We all know that werewolves are notorious shape-shifters. But did you know that werewolves are among the oldest legends of human monsters in recorded history? They pre-date vampires, going all the way back to the time of Zeus and other Greek gods, and were first recorded by a Roman poet named Ovid in 1 A.D.
Let me set the stage for you. During the Middle Ages, Europe wasn’t a whole lot of fun. It must have been like living inside a dark and dangerous cloud. Ignorance and superstition abounded. Forests were everywhere, and the fear of wolves, who frequently and ferociously attacked people, was huge. People were afraid to travel, especially at night. The Black Plague ran amok (amok amok amok!).
Witch trials were commonplace, and went hand in hand with werewolf trials since most people believed werewolves to be witches. Catholicism and Protestantism were at war, fighting for the hearts and souls of the everyman. Conflict and death was the way of life.
Perhaps the most infamous werewolf case is that of Peter Stubbe, the Werewolf of Bedburg. In 1582 Bedburg Germany, people were concerned when they began finding their cattle had been mutilated, and suspected wolves were the culprits. But when children began disappearing from their farms and young women vanished from places they went to every day, the town panicked.
Some of the missing were recovered, mutilated and dead. Others were never found. At least fourteen children, two pregnant women and livestock too numerous to count are attributed to Stubbe.
Talk of werewolves lurking nearby, waiting to hunt the villagers under the cover of night, began to circulate among the town. Hunting parties were formed and headed into the forest, armed with guns, knives, pitchforks, and anything else they thought they could kill a werewolf with. After hunting for several days, they were just about to give up when their hunting dogs chased down and cornered a wolf. But when the hunters got there, they found not a wolf but their friend and neighbor Peter Stubbe. Cornered, with no escape, he had removed his “magic belt” and transformed from a wolf to a man.
Once arrested, Stubbe was stretched on the Rack and confessed to practicing Black Magic since the age of twelve, when the Devil gave him a belt made of wolf hide that would turn him into a huge wolf. He would then turn back into a man when he removed the belt. How he was able to do this in wolf form, since wolves don’t have opposable thumbs, remains a mystery to me, but he declared that he could remove it with ease.
At any rate, he claimed to have been a werewolf for twenty-five years, which was about the same time the villagers began to find their cattle ripped apart. Coinky-dink? I think not.
I won’t go into the graphic details of his execution, but let’s just say it was pretty gruesome, as you can see by the picture.
Maybe it was even deserved, due to the horrific nature of his heinous murders. On October 31, 1589, Peter Stubbe, aka the Werewolf of Bedburg, was put to death.
Whether he was a werewolf or simply a serial killer and cannibal (yes, he ate his victims) is a matter of one’s core beliefs, wouldn’t you say? So which do you believe?
Serial killing cannibal?
Or full-fledged werewolf?