Werewolves and Europe tend to go hand in hand. Europe is where most of the research done on werewolves and lycanthropy takes place, and Europe is, for the most part, where the most well-known werewolf lore takes place. Certainly the most infamous werewolves in history were from Europe—France’s Beast of Gévaudan and Germany’s Peter Stumpp being the most well-known of all of them. While in most parts of Europe the belief in werewolves has died down a great deal since the 1700s, there are still some pockets in Europe where the legends live on.
Today’s story comes from Lycanthropology 101 reader and historian Filip Ganov who, on a research trip for his book on the Balkan Wars, spent some time in the small village of Novo Selo near Macedonia. While there, he met a farmer named Trayche who told Ganov that he’d found a box while plowing a new section of field. It had been chained shut, presumably to keep what was inside from breaking out: a werewolf skull, as pictured below.
Ganov took his pictures to a government wildlife official to inquire on them further. The official explained that, most likely, it was simply a regular wolf that suffered from Paget’s disease of bone, “which [caused] the skull to increase in size and appear more human-like.”
He went on to mention that it “wasn’t long ago [that] people or animals with malformations were thought to be demon possessed. So, it is not unusual that a wolf with bone disease would be labeled as a werewolf.”
Thank you Filip Ganov for sharing your photos and commentary with us! To see these photos as well as a few more photos of the location in which this “werewolf” skull was found, check out Ganov’s Google+ album right here!
The werewolf superhero comic The Astounding Wolf-Man—from Image Comics—turns 7 today at the anniversary of its first issue publication as a 2007 Free Comic Book Day exclusive. (Not a bad way to garner interest in a new series!) The Astounding Wolf-Man ran from 2007 to its conclusion in 2010, and was created by author Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead) and artist Jason Howard (Super Dinosaur). While not a typical werewolf story—the comic follows a plotline much closer to superhero comics rather than horror—it still remains one of the most widely-recognized and widely-distributed modern werewolf comics published.
Sharing a birthday with this comic is makeup artist Jack Pierce, known for designing the makeup for a wolf man of his own. Pierce would be turning 125 this year. Pierce was a renowned makeup artist of his time, known best for his work in the Universal Studios monster makeup design. For the purposes of this blog, he is notable for his makeup effects and work in the films Werewolf of London, The Wolf Man, She-Wolf of London, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, House of Dracula, and House of Frankenstein. Pierce’s work helped to inspire other makeup artists such as Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London, The Wolfman) and Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead, Creepshow).
Those who enjoy werewolves have likely been exasperated in recent years with the two releases of god-awful “Little Red Vs Werewolves” films Red Riding Hood and Red: Werewolf Hunter. Red Riding Hood, after all, is a children’s cautionary tale, and the wolf is merely a wolf.
In actuality, the standard Little Red Riding Hood story has changed quite a bit since it first began to be told. The modern-day rendition comesfrom the brothers’ Grimm book on fairy tales, Children’s and Household Tales (A.K.A. Grimm’s Fairy Tales), and their rendition of the story, “Little Red Cap.” The brothers Grimm, however, specialized in fairy tales that were prominent in Germany. Many of Little Red’s roots lie in France.
In fact, in some French variations, the tale is so different that there is no heroic woodsman, and the wolf is no longer a wolf at all. In The Grandmother’s Tale, one such variation collected in 1885, it is a bzou—a werewolf.
A very happy birthday to the original Wolf Man himself, Lon Chaney Jr.! Born in 1906, Mr. Chaney would be 108 today. He made a name for himself playing the tragic character Larry Talbot in the 1941 film The Wolf Man, and would eventually become one of the most recognizable monsters in modern cinema, going on to reprise his role in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. He also played a werewolf (not necessarily the wolf man himself) in similar makeup in the 1959 film La Casa del Terror.
As Chaney is the only Universal Monster who did not receive his own sequel, yet also the only Monster to be played by the same actor, take a moment today to kick back and watch The Wolf Man, and raise a glass and howl for the wolf man!