Walking Sam – Urban Legend

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

Near the Black Hills of South Dakota sits one of the largest Indian reservations in the country: the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Home to the Oglala Lakota tribe, Pine Ridge has a long history of trauma. It’s the site where hundreds of Lakota Indians were killed during the Wounded Knee Massacre, and it’s currently one of the poorest county’s in the United States. When it made headlines in 2015 for a spree of teen suicides, many began to suggest that darker supernatural forces were at work in Pine Ridge, citing the urban legend of Walking Sam.

Sign for Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

Between December of 2014 and March of 2015, there were 103 suicide attempts made. Nine of those were successful, and none of the victims were older than twenty-five. Many died by hanging. In previous years there had been other clusters of suicides, but none this large. Stuck in a crisis situation with no clear answers, many began to point to a sinister force that has long existed in Native American tradition and lore. Children raised in Lakota households grow up hearing of “suicide spirits,” “stick people,” or shadow people who attempt to lure adolescents from the safety of their homes at night. Over time, and with the explosion of popularity in Slender Man, these stories may have morphed into the single figure now known as Walking Sam.

The Legend of Walking Sam

Though he goes by other names as well (most notably “Tall Man” or “Stovepipe Hat Bigfoot”), most of the stories describe Walking Sam as a seven-foot tall figure with eyes but no mouth, sometimes wearing a stove-pipe hat. When he raises his arms one sees the bodies of previous victims hanging beneath. When teenagers hear him calling, he tries to persuade them of their worthlessness, encouraging them to kill themselves. Some believe he targets younger people because they are more susceptible to his tricks.

Shadow of man standing in dark tunnel

There are also those who believe he is not even necessarily a malicious entity, but rather one who wanders the forests as some sort of punishment and is merely looking for companionship. There are also the obvious ties to boogeyman folklore and Slender Man legends, but from a cryptozoological standpoint some believe he may be another version of, or in fact related to, Bigfoot. Finally, for a people group who have such an intertwined spiritual connection between the land and their heritage, some believe that Walking Sam is a sort of physical manifestation of the hurt and trauma that Lakota Indians experience on a regularly basis.

A Growing Epidemic

Whether Walking Sam is real, or perhaps a metaphor for depression, many of the adults at Pine Ridge take the threat he represents seriously, asking for help from government officials in curtailing the devastating effects of the legend. Disturbing videos have surfaced of teens explaining how to tie the rope just right. Pastors and teachers have stepped in at the last moment to stop group suicides. Authorities find nooses hanging grimly from trees. Whether or not these young adults are having their dark desires exacerbated by an ominous urban legend boogeyman remains a mystery. However, what is clear is that in a land plagued by extreme poverty, alcohol abuse, and skyrocketing high school drop out rates, teens are struggling with mental health issues and need proper care and support.

References

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Was Vlad Dracula The Real Count Dracula ?

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Featured Horror Mystery and Lore

Count Dracula has earned his place alongside the most iconic horror monsters, including Frankenstein and the Wolf Man. The 1897 novel by Bram Stoker has left a legacy on the gothic horror genre and beyond, with the depiction of vampires in pop culture transforming over the decades in the same way that Dracula’s victims did upon receiving a bite from the famed blood-sucking monster. But where exactly did the origin of vampires begin? Is Dracula real? Who inspired his taste for human blood? As it turns out, Count Dracula is widely believed to be based on real-life prince Vlad Dracula also known as Vlad the Impaler, who used his royal status as a weapon and lived up to his violent name. 

Who was Vlad Dracula aka Vlad the Impaler?

Born in the early 1400’s as Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia (now known as Romania), this ruler had a variety of monikers. The first was Vlad Dracula, which means “Son of Dracul” and was adapted from his nobleman father Vlad II Dracul. And then there’s the universally known Vlad the Impaler, a name derived from his reputation for torture and mutilation of his enemies. But he had quite the journey towards such cruelty, and it all began when he was captured by the Ottoman Empire in 1442.

Map of Wallachia and Transylvania region 1400's

“The sultan held Vlad and his brother as hostages to ensure that their father, Vlad II, behaved himself in the ongoing war between Turkey and Hungary,” said historian Elizabeth Miller. While the two boys were treated decently, being taught in science and philosophy as their father returned to Wallachia, Vlad III felt reasonable hostility towards his captivity. It came to a head when Vlad Dracula was ousted as ruler of his country and later killed by noblemen. Vlad III made it his mission to reclaim his late father’s seat from Vladislav II, which he did for a mere two months before the latter returned from the Balkans to reclaim his throne. 

In the years after, Vlad III switched teams and severed his ties from Ottoman governors to obtain military support from King Ladislaus V of Hungary. After the fall of Constantinople in 1454, he achieved his goals and was named voivode of Wallachia in 1456. That’s when the bloodshed began. 

How did Vlad Dracula get his name? 

Bran castle Vlad Dracula's castle in Transilvania

Tales of Vlad III’s lust for blood have been told for centuries. One tells of two Catholic monks that he had impaled to “assist them in their journey to heaven,” before butchering their donkey as well. Another time, diplomatic envoys declined to remove their hats for religious reasons upon a meeting with the voivode, only for Vlad to keep the hats forever on their heads by nailing them to their skulls. Perhaps one of the most famous, however, is the time that Vlad III invited hundreds of unsuspecting and feuding boyars to dinner –  before having them stabbed and then impaling their still-twitching bodies. Red Wedding from Game of Thrones vibes, anyone? The most widely-believed reason for the dinner massacre was that the boyars were causing strife and dysfunction amongst the land, and Vlad simply did what he had to do… but we’re more inclined to believe that he just liked the violence and power that came with it. 

“I have killed peasants, men and women, old and young, who lived at Oblucitza and Novoselo, where the Danube flows into the sea,” Vlad III wrote to a military ally in the late 1400’s. “We killed 23,884 Turks, without counting those whom we burned in homes or the Turks whose heads were cut by our soldiers.” His body count is believed to be around 80,000 – with 20,000 being impaled and put on display in the city. The violence continued until his death in the 1470’s.

How did Vlad Dracula inspire Dracula?

Dracula by Bram Stoker Book Cover

As you can see, Count Dracula and Vlad Dracula aren’t exactly the same person. The two biggest similarities are likely a surname and sensational taste for blood, but they share other traits as well. The Transylvanian setting, reputation as an outcast, and desire for vengeance are just a few other mutual characteristics between the Romanian prince and the classic horror icon. Was Dracula a real person? Not exactly, but he had a beautifully bloodthirsty real-life inspiration!

Sources

https://www.livescience.com/40843-real-dracula-vlad-the-impaler.html

https://www.nbcnews.com/sciencemain/vlad-impaler-real-dracula-was-absolutely-vicious-8c11505315

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vlad_the_Impaler#CITEREFFlorescuMcNally1989

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Werewolf of Defiance & Other Cryptid Canines

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Featured Horror Mystery and Lore

Over fifty years have passed since the original reports rolled into the Defiance Police Department. In spite of the turbulent political climate of the early 1970s (Nicely), this story caused panic. Rampant unsolicited reports ensued, meanwhile, there was a werewolf on the loose!

Outside of the original news articles, not much exists in the way of evidence of the Defiance werewolf sightings. Unfortunately, any articles found these days consist primarily of conflicting information. The focus on theatrics, mystery, and whimsy has only served to dilute the sightings from the summer of 1972.

This story has faced more than its share of scrutiny, undoubtedly small changes to the story over time have taken away from any authenticity it had. Marler stated that “the legend has stuck to the town and locals still talk about it to this day,” but our research has shown otherwise.

While it’s true that the legend has stuck to the town in a historical capacity, there are actually very few people who recall the incident. Those that do remember, however, don’t recall much detail. Nevertheless, most of the town remains relatively unaware of the existence of their local cryptid.

Werewolves

One common misconception about the original incidents is that they did not happen during a full moon. Common lore, however, would suggest that the days surrounding a completely full moon are also indicative of werewolf transformation. So, while the moon wasn’t full on July 25, 1972, it was a Waxing Gibbous moon. For those who want exact figures, it was at 98.18% illumination (“Moon”), which means it likely looked full to the naked eye.

Werecreatures, according to lore, are humans who have been cursed with the uncontrollable curse of transforming into a beast under the light of the full moon (Newton, 149). These creatures are paranormal in nature because they are humans with an affliction that transforms them into a beast. Unsurprisingly, legends have existed across nearly every culture in history, with the oldest reference being from Petronius Arbiter’s The Satyricon.

The appearance of werewolves is most prevalent in American pop culture. Throughout the last century movies, television, and literature have attempted to renew the vigor of werewolf lore ad nauseam. The depiction of werecreatures tends to range from comedic to horrific and this vacillation is heavily reliant upon the genre in which they appear. Regardless of their portrayal, whether comical or frightening, they remain a product of a paranormal world of which scientists remain highly skeptical.

For more history on the werewolf, check out our article on the History of the Werewolf.

Dogmen

The dogman is a conceptualized werewolf-like creature native to American culture. Dogmen are not considered to be paranormal in nature, since they exist at all times in their beast state, as both half-dog and half-man. Sightings of these wolf-like cryptids have a history of reports from across the United States but are most heavily centralized in the eastern half of the country.

Cryptid Canines of Ohio

For the past half-century, reported dogman sightings have been rampant throughout the state of Ohio. The most widely acknowledged case of sightings happened in the summer of 1972. Throughout the history of the Ohioan Dogman, it has boasted a surprising variety of different physical descriptions. Witnesses never seem to agree whether it presented as a bipedal humanoid, or as a beast walking on all fours.

Outside of Ohio, the most famous dogman in America is the Beast of Bray Road. It was reported from Elkhorn, Wisconsin, and the neighboring region beginning in the fall of 1989. The subsequent film, inspired by real events, depicted a wholly fictitious storyline (Newton, 149).

Is it a Dogman or a Werewolf?

In Newton’s entry on dogmen within his book Hidden Animals, there is a mention of a 2004 encounter with an unidentified witness. The witness claimed to have had a close encounter with a large bipedal creature with a face that more closely resembled a dog than a human. Another witness report from August 2005, coming from the Liberty area, described a sighting of a creature that was black in color and possessed the head of a large dog (Newton, 151).

When witnesses were prompted to describe the creature, each person immediately mentioned that the creature was “very hairy.” Outside of this vague descriptor, the three witnesses gave similar reports of the creature’s appearance (Stegall). DeLoye aptly summarized the physical appearance of the beast, as it was reported by various sources. All reports agreed it was very tall—between six and nine feet. The creature is bipedal but often looks as if it’s on all fours, as it has been seen hunched over on several occasions.

Many reported that despite having an animal’s head the creature resembled a man, or at the very least an upright wolf. Reports said the creature was covered in hair and that it ran around barefoot. Strangely, in place of human feet, it had large hairy paws and wolf-like claws. Potentially the strangest part of the description, by comparison, was that the creature seemed to be wearing blue jeans and a dark shirt. (DeLoye)

The Werewolf of Defiance

Amidst the heat of the summer of 1972, the residents of Defiance, Ohio suddenly began reporting sightings of a werewolf. An alarming number of people claimed to see a large hairy beast running around town, dressed in rags. Such an insurgence of reports came in, that it was far too great for the police to ignore.

Bewildering Encounters

The myriad versions of the myths and legends circulating about both werewolves and dogmen create a preconception of what they are. This means that the layman will assume the information they’ve gleaned from pop culture to be fact, despite the source material’s claims of fiction.

According to news sources, the first encounter with the Werewolf of Defiance happened around four in the morning on July 25, 1972. Railroad worker, Ted Davis, was working on the Norfolk and Western train lines (Pfeifle) at the time of his first encounter. As Davis was connecting the air hoses of two train cars something on the ground caught his gaze. Two huge hairy paws stood before him. No sooner did Davis raise his eyes in curiosity than the creature hit him with a two-by-four. Davis had seen enough to describe the creature as approximately six feet tall, hunched over, and hairy.

Skeptical of Werewolves

Less than a week later, on July 30, Ted Davis and his colleague Tom Jones reported a second sighting of the creature. Davis faced ridicule from Jones, who believed the whole incident to be a joke amongst the crewmen. All of that stopped that night when Jones witnessed the creature for himself at the edge of the railyard (Pfeifle). Jones was a believer.

The creature disappeared into the brush at the same time an unlucky grocer was driving home late from his shift that night. According to the unnamed witness’ statement, a large dog-like creature ran across the road in front of him (DeLoye). After Jones and Davis noted the creature’s absence, they heard screaming from a car stopped on a nearby road (Stegall).

The Crescent News was the largest skeptic of the bunch and reported that “two of the incidents occurred last week and one last night. None [have] happened during a full moon,” despite the evidence to the contrary. In fact, the first incident happened the day before the full moon (“Moon”).

Elaborate Hoax?

Marler suggested that the investigation should have been more thorough. In the original report from August 3, 1972, The Blade stated that “one man, a train crewman switching trains, said that he was approached from behind and struck on the shoulder.” Later in that same article, Davis is quoted as having claimed, “The creature ran away before [Davis] could say anything.” This uncertainty questions the legitimacy of the claim. Was Davis ever attacked by the creature?

In a follow-up article, The Blade discussed how most people in the area believed it was simply a hoax. A man in a costume, or rather “just some nut running loose,” (“Defiance Residents”).

Werewolf Panic Turned Joke

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The problem the Defiance Police Department seemed to face, was not that people were reluctant to report what they had seen, but that the panic caused people who hadn’t seen it to begin calling in due to their concern over the situation. One woman called in with such concerns due to her house being adjacent to the train tracks. She had not seen the creature, but stated that the reported sightings had put her “in a state of shock.”

The initial reports by local Defiance news outlet, The Crescent News suggest that they believed the whole thing to be a joke. Journalist Ellen Armstrong added humor to the incident when she reported it in her article on August 2, 1972. She went as far as to state that the police were “possibly armed with silver bullets and sharpened stakes” (Armstrong).

“Even a man who is pure of heart,
And says his prayers by night,
May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms,
And the moon is clear and bright.”

Defiance Police, possibly armed with silver bullets and sharpened stakes, are on the lookout for “a wolfman,” who on three occasions, has accosted persons near the Norfolk and Western railroad tracks in the vicinity of Fifth Street and Swift and Co.

Two of the Incidents occurred last week and one last night. None has happened during a full moon.

According to Defiance Police Department, one man was attacked and struck on the shoulder with a two-by-four, however managed to get away from the assailant.

Two other attempts on residents, both men, have not been successful, so the department can’t say if the motive is robbery or just to scare people. No one has reported neck bites.

He, she or it, is described as very tall with “some kind of an animal head.”

Police Chief Don F. Breckler today said if anyone sees the “subject” they should not attempt to apprehend him but call the department immediately, giving a description and the direction in which he was heading.

The attacks have occurred (during the early morning hours, from 1:30 a.m. to 4:20 a.m. — before sunrise.

Ellen Armstrong, The Crescent News. August 3, 1972

Police Remained Alert to Werewolf Reports

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The Toledo Blade also began running a series of articles, starting August 3, 1972, on the strange sightings that had popped up in Defiance just a week earlier. Anyone not in the immediate vicinity of the occurrences readily made light of the situation. Defiance police, however, remained steadfast in their duties to protect and serve their small community (Stegall).

The reports baffled the authorities. Unsure what to think about the incidents being reported, they remained skeptical. Despite the number of sightings reported, all of the descriptions were vague. Police Chief Breckler was quoted saying, “We didn’t release it to the news media when we got the first report about a week ago, but now we’re taking it seriously for the safety of our people.” Breckler approached the reports with seriousness. Nevertheless, he was adamant in his belief that it was simply a person wearing a disguise, “such as a mask.” (Stegall)

When probed about his thoughts on the incidents, Breckler admitted that he was, “inclined to think it might be a local person … [since] none of the other area towns [had] anything like [it]. And in each case [the werewolf had] been seen in the same area of [Defiance].” (Stegall)

Motive for a Werewolf Hoax

Breckler was unsure what the motive may have been for a man scaring people in a costume. From the standpoint of a lawman Breckler doubted that the motive was robbery. He pointed out that the targets of these incidents were not the type to have a lot of money (Stegall).

While the panic over the werewolf was overwhelming, it disappeared as quickly as it appeared that early morning on July 25, 1972. Reports of sightings ceased, but the legend lingers on, especially now that information is so readily available in digital format (Marler).

Modern Interpretation of the Werewolf Incident

At the time of Nicely’s article in The Crescent News on July 25, 2013 there were still a few officers remaining in the city from the time, but none seem to remember the details of the case and none of the reports remain at the police department. JoAnne Barton, who worked dispatch at the time, insists that people ask her about the incident fairly regularly and her response is always the same, that she doesn’t “really recall it.” Granted at the time of asking, forty years had already passed, which makes sense that department worker Floyd Stites had much of the same response when asked about the happening. (Nicely)

Were these true werewolf sightings or was it all just a hoax? Since there was no physical evidence to fall back on, it’s hard to say. One thing is certain, if it were really just a man in a mask would it have fooled so many? It’s easy to look back on it from a modern perspective and reason that it could have been a realistic mask. However, in consideration of the technology available at the time for prop masks and practical effects, even large budget movies couldn’t create something altogether convincing. It’s clear that these people truly believed they saw a creature and not simply a man. For, if it were indeed a man, it would have been likely that the reports would have mentioned a man in a mask running around and causing mischief.

Works Cited

Armstrong, Ellen. “Horror Movie Now Playing On Fifth St.” The Crescent News, Aug 3, 1972.

“Defiance Residents Suspicious Of Their Werewolf.” Toledo Blade, Aug 4, 1972, pp. 1 & 21.

DeLoye, Logan. “This Is Ohio’s ‘creepiest’ Legend.” iHeart, 27 Oct. 2022, https://www.iheart.com/content/2022-10-27-this-is-ohios-creepiest-legend.

“Folks Still See Monster: Policemen Unable To Find Werewolf.” Toledo Blade, Aug 10, 1972, p. 34.

Marler, Darren, host. “THE WEREWOLF OF DEFIANCE’ and 3 More Strange True Stories!” Weird Darkness, Aug 2022, https://open.spotify.com/episode/1l29XNj7Ty4jWP6Zk20Rw3. Accessed June 25, 2023.

“Moon Phase for Tuesday July 25th, 1972.” The Nine Planets, nineplanets.org/moon/phase/7-25-1972/. Accessed 25 June 2023.

Newton, Michael. “Dogmen.” Hidden Animals: A Field Guide to Batsquatch, Chupacabra, and Other Elusive Creatures, Greenwood Press, Santa Barbara, CA, 2009, pp. 149–152.

Nicely, Lisa. “Anniversary of ‘wolfman’ Sightings in Defiance.” The Crescent News, 25 July 2013, https://www.crescent-news.com/local_news/local_news/anniversary-of-wolfman-sightings-in-defiance/article_4f21d345-a7df-573e-9820-3e7a98681ace.html.

Pfeifle, Tess. “The Werewolf of Defiance, Ohio.” Astonishing Legends, 11 Oct. 2020, https://astonishinglegends.com/astonishing-legends/2020/10/11/the-werewolf-of-defiance-ohio.

“Toledoan Cries Werewolf, But Police Disagree.” Toledo Blade, Aug 9, 1972, Sec. 3 p. 8.

Stegall, James. “Werewolf Case In Defiance Not Viewed Lightly By Police.” Toledo Blade, Aug 3, 1972, pp. 1 & 4, https://tinyurl.com/yzchhac5 & https://tinyurl.com/2725pxvs.

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Werewolves Through Years of Books and Film

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Aggressive wolf snarling
Photography by Philip Pilz

Myths and Legends of Werewolves have been popular throughout their history, not only as a source of inspiration for writers of fiction but as the fiery spark of terror that haunts the dreams of those who believe–their origin story from Petronius Arbiter’s The Satyricon has been built upon for almost two millennia has resulted in an enthusiastic following in the last century. Within medieval folklore, there are numerous tales of villages in rural areas being ripped apart by werewolves–uncontrollable beasts with blood-lust and an insatiable appetite for human flesh. By day the only evidence of their existence would be dead bodies, bloodied and torn by enormous claws, and a trail of bloody paw prints that marked their presence. As noted by Petronius and a plethora of other writers, this was centralized around the appearance of the full moon. So, while werewolves are considered exciting, dangerously fun, and possibly even a little sexy (thanks to authors like Charlaine Harris by Patricia Briggs) in today’s horror culture and paranormal fiction, they were vicious and brutal beasts that threatened the lives of villagers in the middle ages.

5 Werewolves in History

While the mythology of the Werewolf is vast, there are actually more modern historical accounts of these creatures actually existing, so we present these five Werewolves that were found throughout history.

Wolf howling near the pack
Photography by Thomas Bonometti

The Beast of Gévaudan

In the former province of Gévaudan–Lozère and Haute-Loire–in the south of France, the presence of La Bête du Gévaudan terrorized the countryside beginning in 1764 and lasting until 1767. This beast was reported as a massive wolf-like creature–about the size of the cow–that had razor-sharp claws, a mouth that housed giant fangs, and reddish-brown hair. Its head and ears were said to be shaped like a greyhound’s, with a wide chest and a back streaked with black.

In May or June of 1764 was the first known encounter with the beast, where it charged a young woman tending to her cattle in the Mercoire forest in the eastern part of Gévaudan–it is said the bulls in her herd were able to keep it at bay and finally drive it off after two attempts to charge the woman, and she was able to escape with her life. What followed was a continuous onslaught of the region against what was deemed easy prey–women, children, and men who were tending to their livestock alone in secluded pastures. Unusually, it wouldn’t target the legs or throat like a wolf might, instead it went for the head; victims that were left behind partially eaten were often with their heads completely crushed or without one at all. There was such a high volume of attacks that there was suspicion of there being more than one beast, as well as a person training these creatures to do the killings–but as the attacks continued, the supernatural quality of it increased, when it was seemingly unaffected by gunshot wounds inflicted upon it by two hunters in October 1764. Having believed they had mortally wounded the beast, they followed the blood trail to the woods the next day and instead of finding the body of the wolf, they discovered freshly slaughtered victims.

Seeking the large reward that was posted for slaying the beast, soldiers and hunters traveled from far and wide to find the creature, but months passed and it was no closer to being captured or slain. After hearing of a brutal public attack of two young children, Louis XV sent a Norman squire and hunter by the name of Denneval to aid in the hunt of the beast and in February of 1765, this man began tracking it with his six best bloodhounds. He was joined by Jacques Denis, a sixteen-year-old who lost his twenty-year-old sister to the beast and sought vengeance. After hunting it for several months, Jacques was killed and Denneval retired from hunting the beast at all. The Beast continued its rampages, was shot through the eye by another hunter, fell to the ground, seemingly deceased, then rose and went for a final attack, but was met with another barrage of bullets and was at last killed. Upon examination, they determined that this beast was actually a rare wolf that was on the larger end of the reported spectrum.

This tale would seem to be fairly run of the mill in circumstances with a bloodthirsty wolf, except that after a year of peace returning to the community, in the spring of 1767 the beast was reported to have come back to life and start massacring once again. This time, they took no time assembling the largest hunting party yet, comprised of over three hundred men, as well as a man by the name of Jean Chastel; Chastel had heard rumors that the Beast of Gévaudan was actually a werewolf, so he loaded his gun with silver bullets that were blessed by a priest. Turned out that the rumors allowed him to be well-prepared, as after shooting the beast twice in the chest with these silver bullets, it was instantly killed.

During its reign of terror over the countryside of Gévaudan, it was said to kill between sixty and a hundred men, women, and children, while injuring more than thirty.

Livonia and the Hounds of God

In the late 1600s, Thiess of Kaltenbrun a man living in Jurgenburg, Livonia–what is now the Latvia and Lithuania regions–was widely believed by neighbors and peers to be a werewolf who regularly had dealings with the devil. Although it didn’t help his case that he admitted that he was one, especially during a time when an association with the devil meant a death sentence. Either way, the local authorities didn’t seem to care, since Thiess was an eighty-year-old man.

The authorities eventually had to question him on an unrelated matter in 1691, which oddly enough ended in him volunteering information about his being a werewolf. His confession to his lycanthropic lifestyle was quite strange, with no real consistency within–he said that he had stopped participating as a werewolf a decade prior, but that he and his companions would wear magical wolf pelts and turn into wolves to celebrate St. Lucia’s Day, Pentecost, and Midsummer’s Night.

His claim throughout was that werewolves were the agents of God, that they traveled to hell to battle the Devil himself and bring goods stolen by witches back to the people who lost them, but strangely also kill, cook, then eat farm animals. He also claimed that if they failed to keep the witches and demons in Hell that the community would have poor crops for the entire season. To counter the accusations that he was in league with the devil, he instead told the authorities that he and his companions were actually working for God, that they were a group of lycanthropes that were titled the “Hounds of God.” Thiess claimed that this ensured them an ascent to Heaven when they died. Eventually, when it was discovered that Thiess was not a devout Luthern and that he occasionally performed folk magic, the judge ordered Thiess to ten lashings and permanent exile.

The Wolf of Ansbach

In 1685, in what was the town of Neuses, Ansbach–now Germany–there was a wolf terrorizing and killing people; while this was not completely out of the ordinary, this particular instance coincided with the death of the cruel and unpopular chief magistrate, Michale Leicht. The people of the town believed that this wolf was Leicht who had returned from the dead as a werewolf. Once the wolf had been killed, they paraded the streets with its corpse, cut off its muzzle, then dressed in to look like Leicht, even going so far as to put a mask and a wig on it. After the parade concluded, they hung the body in a prominent position in town so that everyone could see that this creature had been killed, but eventually the wolf’s corpse was preserved and put on display at a local museum.

The Werewolf of Allariz

Manuel Blanco Romasanta, born in 1809, was thought to be Spain’s first-ever serial killer; although, there weren’t many stories other than his own to corroborate his being a werewolf. When he was accused of murder, he actually confessed to thirteen of the incidents but claimed he was cursed with Lycanthropy. When asked to display his ability to transform, he stated that he was no longer afflicted; he was eventually acquitted for four deaths, which were killed by actual wolves, but he was found guilty of the rest. Sentenced to death, but then to life in prison after being seen by a French hypnotist who believed that Romansanta was actually just delusional and had a mental illness. He passed away the same year from stomach cancer.

The Werewolf of Bedburg

Perhaps the most notorious werewolf case is that of Peter Stumpp, in Bedburg, Germany 1589; having gained his wealth as a farmer, he was accused of multiple counts of murder, cannibalism, and ultimately a werewolf. At first, thought to be the work of wolves, incidents started with the mutilated bodies of cattle, but were soon followed by townsfolk, but the creatures couldn’t be caught. In 1589, a hunting part cornered the wolf with its hounds, however, when the hunters approached they saw Peter Stumpp instead–what was more damning was that the wolf they had been hunting had had his left forepaw cut off and when they came upon Stumpp he also had his left hand cut off. After a torture-driven confession was made by Stump, he admitted that when he was twelve he had made a pact with the devil and had been given a magical wolf pelt belt which enabled him to turn into a wolf. He confessed that he had murdered and cannibalized fourteen children and two pregnant women, killing his own son, and molesting his own daughter–so Stumpp was fixed to a breaking wheel, had his flesh torn from his body with red-hot pinchers, then his limbs were broken with the blunt side of an ax so he wouldn’t rise from the grave, and he was beheaded. This is a more controversial story, as it was believed by some that he was the victim of a political witch hunt, as the Catholic church had recently seized the area and Stumpp was a Protestant convert.

These days, it seems like werewolves in the supernatural genre are a dime-a-dozen, so it’s no big surprise that there are too many movies to list here–these are just some of our favorites, but they’re also ones that have contributed greatly to the modern lore that are currently associated to the story of the werewolf. Details change from one story to the next, but the broad picture remains the same.

Movies That Have Made Werewolves Mainstream

The Wolfman (2010)
The Wolfman (2010)

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What is Lycanthropy and Where Did It Come From?

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Featured Horror Mystery and Lore NA

The official definition of Lycanthropy? “A delusion that one has become a wolf,” or “the assumption of the form and characteristics of a wolf held to be possible by witchcraft or magic.” Basically, it’s the werewolf that’s become a common fixture in not just horror, but cinema in general. There’s something truly terrifying about this half-man, and half-wolf creature that brings bloodshed wherever it goes. Perhaps it’s the fact that this affliction usually happens to a helpless man – in the wrong place at the wrong time as he’s bitten by a mysterious creature and becomes a monster right before his own eyes. Or the fact that lycanthropy dates back to centuries-old folklore, and many believe that the wolfman isn’t just a symbol of cinema… but a real-life terror that walks among us. Here’s what you need to know about the phenomenon of lycanthropy. 

Lycanthropic woodcut of a village attacked by werewolves by Lucas Cranach der Ältere, 1512

Where did Lycanthropy Originate?

Where does the legend of lycanthropy, or werewolves, originate? It’s complicated. Like many mythical creatures, the werewolf is a widespread concept in European folklore… was a critical part of stories told throughout the Medieval Period. However, the witch hunt (literally) for werewolves began during the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period alongside the witchcraft trials. According to Wikipedia, “the trial of supposed werewolves emerged in what is now Switzerland in the early 15th century and spread throughout Europe in the 16th, peaking in the 17th and subsiding by the 18th century.”

Being accused of witchcraft is one thing, but accusations of lycanthropy were quite literally a whole other beast. While many believed that you could become a werewolf by being bitten by one, others believed that lyncathropy took place by sleeping under the full moon or eating the wrong type of meat. In her book “Giants, Monsters, and Dragons,” folklorist Carol Rose notes that “In ancient Greece it was believed that a person could be transformed by eating the meat of a wolf that had been mixed with that of a human and that the condition was irreversible.” Yikes. 

Accusations of Lycanthropy

While the accusations are featured in less textbooks and movies than those of witchcraft, they were very much alive for centuries. One of the best known cases is that of Peter Stumpp, who was accused of werewolfery, witchcraft, and cannibalism in the 16th century. Known as “the Werewolf of Bedburg,” he had a violent and brutal history of torture, murder, and eating everything from goats and lambs to human children. After a grotesque execution where he had flesh torn from his body, limbs broken in multiple places, and was beheaded before being burned… his lyncathropy story became one of the most famous in history.

That being said, Peter Stumpp was a special case. And like the Salem Witch Trials, it’s safe to say that most accused of lycanthropy were not actually werewolves. Or were they? Many genuinely believed that werewolves walked among us centuries ago… and they remain a common presence in the gothic fiction and horror genres. We all love a good werewolf movie, but it becomes a bit darker after learning the fascinating history of lycanthropy.

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