You might think of werewolf stories as something only told for fun around the campfire, but that hasn't always been the case. Historically, many murders, crimes, and generally horrific incidents have been attributed to werewolves. People truly believed in the existence of these creatures. In fact, in the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe, werewolf trails accompanied witch trials - and sometimes they were even one and the same.
It's even more surprising to note the number of people who confessed to being werewolves or lycanthropes. Some were likely tortured into confession, but others believed themselves to be real werewolves. The idea that someone could transform into an animal was a popular one, and people thought they could make a deal with the devil in order to obtain that power.
Is there any truth behind the enduring legend of the werewolf? Or were these creatures just convenient scapegoats for mysterious crimes? Whatever you think, there's no denying that these historical encounters with werewolves are fascinating and downright spooky. Keep reading if you dare, but be warned: these real-life werewolf stories will have you worried about the next full moon.
In 1598, a French tailor was convicted of luring in, torturing, and slitting the throats of his victims before cooking them and eating them for supper. He was also accused of turning into a werewolf to terrorize the town by night. Although there was no exact victim count, he was believed to have killed dozens.
As the story goes, the tailor made no attempt to defend himself - instead, he cursed until his last breath when he was burned at the stake. The court was apparently so shocked by his evil acts that the court documents were burned as well.
Peter Stubbe was one of many self-confessed werewolves. In 1589, he claimed that that his wolfskin belt allowed him to transform - and he also said he had killed over a dozen victims. As one story went, the devil "transformed [him] into the likeness of a greedy, devouring wolf, strong and mighty, with eyes great and large, which in the night sparkled like unto brands of fire, a mouth great and wide, with most sharp and cruel teeth, a huge body and mighty paws."
Stubbe's story is now considered to be a case of mental illness or perhaps clinical lycanthropy, a rare condition in which people believe they change into animals. However, Stubbe's tale should be taken with a large grain of salt: he confessed after have chunks of his flesh ripped out and having his limbs crushed. He was ultimately decapitated on Halloween 1598, and his body was burned at the stake.
In 1685, the people of Ansbach were angry and scared as their livestock was attacked by a wolf - and that was before it started killing people. The locals were convinced it was their dead mayor back to torment them by returning in wolf form.
The townspeople eventually killed the wolf. They then dressed it as the mayor and put the carcass on display before moving it to a local museum.
Estonia held a number of werewolf trials in the 17th century, including that of Hans the Werewolf. Many accused werewolves claimed to have made a deal with the devil to gain their shapeshifting powers, but 18-year-old Hans said that a man in black had bitten him. He confessed that he had hunted as a werewolf for the past two years.
Although Hans didn't claim to have made an actual pact with the devil, the court still considered him guilty of sorcery and sentenced him to death.