CRY WOLF, OR CRY ACADEMIC EXPLANATION
Scientific insight into the Yorkshire Werewolf.
This time last year, frightened villagers around Beverley began reporting sightings of an eight-foot tall werewolf in the Yorkshire countryside. They’re still occasionally spotting the creature, but the papers have now moved on to more newsworthy stories like Beckham’s new hairstyle. Most of the sightings are near the Barmston Drain, a rural man-made water channel near the town. Some locals believe they’re seeing a supernatural beast called 'Old Stinker' and witnesses claim the creature looks: ‘half-man half-wolf, a bit like that monster out of American Werewolf in London.’
One woman near the drain said: 'It was stood upright one moment. The next it was down on all fours running like a dog. I was terrified. It vaulted 30ft over to the other side and vanished up the embankment and over a wall into some allotments.' She eloquently added: ‘it had the qualities of both human and wolf.’
A couple said they saw ‘something tall and hairy eating a German Shepherd dog next to the channel. It jumped over an 8ft-high fence, with the animal in its mouth’. Presumably a very large mouth.
Another woman who was walking her dog by the drain spotted something 'half dog half human'. She said her pet refused to go any further along the path they were walking.
A further witness said the beast ‘was on all fours, and then ran away on hind legs with a large animal in its mouth’. Other sightings followed - a woman in a car with friends saw a beast with a human head in the road in the village of Halsham. It started walking towards them on two legs.
Locals armed themselves with burning torches, pitchforks and digital cameras and went on a hunt during the full moon to prove their scary sightings were real. Unfortunately, no one managed to get any pictures. Local Labour councillor Steve Wilson said he was willing to offer his services to the effort, but didn’t elaborate on what this meant. Stripping him naked and staking him out like a goat might have attracted the beast close to the cameras.
Folklore experts were fairly certain the creature was Old Stinker. Named for his foul breath, this huge red-eyed werewolf roams the Yorkshire Wolds, an area north of the Barmston Drain.
The Yorkshire Wolds feature as the scene of a murder in my humorous detective novel Cat Flap. Compared to the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors, few tourists have heard of these chalk hills. Unlike the other two celebrated regions, they were never awarded National Park status or classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. If landscapes were in any way sentient, the Wolds would feel like the poor relation. The forlorn member of the trio, reminiscent of that other Kennedy brother – JFK, Bobby, and the Chappaquiddick one who never shone politically or got to sleep with Marilyn Monroe.
Old Stinker has stalked the Wolds Newton Triangle for centuries, an area known for mysterious activity. Many tales have circulated of zombies, ghosts, the Old Stinker werewolf and other paranormal activity in the area. ‘Supernatural experts’ believe the werewolf has outgrown this triangular haunt and has moved to the Barmston Drain for some reason - possibly something to do with ley lines or ‘energy’.
Terrifying picture drawn by a witness.
Picture drawn by a (much earlier) witness.
Doctor Sam George has a different opinion of the Yorkshire Werewolf. The lovely Dr George was behind the UK’s recent International Werewolf Conference at the University of Hertfordshire. She believes our collective guilt about wiping out the native wolf population could be behind the sightings.
'The location of the sightings, close to the East Yorkshire Wolds, which were once home to wolves, could be significant,’ she says. ‘I often get asked what causes belief in werewolves, but what is most pertinent about this latest folk panic is that Old Stinker is thought to inhabit a landscape which saw some of the last wolves in England. I argue that he represents, not our belief in him as a supernatural shapeshifter, but our collective guilt at the extinction of an entire indigenous species.’
Doctor George doesn’t believe the witnesses are mistaken or making up their stories. She says we should explore people’s fears and look for deeper meanings. ‘Old Stinker has reawakened the memory of what humans did to wolves, he’s drawn attention to re-wilding debates, and redeemed the big bad wolf that filled our childhood nightmares, reminding us that it is often humans, not wolves or the supernatural, that we should be afraid of.’
Personally I find this more difficult to accept than people spotting an actual flesh-and-blood werewolf. When people see flying saucers, are they experiencing guilt over crockery they broke as a child?