Top 10 Alleged Real-Life Werewolves and Wolf-men

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During the witch hunt trials that swept across Europe and North America in the early modern period (1500s through 1600s), while numerous women were condemned as suspected witches, a number of men were at the same time condemned as suspected werewolves or wolf men.  This list covers a number of these alleged real-life werewolves and wolf men during this era of fanaticism run amok, while expanding our scope of coverage to also include people and at least one animal alleged to be a werewolf in more modern times as well.  Some of the people on this list were most likely serial killers, so it is not as if they merit much sympathy from us for anyway; however, the was some of them were executed really goes into extreme levels of barbarity, whether deserved or not.  Given the popularity of werewolves currently in popular culture from their appearances as main characters in True Blood (Alcide) and Twilight (Jacob), not to mention the Underworld series, a list about possible actual historic instances of these creatures seems especially timely!

10.  The Man in the Woods (born 1537)

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This first example of a “wolf man” differs from most of the others on this list in that Petrus Gonsalvus, “The Man in the Woods,” was not known for being a killer.  Rather, he was apparently afflicted with hypertrichosis universalis, which essentially meant he was covered in hair and as such had a head that looked somewhat like a wolf’s.  Because he was not some wild serial killer, he was actually accepted at the court of a French king, who in term had him go to the court of Margaret of Parma.  Margaret was a noble lady acting a regent of the Netherlands.  A painting of him is in the Chamber of Art and Curiosities at Ambras Castle along with such other paintings of strange men as one of Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Dracula.  Gonsalvus was also one of only a handful of men to be honored on the Mardi Gras tokens of New Orleans’s Krewe of Satan during the 1970s.

9.  The Werewolf of Dole (died 18 January 1573)

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A contemporary of Gonsalvus who also spent a good deal of time in France was Gilles Garnier.  Garnier, however, was not someone to be admired as a medical curiosity, but rather was an abhorrent cannibal and serial killer.  Also known as The Hermit of St. Bonnot, this particularly monstrous human reportedly killed children near his house.  His victims included boys and girls with ages ranging from 9 to 12.  Where things get strange is with trial testimony claiming that a ghost offered Garnier a magic ointment that would allow him to transform into a wolf.  He confessed to four murders and was convicted of not just lycanthropy (being a werewolf), but also witchcraft.  As a punishment, he was burned at the stake.

8.  The Werewolf of Bedburg (died 1589)

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Peter Stump was accused of selling his soul not to some random ghost, but rather to the Devil for the ability to transform himself into a werewolf.  Aided by Katherine Trompin (his mistress) and Beell Stump (his daughter), he then murdered and cannibalized fifteen victims from 1564 to 1589.  When tracked down, he is said to have still been in the guise of a werewolf.  According to the superstitious witnesses, he made a desperate last attempt to resume his human shape as he hid behind a bush, but he was spotted removing his supposedly false skin and seized.  In court in Cologne, he was predictably found guilty, and his fate matched in horror that of his victims.  The judge ordered: “His body shall be laid on a wheel and, with red hot burning pincers, in several places to have the flesh pulled off him from the bones.  After that his legs and arms to be broken with a wooden hatchet, afterwards to have his head struck from his body, then to have his carcass burned to ashes.”  After being forced to watch the burning of Stump’s headless corpse on Halloween 1589 in Germany, his mistress and daughter were also burned at the stake.

7.  The Werewolf of Châlons (died 1598)

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His real name is unknown, but he or it is also known as The “Demon Tailor”.  He/its preferred murder method was throat-slitting followed by cannibalism.  The total number of victims remains nknown, but they appear to have occurred in Châlons, Paris, France.  The suspected werewolf was convicted on 14 December 1598 and executed by burning at the stake the day after his trial.  A huge crowd gathered to watch the execution.  Members of this crowd claimed that unlike other convicted “werewolves” who repented their sins as the flames began to torch their legs, the unremorseful “Demon Tailor” cursed and blasphemed until his end!

6.  The Wolf of Ansbach (1685)

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The wolf hunts, as with the more famous witch hunts, of the 1500s continued into the 1600s.  As with the witch hunts, the wolf trials were especially intense in the lands of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.  The Wolf of Ansbach does not have a human name and was apparently an actual wolf rather than a human accused of transforming into a wolf.  Nevertheless, residents claimed that this wolf was actually their former and hated mayor reincarnated!  Using dogs, these residents organized a hunt and proceed to chase a wolf to a well, where they trapped and then slew it.  Even though the wolf was already dead, the residents, who blamed it for various killings and then disguised it in clothing and a beard so that it would resemble their former mayor.  For good measure, they even hung it from a gibbet before putting it on display in a museum.

5.  Hans the Werewolf (1691)

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Near the eastern most boundaries of the Holy Roman Empire were such lands as Estonia.  There too resided the occasional suspected werewolf.  In this case, one notorious suspect was given the nice German name of “Hans”.  A court managed to persuade the eighteen year old Hans to confess that a “man in black”, suspected to be Satan (apparently Satan/the Devil likes turning people into werewolves), had transformed him into a werewolf in which capacity Hans hunted for two years.  Teeth marks on Hans’s legs, probably from a dog, were used as evidence of his having been bitten by a werewolf.  In any event, cavorting with Satan was sufficient for someone to receive a death sentence, regardless of whether or not they were actually a werewolf.

4.  The Livonian Werewolf (put on trial 1692)

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Livonia, another Baltic land like Estonia, also had its share of alleged real-life werewolves.  The most notorious of whom was Thiess of Kaltenbrun.  Just one year after Hans’s escapades, Thiess, then in his eighties, claimed that Satan/the Devil did not merely come to see Thiess, but rather Thiess had joined forces with fellow werewolves in Hell to battle against the Devil and witches.  As such, Thiess claimed to be a good werewolf, in fact a “hound of God.”  The court did not buy this story and instead of rewarding Thiess for braving the fires of Hell, had him flogged and banished.  This particular case has been the subject of scholarly articles and books, with the most recent publication being in 2007.

3.  The Beast of Gévaudan (1764-1767)

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Yes, even into the eighteenth century, fears of lycanthropy still persisted in Europe.  In fact, the Beast of Gévaudan is probably the second most well-known suspected werewolf on this list and quite possibly the one most known specifically for being a suspected werewolf.  Nevertheless, this list obviously follows a chronological narrative, which is why it is not “ranked” first here.  What the Beast was remains unknown.  Was it a werewolf?  Was it a lion or even a hyena?  Was it some kind of hybrid dog?  Or, as the outstanding film Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) speculates, was it a beast killing on behalf of a group of Christian fanatics?  Finally, were there actually multiple “beasts”?  Its identity remains unknown, but its infamy remains prominent.  The historic Beast that would later be chosen as the werewolf character in the Atmosfear DVD board game series is responsible for perhaps 210 attacks in which 113 people lost their lives, numbers exceeding the suspected death tolls of all the other murderous wolves and serial killers on this list combined.  At one point, a large beast was killed and stuffed for display at the king’s palace of Versailles, but that was not the end of the killings.  Because the Beast has not been indisputably identified, whenever and however it was actually killed also remains debatable.

2.  The Werewolf of Allariz (18 November 1809 — 14 December 1863)

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In the 1800s, accusations of killers being werewolves did not stop, even if the witch trials and werewolf trials had gone out of style.  By this point, the era of serial killers had begun in earnest, and yet even these mortal monsters could still be sensationalized as murderers in the manner of werewolves.  Manuel Blanco Romasanta is one such serial killer stylized as a “werewolf”.  He was the first ever documented Spanish serial killer.  He admitted to thirteen murders, but was only convicted of nine.  Also known as the Tallow Man, he was sentenced to die by being garroted (basically strangled with rope), but had his sentence commuted.  His life leading up to his crimes was rather bizarre.  His parents thought him a girl and named and raised him as such until a doctor confirmed Manuela was actually a boy.  Thus, he dropped the second “a” from his name.  As an adult, he lost his wife at a young age and was eventually charged with his first murder in 1844 with more accusations to follow in the 1850s.  His confirmed victims were both male and female and ranged from 10 to 47 years of age.  The circumstances of his death are also mysterious.  Due to the loss of prison records, conflicting rumors claim that he either died of illness or was shot by a guard in the hopes that he would transform into a werewolf.

1.  The Werewolf of Wysteria (19 May 1870 – 16 January 1936)

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From the 1500s to the 1900s, the werewolf has persisted as a chilling description of more mortal monsters that seem inhuman due to their atrocious nature.  For as bad as some of the killers described above were, Albert Fish, known varyingly as the Brooklyn Vampire, The Boogey Man, the Gray Man, the Moon Maniac and finally the Werewolf of Wysteria, is easily the most disgusting and nefarious of all who appear in this list.  Fish is responsible for at least four murders and possibly three others.  He was ultimately convicted for kidnapping and murdering Grace Budd (1918–1928) in absolutely disgusting fashion (disgusting enough that it is not really necessary to repeat the details here).  To make matters worse, he even wrote a letter to Grace’s mother describing how Grace resisted him and how he ultimately cannibalized her.  Fish also provided a similarly vivid account of his cannibalistic murder of 4-year-old child named Billy Gaffney.  Authorities gradually learned just how disturbed Fish was as they discovered that he inserted a large number of needles in his body for various reasons.  He apparently engaged in all sorts of sexual perversities, which again are too sickening to list for the purpose of an entertainment site.  Not surprisingly, this downright evil man, werewolf, vampire, or whatever, was sentenced to die via the electric chair.  I leave you with one question, do YOU think werewolves are real?

 

Honorable mentions (just for fun!): The following are people with lupine nicknames who are known for more reasonable contributions to civilization than some of the madmen listed above.  In any case, to end on a positive note, here are some “good” wolves worthy of admiration: American disc jockey Wolfman Jack (21 January 1938 – 1 July 1995) and American journalist Wolf Isaac Blitzer (born 22 March 1948).

By: Dr. Matthew D. Zarzeczny, FINS and the author of Meteors that Enlighten the Earth 


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11 Comments

  1. The werewolf section in our class was the hardest to define what it was. The werewolf seemed the be a mix of those who were hairy and those who were cannibals, most likely not the supposed man who could turn into a wolf.

  2. Sammi DiGeronimo on

    I wish we would have spent more time in class discussing werewolves because I find the topic interesting and confusing. I don’t see how some of these people/creatures could be considered “werewolves.”

  3. Poor Peter Stump. I wonder what his deal really was. Plus, they didn’t just execute him, but also his mistress and daughter. Talk about going overboard.

  4. As with witchcraft, it is interesting to consider the explanations people during these time periods had for what they consider to be inexplicable. Wolf killing a ton of villagers? Probably a werewolf. People seek the easiest answer for that which they do not understand.

  5. I don’t really believe in werwolves so this article was sort of silly to me but I still liked reading it and found it very interesting.

  6. It is hard to believe the amount of hysteria that brought on this craze. Most people were actually just serial killers with gruesome actions as opposed to turning into werewolves. It goes to show how a story can take hold and facts can be turned around by people.

  7. Thomas Robinson on

    Werewolves are by far my favorite mythological creature. The myths surrounding them are always so interesting. Fun Fact:In the MTV show, Teen Wolf, they actually connect one of the main characters as being an descendant of a person involved in the death of the Beast of Gevaudan.

  8. I don’t believe any of these because they were probably all sketches that were done by people who thought they knew what werewolves looked like. I mean someone who has a long beard and is extremely hairy in today’s society could have been considered a vampire back then.

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