A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

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A werewolf is an animal from folklore which can change from human to wolf and back again and is believed to consume human flesh or blood. (Wer is an Old English term for man.) While there are no documented cases of any human turning into a wolf and back, there are documented cases of humans who believed they were werewolves. To suffer from such a delusion is known as lycanthropy.

Woodcut by Hans Weiditz - 16th century









Some have speculated that certain excessively hairy individuals resemble wolves and that the legend of the werewolf may have a basis in the genetic disorder known as hypertrichosis or in some other endocrine disorder, such as adrenal virilism, basophilic adenoma of the pituitary, masculinizing ovarian tumors, or Stein-Leventhal syndrome.

further reading

Danforth, Charles Haskell, Hair; with special reference to hypertrichosis (Chicago, American Medical Association, 1925.)

Noll, Richard. editor, Vampires, werewolves, and demons : twentieth century reports in the psychiatric literature (New York : Brunner/Mazel, 1992).

news story

The Curious Genetics of Werewolves "Before a genetic explanation for overactive hair follicles existed, werewolfism, aka lycanthropy, was thought to arise in eclectic ways: rubbing a magic salve into the skin, sleeping outdoors under a summer full moon, drinking from the pawprint of a wolf, or a devil’s curse. Werewolves were once considered to be giant extinct lemurs from Madagascar.

Armenian folklore describes a werewolf as a female criminal being punished by coming out at night and eating her children, and then her relatives’ children, in order of relatedness."

Darwin Killed Off The Werewolf ("The spread of the idea of evolution helped kill off the werewolf because a canid-human hybrid makes no sense from an evolutionary point of view. The ape-human hybrid, however, is not only evolutionarily acceptable, it is the basis of human evolution. Today, in Darwin’s bicentenary year, werewolves have been relegated to films. When it comes to the actual monster scene, it’s Bigfoot that now dominates.")

Last updated 27-Oct-2015

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