The latter part of the 1800s saw a mysterious tale of shapeshifting surface out of Germany – a country that has a long and checkered history of encounters with werewolves. It’s specifically to the year of 1879 and the town of Ludwigslust to which we have to turn our attentions; a town with origins that date back to 1724, when one Prince Ludwig – also known as Christian Ludwig II – had his workers construct a hunting lodge in the area. Such was the prince’s love of the area, he renamed it Ludwigslust. Today, the town is dominated by the huge Ludwigslust Palace. In 1879, however, the area was dominated by werewolves; a family of them.
Even more than a century after the prince’s passing in 1756, the area was still a favorite one for hunting wild animals. One particular creature that became almost legendary was a large, wild wolf that seemingly was completely unaffected by bullets. The brazen beast would even creep up on hunters and steal their bounty: their dinner, in other words. It’s no surprise that word soon got around that maybe the wolf was more than just a nimble animal that had been lucky enough to avoid getting shot. Some thought it was supernatural in nature. Others, in quiet tones, suggested Ludwigslust had its very own werewolf. They were right.
On one particular day, a cavalry man rode into town atop his horse, with the intention of meeting a man who history only records as Feeg. The military officer found Feeg’s isolated home quickly. But, he didn’t find Feeg. Instead, he was confronted by a terrified group of young children who were seemingly fleeing for their lives, amid hysterical cries for help. One of the group breathlessly told the soldier that none of the family were home – except, that is, for a young boy who, the man was told, had shapeshifted into a werewolf before their terrified eyes. Quite understandably, none of them wanted to hang around to be attacked by the child-beast.
With the petrified group standing on the fringes of the property, the man made his tentative, cautious way towards the house. As he got to the door, the boy loomed into view; although, by now, he had reverted back to his human form. The cavalry man ordered the child to tell him what diabolical activity was afoot in the Feeg house. He soon got an answer; a deeply sinister one.
The boy told the man that his old grandmother – who comes across like a wizened old witch in the story – possessed a magical strap that, when he wore it, would transform him into a wolf. Incredibly, when asked to prove his claims, the boy did exactly that. The man, however, was leaving nothing to chance. He told the boy not to tie the strap around him until he, the man, was safely in the loft and with the stepladder out of the hands of the child. Now safe from attack, the somewhat skeptical man essentially said, “Do your worst.” He did.
As he placed the belt around himself, an uncanny transformation occurred and the boy, in an astonishingly quick fashion, mutated into the form of a large, formidable wolf. The beast-boy raced out of the front-door, terrorizing the group of children who, by now, had tentatively got closer to the property, and to the point where they fled for their lives. The werewolf then raced back into the house, flung off the belt, and immediately transformed back into human form. Despite the boy’s savage state when in definitive werewolf mode, while in human form he was placid and even polite – even to the point of letting the cavalry officer examine the belt, which, to him, exhibited no abnormal traits at all.
The man soon made an exit and shared his strange story with a local forester, who near-immediately concluded the werewolf-boy and the elusive, bulletproof wolf that had plagued the landscape for so long were one and the very same. The hunter proved to be highly proactive: he secured a number of silver bullets, vowing to slay the beast, once and for all. As luck would have it, the monster soon put in a return appearance. At first, it was the same old story: regular bullets seemingly had no effect on the creature. Frustration abounded among the hunter’s friends. He, however, equipped with silver-bullets – the arch-foe of the werewolf – had far more luck, hitting the animal, in one of its hind legs. It fell to the ground, with a pained howl. It was, however, too powerful for the hunters and suddenly leapt up and bounded away and towards the town.
Due to its injury, the werewolf was unable to outrun the hunters, who carefully followed it. It soon became clear that the terrible thing was heading for the Feeg home. As it shot through the door, the group followed. They entered the house, slowly and carefully, but the wolf-thing was nowhere to be seen. At least, not right away. With no sign of the beast in the living room or kitchen, a search of the bedrooms was made. Pay dirt was soon hit. Lying in one of the beds was an old lady; none other than the creepy crone and grandmother to the young boy-monster. To the group’s horror, the witch did not appear entirely human: a large, powerful, hair-covered tail hung over the side of the bed. The aged hag, in her state of pain from the piercing bullet, had not fully shapeshifted back into her human form.
What became of the woman and her grandchild is unknown. What we do know, however, is that 19th century werewolf chronicler Karl Bartsch investigated the story deeply; a story that still circulates among the approximately 13,000 people who, today, call Ludwigslust their home.