But the truth is that the myth of the werewolf stemmed from something much darker and sinister.
Some of the following may disturb…
It was the late 1500’s and in the tiny village of Bedburg, Germany, children started to go missing. The village was made up of only a few hundred people and they lived on the edge of the forest. These ancient forests bred ancient fears and the wolf was the people’s natural enemy, so when the children went missing they assumed it was a wolf who was taking them.
But when the bodies of the children were found – dismembered and mangled – the villagers changed their minds. It was obvious that sexual abuse had also occurred and they knew this couldn’t have happened if it were simply a wolf attacking them.
When something so unthinkable happened it was easy for the superstitious villagers to jump to a supernatural explanation rather than believe one of their own had done such horrific things – so a man-beast was created.
In truth the villagers would have done better to look a little closer to home. Peter Stubbe was a respected, middle-aged man living within the village. He had a son and a daughter, but though it was claimed he loved his son, he also loved his daughter in completely the wrong way as he repeatedly committed incest with her. Over his time his crimes were unthinkable. He murdered and raped countless children, two pregnant women, and a group of two men and a woman. Possibly his worst crime of all was when he took his ‘much-loved’ son out into the forest and murdered him before eating his brain.
Eventually the other villagers tracked him down and they claimed that they saw the transformation of a wolf turning back into a man, who turned out to be Stubbe. We have no way of knowing what the villagers did see? Perhaps they were chasing a wolf and happened upon Stubbe by accident? However it happened, it was this eyewitness account that bore the first story of a man turning into a wolf, and it was published into a pamphlet which was then translated into English and subsequently became a best-seller.
Stubbe himself confessed to his crimes. Though it is said that he confessed ‘willingly’, he did so after being shown the rack. Stories vary, but some also claim that he told the other villagers that he had been practising black magic since he was twelve and that he had been in possession of a magic belt made from wolf-fur which gave him the ability to turn into a wolf when he wore it. How much of this is true it is impossible to say. The villagers ritualistically killed him by pulling his flesh from his body with red-hot pliers, broke his arms and legs, and eventually beheaded him. Most horrifically of all, and perhaps something that was as bad a Stubbe’s crimes, they then burnt his poor, abused daughter alive as to rid the village of any of Stubbe’s existence.
It is quite possible that Stubbe did believe himself to be a werewolf. Lycanthropy is the psychological state of a person who believes they are a beast. They will act ‘wolf-like’, and go on all-fours, and bark. Stubbe did exhibit wolf-like behaviour in the way he killed and then ate his victims, and at the time the way the villagers saw the wolf as being their main enemy would have given Stubbe belief in himself.
Who knows what from the story is true? Of course it is most likely that Stubbe was simply a very sick, deranged man. But then these days we do tend to look for rational explanations instead of looking for the paranormal, and who is to say that the villagers were not right?