Although most people know werewolves as simply creatures of nightmares and horror movies they were once viewed as real beasts that savagely killed. The creatures are less feared in today's society but the sheer terror could still be inflicted- fear of wolves and things that go bump in the night is almost natural.
The history of the werewolf can be traced back to Greek mythology when the god Lykaon was turned into a wolf after serving Zues human flesh. This myth helped fuel a cult in Arcadia that involved human sacrifice and the thought of transformation into wolves. Although lycanthropy is usually associated with the metamorphosis into a wolf-human hybrid, different legends include the mutation into bears, cats and birds of prey.
During the medieval times the fear of werewolves took grip of Europe. Wolves were known to attack man, as wolves during those times had no reason to fear man- guns were unheard of. In most of Europe the fear of werewolves included wolfmen ("berserkers") who wore wolves skin and killed innocent victims. Germans, however, viewed the wolf with honor. Names such as Wolfgang and Wolfhard were common. As Christianity slowly gained prominence such beliefs were condemned as Satanic.
Philosophers and religious thinkers contemplated the theory that perhaps the person did not physically change into a wolf but had been tricked by Satan into acting like the creatures. Generally, though, most believe that only God has the ability to change the body or mind of man.
Most werewolves claim they change into the hybrid by rubbing salve on themselves. Today we know salve has hallucination producing characteristics when mixed with certain plants such as henbane and nightshade. Those who participated in the witch trials of the Renaissance concluded the only transformation took place in the killers mind.
In most cases those who believe they can change into werewolves are considered mentally ill. In 1589 a German man named Stubbe Peeter was put to trial for the murder of twenty-five adults and children, including his own son. Peeter said he had not only killed the victims but also ate their flesh. He also claimed he committed incest and violence against animals after having made a pact with Satan.
Perhaps Delburt Gregg of Greggton, Texas, tells one of the most famous and recent cases of a werewolf. During a stormy night when her husband was away in July 1958, Gregg moved her bed close to a screened window to catch the breeze of an approaching storm. Deep in the night Gregg awoke to the sound of scratching at the screen next to her face. When the lightening flashed in the rumbling sky, Gregg saw a "huge, shaggy, wolf-like creature" that was "clawing at the screen and glaring ... with baleful, glowing, slitted eyes." As she jumped from the bed to grab a flashlight, the creature quickly dashed into a large collection of bushes. Gregg later saw a tall man walk down the road and into the darkness.
Mark Schackelman claimed to have seen a six-foot tall, hair-covered creature digging in an Indian mound in 1936 near Jefferson, Wisconsin. Schackelman claimed the creature had a large muzzle and included both ape and dog characteristics. With pointed ears and human-like hands, the creature stunk of dead meat. The next night Schackelman saw the same creature making a strange "three-syllable growling". When he began to pray, the creature quickly turned and dashed away.
On October 31, at about 8:30 PM, a young woman was driving along Bray Road near Delavan, Wisconsin when she felt her car jump as if the right tire had hit an object. Stopping the car, the young woman saw a dark and hairy figure running towards her. She sped away only to have the creature jump onto the car's trunk. Due to the slick metal the beast was unable to gain a hold of the vehicle. When returning with a friend the duo saw a large shape standing near the side of the road.
When the report got out several other people also claimed to have seen the strange creature. In 1989 Lorianne Endrizzi was traveling along the same road when she caught site of a figure kneeling at the side of the road. When she slowed the car, Endrizzi claimed to have seen the creature staring through the passenger window. She estimated the beast was about six feet away and had grayish brown hair with large fangs and pointed ears. She also claimed the creature had a snout and human-like hands. A local farmer also saw the creature but took it to be a gigantic dog.
It seems with so many reports, separated by so many years, werewolves seem to allude capture due to lack of evidence. Without the solid proof that science requires, these strange beasts will be little more then myth and movie frights.