Shape Shifters

A Werewolf Exorcism Story

“A full description of the practice and failure of exorcism was cited to me the other day in connexion with a comparatively recent happening in Asiatic Russia.”

~Werwolves, by Elliott O’Donnell, first published in 1912.

Tina Peroviskei, a wealthy young widow, who lived in St. Nicholas Street, Moscow – not a hundred yards from the house of Herr Schauman, the well-known German banker and horticulturist (every one in Russia has heard of the Schauman tulips) – met a gentleman named Ivan Baranoff at a friend’s house, and, despite the warning of her brother, married him.

Ivan Baranoff did not look more than thirty years of age. He was usually dressed in grey furs – a grey fur coat, grey fur leggings, and a grey fur cap. His features were very handsome – at least, so Tina thought – his hair was flaxen, glossy, and bright as a mirror; and his mouth, when open, displayed a most brilliant set of even, white teeth. Tina had three children by her first husband, and the fuss Ivan Baranoff made of them pleased her immensely. Their own father never evinced a greater anxiety for their welfare. Ivan brought them the most expensive toys and sweetmeats – particularly sweetmeats – and would insist on seeing for himself that they had plenty of rich, creamy milk, fresh eggs, and the best of butter.

“You’ll kill them with kindness,” Tina often remonstrated. “They are too fat by half now.”

“They can’t be too fat,” Ivan would reply. “No one is too fat. I love to see rosy cheeks and stout limbs. Wait till you’re in the country! Then you may talk about putting on flesh. The air there will fatten you even more than the food.”

“Then we shall burst, and there will be an end of us,” Tina would laughingly say.

But despite all this, despite the way in which he fondled and caressed them, the children involuntarily shrank away from Ivan; and on Tina angrily demanding the reason, they told her they could not help it – there was something in his bright eyes and touch that frightened them. When Tina’s brothers and sisters heard of this, they upheld the children.

“We are not in the least surprised,” they said; “his eyes are cruel – so are his lips; and as for his eyebrows – those dark, straight eyebrows that meet in a point over the nose – why, every one knows what a bad sign that is!”

But Tina grew so angry they had to desist. “You are jealous,” she said to her brothers. “You envy him his looks and money.” And to her sisters she said, “You only wish you could have had him yourselves. You know I love him already far more than I ever loved Rupert.” (Rupert was her first husband.)

And within a month or so of the marriage Tina left all her relatives in Moscow, and, accompanied by her children and dogs – some people hinted that Tina was fonder of her dogs than of her children – went with Ivan Baranoff to his ancestral home near Orsk.

Though accustomed to the cold, Tina found the climate of Orsk almost more than she could bear. Her husband’s house, which occupied an extremely solitary position on the confines of a gloomy forest, some few miles from the town, was a large, grey stone building full of dark winding passages and dungeon-like rooms. The furniture was scant, and the rooms, with the exception of those devoted to herself, her husband and the children, which were covered with crimson drugget, were carpetless.

A more barren, inhospitable looking house could not be imagined, and the moment Tina entered it, her spirits sank to zero. The atmosphere of the place frightened her the most. It was not that it was merely forlorn and cheerless, but there was a something in it that reminded her of the smell of the animal houses in the Zoological Gardens in Moscow, and a something she could not analyse – a something which she concluded must be peculiar to the house. The children were very much upset. The sight of the dark entrance hall and wide, silent staircases, bathed in gloom, terrified them.

“Oh, mother!” they cried, clutching hold of Tina Baranoff and dragging her back, “we can never live here. Take us away at once. Look at those things. Whatever are they?” And they pointed to the shadows – queerly shaped shadows – that lay in thick clusters on the stairs and all around them.

Tina did not know what to say. Her own apprehensions and the only too obvious terror of the dogs, whom she had literally to drive across the threshold, and who whined and cringed at her feet, confirming the children’s fears, made it impossible for her to check them. Moreover, since leaving Moscow the warnings of her friends and relations had often come back to her.

Though Ivan had never ceased to be kind, his conduct roused her suspicions. During the journey, which he had insisted should be performed in a droshky, he halted every evening directly the moon became invisible, and used to disappear regularly between dusk and sunrise. He would never tell her where he went or attempt to explain the oddness of his conduct, but when pressed by her would merely say:

“It is a habit. I always like to roam abroad in the night-time – it would be very bad for my health if I did not.”

And this was all Tina could get out of him. She noticed, too, what her blind infatuation had prevented her observing before, that there was a fierce expression in his eyes when he set out on these nocturnal rambles, and that on his return the corners of his mouth and his long finger-nails were always smeared with blood. Furthermore, she noticed that although he was concerned about the appetites of herself and the children, he ate very little cooked food himself – never vegetables or bread – and would often furtively put a raw piece of meat into his mouth when he thought no one was looking.

Tina hoped that these irregularities would cease on their arrival at the chateau, but, on the contrary, they rather increased, and she became greatly perturbed.

The second night after their arrival, when she had been in bed some time and was nearly asleep, Tina, between her half-closed eyelids, watched her husband get out of bed, stealthily open the window, and drop from the sill. Some hours later she was again aroused. She heard the growl of a wolf – and immediately afterwards saw Ivan’s grey-clad head at the window. He came softly into the room, and as he tiptoed across the floor to the washstand, Tina saw splashes of blood on his face and coat, whilst it dripped freely from his finger-tips.

In the morning the news was brought her by the children that one of her favourite dogs was dead – eaten by some wild animal, presumably a wolf. Tina’s position now became painful in the extreme. She was more than suspicious of her husband, and had no one – saving her children – in whom she could confide.

The house seemed to be under a ban; no one, not even a postman or tradesman, ever came near it, and with the exception of the two servants, whose silent, gliding movements and light glittering eyes filled both her and her children with infinite dread, she did not see a soul.

On four consecutive nights one of her four dogs was killed, each in precisely the same manner; and on each of these consecutive nights Tina watched Ivan surreptitiously leave the house and return all bloodstained, and accompanied by the distant howl of wolves. And on the day following the death of each dog respectively, Tina noticed the grey glinting eyes of the two servants become more and more earnestly fixed on the children and herself.

At meal-times the eyes never left her; she was conscious of their scrutiny at every mouthful she took; and when she passed them in the passages, she instinctively felt their gaze following her steadily till she was out of sight. Sometimes, hearing a stealthy breathing outside her room, she would quickly open the door, demanding who was there; and she invariably caught one or other of the servants slinking away disconcerted, but still peeping at her furtively from under his long pointed eyebrows.

When she spoke to them they answered her in harsh, curiously discordant tones, and usually only in monosyllables; but she never heard them converse with one another save in whispers – always in whispers.

The house was now full of shadows – and whispers. They haunted her even in her sleep. For the first two or three days her husband had been communicative; but he gradually grew more and more taciturn, until at last he rarely said anything at all. He merely watched her – watched her wherever she went, and whatever she did; and he watched the children – particularly the children – with the same expression, the same undefinable secretive expression that harmonized so well with the shadows and whispers.

And it was this treatment – the treatment she now received from her husband – that made Tina appreciate the company of her children. Before, they had been quite a tertiary consideration – Ivan had come first; then the dogs; and lastly, Hilda, Olga, and Peter. But this order was at length reversed; and on the death of the last of her pets, Hilda, Olga and Peter stood first. She spent practically every minute of the day with them; and, despite the protestations of her husband, converted her dressing-room into a bedroom for them.

The first evening of their removal to their new quarters, Tina sat and played with them till one after another they fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. Then she sat beside them and examined them curiously. Hilda, the eldest, was lying composed and orderly, with pale cheek and smooth hair, her limbs straight, her head slightly bent, the bedclothes unruffled upon the regularly heaving chest.

How pretty Hilda looked, and how odd it was that she, Tina, had never noticed the beauty of the child before! Why, with her fair complexion, delicate features, and perfectly shaped arms and hands she would undoubtedly one day take all Moscow by storm; and every one would say, “Do you know who that lovely girl is? She is the daughter of Tina – Tina Baranoff. [She shuddered at the name Baranoff.] No wonder she is beautiful!”

Tina turned from Hilda to Olga. What a contrast, but not an unpleasant one – for Olga was pretty, too, though in a different style. What a sight! – defying all order and bursting all bounds, flushed, tumbled and awry – the round arms tossed up, the rosy face flung back, the bedclothes pushed off, the pillow flung out, the nightcap one way, the hair another – all that was disorderly and lovely by night, all that was unruly and winning by day. Tina – dainty, elegant, perfumed, manicured Tina – bent over untidy little Olga and kissed her.

Then she turned to Peter, and, unable to resist the temptation, tickled his toes and woke him. When she had at last sent him to sleep again, it was almost dinner-time; and she had barely got into her dress when one of the servants rapped at the door to say that the meal was ready. The house was very large, and Tina had to pass through two halls and down a long corridor before reaching the room where the dinner was served.

Rather to her relief than otherwise, her husband did not put in an appearance, and a note from him informed her that he had unexpectedly been called away on business and would not be able to return till late the following day.

Tina did not enjoy her dinner. The soup had rather a peculiar flavour, but she knew it was useless to make any comment. The servants either could not or would not understand, and Ivan invariably upheld them in everything they did. Unable to bear the man’s eyes continually fixed on her, she told him not to wait, and hurried through the meal so as to get him out of the way, and be left for the rest of the evening in peace.

The big wood fire appealed to Tina – it was the only thing in that part of the house that seemed to have any life – and she resolved to sit by it, and, perhaps, skim through a book. Tina seldom read – in Moscow, all her evenings were spent at cards. She remembered, however, that somebody had told her repeatedly, and emphatically, that she ought to read Tolstoy’s “Resurrection,” and she had actually brought it with her. Now she would wade through it. But whether it was the heat of the fire, or the lateness of the hour, or both, her senses grew more and more drowsy, and before she had begun to read, she fell asleep.

She was, at length, partially awakened by a loud noise. At first her sleepy senses paid little attention and she dozed on. But again she was roused. A noise which grew louder and louder at last compelled her to shake off sleep, and starting up, she opened the door and looked into the passage.

A few streaks of moonlight, streaming through an iron grating high up in the wall, enabled her to see a tall figure stealing softly along the corridor, with its back towards her. The thing was so extraordinary that for a moment or so she fancied she must still be dreaming; but the cold night air blowing freely in her face speedily assured her that what she saw was grim reality.

The thing was a monstrosity, a hideous hybrid of man and beast, and as she gazed at it, too horror-stricken to move, a second and third form exactly similar to it crept out from among the shadows against the wall and joined it. And Tina, yielding to a sudden fascination, followed in their wake. In this fashion they crossed the hall and ascended the staircase,

Tina keeping well behind them. She knew where they were aiming for, and any little doubt that she might have had was set at rest, when they turned into the passage leading to her bedroom. A moaning cry of fear from one of the children told her that they, too, knew by intuition of their coming danger. Tina was now in an agony of mind as to what to do for the best.

That the intention of these hideous creatures – be they what they might – phantasms or things of flesh and blood – was sinister, she had not the slightest doubt; but how could she prevent them getting at her children? The most she could do would be to shout to Hilda and tell her to lock the two doors. But would that keep them out?

She opened her mouth and jerked out “Hilda!” She tried again, but her throat had completely dried up, and she could not articulate another syllable. The sound, however, though faint, had been sufficient to attract the attention of the hindermost creature. It turned, and the light from the moon, coming through the half-open door of her bedroom, shone on its glittering eyes and white teeth. It sprang towards her.

With one convulsive bound Tina cleared the threshold of a room immediately behind her, dashed the door to – locked it – barred it – flung a chair against it; and stood in an agony, for which no words exist. She seemed to see, all in a moment, herself safe, and her children – not a door closed between them and those dreadful jaws! She then became stupefied with terror, and a strange, dinning sound, like the pulsation of her heart, filled her ears and shut out every sense.

“It is a devil! a devil!” she repeated mechanically; and then, forcing herself out of the trance-like feeling that oppressed her, she combated with the cowardice that prevented her rushing out – if only to die in an attempt to save her children. She had not realized till then that it was possible to care for them more even – much more even – than she had cared for her dogs.

She placed one hand on the lock, and looked round for some weapon of defense. There was not a thing she could use – not a stanchion to the window, not a rod to the bed. And even if there had been, how futile in her puny grip! She glanced at her tiny white fingers with their carefully trimmed and polished nails, and smiled – a grim smile of irony. Then she placed her ear against the panels of the door and listened – and from the other side came the sound of heavy panting and the stealthy movement of hands.

Suddenly a scream rang out, so clear and vibrating, so full of terror, that her heart stood still and her blood congealed. It was Hilda! Hilda shrieking “Mother!” There it was again, “Mother! Mother! Help! Help!” Then a series of savage snarls and growls and more shrieks – the combined shrieks of all three children.

Shrieks and growls were then mingled together in one dreadful, hideous pandemonium, which all of a sudden ceased, and was succeeded by the loud crunching and cracking of bones. At last that, too, ceased, and Tina heard footsteps rapidly approaching her door. For a moment the room and everything in it swam round her. She felt choked; the dinning in her ears came again, it beat louder and louder and completely paralyzed her.

A crash on the door panel, however, abruptly restored her faculties, and the idea of escaping by the window for the first time entered her mind. If her husband could use the window as a means of exit, why couldn’t she?

Not a second was to be lost – the creatures outside were now striving their utmost to get in. It was the work of a moment to throw open the window, and almost before she knew she had opened it, she found herself standing on the ground beneath. The night had grown darker; she could not see the path; she knew that she was losing time, and yet that all depended on her haste; she felt fevered with impatience, yet torpid with terror. At length she disengaged herself from the broken, uneven soil on to which she had dropped, and struggled forward.

On and on she went, not knowing where her next step would land her, and dreading every moment to hear the steps of her pursuers. The darkness of the night favoured her, and by dodging in and out the bushes and never keeping to the same track, although still keeping a forward course, she successfully eluded her enemies, whose hoarse cries gradually grew fainter and fainter.

By good luck she reached the high road, which eventually brought her to Orsk; and there she sought shelter in a hotel. In the morning, on learning from the landlord that a friend of hers, a Colonel Majendie, was in the town, Tina sought him out, and into his sympathizing ears poured the story of her adventures.

Now it so happened that a priest of the name of Rappaport, a friend of the Colonel’s, came in before Tina had finished her story, and on being told what had happened, declared that Ivan Baranoff and his servants had long been suspected of being werwolves. He then begged that before anything was done to them he might be allowed to try his powers of exorcism.

The Colonel ridiculed the idea, but in the end was persuaded to postpone his visit to the chateau till the evening, and to go there with an escort, a quartette of his most trusted soldiers, and accompanied by his friend the Rev. Father Rappaport. Accordingly, at about nine o’clock the party set out, and, on arriving at the house, found it in total darkness and apparently deserted.

But they had not waited long before a series of savage growls from the adjacent thicket put them on their guard, and almost immediately afterwards three werwolves stalked across the path and prepared to enter the house. At a word from the Colonel the soldiers leaped forward, and after a most desperate scuffle, in which they were all more or less badly mauled, succeeded in securing their quarry.

In more civilized parts of the country the police would have been called in, but here, where that good old law, “Might is right,” still held good, a man in the Colonel’s position could do whatever he deemed most expedient, and Colonel Majendie had made up his mind that justice should no longer be delayed. The chateau had borne an ill reputation for generations. From time immemorial Ivan Baranoff’s ancestors had been suspected of lycanthropy, and this last deed of the family was their crowning atrocity.

“You may exorcize the devils first,” the Colonel grimly remarked to the priest, wiping the blood off his sleeves. “We will hang and quarter the brutes afterwards.”

To this the holy Father willingly agreed, for he did not care what happened so long as his exorcism was successful.

The rites that were performed in connexion with this ceremony (and which I understand are those most commonly observed in exorcising all manner of evil spirits) were as follows: –

A circle of seven feet radius was drawn on the ground in white chalk. At the centre of the circle were inscribed, in yellow chalk, certain magical figures representing Mercury, and about them was drawn, in white chalk, a triangle within a circle of three feet radius – the centre of the circle being the same as that of the outer circle. Within this inner circle were then placed the three captive werwolves.

It would be well to explain here that in exorcism, as well as in the evocation of spirits, great attention must be paid to the position of the stars, as astrology exercises the greatest influence on the spirit world. The present occasion, the reverend Father pointed out, was specially favourable for the casting out of devils, since from 8.32 p.m. to 9.16 p.m. was under the dominion of the great angel Mercury – the most bitter opponent of all evil spirits; that is to say, Mercury was in 17 deg. on the cusp of Seventh House, slightly to south of due west.

Round the outer circle the reverend Father now proceeded to place, at equal intervals, hand-lamps, burning olive oil. He then erected a rude altar of wood, about a foot to the southeast of the circumference of the inner circle. Exactly opposite this altar, and about 1-1/2 feet to the far side of the circumference of the inner circle, he ordered the soldiers to build a fire, and to place over it a tripod and pot, the latter containing two pints of pure spring water.

He then prepared a mixture consisting of these ingredients: –

  • 2 drachms of sulphur.
  • 1/2 oz. of castoreum.
  • 6 drachms of opium.
  • 3 drachms of asafoetida.
  • 1/2 oz. of hypericum.
  • 3/4 oz. of ammonia.
  • 1/2 oz. of camphor.

When this was thoroughly mixed he put it in the water in the pot, adding to it a portion of a mandrake root, a live snake, two live toads in linen bags, and a fungus. He then bound together, with red tape, a wand consisting of three sprigs taken, respectively, from an ash, birch, and white poplar.

He next proceeded to pray, kneeling in front of the altar; and continued praying till the unearthly cries of the toads announced the fact that the water, in which they were immersed, was beginning to boil.

Slowly getting up and crossing himself, he went to the fire, and dipping a cup in the pot, solemnly approached the werwolves, and slashing them severely across the head with his wand, dashed in their faces the seething liquid, calling out as he did so:

“In the name of Our Blessed Lady
I command thee to depart.
Black, evil devils from hell, begone!

Begone! Again I say, Begone!”

He repeated this three times to the vociferous yells of the smarting werwolves, who struggled so frantically that they succeeded in bursting their bonds, and, leaping to their feet, endeavoured to escape into the bushes. The soldiers at once rose in pursuit and the priest was left alone. He had got rid of the flesh and blood, and he presumed he had got rid of the devils. But that remained to be proved.

In the chase that ensued one of the werwolves was shot, and, simultaneously with death, metamorphosis into the complete form of a huge grey wolf took place. The other two eluded their pursuers for some time, but were eventually tracked owing to the discovery of the half-eaten remains of an old woman and two children in a cave. True to their lupine natures, they showed no fight when cornered, and a couple of well-directed bullets put an end to their existence – the same metamorphosis occurring in their case as in the case of their companion.

With the death of the three werwolves the chateau, one would naturally have thought, might have emerged from its ban. But no such thing. It speedily acquired a reputation for being haunted.

And that it was haunted – haunted not only by werwolves but by all sorts of ghastly phantasms – I have no doubt.

I was told, not long ago, that Tina, whose property it became, pulled it down, and that another house, replete with every modern luxury – but equally haunted – now marks the site of the old chateau.

A Narrow Escape

“The following story, which I believe to be true in the main, was told me by a Dr. Broniervski, whom I met in Boulogne.”

~Werwolves, by Elliott O’Donnell, first published in 1912.

“Ten years ago,” my informant began, “I was engaged in a geological expidition in Montenegro. I left Cetinge in company with my escort, Dugald Dalghetty, a Dalmatian who had served me on many former occasions; but owing to an accident I was compelled to leave him behind at a village about thirty miles east of the capital. As it was absolutely necessary for me to have a guide, I chose a Montenegrin called Kniaz.

Dalghetty warned me against him. ‘Kniaz has the evil eye,’ he said; ‘he will bring misfortune on you. Choose some one else.’

“Kniaz was certainly not particularly prepossessing. He was tall and angular, and pock-marked and sandy-haired; and his eyes had a peculiar cast – only a cast, of course, nothing more. To balance these detractions he was civil in his manners and extremely moderate in his terms. Dalghetty, faithful fellow, almost wept as he watched us depart. ‘I shall never see you again,’ he said. ‘Never!’

“Just outside the last cottage in the village we passed a gigantic, broad-shouldered man, clad in the usual clothes of frieze, a black skullcap, wide trousers, and tights from the knee to the ankle. Over his shoulders was a new white strookah, of which he seemed very proud; whilst he had a perfect armament of weapons – rifles, pistols, yatagan – polished up to the knocker – and cartouche-box.

He was conversing with a girl at one of the windows, but turned as we came up to him and leered impudently at Kniaz. The sallow in Kniaz’s cheeks turned to white, and the cast in his eyes became ten times more pronounced. But he said nothing – only drooped his head and shuffled a little closer to me.

“For the rest of the day he spoke little; and I could tell from his expression and general air of dejection that he was still brooding over the incident. The following morning – we stayed the night in a wayside inn – Kniaz informed me that the route we had intended taking to Skaravoski – the town I meant to make the head quarters for my daily excursions – was blocked (a blood feud had suddenly been declared between two tribes), and that consequently we should have to go by some other way.

I inquired who had told him and whether he was sure the information was correct. He replied that our host had given him the warning, and that the possibility of such an occurrence had been suggested to him before leaving Cetinge. ‘But,’ he added, ‘there is no need to worry, for the other road, though somewhat wild and rough, is, in reality, quite as safe, and certainly a good league and a half shorter.’

As it made no very great difference to me which way I went, I acquiesced. There was no reason to suspect Kniaz of any sinister motive – cases of treachery on the part of escorts are practically unknown in Montenegro – and if it were true that some of the tribes were engaged in a vendetta, then I certainly agreed that we could not give them too wide a berth. At the same time I could not help observing a strange innovation in Kniaz’s character.

Besides the sullenness that had laid hold of him since his encounter with the man and girl, he now exhibited a restless eagerness – his eyes were never still, his lips constantly moved, and I could frequently hear him muttering to himself as we trudged along. He asked me several times if I believed in the supernatural, and when I laughingly replied ‘No, I am far too practical and level-headed,’ he said ‘Wait. We are now in the land of spirits. You will soon change your opinion.’

“The country we were traversing was certainly forbidding – forbidding enough to be the hunting ground of legions of ferocious animals. But the supernatural! Bah! I flouted such an idea.

All day we journeyed along a lofty ridge, from which, shortly before dusk, it became necessary to descend by a narrow and precipitous declivity, full of danger and difficulty. At the bottom we halted three or four hours, to wait for the moon, in a position sufficiently romantic and uncomfortable. A north-east wind, cold and biting, came whistling over the hills, and seemed to be sucked down into the hollow where we sat on the chilly stones.

The moment we sighted the slightly depressed orb of the moon over the vast hill of rocks, and the Milky Way spanning the heavens with a brilliancy seen only in the East, we pushed on again. On, along a painfully rough and uneven track, flanked on either side by perpendicular masses of rock that reared themselves, black and frowning, like some huge ruined wall. On, till we eventually came to the end of the defile. Then an extraordinary scene burst upon us.

“Whilst the irregular line of rocks continued close on our left, beyond it – glittering in the miraculously magnifying moonlight with more gigantic proportions than nature had afforded – was a huge pile of white rocks, looking like the fortifications of some vast fabulous city. There were yawning gateways flanked by bastions of great altitude; towers and pyramids; crescents and domes; and dizzy pinnacles; and castellated heights; all invested with the unearthly grandeur of the moon, yet showing in their wide breaches and indescribable ruin sure proofs that during a long course of ages they had been battered and undermined by rain, hurricane, and lightning, and all the mighty artillery of time.

Piled on one another, and repeated over and over again, these strangely contorted rocks stretched as far as the eye could reach, sinking, however, as they receded, and leading the mind, though not the eye, down to the plain below, through which a turbid stream wound its way rebelliously, like some great twisting, twirling, silvery-scaled serpent.

“It was into this gorge that Kniaz in a voice thrilling with excitement informed me we must plunge.

“‘It is called,’ he explained to me, ‘the haunted valley, and it is said to have been from time immemorial under the spell of the grey spirits – a species of phantasm, half man and half animal, that have the power of metamorphosing men into wild beasts.’

Horses, he went on to inform me, showed the greatest reluctance to enter the valley, which was a sure proof that the place was in very truth phantom-ridden. I must say its appearance favoured that theory. The path by which we descended was almost perpendicular, and filled with shadows. Precipices hemmed us in on every side; and here and there a huge fragment of rock, standing like a petrified giant, its summit gleaming white in the moonbeams, barred our way.

“On reaching the bottom we found ourselves exactly opposite the pile of white rocks, at the base of which roared the stream. Kniaz now declared that our best plan was to halt and bivouac here for the night. I expostulated, saying that I did not feel in the least degree tired, that the spot was far from comfortable, and that I preferred to push on.

Kniaz then pleaded that he was too exhausted to proceed, and, in fact, whined to such an extent that in the end I gave way, and lying down under cover of a boulder, tried to imagine myself in bed. I did actually fall asleep, and awoke with the sensation of something crawling over my face.

Sitting up, I looked around for Kniaz – he was nowhere to be seen. The oddness of his behaviour, his alternate talkativeness and sullenness, and the anxiety he had manifested to come by this route, made me at last suspicious. Had he any ulterior motive in leading me hither? What had become of him? Where was he?

I got up and approached the margin of the stream, and then for the first time I felt frightened. The illimitable possibilities of that enormous mass of castellated rocks towering above me both quelled and fascinated me. Were these flickering shadows shadows, or – or had Kniaz, after all, spoken the truth when he said this valley was haunted?

The moonlight rendered every object I looked upon so startlingly vivid, that not even the most trivial detail escaped my notice, and the more I scrutinized the more firmly the conviction grew on me that I was in a neighbourhood differing essentially from any spot I had hitherto visited. I saw nothing with which I had been formerly conversant.

The few trees at hand resembled no growth of either the torrid, temperate, or northern frigid zones, and were altogether unlike those of the southern latitudes with which I was most familiar. The very rocks were novel in their mass, their colour, and their stratification; and the stream itself, utterly incredible as it may appear, had so little in common with the streams of other countries that I shrank away from it in alarm. I am at a loss to give any distinct idea of the nature of the water. I can only say it was not like ordinary water, either in appearance or behaviour.

Even in the moonlight it was not colourless, nor was it of any one colour, presenting to the eye every variety of green and blue. Although it fell over stones and rocks with the same rapid descent as ordinary water, it made no sound, neither splash nor gurgle.

Summoning up courage, I dipped my fingers in the stream; it was quite cold and limpid. The difference did not lie there. I was still puzzling over this phenomenon, still debating in my mind the possibility of the valley being haunted, when I heard a cry – a peculiarly ominous cry – human and yet animal. For a few seconds I was too overcome with fear to move. At last, however, having in some measure pulled myself together, I ventured cautiously in the direction of the noise, and after treading as lightly as I could over the rough and rocky soil for some couple of hundred yards, suddenly came to an abrupt standstill.

“Kneeling beside the stream with its back turned to me was an extraordinary figure – a thing with a man’s body and an animal’s head – a dark, shaggy head with unmistakable prick ears. I gazed at it aghast. What was it? What was it doing?

As I stared it bent down, lapped the water, and raising its head, uttered the same harrowing sound that had brought me thither. I then saw, with a fresh start of wonder, that its hands, which shone very white in the moonlight, were undergoing a gradual metamorphosis. I watched carefully, and first one finger, and then another, became amalgamated in a long, furry paw, armed with sharp, formidable talons.

“I suppose that in my fear and astonishment I made some sound of sufficient magnitude to attract attention; anyhow, the creature at once swung round, and, with a snarl of rage, rushed savagely at me. Being unarmed, and also, I confess, unnerved, I completely lost my presence of mind, and not attempting to escape – though flight would have been futile, for I was nothing of a runner – shrieked aloud for help.

The thing sprang at me, its jaws wide open, its eyes red with rage. I struck at it wildly, and have dim recollections of my puny blows landing on its face. It closed in on me, and gripping me tightly round the body with its sinewy arms, hurled me to the ground. My head came in violent contact with a stone, and I lost consciousness. On recovering my senses, I was immeasurably surprised to find Dalghetty sitting on a rock watching me, whilst close beside him was Kniaz, bloodstained and motionless.

“Dalghetty explained the situation. ‘Convinced that evil would befall you in the company of such a man,’ he said, pointing to the figure at his feet, ‘I determined to set out in pursuit of you. By a miracle, which I attribute to Our Lady, the effects of my accident suddenly wore off, and I felt absolutely well. I borrowed a horse, and, starting from Cetinge at nine this morning, reached the inn where you passed last night at eleven. There I learned the route you had taken, and leaving the horse behind – on such a road I was safer on my legs – I pressed on.

The ground, being moist in places, revealed your footprints, and I had no difficulty at all in tracing you to the bottom of the declivity. There I was at sea for some moments, since the rocky soil was too hard to receive any impressions. But hearing the howl of some wild animal, I concluded you were attacked, and, guided by the sound, I arrived here to find a werwolf actually preparing to devour you. A bullet from my rifle speedily rendered the creature harmless, and a close inspection of it proved that my surmises were only too correct. It was none other than our friend here with the evil eye – Kniaz!’

“‘Kniaz a werwolf!’ I ejaculated.

“‘Yes! he inveigled you here because he had made up his mind to drink the water of the enchanted stream, and so become metamorphosed from a man to a wild beast. His object in doing so was to destroy a young farmer who had stolen his sweetheart, and for whom he, as a man, was no match. However, he is harmless now, but it is a warning to you in future to trust no one who has the evil eye.'”

An Encounter With A Werewolf

From the book Werwolves, by Elliott O’Donnell, first published in 1912, we have this account of a lupine phantasm representing the personality of the werewolf which occurred in Estonia, on the shores of the Baltic.

A gentleman and his sister, whom I will call Stanislaus and Anno D’Adhemar, were invited to spend a few weeks with their old friends, the Baron and Baroness Von A—, at their country home in Estonia. On the day arranged, they set out for their friends’ house, and alighting at a little station, within twenty miles of their destination, were met by the Baron’s droshky.

It was one of those exquisite evenings – a night light without moon, a day shady without clouds – peculiar to that clime. Indeed, it seemed as if the last glow of the evening and the first grey of the morning had melted together, and as if all the luminaries of the sky merely rested their beams without withdrawing them.

To Stanislaus and Anno, jaded with the wear and tear of life in a big city, the calm and quiet of the country-side was most refreshing, and they heaved great sighs of contentment as they leaned far back amid the luxurious upholstery of the carriage, and drew in deep breaths of the smokeless, pure, scented air. Their surroundings modelled their thoughts. Instead of discussing monetary matters, which had so long been uppermost in their minds, they discoursed on the wonderful economy of happiness in a world full of toil and struggle; the fewer the joys, they argued, the higher the enjoyment, till the last and highest joy of all, true peace of mind, i.e., content, was the one joy found to contain every other joy.

Occasionally they paused to remark on the brilliant lustre of the stars, and, not infrequently, alluded to the Creator’s graciousness in allowing them to behold such beauty. Occasionally, too, they would break off in the midst of their conversation to listen to the plaintive utterings of some night bird or the shrill cry of a startled hare.

The rate at which they were progressing – for the horses were young and fresh – speedily brought them to an end of the open country, and they found themselves suddenly immersed in the deepening gloom of a dense and extensive forest of pines. The track now was not quite so smooth; here and there were big ruts, and Stanislaus and his sister were subjected to such a vigorous bumping that they had to hold on to the sides of the droshky, and to one another.

In the altered conditions of their travel, conversation was well-nigh impossible. The little they attempted was unceremoniously jerked out of them, and the nature of it – I am loath to admit – had somewhat deteriorated. It had, in fact, in accordance with their surroundings, undergone a considerable change.

“What a vile road!” Stanislaus exclaimed, clutching the side of the droshky with both hands to save himself from being precipitated into space.

“Yes – isn’t – it?” gasped Anno, as she lunged forward, and in a vain attempt to regain her seat fell on their handbag, which gave an ominous squish. “I declare there – there – will be – nothing left of me – by the – by the time we get there. Oh dear! Whatever shall I do? Wherever have you got to, Stanislaus?”

The upper half of Stanislaus was nowhere to be seen! His lower half, however, was discovered by his sister convulsively pressed against the side of the droshky. In another moment this, too, would undoubtedly have disappeared, and the lower extremities would have gone in pursuit of the upper, had not Anno with admirable presence of mind effected a rescue. She tugged at her brother’s coat-tails in the very nick of time, with the result that his whole body once again hove into view.

Just then a bird sang its final song before retiring for the night, and Stanislaus, hot and trembling all over, shouted out: “What a hideous noise! I declare it quite frightened me”; whilst Anno shuddered and put her fingers in her ears. They once more abused the road; then the trees.

“Great ugly things,” they said; “they shut out all the light.”

And then they abused the driver for not looking out where he was going, and finally they began to abuse one another. Anno abused Stanislaus, because he had disarranged her hat and hair, and Stanislaus, Anno, because he couldn’t hear all she said, and because what he did hear was silly. Then the Stygian darkness of the great pines grew; and the silence of wonder fell on the two quarrellers.

On, on, on rolled the droshky, a monotonous rumble, rumble, that sounded very loud amid the intense hush that had suddenly fallen on the forest. Stanislaus and Anno grew drowsy; the cold night air, crowning their exertions of the day, induced sleep, and they were soon very much in the land of nods: Stanislaus with his head thrust back as far as it would go, and Anno with her head leaning slightly forward and her chin deeply rooted in the silvery recesses of her rich fur coat.

The driver stopped for a moment. He had to attend to his lights, which, he reflected, were behaving in rather an odd manner. Then, scratching his head thoughtfully, he cracked his whip and drove hurriedly on. Once again, rumble, rumble, rumble; and no other sounds but far away echoes and the gentle cooing of a soft night breeze through the forked and ragged branches of the sad and stately pines. On, on, on, the light uncertain and the horses brisk.

Suddenly the driver hears something – he strains his ears to catch the meaning of the sounds – a peculiar, quick patter, patter – coming from far away in the droshky’s wake. There is something – he can’t exactly tell what – in those sounds he doesn’t like; they are human, and yet not human; they may proceed from some one running – some one tall and lithe, with an unusually long stride. They may – and he casts a shuddering look over his shoulder as the thought strikes him – they may be nothing human – they may be the patter of a wolf! A huge, gaunt, hungry wolf! an abnormally big wolf! a wolf with a gallop like that of a horse!

The driver was new to these parts; he had but lately come from the Baron’s establishment in St. Petersburg. He had never been in this wood after dark, and he had never seen a wolf save in the Zoological Gardens. The atmosphere now began to sharpen. From being merely cold it became positively icy, and muttering, “I never felt anything like this in St. Petersburg,” the driver shrank into the depths of his furs, and tried to settle himself more comfortably in his seat.

The horses, too, four in number, were strangers in Estonia, the Baron having only recently paid a heavy price for them in Nava on account of their beauty. Not that they were merely handsome; despite their small and graceful build, and the glossy sleekness of their coats, they were both strong and spirited, and could cover twenty-five versts without a pause. But now they, too, heard the sounds – there was no doubt of that – and felt the cold.

At first they shivered, then whined, and then came to an abrupt halt; and then, without the slightest warning, tore the shifting tag and rag tight around them, and bounding forward, were off like the wind. Then, away in their rear, and plainly audible above the thunder of their hoofs, came a moaning, snarling, drawn-out cry, which was almost instantly repeated, not once, but again and again.

Stanislaus and Anno, who had been rudely awakened from their slumbers by the unusual behaviour of the horses, were now on the qui vive.

“Good heavens! What’s that?” they cried in chorus.

“What’s that, coachman?” shrieked Anno, digging the shivering driver in the back.

“Volki, mistress, volki!” was the reply, and on flew the droshky faster, faster, faster!

To Stanislaus and Anno the word “wolves” came as a stunning shock. All the tales they had ever heard of these ferocious beasts crowded their minds at once. Wolves! was it possible that those dreadful bogies of their childhood – those grim and awful creatures, grotesquely but none the less vividly portrayed in their imagination by horror-loving nurses – were actually close at hand! Supposing the brutes caught them, who would be eaten first? Anno, Stanislaus, or the driver? Would they devour them with their clothes on? If not, how would they get them off?

Then, filled with morbid curiosity, they strained their ears and listened. Again – this time nearer, much nearer – came that cry, dismal, protracted, nerve-racking. Nor was that all, for they could now discern the pat-pat, pat-pat of footsteps – long, soft, loping footsteps, as of huge furry paws or naked human feet. However, they could see nothing – nothing but blackness, intensified by the feeble flickering of the droshky’s lanterns.

“Faster! drive faster!” Anno shouted, turning round and poking the coachman in the ribs with her umbrella. “Do you want us all to be eaten?”

“I can’t mistress, I can’t!” the man expostulated; “the horses are outstripping the wind as it is. They can’t go quicker.” And the driver, consigning Stanislaus and his sister to the innermost recesses of hell, prayed to the Virgin to save him.

Nearer and nearer drew the steps, and again a cry – a cry close behind them, perhaps fifty yards – fifty yards at the most. And as they were trying to locate it there burst into view a gigantic figure – nude and luminous, a figure that glowed like a glow-worm and bent slightly forward as it ran. It covered the ground with long, easy, swinging strides, without any apparent effort.

In general form its body was like that of a man, saving that the limbs were longer and covered with short hair, and the feet and hands, besides being larger as a whole, had longer toes and fingers. Its head was partly human, partly lupine – the skull, ears, teeth, and eyes were those of a wolf, whilst the remaining features were those of a man. Its complexion was devoid of colour, startlingly white; its eyes green and lurid, its expression hellish.

Stanislaus and Anno did not know what to make of it. Was it some terrible monstrosity that had escaped from a show, or something that was peculiar to the forest itself, something generated by the giant trees and dark, silent road? In their sublime terror they shrieked aloud, beat the air with their hands to ward it off, and finally left their seats to cling on to the back of the driver’s box.

But it came nearer, nearer, and nearer, until they were almost within reach of its arms. They read death in the glinting greenness of its eyes and in the flashing of its long bared teeth. The climax of their agony, they argued, could no longer be postponed. The thing had only to make a grab at them and they would die of horror – die even before it touched them. But this was not to be.

They were still staring into the pale malevolent face drawing nearer and nearer, and wondering when the long twitching fingers would catch them by the throats, when the droshky with a mad swirl forward cleared the forest, and they found themselves gazing wildly into empty moonlit space, with no sign of their pursuer anywhere.

An hour later they narrated their adventure to the Baron. Nothing could have exceeded his distress. “My dear friends!” he said, “I owe you a profound apology. I ought to have told my man to choose any other road rather than that through the forest, which is well known to be haunted. According to rumour, a werwolf – we have good reason to believe in werwolves here – was killed there many years ago.”

Jaguar Vengence

From the book Werwolves, by Elliott O’Donnell, first published in 1912, we have this account:

A Dutch trader, of the name of Van Hielen, was visiting for purely business purposes an Indian settlement in a very remote part of the colony. Roaming about the village one evening, he came to a hut standing alone on the outskirts of one of those dense forests that are so characteristic of Arawak.

Van Hielen paused, and was marvelling how anyone could choose to live in so outlandish and lonely a spot, when a shrill scream, followed by a series of violent guttural ejaculations, came from the interior of the building, and the next moment a little boy – some seven or eight years of age – rushed out of the house, pursued by a prodigiously fat woman, who whacked him soundly across the shoulders with a knotted club and then halted for want of breath.

Van Hielen, who was well versed in the native language, politely asked her what the boy had done to deserve so severe a chastisement.

“Done!” the woman replied, opening her beady little eyes to their full extent; “why, he’s not done anything – that’s why I beat him – he’s incorrigibly idle. He and his sister spend all their time amid the trees yonder conversing with the bad spirits. They learned that trick from Guska, with the evil eye. She has bewitched them. She was shot to death with arrows in the market-place last year, and my only regret is that she wasn’t put out of the way ten years sooner. Ah! there’s that wicked girl Yarakna – she’s been hiding from me all the day. I must punish her, too!”

And before Van Hielen could speak the indignant parent waddled off – with surprising swiftness for one of her vast proportions – and reappeared dragging by the wrist an elfish-looking girl of about ten. She gave the urchin one blow, and was about to give her another, when Van Hielen, whose heart was particularly tender where children were concerned, interfered, and by dint of bribery persuaded her to desist. She retired indoors, and Van Hielen found himself alone with the child.

“May the spirit of the woods for ever be your friend!” the maiden said. “But for you my poor back would have been beaten to a tonka bean. My brother and I have suffered enough at the hands of the old woman – we’ll suffer no more.”

“What will you do then?” Van Hielen asked, shocked at the revengeful expression that marred the otherwise pretty features of the child. “Remember, she is your mother, and has every right to expect you to be obedient and industrious.”

“She is not our mother!” the girl answered. “Our mother is the spirit of the woods. We work for her – not for this old woman, and in return she tells us tales and amuses us.”

“You work for her!” Van Hielen said in amazement. “What do you mean?”

The child smiled – the ignorance of the white man tickled her. “We gather aloes for medicine for her sick children; the core of the lechugilla for their food, yucca leaves for plumes for their heads, and scarlet panicles of the Fouquiera splendens for their clothes. My brother and I will go to her to-night when the old woman is sleeping. Where? Ah! we do not tell anyone that. Do we see her? The spirit of the woods, you mean? Yes, we see her, but it is not every one who can see her–only those who have sight like ours. But I must go now–my brother is calling me.”

Van Hielen could hear nothing; though he did not doubt, from the child’s behaviour, that she had been called. She ran merrily away, and he watched her black head disappear in the thick undergrowth facing him. Van Hielen’s curiosity was roused. What the child had said impressed him deeply; and against his saner judgment he resolved to secrete himself near the hut and watch.

After it had been dusk some time, and all sounds had ceased, he saw the two children emerge from the hut, and, tiptoeing softly towards the trees, fall on their hands and knees and crawl along a tiny, deviating path. Hardly knowing what he was doing, but impelled by a force he could not resist, Van Hielen followed them.

It was a delicious night–at that time of year every night in Arawak is delicious–and Van Hielen, who was very simple in his love of nature, imbibed delight through every pore in his body. As he trod gently along, pushing first this branch and then that out of the way, and stooping down to half his height to creep under a formidable bramble, countless voices from animal land fell on his ears.

From a glimmering patch of water, away on his left, came the trump of a bull-frog and the wail of the whip-poor-will; a monkey chattered, a parrot screeched, whilst a shrill cry of terror, accompanied by a savage growl, plainly told of the surprise and slaughter of some defenseless animal by one of the many big beasts of prey that made every tree their lurking place.

On any other occasion Van Hielen would have thought twice before embarking on such an expedition;  but that night he seemed to be labouring under some charm which had lulled to sleep all sense of insecurity. It was true he was armed, but of what avail is a rifle against the unexpected spring of a jaguar or leopard–from a bough some ten or twenty feet directly over one’s head–or the sudden lunge of a boa constrictor!

At first, the path wound its way through a dense chapparal consisting of the various shrubs and plants rarely to be met with in other parts of Arawak, namely, acacias, aloes, lechuguillas, and the Fouquiera splendens. But after a short time this kind of vegetation was succeeded by something far more imposing – by dense masses of trees, many of them at the least one hundred and fifty feet in height: the mora, which from a distance appears like a hillock clothed with the brightest vegetation; the ayucari, or red cedar; and the cuamara, laden with tonka beans. So thick was their foliage overhead that one by one Van Hielen watched the stars disappear; and the path ahead of him darkened till it was as much as he could do to grope along.

Still he was not afraid. The thought of that elfish little maiden with the luminous eyes crawling along in front of him inspired him with extraordinary confidence and he plunged on, anxious only to catch another glimpse of her and see the play out. Once his progress was interrupted by something hot and leathery, that pushed him nearly off his feet and puffed rudely in his face.

It was on the tip of his tongue to give vent to his ruffled feelings in forcible language, but the knowledge that this would assuredly warn the children of his proximity kept him quiet, and he contented himself with striking a vigorous blow. There was a loud snort, a crashing and breaking of brushwood, and the thing, whatever it was, rushed away.

Another time he stumbled over a snake which was gliding from one side of the path to the other. The creature hissed, and Van Hielen, giving himself up for lost, jumped for all he was worth. As luck would have it the snake missed, and Van Hielen, escaping with nothing more serious than a few scratches and a bump or two, was able to continue his course.

After long gropings the path at length came to an end, the trees cleared, and Van Hielen saw before him a pool, radiantly illuminated by the moon, and in the very centre – an immense Victoria Regia water-lily.

Though accustomed to the fine species of this plant in Guiana – which is the home of the Victoria Regia – Van Hielen was doubtful if he had ever before beheld such a magnificent specimen. The silvery moonlight, falling on its white and pink petals, threw into relief all the exquisite delicacy of their composition, and gave to them a glow which could only have been rivalled in Elysium.

Indeed, the whole scene, enhanced by the glamour of the hour and the sweet scent of plants and flowers, was so reminiscent of fairyland that Van Hielen – enraptured beyond description – stood and gazed in open-mouthed ecstasy.

Then his eyes fell on the children and he noiselessly slipped back under cover of a tree.

Hand in hand the boy and girl advanced to the water’s edge, and kneeling, commenced to recite some strange incantation, which Van Hielen tried in vain to interpret. Sometimes their voices reached a high, plaintive key; sometimes they sank to a low murmur, strangely musical, and strangely suggestive of the babbling of brook water over stones and pebbles.

When they had finished their incantation, they got up, and running to some bushes, returned in a few seconds with their arms full of flowers, which they threw with great dexterity on to the leaves of the giant lily. With their faces still turned to the water they remained standing, side by side, whilst a silence–deep and impressive, and shared, so it appeared to Van Hielen, by all nature–fell upon them.

A cold current of air, rising apparently from the pool, blew across the opening, and sweeping past Van Hielen, set all the leaves in motion. It rustled on till its echoes gradually ceased, and all was still again. It now seemed to Van Hielen that the character of everything around underwent a subtle change; and the feeling that every object around him was indulging in a hearty laugh at his expense intensified with every breath he drew.

For the first time Van Hielen was afraid. He could not define the cause of his fear–but that only made his fear the more acute. He was frightened of the wind and darkness, and of something more than the wind and darkness–something concealed in–something cloaked by the wind and darkness. Even the atmosphere had altered–it, too, was making game of him. It distorted his vision. The things he saw around him were no longer stationary–they moved. They twirled and twisted themselves into all sorts of grotesque and fanciful attitudes; grew large, then small; nearer and then more distant.

The plot of ground in front of which the children knelt played all manner of pranks – pranks Van Hielen did not at all like. It moved round and round – faster and faster, until it eventually became a whirlpool; which suddenly reversed and assumed the appearance of a pyramid revolving on its apex. Quicker and quicker it spun round–closer and closer it drew; until, without warning, it suddenly stopped and disappeared; whilst its place was taken by an oddly shaped bulge in the ground, which, swaying backward and forward, increased and increased in stature, till it attained the height of some seven or eight feet.

Van Hielen could not compare this with anything he had ever seen. It was monstrous but shapeless – a mere mass of irregular lumps, a dull leadish white, and vibrating horribly in the moonlight. He thought of the children; but where they had stood he saw only two greenish-yellow spheres that, twirling round and round, suddenly approached him.

As he started back to escape them, all was again changed. The lumpy figure had vanished, the atmosphere cleared, and everything was absolutely normal. There were now, however, solid grounds for fear. Advancing on him with flashing eyes and scintillating teeth were two vividly marked jaguars–a male and female. Van Hielen, usually calm and collected in the face of danger, on this occasion lost his presence of mind: his gun dropped from his hands, his knees quivered, and, helpless and inert, he reeled against the tree under which he had been standing.

The jaguars – which seemed to be unusually savage even for jaguars – prepared to spring, and Van Hielen, certain his hour had come, was about to close his eyes and resign himself to his fate, when the female brute, although the bigger and more formidable, hesitated – thrust its dark, handsomely spotted head almost in its victim’s face, and then, lashing its companion sharply with its tail, swerved aside and was off like a dart.

It took Van Hielen some minutes to realize his escape, and then, more in a dream than awake, he mechanically shouldered his rifle and slowly followed in the beasts’ wake.

An hour’s walking brought him to the end of the forest. The dawn was breaking, and the track leading to the settlement was just beginning to exhibit the mellowing influence of the first rays of the sun. There was an exhilarating freshness in the air that made Van Hielen keenly sensitive to the ambitious demands of a newly awakened stomach.

Opposite him was the hut of the old woman, the entrance somewhat clumsily blocked with a makeshift door. As Van Hielen looked at it curiously, wondering if the woman was in the habit of barricading it in this fashion on account of her proximity to the forest, sounds greeted him from within.

Stepping lightly up to the hut, Van Hielen listened attentively. Some big animal – a hound most probably – was gnawing a bone – crunch, crunch, crunch!

Van Hielen moved away, but hadn’t gone very far before an indefinable something made him turn back. That crunching, was it a dog or was it …?

His heart turned sick within him at the bare thought. Again he listened at the threshold, and again he heard the sounds – gnaw, gnaw, gnaw – crunch, crunch, crunch! He rapped at first gently, and then loudly, ever so loudly.

The gnawing at once stopped, but no one answered him. Then he called – once, twice, thrice: there was no reply. Assured now there was something amiss, he gripped his rifle, and putting his shoulder to the door, burst it open. A flood of daylight rushed in, and he saw before him on the floor the mutilated and half-eaten remains of a woman, and – did his eyes deceive him or did he see? Crouching in a corner all ready to spring, two magnificent jaguars. Van Hielen raised his rifle, but – in less than a second – it fell from his grasp.

Towards him, from the same spot – their small mouths and slender hands smeared with blood – ran Yarakna and her brother.

An Account Of A Weretiger

From the book Werwolves, by Elliott O’Donnell, first published in 1912, we have this account from an eye witness to a Weretiger transformation somewhere in the Jungles of India:

“Anxious to see if there was anything of truth in the alleged materialization of the tiger totem to those supplicating it, I went one evening to a spot in the jungle–some two or three miles from the village–where I had been informed the manifestations took place.

As the jungle was universally held to be haunted I met no one; and in spite of my dread of the snakes, big cats, wild boars, scorpions, and other poisonous vermin with which the place was swarming, arrived without mishap at the place that had been so carefully described to me–a circular clearing of about twenty feet in diameter, surrounded on all sides by rank grass of a prodigious height, trolsee shrubs, kulpa and tamarind-trees. Quickly concealing myself, I waited the coming of the would-be tiger-man.

“He was hardly more than a boy – slim and almost feminine – and came gallivanting along the narrow path through the brushwood, like some careless, high-spirited, brown-skinned hoyden.

“The moment he reached the edge of the mystic circle, however, his behaviour changed; the light of laughter died from his eyes, his lips straightened, his limbs stiffened, and his whole demeanour became one of respect and humility.

“Advancing with bare head and feet some three or so feet into the clearing, he knelt down, and, touching the ground three times in succession with his forehead, looked up at a giant kulpa-tree opposite him, chanting as he did so some weird and monotonous refrain, the meaning of which was unintelligible to me.

Up to then it had been light–the sky, like all Indian skies at that season, one blaze of moonbeams and stars; but now it gradually grew dark. An unnatural, awe-inspiring shade seemed to swoop down from the far distant mountains and to hush into breathless silence everything it touched. Not a bird sang, not an insect ticked, not a leaf stirred. One might have said all nature slept, had it not been for an uncomfortable sensation that the silence was but the silence of intense expectation–merely the prelude to some unpleasant revelation that was to follow.

At this juncture my feelings were certainly novel–entirely different from any I had hitherto experienced.

” I had not believed in the supernatural, and had had absolutely no apprehensions of coming across anything of a ghostly character – all my fears had been of malicious natives and tigers; they now, however, changed, and I was confronted with a dread of what I could not understand and could not analyse – of something that suggested an appearance, alarming on account of its very vagueness.

“The pulsations of my heart became irregular, I grew faint and sick, and painfully susceptible to a sensation of excessive coldness, which instinct told me was quite independent of any actual change in the atmosphere.

“I made several attempts to remove my gaze from the kulpa-tree, which intuition told me would be the spot where the something, whatever it was, that was going to happen would manifest itself. My eyes, however, refused to obey, and I was obliged to keep them steadily fixed on this spot, which grew more and more gloomy.

All of a sudden the silence was broken, and a cry, half human and half animal, but horribly ominous, sounding at first faint and distant, speedily grew louder and louder. Soon I heard footsteps, the footsteps of something running towards us and covering the ground with huge, light strides.

Nearer and nearer it came, till, with a sudden spring, it burst into view–the giant reeds and trolsees were dashed aside, and I saw standing in front of the kulpa-tree a vertical column of crimson light of perhaps seven feet in height and one or so in width.

A column–only a column, though the suggestion conveyed to me by the column was nasty–nasty with a nastiness that baffles description. I looked at the native, and the expression in his eyes and mouth assured me he saw more–a very great deal more.

For some seconds he only gasped; then, by degrees, the rolling of his eyes and twitching of his lips ceased. He stretched out a hand and made some sign on the ground. Then he produced a string of beads, and after placing it over the scratchings he had made on the soil, jerked out some strange incantation in a voice that thickened and quivered with terror.

I then saw a stream of red light steal from the base of the column and dart like forked lightning to the beads, which instantly shone a luminous red. The native now picked them up, and, putting them round his neck, clapped the palms of his hands vigorously together, uttering as he did so a succession of shrill cries, that gradually became more and more animal in tone, and finally ended in a roar that converted every particle of blood in my veins into ice.

The crimson colour now abruptly vanished–whither it went I know not–the shade that had been veiling the jungle was dissipated, and in the burst of brilliant moonlight that succeeded I saw, peering up at me, from the spot where the native had lain, the yellow, glittering, malevolent eyes, not of a man, but a tiger–a tiger thirsting for human blood.

The shock was so great that for a second or two I was paralysed, and could only stare back at the thing in fascinated helplessness. Then a big bird close at hand screeched, and some small quadruped flew past me terrified; and with these awakenings of nature all my faculties revived, and I simply jumped on my feet and–fled!

“Some fifty yards ahead of me, and showing their tops well above the moon-kissed reeds and bushes, were two trees–a tamarind and a kulpa briksha. God knows why I decided on the latter! Probably through a mere fluke, for I hadn’t the remotest idea which of the trees offered the best facilities to a poor climber. My mind once made up, there was no time to alter.

The wer-tiger was already terribly close behind. I could gauge its distance by the patter of its feet–apparently the metamorphosis had only been in part–and by the steadily intensifying purr, purr; so unmistakably interpretative of the brute’s utter satisfaction in its power to overtake me, as well as at the prospect of so good a meal.

I was just thirteen stone, seemingly a most unlucky number even in weight! Had the tiger wanted, I am sure he could have caught me at once, but I fancy it wished to play with me a little first–to let me think I was going to escape, and then, when it had got all the amusement possible out of me, just to give a little sprint and haul me over. Perhaps it was my anger at such undignified treatment of the human race that gave a kind of sting to my running, for I certainly got over the ground at twice the speed I had ever done before, or ever thought myself capable of doing.

At times my limbs were on the verge of mutiny, but I forced them onward, and though my lungs seemed bursting, I never paused. At last a clearing was reached and the kulpa-tree stood fully revealed. I glanced at once at the trunk. The lowest branch of any size was some eight feet from the ground. . . . Could I reach it?

Summoning up all my efforts for this final, and in all probability fatal, rush, I hurled myself forward. There was a low exultant roar, a soft, almost feminine purr, and a long hairy paw, with black, gleaming claws shot past my cheek. I gave a great gasp of anguish, and with all the pent-up force of despair clutched at the branch overhead. My finger-tips just curled over it; I tightened them, but, at the most, it was a very feeble, puny grasp, and totally insufficient to enable me to swing my body out of reach of the tiger.

I immediately gave myself up as lost, and was endeavouring to reconcile myself to the idea of being slowly chewed alive, when an extraordinary thing happened. The wer-tiger gave a low growl of terror and, bounding away, was speedily lost in the jungle. Fearing it might return, I waited for some time in the tree, and then, as there were no signs of it, descended, and very cautiously made my way back to the village.

“That night an entire family, father, mother, son, and daughter, were murdered, and their mutilated and half-eaten bodies were discovered on the floor of their hut in the morning. Evidence pointed to their having been killed by a tiger; and as they had been the sworn enemies of the young man whose metamorphosis I had witnessed, it was not difficult to guess at the identity of their destroyer.

“I related my adventure to one of the chief people, and he informed me he knew that particular kulpa-tree well. ‘You undoubtedly owe your salvation to having touched it,’ he said. ‘The original kulpa, which now stands in the first heaven, is said to have been one of the fourteen remarkable things turned up by the churning of the ocean by the gods and demons; and the name of Ram and his consort Seeter are written on the silvery trunks of all its earthly descendants. If once you touch any portion of a kulpa briksha tree, you are quite safe from any animal–that is why the wer-tiger snarled and ran away! But take my advice, sahib, and leave the village.’

“I did so, and on the way to my home in the hills visited the tree. There, sure enough, plainly visible on the silvery surface in the twilight, was the name of the incarnation of Vishnu, written in Sanskrit characters, and apparently by some supernatural hand; that is to say, there was a softness in the impression, as if the finger of some supernatural being had traced the characters.

I did not want any further proofs–I had had enough; and taking good care to see my gun was loaded, I hurried off. Nor have I ever ventured into that neighbourhood since.”

The Case of the Abbot Gilbert

From the book Werwolves, by Elliott O’Donnell, first published in 1912, we have this account of the case of the Abbot Gilbert of the Arc Monastery, on the banks of the Loire.

Gilbert had been to a village fair, where the good vintage and hot sun combined had proved so trying that on his way home, through a dense and lonely forest, he had gone to sleep and been thrown from his horse. In falling he had bruised and cut himself so prodigiously that the blood from his wounds attracted to the spot a number of big wild cats.

Taken at a strong disadvantage, and without any weapons to defend himself, Gilbert would soon have fallen a victim to the ferocity of these savage creatures had it not been for the opportune arrival of a werwolf. A desperate battle at once ensued, in which the werwolf eventually gained the victory, though not without being severely lacerated.

Despite Gilbert’s protestations, for he was loath to be seen in such strange company, the werwolf accompanied him back to the monastery, where, upon hearing the Abbot’s story, it was enthusiastically welcomed and its wounds attended to.

At dawn it was restored to its natural shape, and the monks, one and all, were startled out of their senses to find themselves in the presence of a stern and awesome dignitary of the Church, who immediately began to lecture the Abbot for his unseemly conduct the previous day, ordering him to undergo such penance as eventually, robbing him of half his size and all his self-importance, led to his resignation.

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