Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Werewolf as Urban Legend

How much have our thought processes changed since the werewolf scares of the Middle Ages? Sometimes one wonders.

In August 1972, the Ohio Crescent-News reported that police were searching for a “wolf-man” who attacked at night in the town of Defiance, Ohio on three separate occasions within one week. The attacker was described as tall with an "animal-like head". Witnesses said the werewolf was seven to nine feet tall, and wore blue jeans and a dark shirt. He was said to have hairy feet, fangs, and a caveman-like canter.

The Toledo Blade dispatched reporter James Stegall to the scene. Stegall reported, “Three persons have told police that they saw a large beast that resembles a werewolf lurking along railroad tracks near downtown Defiance in the last week. In each case he was spotted during the early morning hours, and one man, a train crewman switching trains, said that he was approached from behind and was struck on the shoulder with a piece of 2-by-4 lumber. But when he ran the "werewolf" also disappeared into some nearby brush. In the other reported incidents the "werewolf" was seen by another train crewman about 3 a.m. Police say the third report came from a motorist who said "it" ran in front of his car about 4 a.m. and then quickly disappeared. ‘We don't know what to think.’ Chief Donald Breckler said. ‘We didn't release it (to the news media) when we got the first report about a week ago. But now we're taking it seriously. We’re concerned for the safety of our people.’”

And thus an urban legend was born. Notwithstanding the fact that Chief Breckler said that he believed that the attacks were being made by a man wearing a mask, within the week at least three hysterical people sought protection from the police. Many people who had not actually seen the creature felt sure they were being watched or were in imminent danger. One woman told the police that every night at 2:00 a.m., something rattled her door knob. Another woman phoned the police to say there was something scratching at her door and she intended to shoot, if anything came through it. No more was heard from the creature after mid-August.

Urban Legends of Virginia

Mind bending stories from the Old Dominion. A collection of Virginia’s most notable Urban Legends, many include the true stories behind them.

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