Curiously enough, most manifestations of phantom werewolves seem to occur within the confines of the British Isles. Werewolf stories abound here, as do tales of ghosts and hauntings. It makes sense that there would also be stories of werewolf ghosts as well, as few as there may be. Authors such as Donald F. Glut and the early twentieth-century ghost hunter Elliot O'Donnell have recorded such stories to share these experiences with others. One such case occurred in Merionethshire, Wales during the late 1880s, as recorded by J. Wentworth Day in the July 9, 1932 edition of The Passing Show. A professor from Oxford and his wife were having a guest over for the night in their small cottage in Merionethshire. While swimming in the lake the previous day, the professor had found the skull of a large canid. Intrigued, he placed the skull on a shelf in the kitchen for later study. Shortly thereafter, the professor and his guest left the house, leaving his wife alone with the grisly relic...
It was after dark, and the woman had no desire to be in the same room as the eerie skull. And then, her fear intensified when she heard something scratching at the kitchen door. Perhaps it was a dog? Regardless, she thought that it would be safest to lock the kitchen door. When she entered the kitchen, the woman found herself staring through the window at a hairy, manlike beast with the head of a wolf and glowing red eyes. And worse yet, the creature was trying to get into the house! Luckily, the professor and his friend returned shortly thereafter. Upon hearing the terrified woman's story, the two men decided to wait for the werewolf to return. This time, however, they would greet the monster with a loaded gun and couple of hefty clubs.
After waiting for several hours, the professor and his friend heard the telltale sound of claws scratching at the window. Quickly taking up their weapons, the men saw the beast staring with eyes that glowed like the hot coals in a fire. The men immediately ran off in pursuit of the creature, but the werewolf moved too fast! When the beast reached the edge of the lake, it completely disappeared, not even causing a ripple on the water's surface. The next morning, the professor put the skull back where he had originally found it. The werewolf's ghost was never seen again after that.
So, what was it that caused this beastly apparition to appear? In this case, the answer is a fairly obvious one: the professor not only disturbed the werewolf's remains, but he actually removed a portion of the remains (in this case, the skull) from their resting place. Not only did this disturb the spirit's rest, but it also made the ghost very angry as well, perhaps to the point of being willing to kill in order to retrieve its skull. But there is something else that is notable about this case: the woman actually heard the werewolf scratching at the kitchen door. This suggests that the ghost is actually able to materialize and take on a corporeal or semi-corporeal form, with which it would most likely be able to wound or even kill a person. This would make a phantom werewolf just as dangerous as the beast was while it was still living, perhaps more so because of its ghostly nature.
Another case investigated by Elliot O'Donnell involving a spectral werewolf occurred in the early half of the twentieth century, on the shores of the Baltic Sea in Estonia. A man and his sister by the names of Stanislaus and Anno D'Adhemar were invited to spend a few weeks at the country home of their friends, the Baron and Baroness Von A (their full name isn't given). They were taken there by a horse-drawn carriage one evening on a moonless night through a great pine forest. The two city-dwellers felt somewhat out of place here. There were birds they had never seen before, and these birds sang unusual songs. To these two siblings, it was quite refreshing. But being in a dark forest at night has its dangers as well as its wonders...
The road gradually became bumpy and uncomfortable, and the two began picking on each other and their driver. Soon they started getting drowsy, and sleep overtook them. In the quiet of the night, the driver gradually became aware of the sound of footsteps coming from behind the droshky (a type of carriage), but he did not know whether they were human or animal in origin. Whatever the pursuer was, the steps were getting louder. The driver felt the temperature drop, and huddled up with his furs. Before long, the horses heard the sounds as well. They whinnied and shivered, and then took off running, waking up the gentleman and his sister. The footsteps were getting closer yet, and the creature chasing them had to be very large. It sounded like a huge wolf, and even stranger was that it was taking strides like a man. A shudder went down the driver's back. Suddenly, the howl of a wolf echoed through the dark forest. Anno and Stanislaus asked what was wrong, and the driver shouted one word: "Wolves!" The passengers urged him to go faster, and soon the horses were running as fast as they could. Despite their best efforts, the footsteps were getting closer and louder...
Eventually, they saw it: a naked, gigantic figure surrounded by an eerie glow. The figure was manlike in shape and covered with hair, and its head had the features of both a man and a wolf at the same time. Its body was that of a man, but the arms and legs were longer and covered with short hair. The hands and the feet were larger, having longer fingers and toes tipped with claws. The monster had a pale, white complexion, the ears and sharp teeth of a wolf, green eyes, and a hellish expression on its face. Seeing this hideous thing, the siblings and the driver were frightened out of their wits! The brother and sister had no idea what they were dealing with. They screamed aloud and beat the air with their fists, hoping to scare the animal off. The beast came nearer and nearer, until it was almost at an arm's length away from the carriage. Soon it was running right alongside the carriage, and the two passengers feared that it might take a slash at them with one of those dreadful clawed hands at any time. The creature's eyes seemed to glint, and it bared its fangs at the horrified brother and sister. They wondered how much longer it would be before death overtook them...
Suddenly, the driver turned violently and finally left the forest. The driver and his passengers were able to escape from the horrible creature, and when they next peered into the forest, the beast had vanished. Another hour passed, and soon Anno and Stanislaus arrived at the Baron's house, shaken but otherwise unharmed. Upon telling the Baron of their strange encounter, he profoundly apologized to them and revealed to them the truth about what they had seen. Many years ago, a werewolf had been slain on that very road. Ever since then, the road had been haunted by the werewolf's ghost. No further reports were recorded.
In some regards, this is a baffling case. Exactly why the werewolf is haunting the road is easy to guess: the beast was killed there. In ghost lore, it is a very common theme that dying a traumatic or otherwise sudden death is one of the best-known ways to become a ghost. But why did the apparition chase the carriage? If a living werewolf had been chasing the vehicle, it would've made more sense. Werewolves are best known for killing and devouring humans, but a spectral entity cannot eat. So, why was the ghost chasing them? Perhaps it has more to do with territory than anything else. During its life, the beast hunted and perhaps even lived in the forest. There is also the possibility that this particular werewolf used this road to ambush human prey and feed itself. It is possible that this phantom werewolf is seeking to protect its hunting grounds, even in death. Also, why couldn't it leave the confines of the forest? It is most likely because the pine forest was where the werewolf died. Most ghosts are tied to the site of their demise, either because of the emotional trauma that the place symbolizes to them or because their mortal remains rest there. But perhaps the spirit is simply seeking revenge for its wrongful death and wishes to rest in peace. The truth may never be known.
Elliot O'Donnell gives yet another case of a phantom werewolf, which also occurred in Merionethshire during the 1900s. He relates the story of a Miss St. Denis, who was staying at a farm when the encounter happened. The farm itself was a fair distance away from the village, but was close to the railway station. This station was small and was run by one person, who performed the duties of station-master, booking clerk, porter, and ticket-collector, all at the same time. Miss St. Denis, an artist by trade, enjoyed coming down to the station and painting the beautiful, picturesque Welsh countryside. It gave her a terrific view of the area and was usually deserted. In such a setting, she could paint without being disturbed and devote her full attention to her work. But on this particular night, she would find no peace in that lonely place.
One afternoon, she had stayed later than usual, and night was starting to fall. She was beginning to feel somewhat uneasy, but then she saw what appeared to be a man sitting on a truck a few yards away. She couldn't make out any facial features, but the figure had unusually bright eyes and remained completely silent as it stared at her. She coughed to try to break the ice, and when that didn't work, she coughed again. It had no effect at all. So this time she tried to speak to him, and said "Can you tell me the time, please?" But the figure just sat there and stared eerily at her. Things were getting a little bit too awkward for her tastes...
Miss St. Denis had finally had enough. She packed her belongings and walked out of the station, trying her best to act as if nothing had happened. The only thing that she wanted was to get as far away from the stranger as possible. Against her better judgment, she glanced behind her. To her alarm, the figure was following her! Quickening her pace, Miss St. Denis started to whistle. She realized that, if this man wanted to kill her, then her prospects looked very grim indeed. If she screamed, she knew that without a doubt nobody would hear her in the vicinity of the surrounding cliffs. To allow this man to continue stalking her was out of the question. There was only one thing left for her to do...
Without hesitation, Miss St. Denis spun around to confront her mysterious stalker, and demanded "What do you want? How dare you!" What she saw next would haunt her for the rest of her life, for her pursuer was nothing human. Instead of the rugged features of a man, the creature that she saw had the body of a man and the snarling head of a wolf. The head was covered in gray, shaggy fur, and the beast opened its mouth, revealing the long white fangs contained within its maw. The monster's eyes blazed with rage as the werewolf crouched down, readying itself to pounce upon the woman...
Without thinking, Miss St. Denis reached into her pocket and pulled out a small flashlight. She pressed the button, and focused the beam on the beast's face. As soon as the light hit the creature's face, the werewolf recoiled and covered its face with two pawlike hands to protect its eyes from the searing light. As Miss St. Denis stood there awestruck, the werewolf faded away and disappeared. Needless to say, the young lady hurried back home that night.
Despite having been terrified out of her wits by the ghostly encounter, the lady was curious about what she had seen. The next day, Miss St. Denis made several inquiries about the road where the beast had vanished. Unfortunately, there wasn't much of anything that the locals could tell her. The only thing that she learned was that peculiar remains had been unearthed at one of the quarries nearby. The bones appeared to be part human and part animal. She also discovered that local people avoided the area after dark. And now she knew why.
Merionethshire (and Wales in general) seems to be crawling with phantom werewolves. Elliot O'Donnell's own research appears to confirm this notion, and both O'Donnell and Miss St. Denis agree that what she saw that night was, in all likelihood, "the earth-bound spirit of a werewolf." The reason for the haunting is clear: at some point in time, the werewolf's earthly remains were disturbed and might have been moved, lost, or possibly even destroyed. This is undoubtedly the reason for the beast's anger as well. But why did the werewolf attack her? Perhaps she was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. There are many questions about this haunting, and finding the correct answers is difficult. This is clearly an intelligent haunting, as the creature is apparently self-aware enough to attempt to defend itself from the blinding glare of Miss St. Denis's flashlight. There may be some manner of supernatural connection between the flashlight and the apparition being forced to disappear. Maybe it just didn't like the light? According to some beliefs, sunlight could damage ectoplasmic forms. So perhaps bright light, while not as powerful as the light of day, could force such a ghost to dematerialize. But enough speculation, for there are other tales to tell.
Elliot O'Donnell makes note of another first-person account of an angry werewolf's ghost that is very similar (if not nearly identical) to the story of the Oxford professor and his wife that occurred in Merionethshire during the late 1880s. However, the encounter takes place in the area of Hebrides and is recounted by a man who goes by the name of Andrew Warren. Mr. Warren was about fifteen years old at the time and had been staying with his grandfather for a number of years, who was both an amateur geologist and an elder in the Kirk of Scotland. The elderly man's house was literally filled with fossils, which he had excavated from the many caves and pits within the vicinity of their house. Little did Mr. Warren and his grandfather know that one of those pits held a spectacular and frightening discovery...
One morning, Andrew's grandfather burst through the front door "in a great state of excitement," and made his grandson walk back to the site with him. They came upon a dried-up tarn, and at the bottom of the tarn was a human skeleton. But instead of having a normal human skull, the remains had the skull of a wolf. "It's a werewolf!", the elderly man proclaimed. He bade his grandson to help him carry the bones into the house, where they placed the remains on the kitchen table. The elderly man thought that the skeleton would undoubtedly make a priceless addition to his fossil collection, but little did he know that the werewolf's remains would instead cause his grandson terror beyond reason...
That night, the young Mr. Warren was left alone in the house while his grandfather and the rest of the household had gone to the kirk. He entertained himself by reading for awhile. Suddenly, he heard a noise near the back of the house and went into the kitchen to investigate. He heard nothing, and thought that it must have been a rat. He sat down at the table next to the remains of the alleged werewolf to see if the noises happened again. He waited, and suddenly heard the distinctive rapping of knuckles on the window-pane. He turned in the direction of the sound and, to his horror, saw the head and the face of a wolf with a human neck. The creature snarled at the boy, displaying its long, sharp teeth. The beast had pointed ears, green eyes, and stood erect on two legs. Andrew gazed at the creature with a mixture of horror and wonder, and the beast seemed to notice this. It raised a hand (which Mr. Warren noted was slender like a woman's and had very long, curved fingernails), readying itself to break through the window!
Remembering what his grandfather had told him about evil spirits, Andrew made the Sign of the Cross upon his chest. But to his dismay, the gesture had no effect on the wolf-beast. Fearing for his life, the young man ran out of the kitchen and then slammed the door behind himself. He stayed in the hall until his family returned. When Mr. Warren recounted his story to them, his grandfather became very upset. The elderly man attributed his grandson's inability to make the ghost disappear to the young boy's lack of faith. The older man, had he been there himself, said that he would have been able to repulse the apparition. Regardless, the grandfather still made the young Andrew help get rid of the bones that were lying in the kitchen the next day. The two men then reburied the skeleton in the bottom of the dried-up tarn where they had found the remains. No further incidents were reported thereafter.
Like the nearly-identical story recounted previously, these two men made the mistake of disturbing the werewolf's remains. But unlike the other account, the geologist and his grandson made the mistake of actually removing the entire skeleton from its grave. This clearly made the ghost very angry, and it seemed to be more than willing to tear Andrew apart in order to reclaim its mortal remains. But there is something particularly interesting about this case: the creature was actually heard rapping on the window. Furthermore, the apparition acted like it was actually going to smash the window. As noted previously, this seems to imply that the ghost is able to materialize itself and hence take on a corporeal form. In this way, it could most likely kill a person. Not a pleasant thought, to be certain.
Another tale comes from the town of St. Lizier. Two brothers were sleeping in an upstairs bedroom, and the only way in or out was a small staircase outside of the bedroom door. On one particular night, they heard the telltale sound of someone walking up the stairs. When the sounds ceased, the brothers were horrified to see "a huge wolf, the size of a calf." They could both see the beast with a great degree of clarity, as the night was clear and the moon was shining bright (no account of the moon's phase is given). The beast just stared at the two men, clearly as surprised as they were!
At first, the two brothers just clung to each other with fright. And then one of them, with a sudden burst of courage, leaped to his feet and grabbed a pitchfork from a corner and thrust it menacingly in the beast's direction. The wolf quickly turned around, striking the bed with its tail, "producing a solid thump as if it were quite physical and material." The beast fled down the stairs and disappeared at the bottom of the staircase. Afterwards, the brothers were convinced that they'd seen a werewolf. A local man was under suspicion for these visits, as other people had seen the same thing. Strangely enough, what happened next isn't recorded. One may assume that the incident was reported, the suspected man was dealt with according to the traditions of the time (i.e. torture and execution), and that the apparition was never seen again.
Clearly this beast isn't an animal, but neither is it a run-of-the-mill phantom sighting. This is, in all probability, the manifestation of an etheric werewolf. This is similar to the magical practice of astral projection, except that an etheric projection is much more solid and can physically interact with living beings. In the case of a werewolf, that means that such an entity would be more than capable of physically harming a person or an animal. Luckily for the two brothers, this werewolf didn't seem to be interested in slaughtering and eating them.
Elliot O'Donnell recounts yet another (if rather short) story of a phantom werewolf from a woman that he'd met in Tavistock, Britain in the late 1900s, who claimed that she had seen a ghost that she believed was that of a werewolf some years previously in the Valley of the Doones, Exmoor. She was walking home late one night when, on the road in front of her, she saw a tall, gray figure with a man's body and the head of a wolf. The beast was moving very slowly towards a large rabbit, readying itself to pounce. The rabbit seemed to be too horrified to move or to otherwise escape. Suddenly, a stag burst through the bushes, alarming the wolf-beast so much that it disappeared. The lady confessed that, at that point, she hadn't ever seen a ghost, nor had she particularly believed in them. However, that particular encounter convinced her of the existence of such things. She believed that she had seen the spirit of one of the werewolves referred to by Gervase of Tilbury and Richard Verstegan, "werewolves who were still earthbound owing to their incorrigible ferocity."
Out of all of the cases of phantom werewolves recorded here, one of the most fascinating (and the most frightening) is that of the Hexham Werewolf, also known as the Southampton Werewolf. This case still intrigues and baffles both paranormal investigators and monster hunters alike, even to this day. In late May 1971 (or early June, as the exact date is disputed), an eleven-year-old boy by the name of Colin Robson was weeding the garden in his home's backyard, while his eight-year-old brother Leslie watched from an upstairs window. Suddenly, Colin made a strange discovery. Buried in the dirt was a rounded object, slightly smaller in size than a tennis ball. Colin wiped away the dirt on the object, and what the boy had found was a miniature stone head with a human face carved into it. Colin called for his younger brother Leslie to come see what he'd found, and the two boys decided to keep digging to see what else they could find. Soon after, Leslie unearthed a second, slightly bigger head. Little did the two boys realize that their finds might hold more significance than either of them could possibly know...
Excited by their trophies, Colin and Leslie brought the two heads into the house, where they washed the heads with water and cleaned them up. These things were clearly man-made, and the heads were carved from a heavy, greenish-gray sandstone that bore traces of quartz on their surfaces. The larger head had feminine features and resembled a witch. Vertical grooves were carved into the back of the head in imitation of combed hair, and traces of a yellowish-red pigment (possibly some sort of ocher) further enhanced the effect. The smaller head had the masculine features of a young boy, and it had the same vertical carved grooves on the back of the head. Although both had frightening expressions carved into their faces, the "girl" (as it came to be known) was definitely the scarier of the two heads, due to its witchlike features. However, the seemingly harmless heads would soon prove to be the Robson family's worst nightmare.
Almost immediately after the discovery of the heads, unexplainable phenomena began to occur within the Robson household. The case was examined by journalist Paul Screeton, who has a keen interest in both folklore and the paranormal. In fact, Paul recently authored the definitive book on the case, Quest for the Hexham Heads, in 2012. Paul was able to catalog these events when he began his investigation in 1977, saying that "The heads would turn around spontaneously, objects were broken for no apparent reason, and when the mattress on the bed of one of the Robson daughters was showered with glass, both girls moved out of their room." In other words, the Robsons were experiencing classic poltergeist activity inside of their house. Strangely, the Robsons weren't the only people to experience such phenomena. Their next-door neighbors, the Dodds, encountered something much more frightening...
A few nights after the discovery of the heads, Mrs. Nellie Dodd (her name is sometimes given as Ellen) had a terrifying experience with the evil of the Hexham Heads, as they've come to be known. Her ten-year-old son Brian had been ill from a toothache, while other accounts say that it was Nellie's daughter Marie, who had a bad ear infection. At any rate, Brian had been complaining that something was moving around in the bedroom at night and touching him. Nellie passed this off as late-night childish pranks, and she was becoming very irritated with her son's alleged antics. She decided to put a stop to it once and for all, and pulled herself up into her son's bed (the children slept in bunk beds). She was on the verge of falling asleep when she felt a "malevolent presence" in the room and saw a tall, dark shape. And then, it started to move towards her...
At this point, the thing reached out and touched Mrs. Dodd's legs. She screamed loudly, and the creature dropped down on all fours and ran out of the room. The Robsons next door heard everything, and found the front door of the Dodds's house standing wide open. Upon questioning, Mrs. Dodd described the creature as being half man and half animal, with a sheep's body and a man's head with black hair. Other accounts conflict with this, saying that the apparition was more wolflike, "something like a werewolf," one of the Robsons later said. After she screamed, Nellie reported that the creature "went padding down the stairs as if on its hind legs." Needless to say, the Hexham Town Council granted the Dodd family permission to move out and into another house soon afterwards.
As for the Robson family, they stayed in their home on Rede Avenue and never encountered the creature. However, they did experience other paranormal phenomena, most of which centered around the garden where the heads were unearthed. There was a strange glowing light seen in the exact same spot where the heads had been buried, and an odd "flower" kept reappearing in the exact same place during the Christmas season. Eventually, the heads were donated to Newcastle Museum, and the supernatural happenings in the Robson household ceased. But wherever the Hexham Heads go, trouble is sure to follow...
At the Newcastle Museum, the staff tried their best to find out exactly what the Hexham Heads were or where they had originally come from. In truth, they were completely confounded! They were so puzzled in fact that Dr. David Smith arranged for the heads to be examined by Dr. Anne Ross, an archaeologist and a leading Celtic scholar at Southampton University. Dr. Ross received the two heads in November 1971, and thus began her study of the objects. Dr. Ross believed that the Hexham Heads were both relics of Celtic head worship, and dated back roughly to the second century AD, making the heads at least eighteen hundred years old. Soon, however, Dr. Ross would wish that she had never laid eyes on the Hexham Heads...
In a 1978 interview with famed ghost hunter Peter Underwood (who regrettably passed away on November 26, 2014), Anne made her feelings about the heads known. Right after she had taken possession of the artifacts, Anne took an instinctive dislike to the heads. She had planned to have them analyzed by a geologist and then to send them back up north as soon as she possibly could. Then shortly after that, Dr. Ross would resume her life as usual. Little did she know that she would soon have the fright of her life...
A couple of nights after the Hexham Heads had arrived at her home, Dr. Ross had a horrifying encounter of the beastly kind. She was sound asleep in her bed at home when, at about two in the morning, she was suddenly awakened feeling "deeply frightened and very cold." Anne glanced towards the bedroom door, and saw a dark figure moving towards the door. As Dr. Ross recalled, "It was about six feet high, slightly stooping, and it was black, against the white door, and it was half animal and half man. The upper part, I would have said, was a wolf, and the lower part was human." As the creature moved out of the bedroom, Dr. Ross was suddenly seized by an overwhelming compulsion to run after the beast. She quickly climbed out of bed and ran into the hallway. The wolflike figure was halfway down the stairs, and Anne could very clearly see the menacing figure, as she always kept the hallway light on at night for the sake of her five-year-old son. As she watched, the creature leapt over the balustrading (a small pillar that holds up the handrail of a staircase) and landed on the floor with a heavy, distinctive thud. Then, it turned and fled out of sight towards the kitchen. Anne pursued the creature to the bottom of the stairs, and then the compelling force that had made her run after the beastly thing suddenly vanished from her mind. Dr. Ross became far too frightened to go any further at this point in time.
At this point, Anne's husband Dick (a commercial artist by trade) came downstairs, having been awakened by the commotion. Dick, upon hearing his wife's story, thoroughly searched the house for any signs of intrusion or forcible entry. However, he could not find anything amiss, nor was there any kind of indication that a large animal had gotten into the house. The couple eventually concluded that Anne must've had a nightmare, as real and as vivid as it may have seemed. Eventually, Anne and Dick would finally realize that the beast's visitations were not merely a bad dream...
Four days after Anne's initial encounter, the wolf-beast struck again. Anne and Dick were spending the day in London on business. At about four o'clock that afternoon, their teenage daughter Berenice, who was fifteen years old at the time, came home from school. She walked in through the door and, to her horror, the first thing she saw was a large black figure standing on the stairs. It didn't take Berenice long to realize that the thing on the stairs was more animal than human. As she stared, the beast rushed down the stairs towards the terrified girl!
Suddenly, the beast jumped over the stairway railing and landed in the hallway with a soft thud, giving Berenice the impression that the creature had padded feet like an animal. At that point, the beast ran away on all fours towards the family's music room. Like her mother, Berenice felt an unnatural urge to pursue the beast, and she ran after the shadowy thing. But when Berenice reached the music room, she found that the black figure had disappeared into thin air. This left the poor girl scared half to death, and she stayed that way until her parents came home at about six o'clock that evening. Dr. Ross recounts that, when they found her, "she was deathly pale and clearly in a state of shock." The girl then told her parents what she had seen, after some convincing and coercing on the part of Anne and Dick. Berenice later said that she was distinctively aware of the beast's wolflike nature, which she described as being "as near a werewolf as anything." After calming the girl down, they searched the house and, as they had expected, found no signs of an intrusion or anything to indicate that a large animal had been on the premises.
The Hexham Werewolf was by no means finished with the Ross family, though. Supernatural happenings continued to plague the Ross household, and they seemed to be centered around the stairway. Anne reported that she often felt cold spots on the stairs, and heard the soft footfalls of an animal close to the staircase. Loud crashes and other phantom sounds were heard, and several doors within the house began to open and slam themselves shut of their own volition. Furthermore, Anne and Berenice both saw a "dark figure" while they descended down the stairs together, and they heard it land on the hallway floor after it leaped over the rail. But the sinister werewolf was not seen by the Ross family again after that.
Eventually, Dr. Ross learned about the troubles of the Robson and the Dodd families. She discovered how Colin and Leslie Robson had dug up the heads and that, soon afterwards, a similar entity to the wolflike beast she had seen made itself known to the Robsons' neighbors, the Dodds. At this point, Anne had made the connection between the Hexham Heads, the werewolf sightings, and the supernatural occurrences, and she decided that it would be best to get rid of the heads. And not only did she dispose of the Hexham Heads, but Dr. Ross also threw out her entire collection of authentic Celtic stone heads, just to be on the safe side. She never wanted to see the accursed things again for as long as she lived.
After Dr. Ross got rid of the artifacts, they disappeared for awhile and eventually resurfaced, this time in the hands of inorganic chemist and author Dr. G.V. Robins, otherwise known to his friends as "Don." Dr. Robins was well aware of the haunted reputation of the Hexham Heads, but he never encountered the Hexham Werewolf itself. He did, however, encounter what he described as a "stifling, breathless" atmosphere around the "girl" head. And on the day he picked up the heads to bring them back home with him, the electrical system in his car abruptly failed. Dr. Robins noted that he had never experienced those particular problems until that particular day.
Eventually, Dr. Robins gave the heads to a dowser by the name of Frank Hyde. Mr. Hyde wanted to determine if the Hexham Heads did indeed have any supernatural properties. He then created a casing of copper mesh, which he hoped would nullify the manifestations associated with the heads. Apparently, this worked very well. But it is interesting to note that soon after this, a man named Desmond Craigie came forward and claimed to have lived at No. 3 Rede Avenue for some years before the Robson family. Not only that, but Mr. Craigie claimed to have made the Hexham Heads himself! With that, the controversy began to grow...
In 1972, a year after the Hexham Heads started making headlines (pun intended), Desmond Craigie claimed to have made the stone heads. He had lived in the Robsons' house for thirty years with his father, and he had "made these heads from local stone, sand and water" in 1956 as toys for his daughter, Nancy. He had been working at an artificial stone firm and had originally made three heads, but he had apparently broken one of them and threw it away as a result. The remaining two were later lost in the garden. Mr. Craigie thought that it was "really funny to think about all the fuss that is being made about them." In his book, however, Paul Screeton describes Craigie as being a "legendary mischief-maker" and an "artisan, iconoclast, trickster, and pantomime villain rolled into one." So, one might be able to rule out Desmond Craigie's claim as a hoax or as an attempt to cash in on the infamy of the Hexham Heads.
Where are the Hexham Heads now? The heads haven't been seen since February 1978, and they have yet to resurface. It is rumored that the heads were eventually buried in an undisclosed location in order to put an end to the supernatural manifestations associated with the heads. Maybe they were even destroyed. In other words, the current location of the Hexham Heads is unknown. Perhaps that is for the best.
The saga of the Hexham Heads raises another, altogether different question: what was the wolflike beast seen by the Dodds and the Ross family? It was called "a werewolf" several times by eyewitnesses, and the beast fits the profile of a phantom werewolf as has been established through the numerous eyewitness accounts recorded here. But was this entity truly a spirit of the dead? In all likelihood, probably not (although it can't be ruled out entirely). The behavior of the Hexham Werewolf doesn't entirely fit into the traditional mold of a ghost. But if this creature isn't a werewolf, and it isn't a ghost, then what is it?
Over the years, a number of paranormal experts have developed a number of different theories in an effort to explain the paranormal activity surrounding the Hexham Heads and the appearances of the ghostly werewolf. One of the most prevalent (if somewhat dated) of these is the so-called "stone-tape theory." This theory, while scientific rather than supernatural in nature, does bear some merit in the case of the Hexham Heads. According to the stone-tape theory, certain types of rock that contain large amounts of the crystalline mineral quartz (which is widely used in electronic devices of all kinds) may have the ability to store energy in the form of so-called "place-memories" and images from the past. Theoretically, it would be possible to "replay" those distant memories by "exciting" the stone or crystal through electrical impulses applied to the stone in question. But what if psychic energy were stored? This could mean that a person's thoughts and mental images could also be stored and projected into the environment under specific conditions. But does this theory explain the spectral werewolf and the poltergeist phenomena experienced? One might say "No. No, it does not." Such manifestations cannot be explained by science as being mere "place-memories" or projections of psychic energy.
Another theory of interest in regards to the Hexham Werewolf is the "Deck of Cards" theory, developed by Steve Jones. This theory states that many entities in folklore and legend are shapeshifters, and that these entities may appear differently to each individual that encounters it. According to Steve, "There are a series of archetypes like a deck of cards in our minds." When a person encounters such an entity, "the mind shuffles the deck and deals a card so that one person may see a large hooded shape, another a small one, another a black dog, etc." In other words, the same entity will appear as a different entity or creature to different people. It is interesting to note that Anne Ross was obsessed with werewolves as a child, while Nellie Dodd had a familiarity with sheep. This suggests that some manner of shapeshifting entity had attached itself to the Hexham Heads and, when the two families respectively encountered a sheeplike creature (which was seen by the Dodd family) and a phantom werewolf (which was encountered by the Ross family), both families were most likely interacting with the same entity. But this doesn't explain everything, does it? What about the poltergeist activity and the semi-corporeal traits of the manifestations? The Ross family heard the werewolf walking down the stairs, while Nellie Dodd was actually touched by the sheeplike entity. What about the cold spots, the phantom sounds, and the strange glow in the garden that were experienced by the Robsons and the Ross family? Can these anomalous happenings be explained by the "Deck of Cards" theory? Perhaps some of it, but not necessarily everything.
One of the most likely theories comes in the form of a question: what if the Hexham Werewolf is a guardian spirit, conjured up by ancient pagans to protect the Heads? This would not only explain the appearances of the phantom werewolf, but would (to an extent) explain some of the other paranormal occurrences as well. However, if Desmond Craigie is indeed a hoaxer, then where did the Heads actually come from? Dr. Douglas Robson (of no relation to the Robson family who discovered the Hexham Heads), an archaeologist who examined the artifacts, says that "if the heads were ancient they could have been made from quartz grains mixed with limestone." Lime plaster was used extensively by the Romans, so it is quite likely that the Hexham Heads are actually Romano-Celtic in origin. Anne Ross, it should be noted, saw stone heads of a similar appearance and style in France, which was known as Gaul in Roman times. This, along with the information given above, may indicate that the Hexham Heads are indeed ancient.
So, if the Hexham Werewolf actually is a guardian spirit of some sort, how did it come into this plane of existence? The answer may quite simply be druidic magic. It is a known fact that the ancient Romans appropriated and adapted the technology of the people they conquered, so who's to say that the Celts didn't make the Hexham Heads using adapted Roman technology? Exactly how the Druids summoned this entity is unknown, but it would have undoubtedly involved blood sacrifices (possibly of the human variety) and complex incantations designed to call down and bind such an entity to the Heads. It's possible that these artifacts were intended for use as a weapon against the Celts' Roman enemies. It is also very interesting to note that the Celts had a head cult, where they literally worshipped the severed heads of their enemies (although they also carved stone heads for the same purpose). Is it possible that the guardian spirit was summoned to protect these pagan idols? Possibly, but summoning such things is fraught with danger. One risks serious injury, death, or even bodily possession from such things.
As for the guardian spirit itself, the Hexham Werewolf never actually hurt anyone. However, it did induce feelings of lasting terror in the people who saw it. Maybe the beast was only trying to frighten them, although it most certainly could've inflicted serious harm on the eyewitnesses if it had wanted to do so (as the beast may have been able to assume a corporeal form if it had wished). This also explains the poltergeist effects, the sense of a "malevolent presence", and the phantom sounds, as they may have been intended to scare the witnesses into getting rid of the Heads, or returning them to their original resting place. Eventually, the werewolf did manage to scare away all of those who came into possession of the Hexham Heads. And as to where the Heads lay now, nobody knows.
There is one other point worth considering. Nearly seventy years prior to the events in Hexham and Southampton, sightings of a large wolf and reports of mutilated livestock began turning up around the village of Allendale in December 1904 (which coincidentally is seven miles southwest of Hexham). The corpses of several sheep were discovered nearby, having been brutally slaughtered and partially eaten. In addition, many of the living animals had what appeared to be bite marks on the legs. And according to one account, the beast confronted a group of women and children, only to be frightened away by the sounds of their screams. A local newspaper, The Hexham Courant, told of the efforts of the locals, which at one point armed themselves and coalesced into a party of over one hundred people in an attempt to hunt down the beast and put an end to its depredations.
Eventually, the body of a large wolf was found thirty miles away on a railroad in Cumwinton (yes, it's a funny name). Could this have been the animal responsible for the carnage in Allendale? Maybe so, but the Beast of Allendale (as it was called at the time) was never caught, and the attacks themselves suddenly stopped in early 1905. Could this creature have been a werewolf that, when it died, attached itself to the buried stone heads in nearby Hexham in order to keep terrorizing the living, even after death? It stretches credulity a bit (okay, quite a bit), but in the world of the supernatural, anything seems to be possible. But what about the Hexham Heads themselves? Where are they now? Nobody knows for sure, and perhaps that is for the best.
The final account of an experience with a phantom werewolf comes from a man by the name of Nick Redfern. Nick is a widely-respected cryptozoologist, ufologist, Fortean researcher, and a monster hunter who has had more than his share of anomalous experiences, but nothing could have prepared him for something quite like this. It happened in August 2002, after he had gone to bed. It was about four o'clock in the morning, and Nick was lying in bed, "awake and yet not awake." He couldn't move, and to make matters worse, he became aware "that something was slowly heading down the corridor that linked the bedroom to the living room." Even though he couldn't see it, Nick knew that it was "a man-sized figure with the head of a wolf and dressed in a long black cape." The creature emitted a series of "strange and rapid growling noises" that made it sound like it was talking to him in another language. Whatever the beast was, it "seemed mightily ticked off about something." It was getting closer to Nick's bedroom door...
"As it closed in on the room," Nick recounts, "I made a supreme effort to move my rigid form and finally succeeded, just as the man-beast entered the bedroom. In an instant it was gone, and I was wide-awake." According to modern-day psychologists, what Nick experienced was a state known as sleep paralysis. In this state, one is awake but is incapable of moving. But what about the growling, cape-wearing wolfman that Nick encountered that night? That he attributes to hypnagogia, which is the state in between wakefulness and sleep in which a person is susceptible to an enormous and widely varied range of sensory experiences. In such a state, people have heard voices, buzzing, humming, roars, nonsensical talking, hissing, rushing, screams, and whispers. But not only that, but people have also reported seeing fully-formed apparitions and even disembodied heads. But is that it, or is there more to Nick's encounter than a mere psychological phenomenon? Perhaps even something supernatural?
Interestingly enough, at the time of his encounter, Nick was deeply involved in writing his excellent book, Three Men Seeking Monsters (New Page Books, 2004). This book focuses on the notion that many of the creatures that cryptozoologists pursue might not be flesh and blood animals, but rather could be paranormal or supernatural in nature. In that vein, the caped wolfman could've been a tulpa. By definition, a tulpa is a creature or an entity that attains corporeal reality, having been previously only imaginary. In other words, it is a person's thoughts that have taken on a solid, physical form by entering this plane of existence through that person's use of spiritual or magical practices. But how did Nick do this? Perhaps because of his intensive concentration on writing the book and researching supernatural beings, Nick was able to bring this odd creature into a physical existence, if only briefly. Or maybe the apparition was trying to warn Nick to stop his research, which would explain why the beast seemed so angry. Either way, Nick didn't listen and continues to write some of the best works on monsters and the paranormal to date. And since that night in 2002, Nick hasn't seen the beast. And as for what he saw, Nick states, "For me, the jury is still open."
Having gone through a number of eyewitness accounts, one has to ask: what is the true nature of these phantom werewolves? Are they merely ghosts, or is there more to it than that? A few of the traits of these phantom beasts has thus far been established: they are able to appear and disappear at will, and they are able to take on a physical or semi-physical form in which they are able to cause serious injury on any potential victims using their vicious claws and needle-sharp teeth. They oftentimes have eyes that glow an unnatural red, yellow, or even green in the dark. Also, these entities more than likely possess the same unnatural strength, agility, and speed as their living counterparts. Furthermore, they tend to dematerialize and disappear entirely when physically confronted by humans. These beasts seem to be spirits of the dead in most cases, while in others they seem to be guardian spirits or thought-forms. And when examined under scientific scrutiny, they make little or no sense at all.
To understand the nature of the phantom werewolf, one must view it from another perspective. To do this, one must step into the shadowy realm of the occult and search for answers there. In John Michael Greer's book Monsters: An Investigator's Guide to Magical Beings (Llewellyn Publications, 2011), one may find some of the answers to these questions. But to do this, some explanation of magical theory is necessary. According to his research, the body goes through three different stages in the dying process, although only the first two are of any relevance here. The first part is known as the First Death, and involves the separation of the physical body from three of the four "subtle bodies" (the astral body, the spiritual body, and the mental body), while the etheric body remains inside the physical body. The second stage is known as the Second Death, and involves the separation of the etheric body from the physical body. But sometimes, the etheric body becomes trapped between the First Death and the Second Death. This can happen if the death is very violent or sudden, especially if powerful negative emotions are involved (i.e. rage, pain, hatred, or fear). This may also occur if a dying person remains in a specific emotional state in a certain place for an extended period of time. In either case, those emotions anchor the etheric body to the material plane and prevent the Second Death from occurring (at least in part). In essence, a ghost is created.
Magicians believe that shapeshifting isn't a physical process (a view not necessarily shared by this blogger), but rather occurs on an etheric level. The etheric body, out of all of the other "subtle bodies", is the one closest to the physical body, existing in both time and space, and is therefore capable of directly affecting the physical world. The etheric body can be reshaped and molded according to one's willpower and imagination. And when the energies within the etheric body are focused and concentrated, the etheric body becomes corporeal to a certain degree, and is almost as solid as the physical body. The touch of an etheric being can thus be felt by a living person (or an animal), but it may also be able to harm or to even kill a living being. When at rest or otherwise diffused, those very same etheric energies are reduced to the point of intangibility and become invisible to the human eye.
But how do shapeshifters use this kind of magic to achieve such a transformation? In magical practices, there is a technique called etheric projection in which half of the etheric body remains in the physical body, while the other becomes a sort of "vehicle" for out-of-body traveling. Most often, the etheric body retains the shape and the features of the physical body. As mentioned earlier, the etheric body is very pliable and can be reshaped, much like a blob of clay. Through the application of certain magical techniques, it is possible to reform the etheric body into an animal shape which is, according to Greer, "charged with etheric substance drawn from sources outside the body." If done correctly, one will be able to imbue the etheric body with an animal's power and its powers of perception as well. This reshaped and empowered etheric form is known as the animal body of transformation. This is a semi-physical animal form that can be used for a wide variety of purposes. This body gives the magician the animal's abilities (i.e. strength, speed, endurance, and agility) and its senses as well.
There are two methods of shapeshifting in this manner. Once can best be described as projecting the etheric body outwards into the environment while the physical body remains safe elsewhere (usually in a deep trance). The other method occurs while the practitioner is awake and active in the physical body. The etheric body, in this case, actually surrounds the physical body, creating a sort of etheric shell that gives the shapeshifter the outward appearance of an animal. In addition, the etheric shell enhances the practitioner's own abilities with those of the animal aspect. This gives the otherwise-human shapeshifter greater strength, agility, speed, and endurance as well as the animal's senses. This latter technique, according to Greer, seems to be the only method that can be used to injure or kill other living beings.
One might be inclined to ask what these notions have to do with sightings of ghostly werewolves. However, the explanations above give some possibilities in regards to the origins of such apparitions and why they appear to people. These phantom werewolves could be the cast-off etheric bodies of humans who practiced shapeshifting using magical techniques and died while in such a transformed state. If the death was sudden enough, some degree of consciousness or intelligence may remain within the etheric body, since the etheric body is closest to the physical body in a metaphysical sense. In ghost lore, this leads to what is known as an intelligent haunting.
However, there is a problem with this hypothesis. Metals like iron and silver are highly conductive to an etheric charge. When a metal object passes through the core of the animal body of transformation (like the heart), it causes a chain reaction that in turn causes the body of transformation to implode. Without a way to rejoin the physical body, the practitioner usually dies of etheric shock and immediately goes through the Second Death. This is especially true if the shapeshifter is projecting his etheric self from a distance. But if the shapeshifter's physical body is present within the animal body of transformation, the results are somewhat less dramatic. However, the shapeshifter may still die from a combination of physical shock and what John Michael Greer calls "etheric rebound."
The problem here is that since the animal body of transformation disappears when the physical body dies, there is usually very little chance of the etheric body becoming a ghost. But in some cases, the shock of death (especially a sudden or violent one) and strong emotional distress may trap the animal body of transformation between the phases of the First Death and the Second Death. In the process, this anchors the body of transformation to the physical plane while it is still in the shape of a wolf, creating a phantom werewolf. This entity behaves like a ghost, but still retains its bestial form and many of the abilities it had while the shapeshifter was alive. Since the consciousness or intelligence may very well remain within the etheric body (and therefore the individual's willpower as well), the entity may be able to manipulate the etheric substance of its body and thereby interact with the physical world if it chooses to. But since not all shapeshifters employ an animal body of transformation (it is possible that a number of shapeshifters do physically transform, including werewolves), this explains why such encounters with phantom werewolves seem to be few and far between.
Like most ghost lore states (most phantom werewolves are a type of ghost, after all), there may be a few ways to keep such entities at bay. According to folklore, salt is one of the best defenses against all manner of ghosts, demons, witches, evil spirits, and vampires because of its purity and preservative properties (salt is also used in making holy water). The salt must be pure, without any iodides or impurities. An unbroken line of salt across any door's threshold or any windowsill will keep most supernatural entities from entering through that particular opening, but only as long as the line of salt remains unbroken. Another thing that ghosts abhor is iron. Folklore (especially European folklore) states that iron is dangerous to most supernatural beings, but it is particularly harmful to ghosts and faeries. It seems likely that a piece of iron (some say that it should have an edge or a sharp point) that makes contact with a ghost (or an etheric body) will drain the energy used by the ghost to manifest itself, and will temporarily dispel the spirit's form. Either that, or in the words of John Michael Greer, it will cause "an etheric short-circuit". However, this is only a temporary measure, as the ghost will eventually reappear again. These defenses can also be used against a phantom werewolf. Silver can also be used to the same effect, as an etheric body may be able to resist the effects of etheric disruption caused by iron, or it may be completely immune to the metal. Also, fleeing across a stream or a flowing river is an ideal way to escape from such entities. In magical traditions, running water is known to be an "etheric eraser," and any etheric being caught in running water will be destroyed (or at least dispelled) very quickly. In these instances, a ghost will pass into the Second Death immediately, as will a phantom werewolf. Prayer may or may not work (most likely depending on one's faith in God), but it is certainly worth a try. But because the phantom werewolf is so unique, some of these methods may not work. Still, it is a good idea to try everything and hope for the best.
Although the methods of escaping and warding off these particular entities have been established, there is still one question that remains: how does one destroy a phantom werewolf? One cannot kill something that is already dead, so it must be dealt with in other ways. As mentioned above, luring one of these spirits into cold running water will most likely destroy it, causing it to pass into the Second Death. The colder and purer the water, the more powerful the effect on the ghost will be. However, this isn't guaranteed to work, and luring this ghostly beast into a river or a stream may prove to be next to impossible. Therefore, another means of putting the ghost to rest must be utilized. One must seek out the werewolf's bodily remains, and the remains must be burned into cinders. This will effectively sever the ghostly werewolf's physical ties to the material plane and will force the entity to pass on to either its eternal reward or everlasting punishment. It will most likely be the latter, as becoming a werewolf and murdering innocent people will inevitably lead to eternal damnation and suffering in Hell. Such measures will ensure that the spectral beast is never seen or encountered again.
Despite the ongoing research and speculation, the phantom werewolf remains something of an enigma. Nobody is truly sure what the true nature of these spectral beasts are, nor does anyone know what it is that binds these spirits to the earthly plane. But what are they? Are they ghosts, bound to the physical world due to their bestial ferocity in life and the violent circumstances of their deaths? Are they guardian spirits, conjured up from another realm to protect a place or an object? Or could they be thought-forms, summoned up from the darkest recesses of the subconscious human mind into this world? The truth is that these entities could be all of these things, and more. But this doesn't change the fact that phantom werewolves are very dangerous entities and could very easily kill a person if so inclined. But when it comes down to it, it is always wisest to exercise caution when dealing with supernatural beings. Without caution, there could be death in one's future...or worse.
Adams, Paul & Eddie Brazil. Extreme Hauntings: Britain's Most Terrifying Ghosts. Stroud, Gloucestershire: The History Press, 2013.
Glut, Donald F. True Werewolves of History. Rockville, Maryland: Sense of Wonder Press, 2004.
Greer, John Michael. Monsters: An Investigator’s Guide to Magical Beings. 10th Anniversary Edition. Woodbury, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications, 2011.
Hall, Jamie. Half Human, Half Animal: Tales of Werewolves and Related Creatures. Bloomington, Indiana: 1st Books Library, 2003.
O’Donnell, Elliot. Werewolves. London: Methuen & Co. 1912. Reprint. Newark, New Jersey: Wildside Press, 2008.
Redfern, Nick. There’s Something in the Woods: A Transatlantic Hunt for Monsters and the Mysterious. San Antonio, Texas: Anomalist Books, 2008.
Screeton, Paul. Quest for the Hexham Heads. Great Britain: Fortean Words, 2012.
I would like to take this time to personally thank Nick Redfern, Paul Screeton, Donald F. Glut, and John Michael Greer for all of their help and for generously allowing me to use their books in my research. A special thanks goes to my good friend Nick Redfern, who provided not only material for my own research, but also passed on his own experiences with one of these entities to me. Another goes to Paul Screeton, for allowing me to freely use his excellent book in my research and providing me with help when I needed it. And another goes to Donald F. Glut, who allowed me to use his book for this project before the research even began! And last but certainly not least, I would like to thank John Michael Greer for allowing me to use his book to come up with an explanation for these ghosts. I owe each and every one of you a great debt of gratitude, and I am truly happy to call you my friends. This entry on Phantom Werewolves may very well be the first work of its kind, and all of you contributed! Thank You!!