Werewolves: Where Did the Belief in the Werewolf Begin? Is There Any Proof?

Updated on April 21, 2017
kittythedreamer profile image

Holding a complete fascination with vampires and werewolves, Kitty enjoys writing about the undead in their many forms in folklore.

The belief in werewolves dates back centuries, probably before most people even realize.
The belief in werewolves dates back centuries, probably before most people even realize. | Source

Origins of Werewolves

Werewolf. Man, but at the same time—wolf. Men that change into terrible, murderous beasts under the full moon's radiating beams on a monthly basis. Werewolves have been ravaging the cinematic scene since 1941, when the movie The Wolf Man was first released in theaters. The concept of a man who had the ability (or curse) to turn into a hungry and ravenous animal was a concept that frightened many people in the 1940s. What most did not realize is that the belief in werewolves has been around for centuries—well before the twentieth century's film producers made their spine-tingling horror flicks.

Dating back a couple thousand years before the birth of Christ, a Sumerian text was written in cuneiform and is known as the Epic of Gilgamesh. In this text made up of eleven tablets, the main character Gilgamesh seems to take the form of a werewolf:

Gilgamesh was roving about...
wearing a skin...
having the flesh of the gods in his body,
but sadness deep within him,
looking like one who has been travelling a long distance.
The tavern keeper was looking off into the distance,
puzzling to herself, she said,
wondering to herself:
"That fellow is surely a murderer!
Where is he heading!..."
As soon as the tavern keeper saw him, she bolted her door,
bolted her gate, bolted the lock.
But at her noise, Gilgamesh pricked up his ears,
lifted his chin (to look about) and then laid his eyes on her.
Gilgamesh spoke to the tavern keeper, saying:
"Tavern-keeper, what have you seen that made you bolt your door,
bolt the gate, bolt the lock?!
If you do not let me in, I will break your door and smash the lock!"

This is one of the oldest stories ever written and could be the first true account of the belief in werewolves or shapeshifters. The Epic of Gilgamesh is fascinating, if you'd like to read it in its entirety.

Shooting forward a couple thousand of years to the European Middle Ages, the idea of werewolves living amongst humans ran amok in many rural areas. Specifically in the Baltic country of Estonia, there were approximately thirty trials held in which supposed witches were also accused of being werewolves. One particular eighteen-year-old boy was asked if he was a werewolf, and he openly admitted to it. The strange boy/werewolf gave the judges a detailed account of how he joined the hunt in his werewolf form. The judges were shocked and asked the boy whether he meant if he was a werewolf in spirit form and the boy denied their suggestions. Claims of a wolf bite on his leg and how a man dressed in black allowing him to become a werewolf filled the stale air of the courtroom, which made the decision to burn the boy a very simple and obvious decision. The boy's frightening confession to being a werewolf would go down in history and he is now referred to as Hans the Werewolf.

Even before the Middle Ages' witch and werewolf trials, we can take a look back at stories from Ancient Greece and find reference and details about men or gods who turn into wolves. One of the Ancient Greeks, King Lycaon, gets a random visit from a peculiar stranger, whom he believes might be an immortal. He decides to test the stranger by offering him human flesh to eat, but unfortunately for King Lycaon, the stranger turns out to be the mighty god Jupiter. Jupiter is none-too-pleased with King Lycaon's shady actions and mercilessly transforms the King into a beastly werewolf as punishment. The word Lycanthrope and also Lycanthropy is derived from the root of the King Lycaon's name, meaning wolf.

In addition to the belief of men and women metamorphosing into werewolves, there are legends from all across the world about humans transforming into other forms of animals. In America, when only the Natives roamed the lands, they held a sacred belief in shapeshifting. Shapeshifting is the belief that a human can change into a totem animal (or spirit guide), either spiritually or physically or sometimes both. As I see it, shapeshifting has some similarities to the belief in werewolves, though shapeshifting was a positively revered and spiritual thing, as opposed to the superstitious fear of evil witch-wolves prowling the countryside. In ancient China, the people thought that animals had the ability to change into human form, which is the opposite of the belief in many other countries around that time. Three shape-shifting animals were said to reside in the Chinese mountains: the Fox spirit HuXian, Da Yu who was said to actually be a bear, and dragons who had the ability to take human form. In Africa, eye-witnessed accounts of people turning into gigantic crocodiles and even witty hyenas circulated through the villages. Werecats are also a similar transformation of witches, a belief that was less common than the belief in werewolves in ancient and Middle Ages' Europe (a reason why black cats were later known as a witch's familiar).

As one can see, the concept of werewolves has been present in human society since ancient times. It is a concept that will be used in movies and books for centuries to come. A couple big questions that arise amongst paranormal researchers (as well as normal folks): is there any proof that they exist? What are the latest, modern accounts of werewolves?

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Proof That They Exist?

One of the most recent documented cases of werewolf sightings comes from the state of Wisconsin. In a southern town known as Elkhorn, there has been as many as a dozen different accounts from the town's residents catching a glimpse of a standing wolf-like creature. The creature is said to be between 5 and 8 feet tall and reportedly has been sighted feeding off of roadkill. One particular man claims that he saw the creature try to pull a dead deer out of the back of his vehicle. Another teen girl claims to have been partying in a quiet Wisconsin field with friends one night, when they experienced a frightening sighting of the wolf-being. You can watch their full interviews, done by Fox News, in the video posted to the right. What I found to be most intriguing about this story is the fact that the Native Americans held a belief in water spirits who could take the shape of wolves existing in the same areas as where the modern sightings have occurred. Many locals claim that this creature is a werewolf, but others are not so sure about that theory. Whatever the being is, the legend of the Wisconsin werewolf thrives today.

A creepy story that shares similarities to the Wisconsin Werewolf is the legend of the Michigan Dogman. The legend of the dogman begins in the late 1930s, when the first spine-tingling sighting occurred. According to a man named Robert Fortney, he was fishing on the banks of the River located in Paris, MI, when he heard a pack of wild dogs emerge from the woods and head to where he was standing. He had a gun in his possession and so to warn the dogs that he was not messing around, he fired a shot into the air. The pack ran away, except for one dog. Robert said it looked at him and stood on his hind two legs. At this point, he was only about ten to fifteen feet away from the creature, and he swears that the creature was "smiling" at him. The creature seemed to be a wild dog, but had similarities to a human being...with large green eyes. "What kind of dog has green eyes?" Fortney had said in an interview in 1987. Many other accounts of this dog-man creature have been told and documented. A song has even been written about the story, titled "The Legend".

A similarity in many of these Michigander's experiences with the dogman is that they say he seems to always be smiling at them...creepy, huh? Is it possible that this dogman is another type of werewolf? There was a video taken in the late 70's, possibly early 80's, that I have posted here. The video is what appears to be a dog-like creature on all fours, running through the forest of Michigan. Apparently the person who took the video has remained anonymous, but many people swear that this is the dogman of Michigan fame. It resembles a bear or a sasquatch in ways to me; however, it doesn't seem quite like a bear. Check it out for yourself. Could this be proof that werewolves exist?

Another werewolf-esque creature said to inhabit the southern United States is El Chupacabra. El Chupacabra is a creature that has been described as a blood-sucking cryptid with features similar to a coyote. Sightings and reports of Chupacabra attacks on animals have been known to circulate in almost every southern state, as well as Puerto Rico and Mexico. Many claim that sightings have now been reported all the way up the east coast, in the state of Maine and also in the country of Russia. Different farmers have found carcasses of what they believed to be el Chupacabra and turned them in for investigation, only to find out later that the carcass was that of a coyote or fox with oversized incisors and a severe case of mange. Each time a body or proof is found, scientists seem to find an explanation; however, many farmers are adamant that a blood-sucking creature prowls the nighttime, looking for innocent goats and other animals on which to feed off of. With coyote features and a tendency to suck blood from farm animals, many equate the legend of the Chupacabra to that of the legends of American werewolves. Maybe there is more than one type of werewolf? Maybe we'll never know for sure.

Do you believe in Werewolves?

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How to Kill a Werewolf

Throughout the ages, since the beginning of the werewolf's reign of terror upon the world, people have tried their damnedest to find the swiftest and most efficient way of killing these beasts. In modern times, we watch horror movies featuring werewolves as the main monster, and we are taught that the only way to kill these animals is to shoot them with a silver bullet. Another Hollywood made-up deterrent for werewolves is the herb called wolf's bane. Neither the silver bullet nor the herb deterrent has been documented historically, so it is safe to assume that that may have been thought up during werewolf movie filming in recent times.

Many people in the Middle Ages of Europe believed that the only ways to kill werewolves was to burn them at the stake or decapitate them. The burning at the stake theory has its roots in the witch burnings, as we discovered that in the witch burning times in Europe some witches were believed to also be werewolves.

Is there a certain way to kill a ravenous and vicious animal such as a werewolf or the dogman? I don't know that any one way has been proven (just as their existence hasn't been proven), but remember—if you are walking in the woods of Michigan or Wisconsin, always take a gun with you! Maybe a large sword of scythe would work, as well.

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wolf's bane - another of hollywood's suggestionssword - old world suggestion
wolf's bane - another of hollywood's suggestions
wolf's bane - another of hollywood's suggestions
sword - old world suggestion
sword - old world suggestion
Artist's rendering of a werewolf.
Artist's rendering of a werewolf. | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2011 Nicole Canfield


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    • profile image

      Gadfly 5 weeks ago from Olde London Towne

      Greetings my little Darklings

      Be very afraid.

      Sweet dreams.

      the Gadfly.

    • profile image

      OdinsRaven 3 years ago from Nova Scotia

      Very interesting, always been a fan of man-beasts. It may be interesting to note that the origin of the werewolf story may also be tied in part to the berserk warriors of various Germanic cultures. Bear-Shirts, Boar-Shirts and Wolf=Shirts being the most predominate. Of the many supernatural powers attributed to berserkers shape shifting isn't unheard of in the lore. Its not too big of a leap that catholic Europe while in the grip of fear of Norseman raiders may have added to werewolf myth through fear of the Wolf-Shirt warriors.

    • profile image

      Gadfly 3 years ago from Olde London Towne

      I believe that the werewolf legend may stem from another branch of folklore namely 'the ogre' of the Dark ages. Primevil mankind may have had living memory of the Neanderthal sub species and passed it down through the generations to be like our 'bogey man'!

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 3 years ago from London England

      Never heared much of Wolfman Jack other than his appearance in American Graffiti, i understand that he has passed on. Repose in peace.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 3 years ago from London England

      Greetings Darklings

      The werewolf connection with olde London towne was hilighted in the 1980s with a movie 'American werewolf in London'. This was an excellent film in it's day/night and i sought of felt sorry for it's (the werewolf) demise as the circumstances were not of it's intention. About the same era we a song and film clip titled 'Werewolves of London' one line in the lyrics goes 'I'd like to meet his tailor!' In summing up my local pub has a pinball machine featuring Hollywood's monsters and the look on wolf man's face is 'priceless'. Nobody plays this machine, i wonder why!

      sweet dreams.

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 4 years ago from Summerland

      Thanks, Nelson. Very interesting!

    • profile image

      Nelson 4 years ago

      We know from the discovery of homo denisovan that they were mixed with an undiscovered ancient human lineage. My working hypothesis is that stories of vampires, werewolves, sasquatch are nothing more than stories of other human lineages that have been twisted and fogotten in time. its what you'd expect if evolution is true. Great research project.

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 4 years ago from Summerland

      I really don't know of the best books...but I would say again anywhere where wolves are wild. Parts of North America, but parts of Scandinavia also have wolves. Thanks!

    • profile image

      Scottishwerewolf 4 years ago

      Would you say America is the best place to look? And do you have any books to recommend for me to read?

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 4 years ago from Summerland

      Hello. I actually believe that werewolves are very powerful shamans who have the ability to shapeshift into the form of a wolf. I would venture to say that you can find werewolves mostly in areas where wolves actually live. This is because the shamans usually take on the form of an animal that is a part of their own ecosystem. Hopefully this makes sense. :)

    • profile image

      Scottishwerewolf 4 years ago

      I have just recently became obsessed with werewolves and trying to find them! This was extremely fascinating and I believe they are real! I'm from Scotland and hope to take trips all around the world to try to find one where would be great places to look? Kittythedreamer

    • surfer1969 profile image

      surfer1969 5 years ago

      Rather or not they exist remain to be seen.But one thing for sure everyone can't be seeing the same thing over and over.So there has to be something there.I'm gonna have to do some tracking of my own really soon with my cam to see If I can find anything.I'm one of the many that can track things like this.So maybe I'll find something out there.But In the mean time checked out my werewolf story here.It's fiction of course.But It's on going story that will only get bigger as time goes by. http://socyberty.com/issues/blood-moon-rising/

    • profile image

      Justin Hernandez 6 years ago

      I don't know much about weretiger but I can ashore u that they are not as interesting as werewolf ,but I can tel u this about werewolf ,they maybe as agresave as ah tiger ,stroun as ah elephant ,toll as ah bear,as conning as ah fox,maybe as fast as ah Chita ,maybe has better eye site Dan ah groc,maybe it can jump 15ft hiyer Dan any animal alive .My englesh is not tu good


    • Bharatthapa profile image

      Bharat Thapa 6 years ago from NEW DELHI

      As far as i remember, they aren't cannibals but when they are transformed into weretiger they lose their sanity...that's all i know.

      Guess, i have to ask my mom =D

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 6 years ago from Summerland

      Bharatthapa - I've heard of the weretiger that you're speaking of. Very intriguing...and yes, shapeshifting seems to be prevalent all over the world, just in different aspects. The Native Americans also believed that coyotes were shapeshifters and could take the shape of men. Thanks for sharing and I agree...that would stink! :)

    • Bharatthapa profile image

      Bharat Thapa 6 years ago from NEW DELHI

      Hmmm interesting i don't believe in their existence but in my culture too, we have something similar like werewolf. I'd rather say weretiger. It is believed that there is some race living in nepal hiding their real identity and their curse. According to the stories which i heard from my mother when i was a kid, they have the ability to transform themselves into a walking tiger or something like that =P

      They are believed to be twice stronger than the actual tiger/lion.

      Shapeshifting with them can occur at anytime and they don't have control over it.

      (Lol imagine you're walking with your friend and all of a sudden he changed into a walking Tiger jajajajaja)

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 7 years ago from Summerland

      hi dolores! yes, it did seem like anyone could get burned at the stake for almost anything...even if they breathed the wrong way! most especially women, but as you can see, some men were persecuted and burned at the stake, as well. fire was considered a "purging" substance...so yes, they definitely believed it was cleanse the filth from the earth...or what they believed to be filth. so glad we don't live in those ages!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 7 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Interesting background on werewolves. Back in the Middle Ages, seems like anybody could get burned at the stake. But, that way, you sure make sure the thing won't come back.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 7 years ago from North Carolina

      bonjour! Les Trois Chenes, I've read the original book on "The Beast of the Geavudon; and I believe it was possibly a pre-historic Dire wolf or some other mammal caught in a time warp, which may explain its appearance and why it was impervious to bullets. Just a theory.

    • Les Trois Chenes profile image

      Les Trois Chenes 7 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      All you need to know about werewolves is here! I live in Limousin, France and this is real werewolf country. I'm linking this hub to my account of Limousin wolves and werewolves.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 7 years ago from North Carolina

      The family was asleep and discovered the rampage the next morning. As best I can remember from the newspaper article and assuming its real, it appears the thing popped into our space time / dimension then out. For the tooth info go to a site called earthfiles.com and scroll down till you find it. Oh and as to they were/entity or whatever would have to find time to go to the library, look up the piece, contact the family and all so I'm unsure when or if it'll be pursued but thanks for the idea kitty. :)

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 7 years ago from Summerland

      hopefully no one in the family was hurt? if so, they might be weary of doing an interview, but good luck because that would be a good one! is there an article on this tooth somewhere? i'd love to read about that, too. thanks for stopping by again and let me know if you write about the ripped apart car incident! :)

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 7 years ago from North Carolina

      It was in an adjacent County in the middle part of N.C. Read it in the paper a few months ago but haven't seen a follow up; but you did just give me the idea to pursue it. Maybe when i can find time i'll try to look up the article and see if the family would be open to an interview. Thanks! The theory is just one of many but in my mind there's no doubt it's a real phenomena. Oh!..that reminds, a tooth that was found in an animal carcass and been analyzed for a year was announced to be from an unknown species!

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 7 years ago from Summerland

      aww, thanks so much alastar! love hearing from you. wow, no way! where did this ripped apart car occur? that's super interesting, too. maybe you should do a hub on that! i had never heard that theory on the chupacabra but that is pretty intriguing...thanks, again. you rock!

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 7 years ago from North Carolina

      How did I miss this fantastic hub till now! kitty this is first class. Have really learned some new GOOD para things here.The Wisconsin werewolf is intriguing to say the lest. We had something recently in this area that left canine like prints and apparently took an intense dislike to a car. It was ripped apart with great force and claw scratches were also found. One theory on the Chupacabra is that they were a secret cloning experiment that got loose after Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Who knows? Up n awe

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 7 years ago from Summerland

      thanks so much slonegal! appreciate the support.

    • TheSloneGal profile image

      TheSloneGal 7 years ago

      I would have to agree with MysteryPlanet as well to a point. I think there is some kind of truth behind this myth but it is nothing as what we are told they are like today and how they are portrayed in movies and stories.. Very great hub and topics as well as well written too

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 7 years ago from Summerland

      mariahpoo, thanks for reading and your support again! i love writing about paranormal stuff...will you be writing some paranormal hubs? perhaps about your experiences?

      toknowinfo - haha! thanks for pointing that out...it was supposed to say "green" eyes...i went ahead and fixed that error. thanks for stopping by!

      mysteryplanet - that's just fine...everyone has a right to their beliefs, right? :) can't wait to read some of yours.

      Happy Weekend to All

    • MysteryPlanet profile image

      MysteryPlanet 7 years ago

      Very interesting topic and you presented it very well but I dont believe werewolves have ever existed... at least not anything like we see in the movies ;O)

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      Interesting hub. Just so you know,re: Fortney's quote there are many dogs that have blue eyes. Siberian Huskies are one of the most popular. Very well done hub and you did a great job in educating me about these mysterious creatures. Thanks for sharing.

    • mariahpoo profile image

      mariahpoo 7 years ago from Northern California

      I love it. Keep the great hubs coming! :)


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