A werewolf is a mythological human with the ability to transform into a wolf-like creature.
Werewolves are closely related to the Louisiana Rougarou and the Skin-walkers of the Navajo.
The physical characteristics of werewolves tend to vary by ethnic group. However, they are generally thought of as big, hairy, humanoid wolves that can walk on their hind legs.
Werewolves are described as being up to 8 feet tall, with a head that is shaped like a cross between a bear, a dog, and a wolf. They have pointed ears, and a long snout and are often described as having amber-colored eyes that shine. Werewolves are known to be supremely agile and powerful, and purely carnivorous.
In mythology, a person can transform into a werewolf by choice or be forced to by the appearance of the full moon. They can also be either born as a werewolf, cursed into becoming one, or contract the curse or illness by being bitten or scratched by another werewolf.
The ancients believed that exhaustion could cure the affliction, but the medieval remedies were more direct. Herbs like wolfsbane were thought to cure lycanthropy, as was exorcism and even surgery!
Even in death many believed that werewolf bodies needed special treatment to stop them from coming back from the dead. Decapitation with a spade and a swift exorcism was the trick, with the head then being chucked into a river.
Legends of werewolves date right back to early Indo-European history and probably beyond. Early pottery dating back to c. 460 BC shows warriors crawling with wolf skins draped over them and this idea of a man becoming an animal or releasing their animal side is common in many ancient cultures and in particular Germanic and other European pagan cults.
The term lycanthropy is Greek and comes from the words lúkos meaning wolf, and ánthrōpos, meaning human. However, the word itself only appears in Greek literature comparatively late and not in reference to a hybrid creature but rather when describing illnesses where the person exhibits wolf-like behavior.
The word werewolf comes from Old English and is formed from were, meaning man, and wulf meaning wolf. These early European pagan cults and warrior initiations were later picked up in the Medieval period but seen through a more Christian lens, transforming these rites into something more devilish and evil.
The ancient Greeks had their own werewolf stories including that of the Neuri tribe from Scythia, who all turned into wolves once a year for a few days. There is also the story of Lycaon, who transformed into a wolf after sacrificing an infant to Zeus…the latter being unimpressed.
Later the Romans also wrote about lycanthropes with one tale of a man who turned into a wolf and would only be allowed to turn back to human form if he assailed no humans for several years. Another of a man who tasted the flesh of a child and was turned for a decade. This association with cannibalism occurs in several different werewolf tales.
By the Middle Ages, the legends had become mixed together with tales of Viking warriors called the Ulfhednar (wolf-coated men), the witch hunt hysteria, and a renewed interest in vampires all crossing over each other.
In the Vaud region of Switzerland, child-eating werewolves appear since the late 1400s continuing for two hundred years. In 1598, France, a werewolf was sighted in Anjou, and in 1603, a teenage werewolf was actually sentenced to prison! Later still in the Lozère region during the years 1764 to 1767, over 80 people were killed by some unidentified killer.
However, by the end of the 18th century, only the remote regions of the Alps still had vivid folktales to of the wolf man.
It is worth noting that the myths and folk tales started to die out just as the wolf population of Europe began to really dwindle, and some academics see a link between the two.
In cryptozoological terms, the idea of werewolves is mostly dismissed; however, some sightings of werewolves have been so well documented that cryptozoologists have been compelled to investigate.
Some of these researchers believe that werewolves could be super-intelligent dogs that have evolved to display human-like characteristics. Others give credence to the argument that werewolves could be a variation or subcategory of Bigfoot.
A smaller group of researchers believe that werewolves could have been given their shapeshifting abilities by aliens and that aliens were experimenting on human beings.
A belief in fringe cryptozoology is that werewolves are from another plane of existence but that they are nevertheless some form of animal-human hybrid.
Sightings and Tales
Although, as far as we can tell, there are no accounts of humans transforming into wolves, there is one story that comes reasonably close.
In 1958, Mrs. Delburt Gregg of Greggton, Texas, told of an incident that happened at her home. She turned in for the night but was soon disturbed by a scratching sound at her bedroom window.
Looking at the window, she was confronted by a huge, shaggy-haired, wolf-like beast staring at her with slitted, glowing eyes. The beast was baring its fangs.
When Mrs. Delburt leaped from her bed, the creature bounded away from the house and disappeared into the bushes beyond. She watched in case the creature reappeared, but soon after, a very tall man appeared from the bushes and walked quickly away.
Between July and October 1972, residents of Ohio reported seeing a werewolf-like animal. Reports were made of a creature that was between 6 and 8 feet tall.
Some reports described the creature as being human, with a wolf-like head, while others said the creature had huge, hairy feet and ran from side to side.
Dozens of sightings were made of a wolf-like creature in Pennsylvania in 1973. Witnesses said the creature was ape-like, with glowing red eyes and a strong odor. This creature was often seen in connection with UFOs.
Another creature was also seen in the area at this time. This differed from the creature described above in that it was shorter and resembled a muscular man with a thick covering of hair. The arms hung down below the knees and the creature was noted to have excellent agility.
In 1970, a group of youths said they encountered a werewolf while driving through New Mexico. They saw the creature near the side of a road near Whitewater.
They described the creature as being about 5 feet 7 inches tall, and one of the youths thought a friend was playing a trick on them.
When the creature began to move quickly, the driver of the car picked up speed and tried to outrun it. He said there was no way a human could have moved that fast.
He was driving at about 60 miles per hour, but kept having to slow down for corners.
Eventually, one of the passengers pulled out a gun and shot the creature. The creature was hit and fell down, but there was no sign of any blood.
The werewolf of Cannock Chase, England
Cannock Chase, an area of forest and moors in Staffordshire, England, is the site of 20 alleged werewolf sightings, which account for all but one of the werewolf sightings in the UK.
These sightings started shortly after a young man was thought to have killed himself. The story is that he sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for the ability to transform into a werewolf.
A short time later, he apparently phoned a friend in a panic, uttering guttural sounds and saying he was in the process of transforming.
He was found dead, with the cause of death being identified as multiple self-inflicted stab wounds. Is this story connected to the werewolf sightings in the area?
The Beast of Bray Road, Wisconsin
The Beast of Bray Road has terrorized the people of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, for almost 90 years. First spotted in 1936, the Bray Road beast hit its peak of sightings in the 1980s and 1990s. However, there has been an increase in sightings in the last five to ten years.
Witnesses of this creature have reported a furred wolf-like animal standing on its hind legs at about 7 to 8 feet tall. The creature has been spotted scavenging for roadkill, but has also been known to chase unsuspecting motorists who have gotten out of their vehicles.
The Bray Beast has also been accused of causing claw and scratch marks on trucks and cars, and of mutilating local livestock.
In 2018, the Travel Channel’s Legend Hunter sent biologist Pat Spain to investigate the likelihood that Elkhorn had a werewolf. His findings were largely inconclusive, but he did speculate the creature could be a wolf or even a bear.
|Other Name/s||Lycanthrope, Skin-walker, Dogman|
|Location||England, France, Germany, Greece, Norway, Romania, United Kingdom, United States,|
Where to find
newanimal.org, “The Cryptid Zoo: Werewolves in Cryptozoology”, accessed August 10 2017.
sherdog.com, “Dogman encounters – the werewolf cryptid”, accessed August 10 2017.
cryptidchronicles.tumblr.com, “On the Search for Cryptids and Mysterious Creatures: Werewolf Sightings”, accessed August 10 2017.
stokesentinel.co.uk, “20 sightings of a werewolf at Cannock Chase”, accessed August 10 2017,
https://www.monstersandcritics.com/tv/did-legend-hunter-just-solve-the-mystery-of-the-beast-of-bray-road-and-add-new-theories-on-dogman-and-chupacabra-legends/, “Did Legend Hunter just solve the mystery of the Beast of Bray Road and add new theories on Dogman and Chupacabra legends?” accessed February 8, 2023.
- Werewolves have terrorized people for centuries. Pic credit: Lucas Cranach the Elder, circa 1512/Public domain
Last modified on March 20th, 2023 at 12:20 pm