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A Wolf in the Fold

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Narrator: It’s now been three years since the Gévaudan werewolf began its bloody rampage and the peasants wondered if the horror will ever stop. A local farmer decides to take matters into his own hands. Before he goes out on the hunt he makes several bullets out of silver and has them blessed by a priest. Then he heads off into the woods. According to the farmer’s version of events, within minutes of entering the forest, a large wolf-like creature appears in a clearing. He takes aim…and fires a single shot into the beast’s heart.

Ken Gerhard: Well, we have a date and we have the name of the hunter who supposedly killed the beast.

George Deuchar: Chastel. So there’s where we have to start.

—Audio excerpt from The Real Wolfman

[Intro]

[Voiceover: MonsterTalk!]

Welcome to MonsterTalk — the science show about monsters. I’m Blake Smith.

As the host MonsterTalk I regularly interview people with a variety of expertise about the science, history and the legends that surround various creatures. One of our earliest episodes featured professor Brian Regal who talked about his hypothesis that Darwin’s theory of natural selection spelled the end of plausible belief in werewolves (see FT). As scientific explanations for biological diversity in the world spread, the superstitious underpinnings of legends of shape-changing became less and less plausible to the general public. But before Darwin’s revelation, people attributed terrible animal attacks to werewolves with disturbing seriousness.

Of course the idea of werewolves can be divided into real people who think they are werewolves and the folkloric shape-changers. While it is almost certain that there are oral traditions of shapechangers that predate the Greek, the first famous “man turned into wolf” in Western literature was King Lycaon, a mythical figure who tricked the gods into eating the flesh of a murdered guest, or in some versions his own child. As a punishment for either his treachery, hubris, poor parenting or gross failure to comply with contemporary rules of hospitality, Lycaos was turned into a wolf. The psychological condition of believing that one turns into a wolf is known as clinical lycanthropy.

In most traditional werewolf stories, however, the werewolf is not some person cursed as punishment or through transmission of some magical werewolf virus. Instead, the werewolf wants to become a wolf. They want to take on the power and aspect of the apex predator of Europe. The procedure requires a magic salve, wolf skins and ritual. Yet as unlikely as such a thing is, belief in them was widespread in Europe well into the nineteenth century.

Perhaps no real historical event has become more closely associated with werewolves than that of the beast of Gévaudan. From 1764 to 1767 the Gévaudan region was plagued with scores of brutal killings that were attributed to a single, peculiar, magically impervious animal. The scourge ended after two peculiar animals were killed—but also after numerous waves of hunters had scoured the woods killing many, many wolves. Theories have abounded in the intervening years as to what the beast could have been. Suspect animals included mundane wolves, rabid-wolves, hyenas, dire wolves, werewolves and even serial killers. But the idea that it was a single animal was so widespread that the culprit became known by the catch-all phrase La Bête du Gévaudan—or the diminutive La Bête—the beast.

I was conducting my own research into La Bête when I found that a new book by professor Jay Smith (no relation) had rendered the question moot. Smith’s book, Monsters of the Gévaudan: The Making of a Beast lays out a very compelling explanation of how normal, albeit tragic, wolf attacks became transformed by the nascent free press of France into a supernatural scourge. Not only were wolf attacks the likely cause, but preceding centuries had seen far worse assaults on the populace; However, without the media to carry and transform the story, these killings were just a natural part of life in the area.

I had Jay Smith on MonsterTalk to talk about his book and followed up with an interview with an ethologist named Valerius Geist, who explained what transforms a wolf from a shy animal hunter into a man-killer. (Short answer? Hunger. Well fed wolves don’t need to risk hunting humans.)

During Smith’s interview he explained that in the contemporary reports of the Gévaudan killings, there was no mention of silver bullets being used to dispatch the creature. That was news to me! I had long heard that a silver bullet had been used by Jean Chastel to kill the second mysterious animal which was reported to be the beast. (The first alleged beast that was killed was taken by a Frenchman named Antoinne and was reportedly a very large wolf.) Not only was Chastel’s use of a silver bullet part of the legend, but I had heard that it was this legend which inspired the author of The Wolfman screenplay, Curt Siodmak, to include silver’s efficacy in his film.

When the interview was over, I resolved to solve this mystery and in doing so I have put together a timeline of the legendary power of silver and how it relates to werewolves, Gevaudan and witches. What follows is a brief narrative history of this relationship. In it we will see the evolution of werewolves—which seems as prone to metamorphosis as the legendary creatures themselves.

If you exclude the use of sling ammunition, the legend of silver bullets and werewolves couldn’t predate the existence of the firearm. Certainly silver has legendary qualities, and was used in medicine for centuries prior to the development of modern, evidence-based medicine. I was not able to find any reference to silver knives or swords being used against shape-changers prior to the 1700s. However, I did find a notable reference to the magical properties of silver bullets that goes back to late 17th century.

1678 was the year of an event known to Britons as The Popish Plot. Titus Oates, a complex character in British history, created a fictional conspiracy involving a Catholic plot to kill King Charles II. The story was believed by many Anglicans and around 35 innocent people were executed based on the false accusations of Oates. Among those who were killed was a Catholic named Thomas Pickering.

Oates alleged that Pickering had tried to kill King Charles II. The claim was that Pickering had a special pistol with a rifled-barrel and ammunition in the form of a silver bullet so that even if the shot didn’t kill the king outright, the wound could not heal. Only a failure of the flint saved the King, according to Oates. Although it later turned out that there was no evidence that Pickering had done any such thing, and even with the support of King Charles himself, public pressure led to Pickering being drawn and quartered. This reference to the silver bullet goes back to a 1688 text by John Wilson.

In the long poem England’s Reformation (1719) by the poet Thomas Ward, a section describes how Titus Oates claimed the assassin’s bullet was silver because of its magical efficacy against those whom a lead bullet may not harm.

This bullet as learn’d Titus said
Was of the Lunar metal made
‘Cause champed silver kills Stone-dead
such as are Musquet-Proof ‘gainst Lead.

This seems to establish that by 1688 the silver bullet is apparently already an extant part of folklore in England, but not yet definitively tied to shape-changers in general, or werewolves in particular. In the passage where this reference appears, Oates is described as an oafish villain, but even he knew that silver was proof against those protected against conventional attacks.

1764–1767 This is the time period when the Gévaudan region of France is terrorized and scores of peasants are mauled to death in gruesome attacks. Newspapers and folklore describe the beast in fantastical, supernatural terms. Contemporary reports do not include any references to silver bullets. Jay Smith’s work suggests that the likely reason the killings stopped was a combination of factors including the widespread killing of the wolves by French citizens, and the return of small game that this would have caused.

1836 In 1836 the novel Clan Albin is reprinted in a periodical called Waldie’s Secret Circulating Library. In the tale the following exchange takes place:

The gentlemen of Sky are attempting to shoot these black-winged witches,” said Hugh; “And as well might they shoot at the flying stars,” cried Moome. “There is, indeed, one way of shooting a witch—a silver button, or a silver sixpence will do it—but should their last lamb go for it, (by your leave.) I will not tell them that secret.

This scene describes a recurring motif in shape-changer folklore. By far the most common shapechanger in legends of this period are witches. Usually they take on the form of hares and cats. (We discussed this briefly in the Bell Witch episode of MonsterTalk.) The author of this novel, a Mrs. Johnstone, probably drew from extant folklore to create this sequence, much like the poet Thomas Ward in the citation above. In the folklore, as in this fictional account, the silver bullet is often an improvised ammunition derived from a coin or button—from a time when muzzle-loading weapons allowed for innovation (with some risk) on what constituted a bullet.

1862 A German volume titled Yearbook of Mecklenberg (Mecklenburgische Jahrbücher) contains a reference to an earlier legend about werewolves:

In the year 1682, several people in Fahrenholz were investigated by legal authorities on charges of being able to transform themselves into werewolves, and just 30 years ago numerous examples of this kind of magic were being recounted in children’s nurseries, although it has been 166 years since wolves were seen here – proof of how widespread such tales must have been in the past. However as I recall from my youth, we only heard about male werewolves, never female ones, although in other lands sex made no difference. (translation by Robert Lebling)

Since the account is from 1862 and seems to be a reprint of something written in 1848 this fragment simply establishes the presence of werewolf legends in Germany.

Also in 1862, the first reference to a silver bullet in regards to La Bête comes in Élie Berthet’s book, La Bête du Gévaudan:

…Others, who had fired at close range with folded pieces of silver, said that they had mortally wounded and showed traces of his blood, even so, two or three days later, they heard he was miraculously recovered from his wound, and he still had devoured a victim.

This work is a novel written about 100 years after the events of Gévaudan, and folklore and embellishments are starting to creep into the mix. However, this reference shouldn’t count as a case of a silver-bullet being useful against a werewolf. The beast, in this novelized version of the Gévaudan legend, is not a werewolf. Nor is it claimed within that the silver worked or that Chastel was the shooter, and the strange beast was apparently able to shrug off even this well-known agent against magical creatures.

1865 One of the most famous volumes on lycanthropy is published, Sabine Baring Gould’s The Book of Werewolves. Gould recounts a tale that almost ties werewolves to silver bullets:

In Devonshire they range the moors in the shape of black dogs, and I know a story of two such creatures appearing in an inn and nightly drinking the cider, till the publican shot a silver button over their heads, when they were instantly transformed into two ill-favoured old ladies of his acquaintance.

This tale has silver merely passing over the shape-changers being enough to cause them to transform into their human form. But these were were-dogs or perhaps witches, but not werewolves. I find it telling that this widely cited book of werewolf lore doesn’t make a special note of silver’s efficacy versus the creatures.

1877 Another volume touching on La Bête refers to silver bullets. The bulletin of the Societe d’Archeologie et de Statistique de la Drome, Valence reveals some testimony about the creature that had plagued the Gévaudan region more than a hundred years before:

We can not find someone who wants to keep the sheep. She does not eat the beasts, only human flesh, the men she eats the head and belly, and women over the breasts. When she was very hungry, she eats everything. We tried to shoot her with balls of iron, lead, silver. Nothing can penetrate. It is hoped that in the end we will overcome.

Again, in this testimony, iron, which is supposedly effective against the undead, and silver are both ineffective against the magical creature La Bête.

1879 The magazine McMillan’s publishes a fictional piece titled “Bisclaveret: A Breton Romance.” In the story a character shoots a “wolf” with a silver bullet. [Spoiler Alert] It turns out that it wasn’t a wolf, but a man in wolfskins pretending. And if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids…

1882 The Guernsey magazine publishes a short article of folklore including a translation of Baltarch’s Werewolf Legends.

The forester, who was usually present at the royal hunts in the woods round Klein-Krams, was reminded by this story of the invulnerable wolf they were in the habit of encountering at those hunts. He accordingly determined that he would kill it, and, at the next hunt said to his friend, at the same time putting a silver bullet into the barrel of his gun, ‘To-day the wehr-wolf shall not escape me!’

1883 Sagenschatz des Luxemburger Landes publishes a short article of folklore titled “The Werewolf of Dalheim:”

In the region of Dalheim once a wolf came up to the herd. The shepherd, who was armed, according to the custom with a shotgun, thought he might be dealing with a werewolf, and loaded his gun with a silver French coin, because in order to shoot werewolves one must load with silver. He fired, and the supposed wolf, who had been wounded, turned into a man.

This is the earliest specific instance of a silver-bullet killing a werewolf that I’ve found in the literature.

1884 In Legends of Le Détroit a werewolf plagues the area of Grosse Pointe. The tale is set some years before the castle was built, which would place the legend in the late 1700s, probably the 1780s or 1790s.

That it was the Loup Garou or wehr-wolf Archange had seen he did not doubt, how the dreaded monster had stolen young children; sometimes a young man would be inveigled away in to the forest and never heard of afterwards, and his fate conjectured by some, having seen the wolf dressed in his clothes. It was for young maidens he showed the greatest fondness, and “it boded no good to her whose path he crossed.” Several attempts had been made to kill the beast, yet all failed and it was thought he bore a charmed life. But one adventurous hunter determined to try his skill, so he molded a bullet from silver coin and patiently waited for his victim “to cross his path.” The charmed missile sped towards its destination and instead of killing the monster only severed his tail, which was secured, dried and stuffed. It was the wonder of the whole country, and was worshiped for years by the Indians as a powerful fetish.

Here in this version the bullet simply wounded the werewolf, and thereby hangs the tail.

1889 In The Beast of Gevaudan: God’s Real Plague, author Abbé Pourcher presents many contemporary reports from the time of the La Bête’s reign of terror. This classic volume does not mention any silver bullet, but it does make much ado about Jean Chastel’s preparations for doing battle with the animal.

All the priests in the district with their parishioners went there in procession. Offerings were made and many communions held. Lamps and candles are lit. Chastel had his gun and musket balls blessed, he prayed fervently for the help of the Holy Virgin. There were a great number of masses.

1898 So, how powerful were silver bullets in the folklore of the nineteenth century? In the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Publications from 1898, comes a legend about a witch named Mrs. Daughtery who could change shape and was plaguing the family one Hiram Haynes. They sent for the witch hunter William Johnson. Johnson knew that the best way to kill or at least drain the power of a witch was to shoot them with a silver bullet. But he merely had to shoot a portrait of old Mrs. Daughtery and her neighbors said at the same time she fell ill and lost her powers and died a few days later. In that case just shooting a portrait of a witch with silver was enough to sap her powers and end her life. (The events described were alleged to have happened around the year 1800.)

1914 In a fictionalized version of the legend of La Bête, The Animal Story Book, the beast is shot at with silver bullets but they are ineffectual. In the end of this version, the monster is dispatched with a knife and the assistance of a dog. And reference again is made to the power of silver by way of a character called The Great Dundee—a man who was supposed to have a charm from Satan which protected him from harm by leaden bullets—but who met his demise when a trusted servant shot him with an improvised silver bullet.

1919 By this point the usefulness of silver in taking down supernatural creatures seems widespread. In Extinct Pennsylvania Animals, Vol. 1, among the more mundane stories is the peculiar tale of phantom wolves and how they might be dispatched with silver.

This wolf was a three-legged animal, and defied the hunters and trappers for a dozen years, until its hardy spirit was laid to rest by a silver bullet fired from George Wilson’s rifle…(p. 106)

To reiterate the last, in another section of the same book Shoemaker states that Wilson “had shot several spook wolves with silver bullets” (p. 59)

Thanks here to Andrew Gable for sharing this book’s existence with me.

1920 In Eugene O’Neil’s play The Emporer Jones, the character of Jones is dispatched by silver bullet because his killers believe it to be the only way to kill him with his magical protections. This is the first performing-arts reference to the power of silver to kill magical beings that I found.

1925–1926 In some fiction, for example that of Robert E. Howard, famed author of Conan the Barbarian, the werewolf could be dispatched through mundane weaponry. In his 1925 story In the Forest of Villefere there are no special tools required, but if you don’t kill the werewolf while it is in wolf form you risk being cursed with the condition yourself. Howard mixed real folklore and history into his fiction so it is unclear whether this was his own invention.

More interesting is his 1926 tale Wolfshead because in addition to the idea that the condition of becoming a werewolf is a curse, he also adds the detail that a person so cursed becomes a wolf when the moon is full. However, in this tale you don’t get the curse by killing a werewolf incorrectly. We are told, “Now this is the truth: that if a werewolf is slain in the half-form of a man, its ghost will haunt its slayer through eternity. But if it is slain as a wolf, hell gapes to receive it.”

Between those two tales Howard has introduced the ideas of a werewolf being cursed as well as it changing during a full moon. So these idea were “in the air” so to speak by the mid 1920s.

1933 Guy Endore’s influential book The Werewolf of Paris (which was later filmed as Hammer Studio’s 1961 release The Curse of the Werewolf) includes the details of one character preparing a silver bullet for the werewolf:

He disregarded her question, being busy digging a small conduit through the clay down to the bullet in the center. This done he set the whole to roast on the stove. When the mold was dry and hard and the wax had all run out leaving a perfect hollow model in its place, he melted up the silver crucifix, to the loud shouting and weeping of his spouse.

And thus was the silver bullet cast. It required only a little filing, sandpapering and polishing to make it perfect. “Try and escape this,” Bramond smirked. “A silver bullet, blessed by the archbishop, melted down from a holy crucifix. Beelzebub himself would fall before this.”

In addition, the book mentions that the werewolf character was born on Christmas day and has eyebrows that meet in the middle. But despite all that, the werewolf meets its end with a tragic but mundane occurrence.

In her book The Curse of the Werewolf: Fantasy, Horror and the Beast Within author Chantal Bourgault Du Coudray writes that Guy Endore and Curt Siodmak were close friends—but unfortunately, when I inquired as to the source of that, she couldn’t find the documentation. Were they friends? Another mystery.

And 1933 also brings us the publication of Montague Summers’ extremely detailed tome of werewolf legends and lore, The Werewolf in Lore and Legend. Summers was an amazing character, an eccentric with a mania for knowledge of religion, magic and the occult. Look him up. Regardless of the oddities and rumors surrounding his life, he seems to be a thorough researcher with one habit which may seem peculiar to the modern reader: he extensively quotes Latin and Greek texts but offers no translation! Whether he did that to make himself appear more learned or seriously expected his readers to be tri-lingual is unclear, but an annotated edition of his works with translations would be a welcome addition to my shelves.

Summers offers a lot of etymological suggestions for the origin of the French word for werewolf, loup garou. Jay Smith, the historian whose work kicked off this research project, translated a French definition of the term for me as:

A mythic, malevolent [evil-doing is better] figure, generally
with characteristics of a man and a wolf, thought to to wander the countryside at night.

Here in America, especially in and around Louisiana, the Loup Garou has become more of a general purpose boogie-man with a preferred swampy habitat. But its origin lies in European werewolf lore.

Summers’ werewolf information included details on the alleged methods of becoming a werewolf as described in the infamous book Malleus Maleficarum (The Witches Hammer). Summers himself was the first to publish an English translation of this book a few years earlier in 1928. And his books, despite their challenges, are interesting reading especially in that at least within the text, Summers expresses the belief that werewolves are real monsters. Not real in some metaphorical sense, but in the “scary hairy dangerous monster” sense. It may be worth noting that Summers work doesn’t highlight any special efficacy of silver for battling werewolves. He merely notes that the metal is reported to be useful against shape changing witches, and confirms that witches are usually reported to be hares or cats when they do transform.

1941 Universal Pictures releases The Wolfman. The film’s screenwriter mixes legendary concepts with his own inventions. The film is successful and becomes a kind of template for the lore. Here the werewolf is an innocent victim by day but under the light of the moon becomes a powerful upright wolfman killer with an unstoppable desire for murder.

Here we need to clear up a few myths. First, as the previous timeline shows, the element of silver being used as an efficacious tool against werewolves predates the film. Second, there is a legend that Siodmak got the idea of requiring silver from the case of La Bête—but that can’t be true because we’ve established that the Gévaudan beast was dispatched without a silver bullet being required. We’ll get to the origin of that mystery in a moment.

Also, it is probably worth mentioning here that Siodmak didn’t introduce silver bullets either—the wolfman is dispatched with a silver-handled cane. But he did create the poem that many people erroneously think is an authentic werewolf verse from antiquity:

Even a man who is pure in heart
and says his prayers by night
may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright.

It’s a great movie—and I don’t mean to diminish it by busting these myths. But it is nice to have a timeline of when these werewolf concepts were actually introduced into lore, legend and pop-culture. One thing to note here is that the version of that poem in the first film—and the film itself—don’t explicitly reference the need for a full moon to turn the cursed Larry Talbot into a wolfman. The first of the Universal films to introduce that idea is 1943’s Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman. In that film the last line of the poem is changed to read “and the moon is full and bright.”

Hopefully I’ve successfully demonstrated that the werewolf tropes often attributed to Siodmak’s version of The Wolfman were an amalgam of existing folklore and authorial invention. But the influence these films have in shaping the modern general understanding of werewolves is vastly disproportionate to the amount of actual historic ideas in the films.

But lets get back to the question of where this anachronistic silver-bullet legend of Chastel and La Bête comes from? There are two possible candidates who could account for the modern insertion of silver bullet lore into Jean Chastel’s narrative: Joan Grant and John Keel.

Joan Grant was a 20th century writer who made her living by undergoing past-life regressions and then writing books about the amazing things she allegedly did in those past lives. In 1962 she published A Lot To Remember, a memoir about her time living in present-day France. Very near the end of that book she tells a version of the story of La Bête. Clearly it is not meant to be scholarly or accurate, and it isn’t.

Wolves had preyed on the sparse population for centuries, before, in 1765 one of them devoured so many scores of women and children that the people decided it must be a werewolf and appealed to the King for protection. The finest marksman in France at last managed to shoot the Beast of Gévaudan with a silver bullet, and by royal command the body was taken to Versailles, where Louis XV declared himself astonished that it looked no different than that of any ordinary wolf.

Since this version is quite vague, it is unclear whether she means the hunter was Chastel or Antoinne. She may not have known that detail. Regardless, it is wrong. The beast was not shot with a silver bullet. Nor, from my reading, was it widely considered to be a werewolf.

I don’t have any sales figures on Grant’s book—but I don’t think it likely that it was the source of the widespread rumor of Chastel’s silver bullet. The excerpt I give is all her book has to say on the matter and in her wording, it isn’t exactly a gripping narrative that would inspire widespread citing and reprinting.

A more likely candidate comes in 1970 when paranormal researcher John Keel publishes Strange Creatures from Time and Space. Keel, who may be more famous for promoting the Mothman phenomena, has some interesting stuff to say about the beast of Gévaudan:

As the killings continued the usual army of farmers spread out to hunt the demon down. In the end, a man named Jean Chastel won a place in French history by shooting it. He had loaded his rifle with silver bullets (it being a well-established superstition that only silver bullets can kill werewolves and vampires) and was nervously reading a prayer book when the monster stomped out of the woods and headed straight for him. He fired point blank, hitting it in the chest and terminating its three-year career of horror. The huge body was paraded triumphantly through the villages and then was supposedly shipped to Versailles so the king could see it. We say “supposedly” because it apparently disappeared along the way or was buried when the stench got too much for its transporters.

Now it appears that Keel is making stuff up here. His version is a compelling narrative, but it introduces many unsubstantiated (and untrue) elements. It has not been well established at the time of the killings silver was known to be useful against werewolves. And as Jay Smith points out, while some contemporaries attributed the killings to a werewolf these guesses were just one of a varied number of unlikely speculations as to the identity of an imagined single animal. This version also ignores the hunter Antoinne who killed the first wolf. It is overly simplistic and full of error.

Keel has been caught embellishing his writing in other cases, and he helped perpetuate the hoax behind the mysterious Men In Black (MIB). While his books are interesting reading, it would be prudent to read him with a grain of salt.

The book was only seventy five cents and the cover featured an oil painting of a horde of monsters converging on a lone, khaki clad hunter/adventurer. The cover art is by Frank Frazetta, an artist whose work I admire, and there above the horde of shadowy monsters is the unmistakable figure of Mothman. (As an interesting aside, the original of this oil painting was changed by Frazetta before he died—to the shock of his family. There is a link to that story in the show notes.)

Sadly, it is not possible to say with any accuracy how many copies of either Grant’s or Keel’s books sold. But in my research Keel is a more often quoted source on cryptozoological matters. His version of events is exciting and contains all the elements needed to inject the silver bullet into the Chastel narrative. After his book, the occurrence of the silver bullet in Gévaudan write-ups begins to grow. The echo-chamber of paranormal literature reverberates again and again and soon it becomes “common knowledge” that Chastel used a silver bullet.

But he did not.

A surprising number of modern books—even well researched ones—repeat the myth that Chastel used a silver bullet to dispatch La Bête. It is told in documentaries and reference works as well. And since far more people are repeating that myth than listen to MonsterTalk, it is likely that the myth will continue to be perpetuated forever—but now you know the truth of the matter.

And it bears repeating that Jay Smith’s book makes a strong, well researched case that the actual cause of the deaths in Gévaudan was wolves. Vicious, starved, lethal but ultimately mundane.

Yes, some people claimed the cause was a werewolf—but many other mystery animals were suggested as well. The narrative demanded a single mysterious cause despite the facts. All to support the hungry new media of the time—tabloid journalism, a beast more voracious for victims than any werewolf.

This has been fascinating research for me and has led me down research paths I did not expect. The matter of when, how and to what extent the so-called magical properties of silver became known is now an active investigation. Hopefully I’ll be able to get to the bottom of that question too, but it has certainly opened up some engaging and hopefully answerable questions.

I need to thank a few people for their help on this work. First, my wife, who let me spend a ridiculous amount of time and money buying and reading werewolf books. Jay Smith, Karen Stollznow and Ben Radford for their support and advice. Andrew Gable for sharing his research, and Robert Lebling for his translation help. Sometimes Google Translate just isn’t good enough! Speaking of Google—thanks to the folks behind the Google Books project which made it possible for me to search books from antiquity without having to travel to Europe or across America. You’ve changed research forever. Thanks to Brian Regal for bringing his werewolf research (and Jersey Devil work) to MonsterTalk. And to Daniel Loxton for helping remind me that it’s reason enough that werewolves are cool.

[Voiceover: MonsterTalk!]

You’ve been listening to MonsterTalk—the science show about monsters. I’ve been your host and researcher, Blake Smith. I am publishing the complete transcript of this episode along with links to all the books mentioned—many of which are readable on Google Books—today as this episode goes live. You can find them at monstertalk.org or at Skeptic.com under podcasts. The rules of Wikipedia prevent me from publishing any of these findings myself, but hopefully some of these facts can be used to update some related articles with more accurate information than currently exists there. And as with any research project, I would encourage you to do your own research and see if you’re able to drive any of these dates back further with historical documentation. This case is a spider web and its lines stretch far and wide.

MonsterTalk is an official podcast of Skeptic magazine. The views expressed here, no matter how awesome, are those of myself and my guests and not necessarily those of Skeptic magazine or the Skeptic Society.

MonsterTalk theme song is by Peach Stealing Monkeys.

Thanks for listening!

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Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

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