Of Werewolves and Men

Werewolves exist in almost every culture and have been present in almost every time down through recorded history. They have been there for our nightmares and our fantasies. They are our predators, protectors, and our excuse for bad behavior. Who are these beasts and where did they come from?

Back when Homo sapiens were competing with the other hominids for survival, a strange thing happened. We discovered that a relationship with canines would be the extra edge we needed. We provided food, shelter, and companionship to the highly social animal and they provided us with a hunting advantage, protection, and companionship. We assumed the position of alpha, and they happily followed. This was the beginning of the domestication of dogs. As dogs became more domesticated and genetically separated from wild wolves, the chasm between human and wolf grew as well. The cultural evolution of humans also caused problems for the nature of the wolf.

When wolves hunt as a pack, they serve a very important function. As predators, they cull the sick and elderly members of a herd to keep them healthy and vibrant. They decide which animals to attack by responding to the prey’s behavior. They choose very particular animals that give clues they are sick or are slowing the herd down. The Inuit of North America call this exchange the “conversation of death”.

As humans domesticated herd animals such as sheep and goats, the process bred many wild behaviors out of them. Now, when a wolf initiates this “conversation” with their livestock prey they are met with ignorance. The wolf’s reaction to this is to try to cull the entire herd. They kill more than they can eat and their attacks become a frenzy of fury and violence. Humans seemingly were behind the circumstances for the wolf’s reputation to be feared and demonized.

Over time, wolves became more and more misunderstood and reviled. Entire populations were wiped out in the effort to stop this beast from affecting our lives. The wolves ran. They hid from us. We no longer meant shelter, food or companionship to them. However, when humans needed explanations as to why good people did bad things, the wolf was still there to take the blame.

Wolves and humans have long been intertwined in the form of the shapeshifting creature, the werewolf. The earliest recorded legend of werewolves began with Ancient Greek mythology. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Lycaon, the King of Arcadia, is visited by Jupiter who reveals himself to be a god. Lycaon doesn’t believe this claim. He decides to test whether Jupiter was god or mere mortal by serving him the flesh of a human. Jupiter was wise to his antics, and transformed Lycaon into a wolf as punishment. This tale of King Lycaon gave us the word lycanthropy.

Could werewolves really exist? Even during times of belief, the consensus of historical scientists has been that it would be impossible for a man to turn into a wolf. Human bones just couldn’t make that kind of transformation. It takes weeks to months for a broken bone to heal. How could a bone transform its shape in just moments? As always, the skeptics were in the minority. Believers weren’t going to let go of their scape-wolf for the sake of reason.

According to folklore, there were many ways to become a werewolf. One could be born as a werewolf, scratched or bitten by a werewolf, or placed under a curse. Some people intentionally sought out ways to become a werewolf. They would visit a witch who would cast a spell, or they would perform a ritual with a salve and a wolf skin belt. The werewolf could be under the influence of poisonous plants or fungus, or a source of water from which a werewolf had taken a drink. Of course, possession by a demon wolf was always a possibility too.

Transformation was another story. Most often the change from human all the way to wolf took place in a matter of moments. In other cases, the transformation resulted in a hybrid creature that was half-man and half-wolf. In some stories, a man falls asleep under a bush while a wolf goes out and does his bidding. In others, being a werewolf did not result in any obvious physical change. Only behavioral changes pointed to lycanthropy.

Werewolves also have a strong connection to witches. During the Middle Ages, it was believed that werewolves were the victims of a witch’s curse. In other lore, witches and werewolves worked together, or the wolf might be the witch’s familiar. Alternatively, a witch could shapeshift into a werewolf. In the Navajo language, another word for wolf is “mai coh”, which also means witch.

Just as there were witch trials, there were werewolf trials. In medieval Europe there was a strong belief in werewolves, and lycanthropy was a crime punishable by death. The term lycanthropy originally meant “the disease of being a werewolf” and later clinical lycanthropy became “the disease of believing you are a werewolf”. Mental illness was actually used as an excuse in some of these early trials, but was a defense that rarely won.

In stark contrast to their status as savage beasts, wolves also have the reputation of being nurturing. From Roman mythology, we have the story of orphaned twin boys Romulus and Remus who were raised by a she-wolf. In stories of “wolf-children”, the wolves didn’t attack or eat these children, but instead cared for them as their own. However, when Peter Stumpp was convicted of being a werewolf in 1589, one of his crimes was devouring babies, including his own son. This was considered “wolfish” behavior.

Finally, in the latter part of the twentieth century, we started to see the error of our ways. A cultural shift took place and we began to see the nobility, intelligence, and importance of the wolf. Conservation programs began efforts to protect and restore them. Many regions started wolf recovery efforts in areas where their populations were in decline, such as the Yellowstone project that reintroduced the grey wolf to restore balance to the park’s ecosystem.

Hollywood has helped rehabilitate the wolf’s image. The documentary-style movie Never Cry Wolf raised awareness of the plight of the wolf. The French movie, Brotherhood of the Wolf, shows the savagery and fear surrounding the historical Beast of Gévaudan while expressing disappointment in the blaming and slaughtering of wolves. Even the perception of werewolves has changed in popular culture. In the movie Underworld, the Twilight series and the TV show Being Human, werewolves are portrayed as honorable, ethical, and even sexy.

In Native American culture, the wolf has always represented courage, strength and loyalty. Native American folklore tells stories of the connection between wolves and humans. Wolves are seen as powerful creatures that are a source of inspiration. Native people have a deep respect for the wolf. Perhaps they have had it right all along. If we all had that kind of respect for the noble animal, there would be a lot more werewolves popping up this time of year.

The Ghost Swing

Recently, rare.us posted a story about a father who was too scared to let his kids play on a swing at a playground because it was obviously haunted. That story can be found here.  Of course, Bryan and Baxter were compelled to take a trip out to a similarly haunted swing for a quick look.

The video says it all.

NASA’s Curiosity Rover takes image of what looks like cloaked woman on Mars!

I sighed a huge sigh of relief this morning when I saw the headline that a woman was spotted on Mars. Now The Weekly Mars News newspaper will be able to print that “Martian Woman Has Martian Bigfoot Baby” or “Martian Bigfoot’s Lonely Days Are Over”.

You know, headlines claiming that intelligent, complex life on Mars has been spotted are cute. Well, they would be cute if they were written by children for a school project. These headlines are written by adults. Adults that should know better. Adults that should understand that, well, for one thing, Mars is not in any condition to support complex life as we know it. Secondly, low resolution photos that get blown up tend to start to look confusing. Photos like this are basically a Rorschach test to see what stupid conspiracies you have floating around in your head. Any one person could see something different from any other person.

If we were to assume that life like this could exist on Mars, in analyzing the photo, we would need more info. What is the scale of the objects in the photo? The image in the famous Martian Bigfoot photo turned out the be only a few inches high. Too be fair, so was Marvin the Martian. We simply can’t jump to conclusions without more information but that is how you know that something is bullshit. You are fed conclusions with no real backup. Even in this short post I have backed up my conclusions with actual points of reality and I intend to update it as more information comes in.

Check out the story below. Just for fun, see how far your IQ drops from viewing it.

Woman Spotted On Mars

UPDATE!

Well, more information did come in. First off, I emailed my friend and research scientist, Dr. Stuart Robbins. This is what he had to say:

” I can tell you that my recollection is that the sedimentary layers are something around centimeters thick, and you’re looking at sedimentary layers there.”

Centimeters thick. That’s one tiny woman.

But there’s more! If you actually go to NASA’s site and look at all of the images taken by that camera (Mastcam: Left) on that day, you can see that it is actually a very small rock outcropping that looks different depending on the position of the sun. Just look at this post by Faktoider. They break it down real nice.

Here is a shot of the woman (who never moves) throughout the Martian day.m31

There are always pictures of things that look like other things. Your maturity level will often help dictate what you see. Check out these examples.

 

Prediction: Weeks of UFO Sightings Coming!

I just love how the media can unnecessarily stir the public into a frenzy over nothing. It is both fascinating and painful to watch the intentional ignorance of the public flex its muscles because it is far more exciting to be misled than to be discerning.

Watch this story from a local news station about bright little dots in the sky.

Police investigate UFO spotted over Breckenridge

The reporter even says that you can only really see them when the sun reflects off of them. That is the key. They are airplanes reflecting the sun. But why do they seem to hover for so long? Tell me, do airplanes only fly in one direction, always perpendicular to us? No. They often will be seen to be flying toward or away from us. Now stay with me, for this might blow your mind. If an airplane is reflecting the sun, it will appear as a reflection OF the sun (not the shape of a plane), i.e., a circular bright thing. If that same airplane is flying toward or away from your position, it will not appear to be moving. It will look like a hovering little bright dot.

Here is another question. Do airplanes fly in a straight line to their destination? No, they don’t. They make gradual turns and course corrections all throughout their flight. This can cause them to no longer reflect that sunlight back at you and make it appear as if they have disappeared. Whoa! Suddenly, they will correct their angle and they will have reappeared! Magic!

Now, here is where the prediction comes in. Planes are flying over us all the time but we often don’t pay too much attention or we are smart enough to recognize what they are. Now that the media has alerted us that these little dots that always used to be airplanes are now scary alien crafts, a whole lot more nut jobs will be craning their heads to the sky to witness the majesty.

Just as a test, I went out and snapped a few photos of the sky. Look what I found…

Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 11.36.13 AM Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 11.36.39 AM  Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 11.37.14 AM

Welcome to the Hotel Colorado

hotelcolorado2007This week past I tagged along with paranormal claims investigators Bryan & Baxter on a summer lecture tour at libraries across Garfield County, Colorado. During Q&A time there was one question that emerged at every session, “Is the Hotel Colorado really haunted?”

The Hotel Colorado stands in Glenwood Springs, a town known for its natural hot springs and vapor caves. Built by Walter Devereux and several other Aspen silver-mining magnates, the hotel is in the style of a European spa. It cost $850,000, although it sold for a third of this amount back in the 1960s. The hotel was opened in 1893 and quickly became a favorite of the rich and famous. Former U.S. President William Howard Taft was a guest of the hotel, while Theodore Roosevelt visited a number of times as he enjoyed hunting expeditions for bears and mountain lions. Legend has it that, one day, following an unsuccessful hunt; the hotel staff presented Roosevelt with a stuffed bear, which became the world’s first “teddy bear”.

Titanic survivor the “unsinkable” Margaret “Molly” Brown was an occasional visitor to the hotel. Room 661 was eventually converted into the Molly Brown Suite and decorated with rare family photos and Titanic memorabilia donated to the hotel by her family. This multi-room tower suite is said to be the most haunted part of the hotel; bedeviled by flickering lights, plumbing problems, and pictures that hang crooked. (You’d think they’d fix all of that for a room that costs $400.00 a night.)

Seeking relief from his tuberculosis, gambler and gunfighter John H. “Doc” Holliday spent the final six months of his life in Glenwood Springs. He is said to be buried in nearby Linwood cemetery, and whether this is accurate or not, there is a monument to his memory there. We hiked up the steep hill to visit the marker, and found his gravesite littered with coins, cigars, playing cards, and a shot glass. Doc Holliday is believed to be a resident ghost of the Hotel Colorado, although the place wasn’t even built when he died on November 8, 1887.

During World War II, the Hotel Colorado was converted into a Naval hospital and the 200-room hotel housed as many as 500 men suffering from war injuries and post-traumatic stress, or shell shock, as it was then known. The basement was converted into a morgue and crematory, and apparently, it overflowed with bones, which were eventually used as materials to reinforce the hotel’s stone foundation. To this day, the two enormous ovens used to burn the bodies remain in the basement of the hotel. This history is little known and, as a result, there don’t seem to be any ghost stories based around these grim facts.

During the 1920s, the hotel became a playground for Chicago gangsters, including brothers Bert and Jack Vervain (otherwise known as Diamond Jack Alterie). It is said that Al Capone frequented the hotel, but there is no record that he stayed there, although he was a guest of the Arlington Resort Hotel and Spa in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Some ghost hunters never let the facts get in the way of a good story, and it is told that Al Capone haunts a hydraulic lift that he used as an escape route during a police raid.

The Hotel Colorado is a hot spot for ghost hunters from around the country. Stories abound of spinning chandeliers, temperature changes, and the scent of perfume and cigar smoke. Some attribute the alleged hauntings to the vengeful Ute Indians who were chased out of the area by pioneers. One of the most popular stories is that of the “haunted elevator” that stops at all of the floors without passengers (although a little girl revealed to us that the local kids press every button and let the empty elevator travel to each floor.) The hotel is also supposedly the eternal home of a ghostly girl who fell down the staircase while chasing a ball, although there are no records of such an accident. Paranormal claims are often shared by multiple locations, and I recently heard this same story told about the Hotel Driskill in Austin, Texas.

So, what is the answer to the question of whether the hotel is haunted or not? The Hotel Colorado has a colorful history that is peppered with (and often obscured by) folklore. These are great stories, but there is no evidence of ghosts.

Dr. Karen Stollznow

Forced Into Possession

“Full” Disclosure?

What happens when you find out that a grisly murder has taken place in your house, and suddenly, you have trouble sleeping at night? Every sound you hear must be the ghost of those that lived and died here; spirits that are now tied to this place for all eternity. This homicidal information was not disclosed when you first took possession of the property and now you feel lied to, and you want to leave. On the other hand, the leasing company says “no”.

This happened to a family in Salt Lake City, UT. In a story outlined HERE, you will read about the “mysterious events” that drove them out of this nice house in a quiet neighborhood. (Which sounds like another “based on a true story” movie that needs to be rewritten and exploited…)

In the US, laws surrounding disclosure of a real estate’s past differ across states. Subjective claims such as “hauntings” shouldn’t be brought up, but major crimes should be disclosed. If you move into a house where a major crime took place, you could suddenly find yourself the recipient of the hatred and misunderstanding targeted at the property by those affected by the former happenings there. Your home should be your sanctuary, but knowledge of a violent past can certainly change that perception.

On the Topic of Perception

I first saw this story referenced on Facebook. I was tagged in a post about it and naturally read it. In the comments below the posting, I saw several people excited by the idea of going to investigate this house for paranormal activity. I’m sorry, but nothing compelling was reported in terms of paranormal activity by the family. Here is the list:

• Garage door opens and closes randomly

• Mother hears crying voices while in the shower

• Very young child talks to unseen visitor

These things are painfully explainable. I tend to not want to waste my time with questionable data that is only backed up with questionable data. If the young child was levitating while arguing with this invisible entity, that would be different.

First off, garage doors work on radio frequencies. It is not abnormal to have a neighbor with the same frequency. Every time either of you opens your garage door, the other opens or closes as well. It could also be that the mechanism is faulty. These possibilities need to be exhausted first.

Running water can easily mimic the sounds of other things. Do you think we call brooks “babbling” by accident? If you have any sound that continues for more than several seconds, your mind will attempt to create order in the chaos. How often do you think your phone is ringing while you dry your hair? This is called apophenia. Unless taking a shower makes your roommates cry with joy, you probably are experiencing this fun aural effect.

If you have a child that never talked to anything that wasn’t there, you might need to get that child checked out by a professional.

None of the “evidence” put forth to indicate “mysterious forces” is valid on its own. The fact that these claims are supposed to support each other is no more convincing.

If my voice could make any difference in this, I would tell the leasing company to let the woman out of her lease for not giving her the freedom to choose if this house’s past would bother her quality of life. I would not, however, have anyone waste their time on the paranormal claims of this residence until something far more convincing was reported.