Merionethshire Werewolf : A 19th-century werewolf case from Wales, recorded by Montague Summers in his book The Werewolf.
According to Summers, the case is probably the same as one described by J. Wentworth Day in the magazine The Passing Show, dated July 9, 1932. Summers’s description is ﬂorid. The characteristics of the case, and the manner in which the werewolf is experienced, bear a similarity to the CROGLIN GRANGE VAMPIRE, an English case recorded in 1871. Both cases may have ﬁctionalized elements.
The werewolf incident reportedly occurred in the 1880s on the shores of a remote lake in the hills of Merionethshire, Wales. An unnamed Oxford professor and his wife took a cottage on the lakeshore for a summer so that the professor could pursue his passion of fishing. They entertained a guest while staying there.
One day while rowing out into the lake, the professor discovered near the shoreline a skull that appeared to be that of a very large dog. He took it back to the cottage and left it on a kitchen shelf.
That evening, his wife was alone in the cottage. She heard a snufﬂing and scratching at the kitchen door that sounded like that of a dog. She went to bar the door:
As she moved something drew her attention to the window, and there she saw glaring at her through the diamond panes the head of a huge creature, half animal, half human. The cruel panting jaws were gaping wide and showed keen white teeth; the great furry paws clasped the sill like hands; the red eyes gleamed hideously; it was the gaze of a man, horribly intensive, horribly intelligent. Half-fainting with fear she ran through to the front door and shot the bolt. A moment after she heard heavy breathing outside and the latch rattled menacingly. The minutes that followed were full of acutest suspense, and now and again a low snarl would be heard at the door or window, and a sound as though the creature was endeavoring to force its entrance. At last the voices of her husband and his friend, come back from their ramble, sounded in the little garden; and as they knocked, ﬁnding the door fast, she was but able to open ere she fell in a swoon at their feet.
Evidently the men had neither seen nor heard anything unusual. After the wife relayed what had happened, the men sat up all night, armed with sticks and a gun:
The hours passed slowly, until when all was darkest and most lonely the soft thud of cushioned paws was heard on the gravel outside, and nails scratched at the kitchen window. To their horror in a stale phosphorescent light they saw the hideous mask of a wolf with the eyes of a man glaring through the glass, eyes that were red with hellish rage. Snatching the gun they rushed to the door, but it had seen their movement and was away in a moment. As they issued from the house a shadowy undeﬁned shape slipped through the open gate, and in the stars they could just see a huge animal making towards the lake into which it disappeared silently, nor did a rufﬂe cross the surface of the water.
The next morning, the professor rowed out into the lake and threw the skull as far as possible into the water.The werewolf was not seen again.
The case is similar to haunting and ghost lore that exists around the world, that the dead do not like to have their burial grounds and remains disturbed. Was the “werewolf” an angry ghost that wanted to repossess his own skull? Summers offers no opinion. In Welsh folklore, many of the lakes, especially in hilly, remote areas, are haunted, usually by fairies.
The HEBRIDES WEREWOLF is another example of a phantom werewolf looking for its missing bones.
A modern case from psychical research has some parallels to both the Merionethshire case and the similar one in the Hebrides off the coast of Scotland:
A deceased man professing to be named “Runolf Runolfsson” began speaking through one of Iceland’s most famous mediums, Halfsteinn Bjornsson, in 1937. The “dropin communicator,” so-called because he spontaneously “dropped in” during the medium’s sittings, said he was looking for his leg. In 1879 he had gotten drunk and died by drowning when he passed on out the shore during an incoming tide. He was 52. His body was taken out on the tide, but was washed back in January 1880, ravaged by animals and birds as well as the elements. The remains were buried, but a thighbone was still missing.
Historical records veriﬁed the existence of Runolfsson. In 1940 a thighbone was discovered interred in the wall of a house. No one was certain that it belonged to the dead man, but it was properly buried, and Runolfsson said he was happy. He did not disappear, but remained a “drop-in” with Bjornsson for years.
- Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. 2d ed. New York: Facts On File, 2000.
- Summers, Montague. The Werewolf.New York: Bell Publishing, 1966.
Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters – Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley -a leading expert on the paranormal -Copyright © 2005 by Visionary Living, Inc.