Werewolves: Beware the Texas Moon . . .

Shapeshifting is generally associated with Native American culture and legend, but I can’t say for certain whether or not it is regarded as truth among Native Americans themselves.  However, it has become a sort of mainstream interest with paranormal and occult enthusiasts, with books and websites that explain how to shapeshift and documented sightings of shapeshifters.  The idea behind shapeshifting is that one can become just about anything they want, whether it’s an animal, a tree, or a chair!

There are so many stories of werecreatures.  Werecreatures are generally large bipedal canines or felines, but I’m sure there are others.  Maybe there are werehorses, werebutterflies, and weredolphins.  Who knows!  It might seem a ridiculous stretch, but to someone who believes in werewolves, anything is possible!

The main difference, to my understanding, between shapeshifters and werecreatures is that a shapeshifter does not only have the ability to choose what they want to become and can will it at any time, but that they take on the appearance of your average every-day housecat, or maybe a common raven.  And no one is the wiser.  With a werecreature, legends usually state that the transformation is usually out of the person’s control, and they do not appear as a normal animal, but something larger and monstrous.

(  THIS JUST IN!  My friend, Audrey, who is quite the werewolf expert, enlightened me a bit more upon these creatures.  I had her read this because if you need to know something about werewolves, she’s the one to go to.  I was so intent upon the story rather than the legend, I failed to mention one of the more interesting takes!  But it’s okay, because Audrey was there to remind me.  She responded: “In many cultures, the were can also shift at will. Like European legend of a man who puts on the pelt of a wolf, or wears it like a belt can take on the form. Then take it off again when he doesn’t want it anymore. Or even in old Norse Mythology, those who follow Fenris were given the ability to take on the form of his children at will. =)” If you’re interested in reading some of Audrey’s inspirational writings, you can find it here:
http://audrey-haveyounotheard.blogspot.com/  )

But werewolves, my friend…Werewolves are a whole ‘nother story!

I am not talking about lyncanthropy, where a person believes themself to be a wolf and sometimes possesses super-human strength during a full moon while staying in human form.  People suffering from lycanthropy actually visualise themselves in the form of a wolf, and bite and claw at people, and when they are locked in a room they sometimes tear at the walls or doors at an attempt to escape.  Some even act on their desires of bloodlust, whether it is upon small animals, raw meat, or even people.  It has been noted by some that people with this affliction actually show more agility and coordination when they are walking on all fours than they do when they are walking upright.  Although lycanthropy is an interesting topic, my motive in this article is to give a little background on your Everyday-All-American Blood-Thirsty Werewolf!

Generally speaking, werewolves are regular people who turn into wolves when the full moon rises.  There are many theories on why someone is cursed to dwell among the damned.  Gypsy spells.  A bite from another werewolf.  A pact with the Devil.  Yes, there are some who become a werewolf by choice.  Their history is rich, dating back centuries ago and from what I’ve read, seems to have started in Europe, though there are werebeings in so many cultures from all over the world.  So, technically, our “American” werewolf is actually a mixture of legends and myths (and perhaps some truth) of the European werewolf, along with the eclectic mixture of cultures that we find here in the U.S.

But, as a true-blooded Texan, and I wanted to write about some down-home werewolf stories.  I turned up a couple of creepy tales, along with a very special story which was told to me firsthand!  So, read on…if you’re not easily scared. Mrs. Gregg of Greggton, Texas, had a brush with a strange creature in the late 1950’s.  Her husband was away on business, so she was alone that night.  There was a storm rolling in, so she decided to push her bed closer to the open window to enjoy the cool fresh air.  She drifted off to sleep, and shortly thereafter was awakened by the sound of something clawing at the window screen.  There was a sudden crash of lightening, and that’s when she caught a glimpse of a large creature with the face of a wolf.  She described him as “huge” and “shaggy”, and his eyes, she said, were “baleful”, “glowing” and “slitted”.  She grabbed a flashlight and watched the thing run into a cluster of bushes, waiting for it to run out from the shrubbery so that she could get a better view of it.  She fully expected to see the monster pop out, but instead, she saw an “extremely tall man” walking quickly toward the road before the black night swallowed his form. 

One of my favourite werewolf stories takes place in Lawton, Texas.  In 1970, there was an outbreak of sightings over the course of three days, and calls were flooding into the police department left and right!  One man had a heart attack when he looked out his window and saw a beast having a drink from his fish pond.  A group of soldiers stationed in the area also saw the monster.  There was another man who looked out of his apartment window and saw it leaning against a railing.  I don’t know what railing he was leaning against, but everything I’ve read on the Lawton werewolf says that he was leaning against a railing, so that’s all I know.  Anyway, he thought it was someone in costume until the beast jumped nearly twenty feet to the ground and ran away with the gait of a monkey!  The part that I find most amusing about this story is that the wolf-man was wearing pants that were a few sizes too small for him.  In most real life werewolf stories I’ve heard, the werewolves are just gallivanting around in the buff!  I think the clothes gives the creature a more humanistic quality than some of the other tales I’ve heard. 

Now, I cannot leave out the Converse Werewolf!  I live fairly close to Converse, so this story hits home and makes me wonder what might have become of the creature.  In the 1800’s, a farmer sent his son out to kill a deer and bring it home for supper.  The boy, aged fifteen, set out to do just that.  It was two or three days before he came home, and so the farmer went out to find him.  He heard a sound and set off in that direction with a ray of hope, but what he found was an eight-foot-tall creature hovering over the young man.  The poor boy had been eaten, and when the farmer approached, the animal disappeared into the woods.  It was said that the man became very depressed and died because he couldn’t cope with what had happened, and quite possibly felt as if he was to blame for his son’s death. 

I have heard about the Cleo Face, but I don’t know what to make of it because I haven’t been able to turn up a lot of information about it.  N.Q. Patterson was one of the early residents of Kimble County and had an interesting background.  He carved gravestones for a living, and during a bout with tuberculosis, he spent a lot of time carving things on the rocks that lined Bear Creek which ran along his property.  I would love to view an image of the Cleo Face, but there’s very little info that I can find on this particular case as it is.  Time had made it harder to discern the image, so I wonder if it’s visible now since it was carved near the turn of the twentieth century, or if anyone had taken pictures of it.  The face could have been that of a bear, but it was rumoured that it was actually the face of a werewolf.  Who knows?  But if anyone is interested in finding out about the image, maybe we should plan a roadtrip to the little ghost town of Cleo!  I would love to stop at little diners and gift shops along the way and collect stories about the local legend. 

And here is my final short, the reason for my delay in getting this piece done.  I wanted to make sure I got down the important details to this one, and I was finally able to sit down with Joe and my laptop and ask the questions I needed to know. 

This happened in Devine, Texas in 1963, around midnight and about a week before Christmas.  It was a moonlit country night.  Joe, a teenager at the time, was taking shortcuts through fields after watching a picture show.  As he made his way home, he came upon a large German Shepard, larger than any he’d ever seen.  At first all he could see was a pair of glowing orange eyes, perhaps a reflection from the moonlight?  Thinking the dog was friendly, he leaned over and put his hand out.  “Here, boy!”  But then the dog started growling, slowly making its way toward Joe.  He thought at first that the dog must have been rabid; living in the country, it is not rare.  And that’s when he ran, two miles back toward the highway that he had just come from.  The dog was nowhere in sight, and it was late and he wanted to go home.  So, he walked back toward a creek.  It was about a mile from his home, but there was a lot of brush and it was hard to see, so he made a detour toward a trailer where his friends lived, right next door to their parents’ house.  There was still no sign of the dog, and he was going to go through the corral to get to the trailer where his friends lived.  He looked around, and was right about to go through the gate, when in the blink of an eye, there was the dog on the other side of the gate!  It was as if it was waiting for him.  It seemed nearly impossible!  It was clear that this was no ordinary animal.  There was a large post, about ten feet tall, six feet around, where they would tie the cows to milk them.  He climbed the post to safety, even though it was smooth and took some effort, and sat at the top.  Again, there was no sign of the dog.  When he thought it was safe, he climbed back down, went through the gate and toward the trailer.  He knocked, but his friends weren’t home.  Luckily, the door was usually unlocked.  But the dog was still lurking outside.  Joe was in the living room, in complete darkness, and the dog started to pound and scratch against the walls of the trailer.  “BANG-BANG-Scraaaaaaaatch…BANG-BANG-Scraaaaaaaatch…”  No matter where he went in the pitch-black trailer to find safety, it was right outside.  BANG-BANG-Scraaaaaaaatch…. 

The dog pounded hard, rhythmically, and clawed on the outside of whichever room he tried to seek refuge in.  Somehow, it knew which room Joe was in.  So, Joe began to pray.  Soon he heard another dog.  He was sure it was the family dog, a little collie they called Lassie.  He heard the two dogs fighting, and then he heard one of the dogs give a few final whimpers of defeat.  There was no doubt about it.  One of the dogs had been killed, and he was sure it was that little collie.  It didn’t stand a chance against the German Shepard.  After that, Joe passed out from fear and exhaustion.

The next morning, he went outside and his friend’s mother was tending to her garden.  She was shocked to see someone come out of the trailer since her sons were working with their dad at the cotton gin.  He told her what had happened, and she didn’t say a word.  There was no air conditioning in her house, and her window was open and had been all night.  She didn’t hear the dog fight, and here’s the kicker:  It was right near her open window.  There were no traces of the battle, and Joe was sure he would have found blood or even the ragged body of the collie, because it was a very vicious fight.  But then, Lassie trotted right by, as if everything was fine, and without a single scratch on her!  Interestingly enough, it was thought that some people on the property engaged in white magick.  Was this dog a normal dog?  A demon?  Or some sort of shapeshifter?

On a sidenote, someone who lived in the vicinity had problems with the radio and television coming on in the dead of night, all by itself.  There were other strange things, like disembodied voices speaking in Spanish in a little barn.  When they looked through the windows, they could see shadowy people, but when they opened the door, there was nobody there.  When walking the empty fields at night, people would hear someone walking next to them…in shackles!  They could hear the chains as clear as a bell, and when they would stop, the sounds would stop.  Most people refused to go out by themselves at night!  But those stories are on a whole ‘nother topic completely!

I can’t help think of the bazillions of possibilities that could explain any given one of these stories.  Myth.  Local legend.  Hoaxes.  Pranks.  Undiscovered or misidentified creatures.  Delusions.  Vivid imagination.  Or, could it be, that there are things out there that exist beyond our knowledge?  Something unexplainable?  Something terrifying?  Something evil.   

Ask yourself what you honestly believe.  In the daytime, it’s easy to identify such tales nothing more than campfire stories to give a thrill of frightful fun.  But when you close your eyes to drift off to Dreamland, or when you’re walking on a path dimly illumed by the moonlight, and suddenly you visualise a pair of glowing “orange” or “baleful slitted” eyes staring at you unblinking, you just may think a little differently.

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