Since medieval times the concept or idea of the Werewolf - said to be a man with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf-man hybrid after being placed under a curse or being bitten by another werewolf - has terrified generations of people all over the world. From movies in the 20th century such as 'Werewolf of London', 'The Howling' and its numerous sequels and 'An American Werewolf in London', the creature has been depicted as being of a malevolent nature, needing to satisfy a thirst for human blood. In more recent times, the creature has been depicted in more heroic or romantic roles, such as characters from the television series 'True Blood', and 'Twilight' and the 'Underworld' series of films, who are all able to be more "in control" of their wolf selves and instincts.
However, do werewolves exist, or have they existed at one point?
And what is the reality of such creatures, away from the stories attributed to it in pop culture?
In some ways, the werewolf perhaps did exist. For example, in the Scandinavian Viking Age, the first king of Norway, Harald I, was said to have had an army of men who wore wolf coats. They were called the Úlfhednar, and were said to be vicious in their killings - some attributing their victories due to the possibility they were "channelling" the spirits of wolves in order to enhance their effectiveness in battle.
Stumpp is said to have confessed that, when he was 12, he began practicing black magic, and one day apparently successfully managed to summon the Devil himself. He further claimed the Dark One gave him a "magic belt" that allowed him to change into "the likeness of a greedy, devouring wolf, strong and mighty, with eyes great and large, which in the night sparkled like fire, a mouth great and wide, with most sharp and cruel teeth, a huge body, and mighty paws."
Since that fateful day it was said that over the next two decades Stumpp became known as the "Werewolf of Bedburg", and was responsible for the gorging of flesh of a number of animals, including humans. He finally confessed to the murders of 14 children and 2 pregnant women and their fetuses. He also killed his own young son.
He was charged with murder, incest and cannibalism,and along with his teenage daughter (who had also been his lover), was sentenced to death. He was put on a Breaking wheel (a torture device used for capital punishment during the Middle Ages) and flesh was torn from his body. Several limbs were broken with the blunt side of an axehead and then he was decapitated. He was not the first so-called Werewolf to be executed during the next few years, and perhaps was one of the first to be labelled with the condition called Lycanthropy.
This, however, has not stopped many accounts, especially over the last century or so, of people having encounters with real-life wolf-men or werewolves. Many of these reports are made in North America, but can these accounts be just the result of the observation of possibly an abnormally sized wolf or canine, or are some men really able to transform and shapeshift into giant bi-pedal wolves, with a bloodthirsty appetite?
(Interested in more,? - look up ergot and lycanthropy)