Werewolf Wednesday: Brad Steiger’s Monsters Among Us (1982)

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Brad Steiger’s 1982 book Monsters Among Us is a compendium of supposedly “true” reports of encounters with various cryptozoological or paranormal creatures, be they ghosts, sea monsters, Bigfoot, aliens or even Richard Shaver’s detrimental robots.

The chapter devoted to werewolves touches upon most of the famous cases; some of these I’ve written about already (Jean Grenier, the Gandillon family, Jacques Roulet, Olaus Magnus) and some that I haven’t got around to covering in detail (Gilles Garnier, the Beast of La Gevaudan). Mixed in are various unsourced and dubious descriptions of world myth and folklore (“In Australia, primitives paid homage to a semihuman figure, which clearly had the characteristics of a subhuman Neanderthal type”).

Steiger can hardly be called a rigorous scholar. His writing suffers from such lapses as referring to Olaus Magnus as “Claus Mangus” along with a general reluctance to cite sources. Even the order of presentation is oddly erratic: Steiger includes a paragraph on an incident from 1573 officials warning farmers in Dole to arm themselves against werewolves, but neglects to mention that this must surely have been a response to the Gilles Garnier case, which he covered a few pages beforehand.

The werewolf chapter closes with two particular cases that each get subheadings. The first is an account from one Harold M. Young concerning werewolf-like beings called Taws living in Burma; according to Steiger, Young told his story to an author named Ormand McGill. I suspect that the latter person was actually Ormond McGill; beyond this, I have found no solid information on either individual.

The other case is that of “The Werewolf of Texas”, a cryptid reportedly encountered in 1971 by Donald Childs and Bobby Ford of Lawton, Texas. Once again, I’m unable to find any sources independent of Steiger for this incident — and I notice that most of the online retellings identify the location as Lawton, Oklahoma.

In the middle of all this are three accounts where Steiger manages to cite specific historical authors and quotes them at varying degrees of length.

The first text in this section is referred to by Steiger as “The Chronicon of Denys of Tell-Mahre”. After some searching, I found that he was actually talking about the Zuqnin Chronicle, a text that, in the past, has been wrongly credited to Dionysius I Telmaharoyo. Steiger quotes a passage that describes “frightening and terrifying animals” going on the rampage in Tur Abdin and elsewhere in 774 AD.

I don’t know exactly what translation of the Zugnin Chronicle Steiger is quoting from; but I came across a blog post by scholar Roger Pearse where, in the comments section, a poster brings up the same excerpt (as reproduced in a later book on cryptozoology). Pearse replies by quoting a translation by Amir Harrak:

Moreover, frightful and dreadful animals appeared after this pestilence. They did not fear anything, nor did they run away from or were scared of people, but killed a countless number of them. They looked somehow like wolves, although they were a bit different from wolves in that the muzzle of each one of them was narrow and long. They had big ears, like those of a horse, and the hair, long and raised skyward, that covered their dorsal ridge looked like pig’s hair. They caused great harm to the people in Tur-‘Abdin. People said that they devoured more than one hundred men in one village, and in many others, twenty men in some, forty or fifty in others. People were not able to hurt any of them, /p.369/ nor did these flee from people. And if there were people who chased one of them with weapons, they were unable to do any harm to it. Nor did it run away from them but returned against them; and as their hands let loose their weapons, it jumped on them and tore them into pieces.

They used to break into houses and courtyards, snatching children and leaving, and there was no one to oppose them. Some of them climbed up high roofs during the night, snatching children from their houses, and then came down, and there was no one to oppose them. Not even dogs barked at any one of them! Because of this, this region suffered a more cruel and harsh calamity than all the ones which it had experienced before. Two or three persons were not able to walk together. Nor were cattle seen anywhere, because they were devoured by one of the animals; for if one of them went among goats or sheep, it snatched some of them.

Harrak’s translation includes a footnote identifying these beasts as hyenas: “The description of the animal is no doubt that of the hyena, a Greek name derived from ‘pig’ because of the animal’s bristly mane.” Steiger never mentions this possibility in his book, instead giving the general impression that the account is either a made-up folktale or a description of some sort of demonic entity.

The next text examined by Steiger is Ralph of Coggeshall’s Chronicum Anglicanum; this can be read in its original Latin at Archive.org, with the relevant passages occurring on pages 155-6. I’m not sure where Steiger obtained the English translation that he quotes from.

The first quoted incident comes from June 1205:

In the Holy Night of St. Jon the Baptist, all night thunder roared and… incessantly lashed all over England. A certain strange monster was struck by lightning at Maidstone in Kent….This monster had the head of strange being, the belly of a human and other monstrous members and limbs of animals unlike each other. Its black corpse was scorched and a terrible stench came from it and very few were able to go near.

After this is a description of incidents from the following July:

Horrible thunder and lightning raged during the right, over England, and many thought the Judgment Day had arrived….Next day, certain monstrous tracks (“large, pointed feet”) were seen at several places. The prints were of a kind never seen before and many claimed they were the tracks of giant demons.

Steiger then moves on to the sixteenth-century antiquarian John Stow, whose Survey of London contains this anecdote about St. Michael’s Church in Cornhill:

And here a note of the steeple, as I have oft heard my father report, upon St. James night, certaine men in the lofte next under the Belles, ringing of a Peale, a Tempest of lightning and Thunder did arise, an uglie shapen sight appeared to them, coming in at the south Window, and lighted on the North, for fear whereof, they all fell down, and lay as dead for the time, letting the Belles ring and cease of their own accord, when the ringers came to themselves, they found certaine stones of the North Window to be raysed and scrat, as if they had been so much butter printed with a Lyons clawe, the same stones were fastened there again, and so remayne till this day.

Between them, there is precious little in these three accounts to imply that any of these varied creatures are werewolves. The animals in the Zuqnin Chronicle are described as being part-wolf and part-pig. The monster written about by Ralph of Coggeshall is said to have both human and animal aspects, but there is no indication that the latter traits are specifically wolf-like. John Stow’s creature, meanwhile, had claws and presumably flew (given that it seems to have reached a bell tower via the window). None are associated with transformation. Really, Steiger could have included these accounts in his Bigfoot/Yeti chapter, and they would’ve been about as relevant.

His thinking appears to have been that, if werewolves were real and had existed throughout history, then witnesses would likely have identified them in terms of demons or evil spirits and produced descriptions similar to those above. But then, Brad Steiger was never one of the more skeptically-minded people in the fields of paranormal research and cryptozoology.

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