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  • Writer's picturePaula Wesselmann

Grandpa And The Werewolf

My grandson, James, loves the month of October and all the scary and magical moments that come with it. He is fascinated by werewolves, and whenever there is a full moon, we will scoot out into the night to hopefully hear a howl. One night, in Idaho, as we looked up at the full moon from our terrace that faces Canfield Mountain, the coyotes started howling, and we both jumped out of our skin and ran into the house. I am delighted that James loves the thought of werewolves because this Halloween I am going to tell him a true story about my Italian Grandfather and a werewolf. Grandpa Ferrara grew up in Italy, believing in these creatures, and when he came to America through New Orleans and eventually moved to Gary, Indiana, he barely escaped harm from a howling man gone crazy from the full moon. He warned his seven children of these werewolf creatures that were humanlike but acted like bloodthirsty beasts who could not control their lust for killing people or animals. The story that I will someday write is about my mother, and how she survived the howling werewolf man. When I was teaching in Tucson, Arizona, classrooms would crowd into my room to hear the story of Grandpa And The Werewolf. The room would be dark, and I would hold a flashlight beneath my face and weave the story I was told as a child.

I love history and the history of werewolves and how they evolved into people who are affected by a full moon is fascinating. Knowledge opens the door to what is a myth and what is true. Greek mythology holds one of the earliest known werewolf legends. Lycaon, the son of Pelagius, angered Zeus, the Lord of the Gods when he served him a meal made from the remains of a sacrificed boy. Enraged, Zeus turned Lycaon and his sons into wolves.

The werewolf is a mythological animal and the bearer of more than a few nightmares. According to some legends, werewolves are people who morph into vicious, powerful wolves. Others are a mutant combination of humans and wolves, or in my grandfather’s case, men who acted like wolves. The most notorious werewolf was Peter Stubbe, a wealthy, fifteenth-century farmer in Bedburg, Germany. He was executed after confessing under torture to killing animals, men, women, and children and eating their remains. He also claimed an enchanted belt, that was never found, but it gave him the power to turn into a wolf at will. The interesting part of this story is that Peter Stubbe may not have created these crimes but was a victim of a political witch hunt or more appropriately a werewolf hunt.

Throughout the centuries, people have used werewolves and other mythic beasts to explain the unexplainable. According to a study conducted at Australia's Calvary Newcastle Hospital, a full moon brings out the “beast” in many humans. Some of the most violent, acute behavior incidents at the hospital occurred during a full moon. Medical conditions may have encouraged werewolf mania throughout history. However, there are still cult followings, and werewolf sightings are reported each year.

When I asked the internet how to avoid a werewolf attack, here was their advice.

  1. Avoid All Silent/Creepy/Empty Places.

  2. Stay Armed At All Times (Tasers Preferred)

  3. If You Can't Fight 'Em, Date 'Em.

  4. Play Dead.

  5. Move Far Away From The Woods.

Happy Halloween everyone.

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