Have you ever seen a werewolf? I’m not talking about on the TV, folks. The belief in werewolves spans centuries, possibly even thousands of years, and is deeply ingrained in the human psyche. Some folks believe themselves to be werewolves, while others claim to have seen these creatures in real life. Come with me on a journey into the realm of the lycanthrope, and we’ll learn of some of the most terrifying werewolf sightings of modern times.
American Werewolf in London. Underworld. Red Riding Hood. Twilight. All of these movies have one thing in common – the Hollywood version of the werewolf. But did you know that Hollywood didn’t actually invent the werewolf? In the Dark Ages, people believed evil was everywhere. Disease, famine, and other natural phenomenon had to be the work of the devil. And the devil had his minions – witches, demons, and yes, even werewolves. Alongside the thousands of people accused, tortured and executed for witchcraft was also a large number of folks accused of lycanthropy (a.k.a. werewolf-ism). From these historical accounts, we can surmise the belief in werewolves was simply superstition and mass panic. But the truth is, mass hysteria and religiosity don’t necessarily explain modern werewolf sightings. Nevertheless, let us briefly dive into the past to see where the belief in the werewolf may have originated.
A man named Hans was accused of being a werewolf in 15th century Estonia. He confessed to meeting a man dressed in black who gave him the ability to shapeshift into the form of a wolf. Because shapeshifting abilities were considered witchcraft, they tried and executed Hans. Hans wasn’t the first and wouldn’t be the last in the Werewolf Trials of the Dark Ages.
Switzerland, Germany and France also held their own werewolf trials. But it wasn’t just men who were accused. In 15th century Geneva, women were accused of not only riding wolves but taking their form to kill their neighbors cattle or incite mayhem. And in 17th century Lucerne, a man confessed to using a special ointment to turn himself into a werewolf and murdering sixteen children.
Around the same time as the Werewolf Trials in Eastern and Northern Europe, Northeastern Italy was experiencing its own cult of lycanthropes. An ancient order of men who called themselves the Good Walkers, or the Benandanti, claimed to take on the shape of wolves in order to carry out beneficial tasks for the community. These men traveled to the astral plane in their sleep and fought evil witches, a.k.a. the malandanti. Because witches were blamed for wreaking havoc on crops and bringing disease, someone had to stop them. Sadly, even though the Benandanti’s actions were believed to be benevolent, a few would be accused of witchcraft and heresy during the Roman Inquisition. It seems the belief in werewolves wasn’t just localized, but spread out over the continent.
I believe this concept goes back even farther than the Dark Ages. Ancient wise men, women, and shamans performed shapeshifting rituals to locate food for hunting, prepare for battle, predict the weather and more. Shifting into the likeness of a wolf was a battle tactic, as well as a means of traveling safely in the spiritual realm. The ulfhednar were a group of fierce Norse warriors in ancient times that dressed in wolf skin. When they went into battle, it was said they took on the spirit of the wolf…going into a trance-like state and ferociously tearing away at the enemy on the battlefield.
It still stands to question – what is a werewolf, exactly? Is it a witch or shaman with shapeshifting abilities? Do they shapeshift in the physical or in the spiritual? Is it a dark spirit? Or an actual monster manifest in our reality? Or could it be any number of these things?
One of the most well-known modern werewolf sightings occurred in a small town in Wisconsin, starting in the late 1930’s. In this particular case, more than one person witnessed the same creature, with sightings happening over a hundred times. The most recent sighting was reported in 2011. The earliest account of the “Beast of Bray Road”, as it’s been deemed, was told by a man by the name of Schackelman. One night Schackelman spotted a wolfman that stood six feet tall, digging up something in an Native American burial ground. He was terrified of this thing, but also intrigued. He decided to go back to the same spot where the first sighting occurred, and surprisingly, saw the beast a second time. And the Beast of Bray Road spoke to him in an unidentifiable language.
Since Schackelman’s werewolf sighting in the 1930’s, dozens of people have told their horrendous tales of the Beast of Bray Road. One woman said that the werewolf actually jumped onto the back of her car but luckily for her, it slipped off. She drove back to the same road later that night, and there was a “dark form” laying on the side of the road.
Is it coincidence that multiple people have seen it? Perhaps its the collective conscious, distorting and mutating a harmless gray wolf that lives in the area. Or maybe it is a human being who has some sort of rare and disfiguring disease. Or perhaps this werewolf sighting is in fact just that…real.
For centuries, the Hopi and indigenous tribes of the Southwest U.S. have told stories of a frightening shapeshifter called the “skin walker”. Legend has it that skinwalkers are dark magicians that are so powerful they are able to take on animal form to carry out their evil plans. When the sun goes down, these skinwalkers manifest as coyote-men and other beasts. But mostly they shift into the form of a coyote. And, well, the word coyote means prairie wolf.
Search Youtube for skinwalker stories and you’ll find dozens of personal accounts. These werewolves have been sighted in Arizona, New Mexico, and all over the Southern U.S. People tell hair raising stories of beasts prowling about on roofs, peering into windows, seemingly enticing their victims outside.
One witness claims she and her family were driving down the highway when an animal ran alongside of them at 60 mph! This animal was not just a coyote, but a monstrous man with a long snout. The skinwalker must have followed them home, because the same young lady tells of how a whole group of skinwalkers with drums tried to come onto her home’s property. Yet something kept them at bay. They tried but couldn’t cross into the yard. These skinwalkers sightings occur all across the Southern United States.
It seems we have other names for werewolves like “dogmen”. Recent sightings of a dogman occurred in 2014 in Pennsylvania, and before that sightings were common in the 1960’s. The dogman of Pennsylvania is between 6 and 7 feet tall and weighs up to 500 pounds, according to eyewitnesses. They say he is totally covered in hair, and some say he has the body of a man and the head of a wolf. Pennlive claims reports of the dogman in PA date as far back as the late eighteenth century, first reported in the journal of a French fur trader. But with another name – loup garou.
There are even accounts of real werewolf sightings in the state of Florida. If you’ve ever visited Central Florida, you’ll notice that much of the land is made up of swamp. There are plenty places for things to hide. One particular story is of a large wolf-like creature, called a dogman, seen by more than three people in a neighborhood in the early 2000s. More recently, a hunter in Bardin saw a werewolf that was 9 feet tall near his truck.
According to author Mark Muncy in his book Freaky Florida, “Sally Gage, an anthropologist and descendant of the Anishinaabe tribe, loves to point out the early Native American art with wolf-men images…more and more believe these might involve Native American interaction with dogmen dating before recorded history.”
The question stands as to whether werewolves actually exist, and whether these modern werewolf sightings are legitimate. Shapeshifting is a part of an ancient practice that spans cultures and continents, so some wonder if these werewolves are indeed humans that are able to shift their shape into something more powerful. Or are these creatures mutant wolves of some kind, hiding in the forests and only coming out in rare circumstances? Are they physical creatures or the astral bodies of witches and magicians? What do you think?
It’s midnight. Someone calls your name from down the hall. You peak from your bedroom …September 23, 2023