Full Moon Madness

Once upon a time Hollywood had us believing that werewolves only came out on the night of a full moon and that in order to become a werewolf, one had to be bitten by a wolf and could only be killed by a silver bullet. In European folklore, a child who is born feet first on Christmas Day or one whose eyebrows meet in the middle is one of many ways in which a person could become afflicted with lycanthropy, or the ability of one to transform into a wolf. 

Although the folklore of werewolves stems from the middle ages, one of the earliest references to the origin of the werewolf myth is that of the ancient Roman twins Romulus and Remus who were raised by a she-wolf. After Romulus had slain his brother, he would later go on to found the city of Rome. Pliny the elder and Ovid both wrote of King Lycaon who was transformed into a wolf after offending the gods. It is also believed that when Romans fought against the Germanic tribes of westeren Europe, the pagan warriors often wore the head dresses of wolves to scare their enemies and take on the power of the animals themselves. 

In the middle ages, the ability to transform into a wolf would become associated with witchcraft. During this time, several persons from Germany, France and what would become Switzerland were tortured into confessing that they had made deals with the devil in order to transform into a wolf. The bargain usually consisted of them drinking an elixir or taking an ointment of some kind. Sometimes they were given a belt or girdle made of wolfskin in which to complete their transformations. While many of the supposed werewolves more than likely suffered from mental illness, a few of them were known to be proven serial killers. Although one could not be sentenced for transforming into a wolf, they were condemned on the grounds of making pacts with the devil and were therefore practicing witchcraft.

When French and German settlers came to the United States, they brought with them their traditions and stories including those tales of werewolves. Detroit has several tales, one of which surrounds a young woman named Genevieve who was going to be sent to live at a convent in Canada. Her lover made a pact and became a werewolf to pursue her. He was turned to stone and supposedly can still be heard howling at night for her.

In northern Michigan, there is a famous creature who haunts the woods near Traverse City. Sometimes the creature is even known to travel as far as the village of Holly. The Michigan Dogman gained notoriety when a DJ named Steve Cook played a song based on the legends circulating about an upright canine from Native American lore who stalked several men at a logging camp and others. Even to this day, there are still sightings all over the state of Michigan.

The Michigan Dogman is said to have large pointy ears, piercing yellow eyes and stands nearly seven feet tall when not on all fours. Some eyewitnesses claim it has the head of a german shepherd and the body of a man. The Michigan Dogman’s closest canine cousin would be the Beast of Bray Road in Wisconsin who is more of the traditional upright werewolf walking on two legs instead of all fours. It has been suggested that these are the same creatures.


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