In 1898, F. Asmus and O. Knoop wrote that by using what was called a wolf strap, it was possible for just about anyone to transform his or herself into a werewolf. If, however, someone were to call the werewolf by their human name, they would transform back into human form. As for what, exactly, a wolf strap was, the pair noted that it was “a gift from the devil.” They continued: “A person who possessed such a strap could not get rid of it, however much he wanted to. Anyone who accepted a wolf strap also had entered into brotherhood with the devil, surrendering body and soul to him. If real wolves were feared in earlier times, werewolves were feared all the more. A real wolf could be shot dead or lured into a so-called wolf pit, where it would perish from hunger. However, a werewolf could not be brought down with a rifle bullet, nor would it ever fall into a wolf pit.”
Asmus and Knoop put this question to their readers: “What is the use of running around as a werewolf?” It was, indeed, a good question. The pair answered it, themselves: “This was not done for no good reason. When the pantries and meat containers were empty, one would only have to fasten on the wolf strap, run off as a wolf, seek out a fat sheep that was wandering off toward the edge of the woods, creep towards it, seize it, and drag it into the woods. In the evening one could bring it home without anyone noticing. Or the werewolf would know when a peasant was going through the woods with a lot of money. He would ambush him, rob him, then run off across the field with the booty.”
In earlier times, the pair expanded, and after the horses had been unhitched from a wagon or a plow, “they would be driven out to a community pasture where they would be watched until morning by two herdsmen. Even colts were put out for the night. People took turns watching after them.” There was a very good reason for that: the fear the horses would become the victims of the deadly werewolves in their very midst. On this matter, Asmus and Knoop added: “Now once it happened that one of the two herdsmen had a wolf strap. After both herdsmen had kept watch for several hours they got sleepy and laid their heads down. The first one, however, who had heard that his companion possessed a wolf strap, only pretended to be asleep, and the other one thought that he was indeed sleeping. He quickly fastened the strap around himself and ran off as a wolf. The other one got up and saw how his companion ran up to a colt, attacked it, and devoured it.
“After this had happened, the wolf man came back and lay down to sleep. Toward morning they both awoke. The werewolf man was rolling around on the ground and groaning loudly. The other one asked him what was wrong. He said that he had a horrible stomach ache. To this the first one said, ‘The devil himself would have a stomach ache if he had eaten an entire colt at one time.’ The werewolf asked him to say nothing about what had happened. He kept silent about it for a long time, but later he did tell me about it, and now I too feel free to tell about it, because both men have been dead for a long time.”
And there you have it, the strange saga of werewolves and wolf straps!