Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Werewolf Syndrome: Compulsive Bestial Slaughterers

The Werewolf Tradition

Werewolf, by Charles-Le-Brun
Werewolf, by Charles-Le-Brun

Over several centuries, wolves have been the scapegoats for crimes committed in communities that defy casting blame a resident — including wolves that were actually humans who had changed their shape into animals.  These offenses seemed altogether inhuman, committed by someone possessed by a force that could only originate from some supernaturally evil place.  Former FBI profiler Gregg McCrary theorizes that the state in which some mutilated victims were found before people understood criminology may have spawned the werewolf myths.  "There's a reluctance to admit that someone in our community would be capable of the kind of evil we see in brutal murders," he says.  "Evil is so overpowering that we want to attribute it to some 'monster,' but the reality is that many good people can have some terrible flaws."

Gregg McCrary
Gregg McCrary

In some folklore, wolves were associated with the devil, so it was a natural step to view people who committed heinous and savage acts as having somehow come into contact with Satan and been trapped by him in the form of a wolf.  There were also tales that he offered something tempting in exchange, or simply stated that the experience of transformation itself as a mystical medium.  Many different cultures have propagated such ideas, and werewolves have long held our fascination.

Anne Rice
Anne Rice

Author Anne Rice, famous for her writing on vampires and erotica, believes that the mythical notion of the werewolf embodied the blending of both sadistic and masochistic tendencies in people. "On the one hand, man is degraded as he is forced to submit to the bestial metamorphosis; on the other hand he emerges as a powerful sadistic predator who can, without regret, destroy other men."  In that case, the myth "may arouse emotions in us that are hard to define."  It's a sense of both attraction and dread.


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