Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Werewolf Syndrome: Compulsive Bestial Slaughterers

The Medical Literature

Not all people who suffer from the delusion of being a wolf actually kill other people.  Yet cases from psychiatric literature over the past thirty years can help us to understand something about their disorder.  Among the cases noted in the 1970s-era Canadian Psychiatric Association Journal and American Journal of Psychiatry are:

  • Mr. H, 21, was convinced that after taking a combined dose of LSD and strychnine, he could become a wolf.  He said the he'd actually watched the fur sprout on his hands and face, and it wasn't long before he felt the urge to chase and consume live rabbits.  During therapy, he heard voices, which he attributed to Satan, and believed that he possessed supernatural powers.  Toxicological tests assisted his doctors with a diagnosis of toxic psychosis.  They gave him anti-psychotic medication, to which he responded, but he then left therapy and could not be found thereafter.
  • Mr. W, 37, behaved in accordance with werewolf myths about howling at the moon, growing out his hair and beard, and sleeping in strange places outside.  A brain biopsy revealed deterioration of his cerebral tissue.  He responded positively to anti-psychotic medication, but he continued to show a mental age far below that which he'd exhibited before his psychosis set in.
  • Ms. B, 49, experienced constant fantasies about wolves and eventually came to believe she was transforming into one.  She might suddenly strip naked and drop to all fours at a party, or gnaw for hours at the bedposts.  She believed she was possessed by the devil and felt powerless to stop her cravings and compulsions.  She was put on medication and showed improvement except during a full moon phase.  When she looked into a mirror, she claimed that she saw a wolf's head.  Eventually she was released from the hospital, apparently freed from her delusions.


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