Santa Claus And The Werewolf

From the book Werwolves, by Elliott O’Donnell, first published in 1912, we have this account of a Werewolf haunting at Christmas.

A young married couple of the name of Anderson, having acquired, through the death of a relative, a snug fortune, resolved to retire from business and spend the rest of their lives in indolence and ease. Being fond of the country, they bought some land in Cumberland, at the foot of some hills, far away from any town, and built on it a large two-storied villa.

They soon, however, began to experience trouble with their servants, who left them on the pretext that the place was lonely, and that they could not put up with the noises that they heard at night. The Andersons ridiculed their servants, but when their children remarked on the same thing they viewed the matter more seriously.

“What are the noises like?” they inquired.

“Wild animals,” Willie, the eldest child, replied. “They come howling round the window at night and we hear their feet patter along the passage and stop at our door.”

Much mystified, Mr. and Mrs. Anderson decided to sit up with the children and listen. They did so, and between two and three in the morning were much startled by a noise that sounded like the growling of a wolf – Mr. Anderson had heard wolves in Canada – immediately beneath the window. Throwing open the window, he peered out; the moon was fully up and every stick and stone was plainly discernible; but there was now no sound and no sign of any animal. When he had closed the window the growling at once recommenced, yet when he looked again nothing was to be seen.

After a while the growling ceased, and they heard the front door, which they had locked before coming upstairs, open, and the footsteps of some big, soft-footed animal ascend the stairs. Mr. Anderson waited till the steps were just outside the room and then flung open the door, but the light from his acetylene lamp revealed a passage full of moonbeams – nothing else.

He and his wife were now thoroughly mystified. In the morning they explored the grounds, but could find no trace of footmarks, nothing to indicate the nature of their visitant. It was now close on Christmas, and as the noises had not been heard for some time, it was hoped that the disturbances would not occur again.

The Andersons, like all modern parents, made idols of their children. They never did wrong, nothing was too good for them, and everything they wanted they had. At Christmas, perhaps, their authority was more particularly in evidence; at any rate, it was then that the greatest care was taken that the menu should be in strict accordance with their instructions.

“What shall Santa Claus bring you this time, my darlings?” Mr. Anderson asked, a week or so before the great day arrived; and Willie, aged six, at once cried out: “What a fool you are, daddy! It is all tosh about old Claus, there’s no such person!”

“Wait and see!” Mr. Anderson meekly replied. “You mark my words, he will come into your room on Christmas Eve laden with presents.”

“I don’t believe it!” Willie retorted. “You told us that silly tale last year and I never saw any Claus!”

“He came when you were asleep, dearie,” Mrs. Anderson ventured to remark.

“Well! I’ll keep awake this time!” Willie shouted.

“And we’ll take the presents first and pinch old Claus afterwards,” Violet Evelyn, the second child, joined in.

“And I’ll prick his towsers wif pins!” Horace, aged three and a half, echoed. “I don’t care nothink for old Santa Claus!” and he pulled a long nose in the manner his doting father had taught him.

Christmas Eve came at last – a typical old-fashioned Christmas with heaps of snow on the ground and frost on the window-panes and trees. The Andersons’ house was warm and comfortable – for once in a way the windows were shut – and enormous fires blazed merrily away in the grates.

Whilst the children spent most of the day viewing the good things in the larder and speculating how much they could eat of each, and which would taste the nicest, Mr. Anderson rehearsed in full costume the role of Santa Claus. He had an enormous sack full of presents – everything the children had demanded – and he meant to enter their room with it on his shoulder at about twelve o’clock.

Tea-time came, and during the interval between that meal and supper all hands – even Horace’s – were at work, decorating the hall and staircases with holly and mistletoe. After supper “Good King Wencelas,” “Noel,” and one or two other carols were sung, and the children then decided to go to bed.

It was then ten o’clock; and exactly two hours later their father, elaborately clad as Santa Claus, and staggering, in the orthodox fashion, beneath a load of presents, shuffled softly down the passage leading to their room. The snow had ceased falling, the moon was out, and the passage flooded with a soft, phosphorescent glow that threw into strong relief every minute object.

Mr. Anderson had got half-way along it when on his ears there suddenly fell a faint sound of yelping! His whole frame thrilled and his mind reverted to the scenes of his youth – to the prairies in the far-off West, where, over and over again, he had heard these sounds, and his faithful Winchester repeater had stood him in good service.

Again the yelping – this time nearer. Yes! it was undoubtedly a wolf; and yet there was an intonation in that yelping not altogether wolfish – something Mr. Anderson had never heard before, and which he was consequently at a loss to define. Again it rang out – much nearer this time – much more trying to the nerves, and the cold sweat of fear burst out all over him. Again – close under the wall of the house – a moaning, snarling, drawn-out cry that ended in a whine so piercing that Mr. Anderson’s knees shook.

One of the children, Violet Evelyn he thought, stirred in her bed and muttered: “Santa Claus! Santa Claus!” and Mr. Anderson, with a desperate effort, staggered on under his load and opened their door.

The clock in the hall beneath began to strike twelve. Santa Claus, striving hard to appear jolly and genial, entered the room, and a huge grey, shadowy figure entered with him. A slipper thrown by Willie whizzed through the air, and, narrowly missing Santa Claus, fell to the ground with a clatter.

There was then a deathly silence, and Violet and Horace, raising their heads, saw two strange figures standing in the centre of the room staring at one another – the one figure they at once identified by the costume. He was Santa Claus – but not the genial, rosy-cheeked Santa Claus their father had depicted. On the contrary, it was a Santa Claus with a very white face and frightened eyes – a Santa Claus that shook as if the snow and ice had given him the ague.

But the other figure – what was it? Something very tall, far taller than their father, nude and grey, something like a man with the head of a wolf – a wolf with white pointed teeth and horrid, light eyes. Then they understood why it was that Santa Claus trembled; and Willie stood by the side of his bed, white and silent.

It is impossible to say how long this state of things would have lasted, or what would eventually have happened, had not Mrs. Anderson, anxious to see how Santa Claus was faring, and rather wondering why he was gone so long, resolved herself to visit the children’s room. As the light from her candle appeared on the threshold of the room the thing with the wolf’s head vanished.

“Why, whatever were you all doing?” she began. Then Santa Claus and the children all spoke at once – whilst the sack of presents tumbled unheeded on the floor. Every available candle was soon lighted, and mother and father and Willie, Violet and Horace all spent the remainder of that night in close company.

On the following day it was proposed, and carried unanimously, that the house should be put up for sale. This was done at the earliest opportunity, and fortunately for the Andersons suitable tenants were soon found.

Before leaving, however, Mr. Anderson made another and more exhaustive search of the grounds, and discovered, in a cave in the hills immediately behind the house, a number of bones. Amongst them was the skull of a wolf, and lying close beside it a human skeleton, with only the skull missing. Mr. Anderson burnt the bones, hoping that by so doing he would rid the house of its unwelcome visitor; and, as his tenants so far have not complained, he believes that the hauntings have actually ceased.

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