigned to eliminate the beast. One school of thought was that the beast was a cross between a wolf and a pet dog while some people considered it was all the work of a werewolf.
7. Werewolf of Bedburg
Peter Stumpp, better known as ‘The Werewolf of Bedburg’ was born in Epprath near Bedburg, Cologne. He was a German farmer and an alleged serial killer and cannibal that created terror c in the suburbs. An account of the events relating to Stumpp was detailed in a German pamphlet of 16 pages, but it was destroyed. Two copies of its English translation survived, and one is preserved in the British Museum and the other is in the Lambeth Library. He was considered a werewolf whose left forepaw was believed to have been cut off during some encounter, and because of his missing hand this was taken as sufficient objective evidence against him.
8. The Wulver
Wulver is a Scottish folklore werewolf-like creature. Categorized as a werewolf, though, he had never been a human being nor had undergone any transformation. Unlike the other werewolves, he had permanently a body of a human being with a wolf’s head on it. He was not aggressive and, unless otherwise teased, never attacked first. He was fond of fishing and spent hours sitting at Wulver’s Stane, a deep-water rock named after him. According to Jessie Saxby ‘The Wulver was a creature like a man with wolf’s head’¦He didn’t molest folk if folk didn’t molest him.’
9. Hans the Werewolf
Hans the Werewolf was an alleged Estonian werewolf and a witch. His trial was conducted for being a werewolf, and he was convicted of wizardry. He was produced at court at the age of 18, and when asked about his being a werewolf, he affirmed it. He was then asked if his transformation was physical or only spiritual. He said that he had the bite scar of a dog on his leg when he was a werewolf. He further confessed that he was transformed into a werewolf by a man in black and felt like being a beast and not a human being. The court concluded that the man in black was a devil and put him on a witch’s trial. He was later convicted of witchcraft.
10. Werewolf of Burgundy
Claudia Gaillard, also known as ‘The Werewolf of Burgundy,’ was one of those unfortunate souls who were brutally killed for no sin or misdeed of her own. Henry Boquet, the witch hunter, produced her before the court for trial on the allegation that she was seen frequently hiding behind a bush in the form of a wolf without a tail, and that she never shed a tear. She was sentenced, and the judge’s comment was ‘Common report was against her.’ No one ever saw her shed a single tear whatever effort might be made to cause her to shed tears. Unfortunately, innocent Claudia was burned at the stake for no sin of her own.
Superstition is a double-edged sword being simultaneously an impetus for imagination and weakness leading to unjust conclusions. Many serial killers have made use of the disguise of werewolves while many an innocent person has been brutally punished for having been proved as a werewolf during a werewolf trial which in nature was just like the infamous Salem Witch Trials.