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The Shapeshifting Monsters That Lurk Among Us

My previous article was on the subject of the Skinwalker phenomenon. It’s a dangerous creature that’s known for its shapeshifting abilities. With that said, I thought I would share with you some of the other shapeshifting creatures that are lurking out there. And, usually, late at night. When else? While the traditional image of the werewolf is, without a doubt, the first thing that springs to mind when a discussion of shapeshifters takes place, the truth of the matter is that there is a veritable menagerie of such infernal things in our midst. Were-cats, were-tigers, were-hyenas, and were-coyotes are also near the top of the monstrous list. Then, there are the ancient beliefs that those who died violent deaths – or those who were, themselves, murderers – were often destined to return to our plain of existence in the forms of hideous beasts, including wild and savage ape-like animals, and fearsome black dogs with glowing and blazing red eyes.

Even the legendary monsters of Loch Ness, Scotland, are believed – in certain monster-hunting quarters – to be paranormal beasts that have the ability to alter their appearances at will. As are legendary vampires, who, the old legends suggest, can transform into the likes of bats and wolves. Collectively, all of these “things” amount to an absolute army of otherworldly creatures, and half-human monsters that have plagued and tormented us since the dawning of civilization. And, they show zero signs of slowing down anytime soon. The things you thought were only fit for campfire tales, late-night stories intended to thrill little children, and entertaining monster-movies, are, in actuality, creatures of the real world. Of our world. Shapeshifters are everywhere: they lurk in the shadows, in the deep woods and expansive forests, in dark and dank caves, and in the murky waters of our lakes and rivers. Maybe even, after sunset, in the recesses of your very own backyard, patiently waiting to pounce. And many of them like nothing better than to terrorize and torment us, the human race.

(Nick Redfern) The deadly Dogman on display at Defiance, Ohio

Located in northwest Ohio, the small and picturesque city of Defiance is home to around 17,000 people and has origins which date back to the latter part of the 18th century. In the summer of 1972, Defiance became a hot-spot for monster-seekers when locals reported a shapeshifting werewolf in their midst. Thankfully, the beast did not stay around for too long; but, from July to August of that year the man-beast most assuredly left its creepy calling-card and, as a result, the town was quickly under siege. Children were kept indoors after school. The local police carefully combed the neighborhood, by day and night. And werewolf fever was just about everywhere in town. Suddenly, the beast was gone and the terror was over. Moving head: In March 2007, when a local paranormal investigations group, the West Midlands Ghost Club, found itself on the receiving end of something extremely weird and surely unanticipated: a stash of reports of werewolf-like beasts seen lurking among the old gravestones. The story of how the WMGC came to be involved, and the nature of the encounters can be found at their online article, “But I’m Alright Naaooooowwwwwww!!!!!” Such was the interest that the reports provoked, Mike Lockley, the then-editor of the local – and now defunct – newspaper, the Chase Post, gave the story a great deal of page-space. To the extent that the publicity brought in even more reports. For around three months, the good folk of the Cannock Chase found themselves plunged into a controversy that had at its heart sinister shape-shifting monsters that lurked among the long dead. It was a controversy that very soon was destined to become filled with terror and hysteria.

(Nick Redfern) The mysterious Cannock Chase, a Werewolf Lair

In April 2016, a very strange story surfaced out of the north of England. And to the extent that not just the local media, but the national media, too, were busy chasing down the strange and sinister story of what has become known as the “Werewolf of Hull,” reportedly an eight-foot-tall, hair-covered monster. The case was, however, notable for the fact that several of the witnesses claimed the beast shape-shifted from a terrible, foul monster into the form of a black-cloaked old witch. Most of the reports surfaced in and around the vicinity of what is called the Beverley and Barmston Drain, a land drainage operation, the origins of which date back to the latter part of the 1800s. A tunnel that carries the drain can be found below an old bridge on Beverley Beck, a canal in East Riding, Yorkshire, England – a location where a number of the encounters with the hair-covered thing have taken place.

Of the many and varied reports that exist of shapeshifters, there is absolutely no doubt that one of the creepiest sagas of all is that which was splashed across the pages of various newspapers in the summer of 1905. It’s hardly surprising that the story attracted so much attention, given that it was focused on sightings of what can only be accurately described as a beast that was half-human and half-dog. The Register newspaper – which was published in Rake, Iowa related the facts surrounding the strange saga on June 15. The title of its article came straight to the point: “Dog with a Human Face.” And, just for good measure, the writer of the eerie article added an atmospheric subtitle: “Strange Monstrosity Seen By Many Persons In Colorado Hills – Attempt Capture In Vain.””  While the Register’s story got picked up far and wide, it was actually based upon an earlier article – specifically one which appeared in the Pittsburgh Press on May 3, and which was titled, “Strange Animal: Has an Almost Human Face and a Red Mustache.”

Witches, their legendary “familiars,” as they are known, and their eerie ability to disguise themselves as a variety of animals, cannot be overlooked when it comes to the controversies surrounding shapeshifters. Indeed, they are an integral part of the overall phenomenon. Within the practice of witchcraft there exists a creature that few outside of the craft will have any awareness of. It is a strange and often dangerous creature known as a familiar. When witchcraft was said to be rife across England in the 1500s and 1600s, it was widely believed that witches used small animals for a wide variety of reasons – such as spying on those who might do them harm. But, they weren’t animals in the normal sense of the word. They were said to be demonic entities that possessed the ability to alter their forms into multiple kinds of animals. For the witches of the Middle Ages, the preferable forms were black cats, black dogs, hedgehogs, hares, owls, and mice. And that’s just the beginning: shapeshifters are everywhere…

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Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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