Apr 20, 2022 I Nick Redfern

Paranormal Shapeshifters: How Many Kinds Are There?

When we think of shapeshifters, it's the world of the werewolf that immediately comes to mind. However, it's a fact that shapeshifters come in multiple forms, as you'll now see. The article that you are now reading deals with a subject that many people might assume falls solely into the domains of folklore, mythology and legend. They would, however, be wrong. In fact, they would be acutely wrong. Shapeshifting, for most people, provokes imagery of nothing more than centuries-old tales of savage, murderous werewolves and of big-bucks movies, such as An American Werewolf in London, Underworld, Dog Soldiers, and The Wolfman. That is not just the case, however. As incredible as it may seem, shapeshifters are not merely the stuff of Hollywood and urban tales of a friend-of-a-friend variety. Rather, they are all too menacingly real. And, they are not all of the man-turns-into-wolf variety, either. Quite the opposite, actually: shapeshifters come in all kinds and sizes and have done so for countless millennia. 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, fearsome black dogs with glowing and blazing red eyes, and mermaid-like things.

(Nick Redfern) The dreaded, shapeshifting Dogman

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. 

Of course, we have to take a look at the werewolf. It wouldn't be right to leave the creature out. Here's one of my favorite cases: Located in northwest Ohio, the small and picturesque town 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 hotspot 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 neighbourhood, by day and night. And werewolf fever was just about everywhere in town. The mystery was never resolved.

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. The bridge connection is an important one that should not be overlooked.

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.

Within the huge continent of Africa – which covers more than eleven and a half million square miles – tales of violent and deadly so-called Leopard Men abound. It is, however, within West Africa’s Sierra Leone and Nigeria that the phenomenon really dominates. It’s important to note that for the people of the area, the leopard has long been perceived as a revered and feared entity. For the most part, this comes from the fact that, according to certain African teachings, the leopard is a creature which, after bodily death, directs the human soul into the domain of the afterlife. When the leopard comes calling, death is very rarely far behind. The leopard, those same teachings maintain, has the ability to perform such a strange act due to it being what is termed a Totem animal. Namely, a creature that can effortlessly transform itself from flesh and blood to spirit – hence, while in that same spirit state, the leopard has the ability to travel from our physical, three-dimensional world to that domain where the soul resides after death.

(Nick Redfern) Stan Gordon, who has studied the eerie "mimicking" surrounding the Bigfoot phenomenon

Stan Gordon is one of the world’s leading figures in the field of Bigfoot investigations – and particularly so cases that are steeped in mystifying high-strangeness. In October 1973, Gordon investigated a very weird case which was focused upon the late-night landing of a brightly lit UFO in a rural part of Pennsylvania; it’s a case that appears in Gordon’s 2010 book, Silent Invasion. As a group of concerned and inquisitive locals reached the area of farmland where the UFO touched down, the air was filled with the sound of what seemed to be a crying baby. As the group got closer they could see a significantly sized dome-like object sitting in the darkness of a large pasture. If that was not enough, to the horror of the men a pair of large and lumbering Bigfoot loomed out of the shadows and proceeded to head towards them. Panic immediately erupted and the group scattered, firing their guns at the beasts as they did so. The bullets had no effect, and no evidence of a baby – in distress or otherwise – was ever found. Of course, their concern for the baby was the key thing that spurred them on to close in on the UFO. Which, in all likelihood, was the goal of the sly, mimicking monsters in their midst. As all of the above shows, the shapeshifter can take on not just one form, but multiple ones. Beware!

Nick Redfern

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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