In the annals of the world of the strange, there are some cases that are really hard to classify. Some just seem to transcend borders and attempts to put them into any one file of the weird. For instance, there have long been the classic unexplained phenomena of ghosts, demonic possession, and werewolves, but very few cases that manage to blend them all together into a hybrid hodgepodge of bizarreness. Yet one of the most baffling and striking accounts of the paranormal manages to do just this. In a quiet seaside area of England, a normally mild-mannered family man found himself suddenly consumed by an ferocious, unidentifiable force that would go on to become a persistently odd case that would meld aspects of hauntings, possession and lycanthropy, and which remains a truly anomalous case that avoids easy classification.
The story of what would go on to be called the Southend Werewolf begins in the the Essex seaside town of Southend, England, on a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon in 1952. On this day, 9-year-old William Ramsey was out in the garden of his family home playing by himself as he tended to do. He was an imaginative boy, who would often spend hours out there in his own little world, lost in his imagination. There was nothing particularly odd about him being out there lost to his imagination on this day either, and having just returned from a day out at the movies watching films about World War II pilots he was out acting like he was a fighter pilot, much to his mother’s amusement. But then something decidedly odd occurred. After about an hour of playing out in the grassy backyard as usual, young Bill Ramsey suddenly felt a strange wave of cold wash over him, like some icy winter chill, even though it was a warm, pleasant afternoon. After this initial chill, he started shaking uncontrollably and he could detect an unpleasant odor permeating the air around him. He would later recount about the feeling:
Have you ever walked into a meat locker right after you’ve been outside on a hot day? That’s what this was like. I was playing and my body temperature was normal and then, well, I’d say it felt as if my body temperature dropped a good twenty degrees. Sweat froze on me and my whole body started shaking. It was as if I’d opened this door and stepped inside to another dimension or something. And there was this odor. Very foul. A few years earlier, a sewer on our street had backed up. I’d never smelled anything as bad as the gasses that escaped. And that’s what this smell was like that day, I was afraid I was going to vomit.
As young William stood there bewildered and trying to make sense of the strange sensations and smells assaulting his senses, they suddenly subsided, yet he felt that something within him had changed. He was no longer interested in pursuing his imaginative play, thinking it rather childish and petty, but was rather extremely tense, coiled, and on edge, his senses keenly attuned to his surroundings. He glanced around him and up at the darkening sky but everything seemed somewhat off to him, and images of wolves began to inexplicably dance through his head, as well as the irrational sudden urge to run off down the road on all fours towards the sea.
At some point, his concerned mother came over and called out to her son, trying to snap him out of his daze. It was at this point that Bill was suddenly overcome by a blinding, inexplicably burning rage that coursed through his entire body like an electrical current, and a deep growl lurched forth from his mouth. Before he even knew what he was doing, he allegedly tore a nearby fencepost completely out of the ground, along with its concrete mooring and wire fencing, displaying a vicious strength far beyond what such a young boy should have been capable of, and proceeded to swing it around like a baseball bat in some sort of adrenaline fueled rage. The out of character outburst was enough to frighten his parents into fleeing hastily into their home, where they waited for their son to calm down and gain some semblance of sanity. As they watched, their normally mild mannered son began to tear apart the wire fencing with his bare hands and even gnaw at it with his teeth like some sort of wild beast. Bill’s father decided to go try to subdue his son, but was met with a strength far beyond what he was expecting, and he was unable to pry the fencepost from the boy’s iron grip. With his own son snarling at him and lashing out at him like a beast, Bill’s father retreated back to the relative safety of the house.
After several minutes of his epic tantrum, little Bill Ramsey began to calm down and finally dropped the fencepost as he stood there panting like a dog, blood dribbling down his chin from the cuts he has sustained from biting the sharp fencing wire. After feeling the coldness and rage seep and leech away from his body, Bill trudged over to the house and calmly asked to be let inside. His parents obliged, but they did so cautiously, not sure if their son would revert to the animalistic fury he had displayed just moments before. As they awkwardly ate dinner that night in near silence, their thoughts going over the strange events of the day, they mentioned that whatever it was that occurred was not to be talked about again, and that they should try to forget it ever happened. It was at this time that Bill’s mother would later claim that she had noticed that her son had subtly changed somehow, although she could not quite put her finger on what it was.
The family went on to live a peaceful life without further such incidents. Bill Ramsey would go on to have a normal life, get married, and have three children. He became a respectable family man long past that fateful sunny day. However, shortly after his marriage he began to be plagued by vivid nightmares in which he would sometimes wake up panting or growling like an animal, much to the concern of his family. The bizarre dreams and episodes would eventually stop in 1967, after which the family seemed to be free of whatever issues were haunting Bill. They would have a happy life for years and Bill started to think his life was getting back to normal, but then in the 1980s a series of bizarre incidents would prove to him that there was still something very much wrong with him indeed.
In early 1983, Bill was out drinking with a group of friends when he claims he felt a sudden rush of icy cold and sweat, very similar to what he had experienced as a child. Feeling ill, he went to the restroom and says that when he looked into the mirror he could see the frightening visage of a wolf staring back at him. Steadily unsettled by the whole incident, he asked to be taken home, and as he was riding in the car with his friends he was reportedly overcome with an irresistible rage that took over his body and stole its control from him. He began to snarl wildly, turning to the friend next to him and attempting to bite his leg. The driver of the car was able to pull over, after which they all struggled to restrain Bill and get him under control, a feat that took all of them since he seemed to be displaying a freakish amount of strength. Bill would eventually come back to his senses, marking the end of a very strange, very awkward evening out. He would later say that he could remember nothing of the odd incident.
Later that year, things would only get stranger still. At around Christmas of 1983, Bill began to suffer from nearly incapacitating sharp chest pains, something which he had never really experienced before. He also was overwhelmed by a cold sweat that poured from his upper body. His immediate concern was that this was the onset of a major heart attack, and Bill found his way to the nearest hospital emergency room. Once there, he was urgently put on a gurney and prepared for examination, but as he waited he could feel the familiar odd chill from his boyhood episode spread out and overcome him once again. At one point, as a nurse bent over to examine him, Bill purportedly let out a guttural roar and lashed out at her with teeth bared, biting into her arm, after which he threw around furniture and scurried into a corner of the room to growl, roar, and pace like an animal. Police arrived, and together with hospital staff they were able to restrain the immensely strong, rampaging man onto a gurney and sedate him with tranquilizers, all the while as he ferociously snapped his teeth at them and roared like a wild beast. Witnesses would later say that Bill had seemed completely, utterly animalistic at the time, with his hands curved into claws, teeth bared, lashing out at those around him, and snarling and growling unintelligibly. One of the policemen who had helped to restrain Bill would later claim that the man’s eyes had looked feral and wolf-like.
The sedated man was brought to Runwell Mental Hospital, and when the drugs wore off Bill claimed that he had no recollection of what had happened and had no idea why he was at a mental hospital. Although doctors there suggested that Bill stay and undergo further evaluation and testing he declined, and since he had voluntarily checked himself in at the hospital he was allowed to leave. It was the attending psychiatrist’s opinion that he was likely to have another such episode in the future unless they figured out what was wrong with him but at the time Bill ignored him and went home, thoroughly exhausted from the whole ordeal and hoping that no further such mysterious attacks would emerge. The doctor would turn out to be right.
In January of 1984, Bill went to visit his mother and as he was driving home he felt another episode coming on. Realizing the now familiar tell tale signs of an impending episode, he rushed as fast as he could to the hospital and ended up in the same emergency room as he had been in before. However, by the time he arrived, the wolf-like ferocity had already utterly consumed him. When a lone nurse told him to wait a moment for a doctor, Bill allegedly lashed out at her and threw her roughly to the floor, before pouncing upon a startled orderly in a frenzy, choking him and trying to bite him. Police arrived shortly after and four officers warily circled Bill, who was by this time once again a savage, snarling beast. The beastly, fierce display was so frightening that none of the officers wanted to approach him, and when one did Bill’s response was to set upon him as a predator might do to prey, apparently injuring the officer so badly that he would remain at the hospital for 4 days afterward. The police would later claim that it took all four of them and all of their strength to get Bill into handcuffs, and that he had been much stronger than his appearance would suggest, to the point that they wondered if the handcuffs would even hold.
After he had been put into the handcuffs and thrown into the back of a patrol car, Bill reportedly came back to his senses and as before could not recall anything that had happened from the time that he had been approaching the hospital. After being interrogated and rationally attempting to tell his bizarre story to the no doubt skeptical authorities, it was recommended that he check himself into a mental hospital. Bill refused and was later released. Unfortunately, it would come to be clear that checking into a mental hospital might not have been such a bad idea at all.
On the evening of July 22, 1987, Bill stopped by a bar called the White Horse Inn to have a drink after a hard day at work. There he met some friends and they ended up having a good time chatting and drinking, although by the time Bill left the bar he was fairly drunk. Worried that he was too drunk to drive and that a policeman might pull him over, he nevertheless got into his car to drive home, deciding to take a quiet route home where he hoped he could avoid other people and the cops. At some point he came across a lone prostitute walking along the street and got the bizarre plan into his head to make a citizen’s arrest. He pulled the van over and invited the prostitute in, who obliged as she thought she was dealing with a customer. However, as they drove, she began to get a very strange and ominous feeling from Bill, as if he meant to do her harm. She soon asked to be let out and that was when Bill started to let out a rumbling growl under his breath.
When the car slowed down enough, the prostitute then allegedly made a panicked run for the nearest police station and Bill stepped out of the car to follow her. A police officer emerged from the station as Bill approached, and when he drew closer, the beastly force overcame him and he threw the policeman to the ground to begin choking him. Allegedly, the officer was much bigger than Ramsey, yet the smaller man exhibited almost supernatural strength and was easily able to overwhelm him. More police officers then came running to their fallen comrade’s aid, yet Ramsey proved to be a force to be reckoned with, easily tossing the men aside as he roared like an animal and allegedly spat out: “The devil is in me…I am going to kill you.” It would purportedly take 6 strong police officers and several injections of tranquilizer to bring the wild rampage to a stop. Again, Bill would later claim that he had no recollection at all of what had actually transpired. The prostitute, only known as “Lauren,” would later doubt that Ramsey had ever had any intention of arresting her, instead preferring to believe that he had picked her up with the expressed interest in attacking her.
In the aftermath of this vicious assault, Bill finally checked himself into a mental hospital for evaluation, fearing for his own safety and the safety of those around him. A slew of tests were run on him, including X-rays, MRIs, and various psychiatric tests, yet no discernible cause fro the outbursts could be found. There seemed to be nothing wrong with him, neither physically nor mentally. He was kept for observation for 10 days, during which time he remained his normal, rational and mild mannered self, leaving the hospital no choice but to release him.
The police station attack propelled Bill Ramsey’s case into international headlines, and soon everyone was talking about what was coming to be known as the “Southend Werewolf.” In the meantime, Ramsey had several more violent, animalistic episodes, which on several occasions prompted him to go to police and plead to be locked up to prevent him from harming anyone. Bill Ramsey’s plight would capture the attention of famed demonologists and supernatural investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren as they were on a trip to London. After contacting local law enforcement officials, the Warrens were able to get in touch with the Ramseys and arrange to meet with them.
While the Warrens at first were suspicious that the whole thing had been a hoax, after several talks with the police and Bill’s family, it soon became apparent that the strange events that had transpired were very real, although no one had any idea of what had caused them. The Warrens became convinced after several talks with Ramsey himself and his wife, Nina, that he was in fact possessed by a form of demon animal spirit. After much cajoling, Bill was convinced by the Warrens that he should come to their church in in Connecticut in order to undergo an exorcism with a Bishop Robert McKenna, who had many exorcisms under his belt. In 1989, Bill Ramsey and his wife made the trip to the States, hoping that perhaps an answer and cure could be found to his escalating condition.
In the days before the exorcism, there was a bizarre incident in which Bill attempted to choke his wife in her sleep, which he would not remember in the morning. When the time for the exorcism actually arrived, there were present Bishop McKenna, the Warrens, Bill Ramsey, his wife, paranormal investigator John Zaffis, staff from the tabloid magazine, The People, who had funded the trip, and several off duty policemen who were to serve as bodyguards if things should spiral out of control. When the exorcism began, Bill was reportedly skeptical and unimpressed, and as the Bishop rambled on in Latin he felt nothing whatsoever. He began to think the whole trip had been a waste of time, and later claimed that he had felt it was all “mumbo jumbo” at the time. Yet as McKenna began to press his stole against Bill’s head and demand that the demon identify itself, things would take a sudden turn for the weird.
Bill’s demeanor abruptly changed, he began to snarl viciously and his face contorted into a beastly visage, teeth bared and eyes wild. His hands also curled up into talons, and he began to thrash about in a rage. Lorraine Warren would later claim that even his physical characteristics changed, with his ears appearing more pointed, his face more feral, and his hands more claw-like. Bishop McKenna also said that Bill’s appearance had changed, and at that moment the frenzied demon possessed man lunged towards him trying to maul him. McKenna stumbled back away from him and produced a crucifix, which he held high while commanding in Latin that the demon leave at once. This seemed to only further infuriate the demon, and Bill lunged and swiped at the Bishop, who ordered the nearby policemen to stand down while things played out. Just as the frenzied, out of control Ramsey seemed to close in for the kill and was about to seriously hurt the Bishop, something odd happened. The man who had moments before been a whirlwind of snarling, spitting aggression suddenly fell to the floor in a heap, with one last roar rattling through him before he fell still. Bill would later say of what happened:
The poison that had been in my body drained from me completely. I was left without any strength at all, and when I turned to look at Nina, that small movement caused me to black out. I gripped the chair as tightly as I could and let the demon continue to be pushed away by Bishop McKenna’s Latin words.
The entire exorcism was allegedly caught on film, and all who were present remain adamant that it all really happened. Bill Ramsey, for his part, would go on to claim that he never experienced any more such incidents and was able to return to a normal, peaceful life. Ed and Lorraine Warren would go on to write a whole book on the case, entitled Werewolf: A True Story of Demonic Possession. As to what had actually been wrong with him, that depends on who you ask. According to the Warrens, Bill Ramsey was possessed by some form of demon. Another possibility is that he suffered from a mental condition known as “clinical lycanthropy,” in which the victim truly believes they are shapeshifting into an animal, which can range from wolf, to bear, to pretty much any other animal, including even frogs, rabbits, and bees. He could have also been exhibiting any number of psychotic disorders or mental issues. Some psychotic outbursts can produce exactly the kind of behavior seen in the Ramsey case, and could also possibly account for the displays of seemingly superhuman strength during his rages.
What happened to Bill Ramsey? Was this a man haunted by deep psychological issues, teetering on the brink of madness? Can all of this be explainable through rational symptoms of the human psyche? Or was there something more going on here? Could this have been an actual demonic possession by some form of animal spirit invading his body and our realm? All we know for sure is that those who witnessed the events claim it is all true, and the victims of Bill’s attacks, including law enforcement officials remain rather baffled about the whole thing. Considering that Bill Ramsey has had no further episodes and has since 1992 sort of dropped off the map, this is just about all we may ever know. The strange case of Bill Ramsey remains one of the more bizarre and perplexing cases of possession there is, managing to somehow marry the seemingly disparate phenomena of werewolves and demons together into one very weird concoction of the strange indeed.