North America is no stranger to reports of ferocious beasts lurking in the woods. There have been terrifying newspaper accounts of Sasquatch, flying horse-like things (no, not Pegasus; the Jersey Devil), and lake monsters. A whole range of these legendary creatures resemble humans: the Mothman, a half man half frog in southern Ohio called the Loveland Frog, lizard people, even a goat man. But if we go back a few centuries, we discover that colonists and early settlers were far more afraid of your traditional supernatural beings.
Accused witches were murdered not just in Salem, Massachusetts, but throughout the land east of the Mississippi River. Vampires, too, were said to pray upon the living, and graves were exhumed to dismember corpses or cremate the remains (sometimes just the heart). There is even a tale of a female “zombie” named Caroline Cutter reported in New Hampshire in the mid-1800s. But werewolves? Surprisingly, these shapeshifting man-beasts were also said to have found their way from rural towns in Europe to the shores of North America.
One of the earliest accounts of a werewolfin North America came from what is now the Canadian Province of Quebec. Back in 1763, Quebec changed from a French colony to British territory, but the area was (and remains today) predominantly French-speaking. From July 1766 until December 1767, the area around Quebec City was terrorized by what locals claimed to be a loup-garou, or werewolf. On the 21st of July, 1766, the Quebec Gazette reported on the alleged events:
“By accounts from St. Rock, near Cap Mouraska, we learn, that there is a Ware Wolf wandering about that Neighbourhood, in the Form of a Beggar, which, to the Talent of persuading People to believe what he himself is ignorant of, and promising what hecannot perform, adds that of obtaining what he desires. It is said that this Animal came, by the Assistance of his two hind Legs, to Quebec the 17th of last Month, and set out from hence the 18th following, with a Design to persue his Errand to Montreal.—This Beast is said to be as dangerous as that which appear’d last Year in the Country of Gevaudan; wherefore it is recommended to the Public to be as cautious of him as it would be of a ravenous Wolf.”
On December 11 of the following year, another story appeared:
Kamouraska, December 2. We learn that a Ware-wolfe,which has roamed through this Province for several Years, and done great Destruction in the District of Quebec [City], has received several considerable Attacks in the month of October last, by different Animals, which they had armed and incensed against this Monster; and especially, the 3rd of November following, he received such a furious Blow, from a small lean Beast, that it was thought they were entirely delivered from this fatal Animal, as it soon Time after retired to its Hole, to the great Satisfaction of the Public. But they have just learn’d, as the most surest Misfortune, that this Beast is not entirely destroyed, but begins again to show itself, more furious than ever, and makes terrible Hovock [sic] wherever he goes. – Beware then of the Wiles of this malicious Beast, and take good Care of falling into its Claws.
So what happened to the werewolf of Quebec? We can’t be sure. The story seems to fade from history without a final verdict. Rabid wolf, rampant lunatic, or unknown creature with a hunger for Francophones and poutine? There’s too little information to know… though poutine is pretty addictive. In 2005, a Saskatchewan man was killed by a pack of wolves, so it’s quite probable that the attacks in Quebec City could have been similar. But a few more recent werewolf stories have kept that fear alive.
In the summer of 1972, people witnessed something peculiar near the tracks of the Norfolk and Western Railroad in Defiance, Ohio. They reported seeing a “werewolf.” One crewman for the railroad was struck in the shoulder with a 2×4 by the beast; two railroad brakemen saw a hairy fanged bipedal creature wearing blue jeans carrying a piece of wood on a separate occasion. Reports of the “Wolfman of Defiance” lasted just a few short weeks before the culprit vanished just as suddenly as it appeared, but not before appearing once more in Toledo near Sylvania Avenue on August 7, 1972.
Scattered stories of half-human beings have been reported in Michigan. Another werewolf legend has existed in Wisconsin since the early 80s. Known as “The Beast of Bray Road”, this furry two-legged monster reported near Elkhorn has been described as anything from a wolfman to a bear-like creature to Bigfoot.