Werewolves have become as popular as vampires in pop culture, featured in ever-increasing numbers in books, tv shows and movies. New Moon, the sequel to Twilight, featured five impressive shapeshifters. On televion, Season Three of HBO's True Blood will focus on werewolves. Plus, don’t forget that The Wolfman will be in theatres next month.
But werewolves are far from new. Stories, myths and accounts of men and women changing into wolves and other animals date back thousands of years in almost every culture on earth. There are ancient artifacts and petroglyphs (rock carvings) showing humans with wolfen heads and tails. Native American legends abound with stories of shapeshifters.
WEREWOLVES IN AMERICA?
There are currently several places in North America where eye witnesses claim to have seen them.
Since 1936, Wisconsin has been said to be home to a hairy creature with fangs, pointed ears, a muzzle and glowing yellow eyes. It has a broad powerful chest, and its front legs are jointed like a man’s arms and the paws are hand-like. Sometimes it’s upright and other times hunched on all fours. The wolf-like being was eventually nicknamed The Bray Road Beast, when a witness encountered it while driving on that road. Her detailed account encouraged many other witnesses to come forward and tell their stories, and all are agreed, the animal is not a bear. Experts have stepped up to state that it isn’t a wolf either.
Similar stories are told about The Michigan Dogman, and its description closely matches the Bray Road Beast. The Dogman was the subject of a song written in 1987 for April Fool’s Day. Said to be pure fiction, the popular song still followed local folklore closely. There have been many reported instances of dogman encounters, and sadly, just as many pranks.
A large hairy wolf-man creature with yellow eyes, similar to the Bray Road Beast, has been reported in several other states, including Illinois, Texas, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
The Navaho tell of Skinwalkers, witches among them who can transform themselves into wolves, owls, coyotes and any other animal they choose. The goal of such beings is personal gain; greedy and selfish, they are the exact opposite of their fellow Navaho.
The Nagual or Nahual of Mexico is a shapeshifter whose stories date all the way back to Pre-Columbian times and were unchanged by the arrival of the Spanish. A person may be born a werewolf or he may choose to become one if he is a witch. He can assume the forms of any animal, and often chooses jaguars and pumas as well as wolf or coyote. The Mexican werewolf is fast and strong, usually black in color, and may be male or female. If the Nagual was harmed while in animal form, the wound would show up on his human body after he changes. Most stories say the Nagual hunts for sleeping children to eat – and some parents hang a mirror near a child’s bed that shows the child’s reflection, which apparently repels the werewolf. However, in some stories, the Mexican werewolf is not able to kill humans, but is well known for chasing women for other reasons!
The Loup-Garou is said to wander eastern Canada, Maine, New York State and Indiana. The word is Old French for werewolf. A stamp series in 1990 portrayed Canadian legends and the Loup Garou appears on one. This type of werewolf does not change voluntarily. Once under the spell, the unfortunate person is said to wander the countryside at night as an enraged animal. The curse lasts for 101 days, but could be broken sooner if someone were to recognize him or her in their wolfen form.
The Rugaru or Rougarou is said to roam the swamps around New Orleans and the Acadiana region of Louisiana. In Cajun folklore, it often appears as a man with the head of a wolf. The name is an mutated version of the French Loup Garou, but the creature behaves a little differently. According to the legend, one way to protect yourself is to lay 13 tiny objects such as buttons or beans in a row in front of your door. The Rugaru, in addition to his hairy curse is also afflicted with obsessive-compulsive disorder – he can’t cross the threshold until he counts the objects. He is unable to succeed, however, because he can’t count higher than 12, and is said to count the items over and over until daybreak frightens him away.
REAL LIFE WEREWOLVES
Lycanthropy (Lykos is Greek for "wolf," anthropos for "man.") is the name given to a mental disorder where the afflicted person believes that they are able to change into a wolf. At times they believe they have actually changed, although there is no physical indication other than their behavior. If the patient looks into a mirror during one of these episodes, she truly sees herself as a wolf. A person suffering from clinical lycanthropy may believe he can change into other animals, but the wolf is the most common manifestation. Lycanthropy is a very rare condition, with maybe 40 known cases in the world.
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Your turn -- Heard any good werewolf stories lately? Read any books, seen movies or programs featuring werewolves? (And does anyone besides me think that Bella chose the wrong guy?) Do you think it might be fun to be a wolf whenever you wanted to? Your comments are welcome.
Most scientists, including Hawking, think that the majority of life “out there” is likely to be microbes or simple animals. And these animals wouldn’t necessarily resemble anything we’d recognize. However, scientists also agree that the potential for intelligent extra-terrestrials exists. As Hawking said, “The real challenge is working out what aliens might actually be like."
While he’s figuring that out, some people believe they’ve already met E.T. right here on Earth. In fact, some ufologists – UFO researchers – claim to have identified several specific types of interplanetary visitors!
GRAYS – The most common type of extra-terrestrial reported, these are named for their skin tone which is said to vary from gray-white to gray-green. Most are short, only about 3 to 4 feet tall, very thin and have enlarged heads with enormous black eyes. Nose, mouth and ears are very small. The Grays are the aliens most commonly associated with claims of abduction. The shorter Grays appear to be workers, while their apparent leaders are taller, with larger eyes and heads.
HUMANOIDS – Several types of humanoid extra-terrestrials have been reported, but the Nordics appear to be the most numerous. These aliens are said to closely resemble humans, enough to pass for them on the street. Eyes are human-like but very large and slightly slanted. Both male and female are said to be at least 5’8” tall. Their skin is pale and without sweat glands, and their hair is blonde or white. The highest number of reports of encounters with Nordics comes from the United Kingdom, but some encounters are reported in the desert areas of the United States. Most believers claim that the Nordics are benevolent and are on Earth to observe but not interfere. The Nordics are also said to have some conflict with the Grays.
REPTILIAN – These aliens are said to have crocodilian skin that is usually greenish-brown or coffee colored. Scales cover their entire bodies, with smaller scales on the hands and feet. They have three long fingers and an opposable thumb on each hand. Nostrils are slit-like openings that slant upward in a V-shape. Mouths are lipless with an assortment of teeth including fangs, and eyes are reptile-like with vertical pupils. The Grays are said to be subservient to the Reptilians. Most reptilian alien encounters appear to be reported out of India and Asia. By the way, reptilian E.Ts are said to be hostile to humans.
Accounts of several other types of alien visitors have been given over the years, but the above three seem to be the most common.
Sadly, the Governor of Kalmykia, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, doesn’t appear to have revealed which type of alien abducted him from his Moscow apartment back in 1997. In early May of 2010, the Moscow Times reported that the 48-year-old Ilyumzhinov told a television host that he spent several hours with the extra-terrestrials aboard their ship. He also claims to have three witnesses to the event – his driver, minister and assistant – who were in his apartment at the time.
Some officials in the Russian government aren’t writing this off as an eccentric tale either. Concerned that the governor – who is also president of the World Chess Federation – might have shared classified information with interplanetary beings, they’ve formally asked President Dmitry Medvedev to interrogate him.
Maybe he’ll ask if the governor’s abductors were Grays or Nordics?
Your turn – if alien life exists, what do you think it might be like? Do you think E.T. could be already here?
Both Titans movies portray the Kraken as a creature with a scaly body, defined head and torso, big teeth and multiple limbs. Kraken 1981 has four arms with hands. Kraken 2010 has tentacles and possibly claws. (there's something familiar about that face however – am I the only person who sees a definite resemblance between Kraken 2010 and the Rancor Monster from Star Wars?)
The Kraken has also appeared in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, destroying ships and attempting to munch on Jack Sparrow. Here it looks a lot like a giant squid, except that instead of a beak, it has a circular mouth with multiple rows of pointed teeth – like the Sarlacc, the sand pit monster from Star Wars. (Yup, two entirely different movies seem to have borrowed heavily from Return of the Jedi in order to create a Kraken.) In 2006, the SciFi channel released Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep, in which the legendary creature was a giant octopus guarding a treasure.
No stranger to pop culture, the Kraken has quite a literary history too. In 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne modeled his giant octopus after stories of the Kraken. Verne was also inspired by a Lord Alford Tennyson poem: The Kraken (1830).
Historically, however, the Kraken comes to us from tales of Norwegian sailors and fishermen in the twelfth century. It’s not a creature of Norse mythology, although it was thought to be a minion of Aegir, god of the sea. The name itself, Kraken, comes from krake, a Scandinavian word for an unhealthy animal, or something twisted. Bishop Erik Pontopiddan wrote about the Kraken in his 1752 book, The Natural History of Norway. It is thought that Pontopiddan based his detailed accounts on sailors’ tales of giant squid. Nor was he the first to write about the animal.
For centuries, the Kraken was considered by the scientific world to be merely a creature of folklore, or to use one of today’s terms, a cryptid. Cryptids are creatures whose existence is not proven. This can include animals thought to be extinct or animals for which no evidence exists outside of legend. Yet. (I wrote a blog on the subject of cryptids at http://waypastnormal.blogspot.com/2009/02/day-of-cryptids.html )
Today, however, the Kraken is officially off the cryptid list. Unlike many other famous monsters, it has a basis in reality. Anyone watching programs like Nat Geo and the Science Channel has no doubt heard that giant squid really do exist – science fiction has become science fact. In 2007, a 33-foot specimen weighing over 1,000 pounds was caught off the coast of New Zealand. Its “beach ball” sized eyes are the largest in the animal kingdom ever studied. However, its beak was considerably smaller than those found in the stomachs of some sperm whales (whose favorite food is calamari apparently), showing that there are much bigger specimens of this squid in the ocean. A specimen about 46 feet long was recently filmed in the deep ocean by a team of Japanese scientists.
So the Kraken – aka The Giant Squid – exists. Here’s what we don’t know: how many other creatures are out there that simply haven’t been discovered yet by science? For instance, did you know that the gorilla was unknown to the Western world until 1847 when someone finally found a skull? Sure, there had been stories for centuries, but nobody believed them. Suddenly, tales and sightings of the Sasquatch seem a little less far-fetched. With ever-improving technology and instant communications, it seems only a matter of time before we discover new – and old – creatures that share the planet with us.
Your turn – what do you think? What legendary creature do you think might be “discovered” in the future? Is there an animal that you wish was real?
About the picture – in 1990, Canada issued a set of four stamps celebrating these legendary creatures: The Kraken, the Loup-Garou (werewolf), Bigfoot and Ogopogo (lake monster). So far, only one of the creatures has been proven to exist.
Hawking said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”
His remarks touched off a firestorm of controversy. For every one who thinks it’s perfectly sensible to think twice before inviting E.T. home for dinner, there are many others who feel Hawking is dead wrong to suggest that we lay low. One in particular is former Canadian defense minister, Paul Hellyer, who feels that Hawking is spreading “misinformation”.
Of aliens, Hellyer said, "The reality is that they've been visiting Earth for decades and probably millennia and have contributed considerably to our knowledge." He attributes microchips and fiber optics to alien technology.
Paul Hellyer is part of the 20 percent of the world’s population who believes that aliens are already among us. That’s right – a recent Reuters News Poll placed it at one in five. (http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/One-in-Five-20-Global-Citizens-Believe-That-Alien-Beings-Have-Com-1144745.htm) Out of 22 countries surveyed, India and China have the highest percentage of believers (45% and 42% respectively). Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands tied for lowest with 8%. Sixteen percent of Canada’s population – including Mr. Hellyer – are convinced that aliens walk among us, and 24% of Americans agree that aliens are already here and are disguised as human.
In other words, forget about hiding. It seems that reality is a little more like Men in Black than Independence Day. As Tommy Lee Jones said to Will Smith, “All right, kid, here's the deal. At any given time there are approximately 1500 aliens on the planet, most of them right here in Manhattan. And most of them are decent enough, they're just trying to make a living.”
Humor aside, if extraterrestrials are already here then most of us (the 80% apparently kept in the dark) have a helluva lot of questions. On all those episodes of X-Files, was art imitating life?
Perhaps the truth isn’t out there. Maybe it’s been right here all along. And maybe it’s been here a very long time.
The History Channel has been addressing some of these questions with a recent mini series on Ancient Aliens. With episodes titled The Evidence, The Visitors and The Mission, they’re examining not only the question of "Did extraterrestrials come to earth?" but "What purpose did they have?"
One of the most thought-provoking ideas to come out of the HC program is that perhaps, just perhaps, those of us who would like to meet an alien have only to look in the mirror. That the snippet of DNA that separates us from primates has its origins off-planet.
As long as the donor doesn’t show up wanting it back…
Your turn – do you think extraterrestrial beings exist? Have they visited earth in the past? Are they here now? Your comments are welcome.
About the photo - This is a radio telescope. As of this month, there have been 453 exoplanets discovered since 1995 (Note - an exoplanet orbits a star other than our own sun). That’s a lot of worlds in a short time, and major breakthroughs are predicted in the next five to ten years. By 2020, advances in radio telescopes will be able to tell us if the nearest hundred exoplanets are home to intelligent life.