The following was recorded from a conversation I had with my mom regarding ghost stories she was told in her childhoods. Our family has German origins, and she specifically remembered an old German myth she was told as a child. She is marked JS, and I am marked CS.
JS: “Okay so I believe the city is Morbach, and according to the legend, this is the last place a werewolf has been killed. I think it was killed in the late 1900’s or something. Anyways, the legend is called ‘The Werewolf of Morbach” because it is about a candle that has always been lit as a reminder to the village that the werewolf wont return. And allegedly, one night, the candle went out and soldiers spotted a wolf like figure. And to this day, the candle hasn’t burned out, but allegedly, if it does the wolf is destined to return.”
CS: “And when were you first told this legend?”
JS: “God, I wanna say when I was like 5? My mom loved legends like these and always told them to me before bed.”
A phone call conversation with my mom, JS, discussing old ghost legends and tales she’s heard of.
JS currently resides in Laguna Beach, California but was previously raised in Minnesota.
I enjoyed this legend because I like how its undertones ties back to war with the soldiers being the ones to discover the unlit candle. I think this is indicative of when the legend arose and why it arose when it did. The legend thus serves as a good reflection of the political and social climate of Germany of the time.
My informant told me of various rumors circulating the USC campus about Folklore professor, Tok Thompson. There are many suspicions of Professor Thompson’s wild nature outside of the classroom. She stated that she has overheard some of her classmates talking about beliefs that he could be a vampire or a werewolf. Their suspicions seemed validated by his hatred for garlic. The dead giveaway though, as she explained is the red bull and coffee that he comes to class with everyday, without fail. She stated that he must be in need of a pick-me-up after being up all night prowling the streets. Furthermore, his knowledge of vampire and werewolf folklore is suspiciously extensive.
Her belief as to why this legend about professor Thompson is passed around is because of how unusual a professor he is. Students need an explanation for a Professor who has dedicated his life to the discipline of folklore.
“Okay: Beast of Bray Road. It’s like, I think it’s more in the UP of Wisconsin, I don’t think it’s as far south as me, but like, it’s basically like a werewolf story in which like if you go down Bray Road at midnight or whatever and certain conditions are met, like I think it has to be in like October, November, like on a misty night or whatever and if you go down Bray Road, and if you flash your headlights three times then there’s like a wolf thing that stands on the side of the road. Like sort of one of those ghost stories. Like combine ghost stories with a regular werewolf myth and, you know, that like many people have seen it and taken sketches or whatever, like it stands like a man but it has the body of a wolf. So there’s Bray Road. I don’t know if it’s ever attacked people or if you just see it as you go by and go ‘Oh my God, there’s a wolf. We’re going to die.'”
Any number of ways this folk creature could have come to be. Perhaps there was a wolf once, or a frightening-looking man, or just someone thinking they’d seen either of those things or some combination of the two. Story gets spread around, people start daring each other to look for it, the rule of three gets thrown in there and presto: Bray Road has its very own Beast. Most people probably don’t take it very seriously, but some do, and the rest have no problem sharing their knowledge of it with each other.
Annotation: Airing on Animal Planet, the faux-documentary horror series Lost Tapes features found footage-style accounts of people encountering cryptozoological creatures. The penultimate episode of the show that aired in November of 2010, a militia group encounters with the Beast of Bray Road.
“A full moon is like good luck. Cuz like the way they see it, it lights up their night.”
The informant is a student at the University of Southern California. The informant says she learned this folk belief from her parents when she was younger and visiting Vietnam. She says that contrast to American belief that a full moon is bad, as it is often associated with werewolves, she says a full moon in Vietnam is good luck because in their perspective, a full moon lights up the night. She thinks it’s interesting how the two folk beliefs completely contrast each other in the two cultures with which she has grown up in. It is interesting how different folklore can be across regions, even when they are basing their beliefs on the same object; in this case, the moon. Many cultures have very different interpretations and beliefs about things such as the moon. Each culture bases their calendar on a different cycle or different concept. In Vietnamese culture, they base their calendar on the lunar cycle, which could be a large reason why the full moon is a very positive and big deal there, as they even have the Full Moon Festival in the fall, according to the informant. In contrast, Western culture focuses more on the solar cycle for the calendar, which could be why the moon isn’t represented in a positive way.
When my father was growing up, he was a very big fan of the classic monster and horror movies, among them Dracula (1931), and The Wolf Man (1941). Because his grandmother was born in Slovakia, he thought to ask her about other ‘eastern European’ legendary monsters that the movies portrayed such as vampires in Transylvania, etc. He was about 18 or 19 when he asked her about vampires and werewolves. He said that she told him that she did not know about vampires in Slovakia, but that she did believe in werewolves.
His grandmother was from the region near Bratislava, Slovakia. She told my father that while growing up, she had heard of a girl that had been attacked by what she claimed to be a wolf. His grandmother then said that people saw a man with a bit of the girl’s clothing caught between his teeth. The folklore of her region prompted her to believe the possibility of this man being a werewolf. She offered no charms to ward off werewolves to my father, however, just that she believed in them.
Because she believed that a human male could be a werewolf, my father’s grandmother obviously viewed werewolves as shape-shifters, which also has origins in Russia. It is also interesting to note that it was a girl who was attacked and that the significant clue to prove the existence of a werewolf was clothing in the man’s mouth. This to me sounds like a distant version of the tale of Red Riding Hood, which had an underlying lesson to teach girls the dangers of the male ‘appetite.’