Werewolves (Modern Beliefs)

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Area(s) Reported: Worldwide & North America: United States: Hollywood
Date(s) Reported: 1935 to Present

In the past werewolves were believed to be people who used magic to transform themselves into wolves while retaining their human intelligence, anger, and hatred; they often used their wolf forms to commit horrible crimes while hiding their identities. The modern idea of werewolves is of people who change against their will into half-wolf, half-human, bipedal monsters with an uncontrollable need to kill on nights of a full moon. When did the idea of what a werewolf is change? Most modern ideas about werewolves come from just two sources: a 1935 movie called Werewolf of London, and a 1941 movie called The Wolf Man.

1935's Werewolf of London told the story of a scientist who became a werewolf, and it was a first for many details that have now become accepted modern 'facts' about werewolves.Ancient beliefs about werewolves generally stated they were either people who were voluntarily transforming in to wolves, or who transformed against their will by a person using magic. In Werewolf of London, a scientist studying a rare Tibetan flower is attacked by a werewolf while exploring, only to discover that he himself has now become a werewolf. On night of the full moon, he will transform unless he can use the effects of the blooms from the very same Tibetan flower that he tracked down.

So this movie introduces three new key ideas; that being a werewolf is spread by the attack of a werewolf, the transformation is automatic and uncontrolled, and that the full moon is involved in the transformation. A fourth new idea was introduced also, though this may have been more because of the limitation of special effects in movies at the time: when the scientist transforms fully, he essentially turns into a hairy man with pointed ears and fangs. Transformed as such, the scientist then dons his hat and coat -- a well-dressed werewolf -- and sets out to the streets to satiate an unnatural urge to kill. Despite introducing many new ideas that have since become an accepted norm for modern werewolf lore, Werewolf of London flopped in the theaters. This was because the main story of the movie just wasn't terribly original... but six years later, these new details would mix with a few more new ideas to create a true Hollywood classic movie!

The Wolf Man, released to theaters in 1941, told the story of Larry Talbot, a man who returns to his family's home in Wales after a long absence. One night, Talbot rescues a young lady by killing a strange wolf that is attacking her, but is bitten as he does so... and after he has killed the creature, it transforms into a person. He realizes with horror that he has been bitten by a werewolf, and is doomed to become one himself; worse still, the curse of the werewolf causes him to destroy those he loves when he is in his monstrous form. The curse also makes him invulnerable to all normal means of destruction; only objects made of silver can actually harm and kill him.

The Wolf Man

From then on, Talbot transforms at night -- all nights -- into a half-wolf, half-man hybrid monster which, again, looked more like a hairy man than a wolf, but this time was a little more wolf-looking than the Werewolf of London had been (and Talbot is way less concerned about nice clothes!). The werewolf's victim is pre-determined each day... Talbot sees the sign of a pentagram in the palm of whomever he will kill that night. Talbot is horrified by what he’s unwillingly become; and after various attempts to restrain or cure himself, his monstrous form tries to attack the woman he loves and he is accidentally killed by his own father who is carrying Talbot’s own silver-tipped cane. The Wolf Man was popular enough to spawn four sequels, in which it was established that Talbot's change to his werewolf form was limited to nights of the full moon; this was both a convenience for the writers creating new stories, and an excuse for resurrecting the original character when his grave is opened on the night of a full moon.

Thanks to the 1935 Werewolf of London movie and the 1941 The Wolf Man movie, ideas from both films soon became a set of new core criteria for how these modern-age werewolves were expected to exist/behave in stories... which is why most people now believe that a werewolf is a hairy, wolf-like person, that uncontrollably transforms into a monster during full moons, can only be killed with silver, and can create new werewolves by biting people. And, as special effects have improved over time, these new werewolves are looking more and more wolf-like in newer appearances... but are still clearly a mix of some sort between a human and an animal, which is nothing like the original werewolves told of in times before movies.

Only in Movies?

The strange thing about all of this is that, even though this sort of werewolf has only been made up within the past century, there are now people who claim to have actually seen them. Well; these people are claiming to see creatures or beings that remind them of these new half-man, half-wolf movie monsters, and so they tend to label what they’ve seen as a werewolf ― whether or not it was.

Since at least 1989, people in Wisconsin, in the United States, have been seeing a hairy, man-like creature with a dog-like snout, and pointed ears. Dubbed the “Bray Road Beast” after Bray Road near the town of Elkhorn, where the beast was first reported, it has been mistaken several times for a large dog... until it stood up! Attempts to follow it have so far failed.

Beast of Bray Road

In Scotland there have been reports of hairy humans with wolf heads; they can stand and walk on two legs, but drop to all four limbs to run. The first was reported in the 1950’s and seen from a distance of about 70 feet while it was near Loch Morar; the second was seen near the town of Oban in 1967 late at night as it ran at high speed past a mail truck making deliveries.

More recently, on the night of August 19, 2016, three people driving out to pick up pizzas in Halsham, England, saw a large canine-like creature on the side of the road ahead of them. As the car approached, the creature raised up onto two legs and turned towards the car, revealing a "human-like" face... then it turned, dropped to all four legs, and ran off across a nearby field, vanishing into the dark.

In all of these cases, some sort of bipedal, canine-like creature was seen, which matches a movie werewolf in general appearance; but none of these creatures were seen to become human, so it's not fair to label them "werewolves." So, as stated before, movie werewolves don’t exist... but strange, bipedal, dog-like monsters might!

See also: Werewolves (Ancient Beliefs)
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  • American Hauntings: Unexplained America: The Bray Road Beast, by Troy Taylor, 2008 website. Online: Click here!
  • Cryptomundo: The Werewolves of Britain, by Nick Redfern, article in the 2006 website maintained by Loren Coleman. Online: Click here!
  • The Story of Werewolves, by Thomas G. Aylesworth, 1978 McGraw-Hill Book Company. ISBN: 0-07-002645-9
  • Unexplained Phenomena: A Rough Guide Special, by Bob Rickard and John Michell, 2000 Rough Guides, Ltd., 62-70 Shorts Gardens, London, England. ISBN: 1-85828-589-5
  • Werewolf of London, page in the Wikipedia website, viewed 2-13-2017. Online: Click here!
  • The Wolf Man (movie), page in the Wikipedia website, viewed 2-13-2017. Online: Click here!
  • "2016, August 19: Werewolf Encountered in Halsham, England," by Garth Haslam, article in the Anomalies: The Strange & Unexplained website, viewed 2-13-2017. Online: Click here!


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