After years of pop-culture conditioning to lycanthropes with rippling abs and typical teenage problems, it’s easy to forget that at one time, the threat of a hungry werewolf lurking the countryside was considered a very real and deadly serious ordeal. In fact, in the mid-1800s, terror gripped the state of Georgia when a werewolf caused panic-stricken farmers to melt their crosses into bullets and set off to kill the beast. It sounds like a tall tale, but today, you can still visit the creature’s grave.
The long-forgotten legend of Georgia’s real-life werewolf begins innocently enough with a young girl named Emily Isabelle Burt. Emily was the shyest and most-reserved child of the wealthy Burt family, prominent members of town now known as Woodland. When Emily’s father died, he left a hefty sum of money behind, and rather than spend her days looking after the children, Emily’s mother Mildred Owen Burt shipped them off to boarding school in Europe, freeing her to spend her days chatting with other socialites.
After a long semester in Europe, Emily returned home and it wasn’t long before the rest of her family started to notice that something about her wasn’t quite right with her. She looked sickly, with a million-mile stare, and complained that she was unable to sleep. As the days wore on, her mother began to realize that Emily had been slipping off into the nearby forest in the middle of the night. When confronted, Emily claimed that she couldn’t recall most of her midnight strolls. To make matters worse, she’d started to grow unsightly hair in odd places, and even strangers noticed that her teeth began to look more pointed, almost as if she were growing fangs. Mildred wrote the odd changes off as puberty, and vowed to keep a closer eye on her daughter.
Coincidentally, local farmers were dealing with some strange problems of their own. Throughout Talbot county, farmers were waking in the morning only to find their fields littered with the mangled carcasses of their livestock, seemingly the victims of a wolf attack. Together, the farmers concocted a plan to end the slayings once and for all, and started nightly hunting parties with the intention of capturing or killing the beast responsible. After weeks of failed attempts to slay the phantom wolf, the frustrated farmers resulted to their last resort: they asked the town weirdo for help.
Locals always whispered about the strange old man from Eastern Europe. Some claimed he dabbled in black magic, others said he was just crazy, but either way, he was an outsider. When the animal mutilations first began, no one listened when he told them he knew which creature was to blame. According to him, it was no regular animal – it was a werewolf.
With little else to go on and scores of dead animals to deal with, the farmers were finally ready to listen. Tracking the beast on any old night was a fruitless effort, the old man told them. Instead, they were to wait until the next full moon to resume their hunt. In the meantime, the old man instructed the farmers to take every silver crucifix they could find, melt them down, and use the metal to fashion bullets. As strange as his advice was, the farmers were out of options, and did as they were told.
Several weeks later, the group took to their fields by the light of the full moon. Just as the old man had said, the hunting party came across a frightening silhouette lurking in the distance. The creature was as big as a man, had a long snout, and walked on two legs. As its wolf-like ears twitched in the moonlight, the hunting party raised their rifles and took aim at the monster. As a cacophony of gunshots filled the night air, the werewolf let out a painful scream and fled into the forest. No one was sure where the creature was hit, but the old man’s crazy plan had worked.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the celebrating farmers, there was another hunt happening in the very same area. Mildred Owen Burt awoke to the sound of gunshots, only to discover that Emily’s bed was empty. Determined to get to the bottom of her daughter’s secretive midnight adventures, she lit a lantern and headed into the forest. After searching high and low, Mildred stumbled onto Emily’s unconscious body. A pool of blood surrounded her hand, and it appeared that she had been shot. Mildred did her best to stop the bleeding, and ran for help.
The following day, the local doctor patched up Emily’s wounds, but even he couldn’t explain what had happened. After the rumors of Emily’s “accident” and the farmers’ successful werewolf hunt began to collide in the local taverns, Mildred discovered a doctor in Paris who claimed to specialize in “lycanthropy”. With the sneaking suspicion that Emily might have been to blame for the rash of animal mutilations, Mildred sent her off to Paris in the hopes she might be cured.
According to all the legends, the attacks completely ceased from then on. Several years later, Emily Isabella Burt returned to Georgia, cured of her mysterious ailment, and lived out the rest of her life as a successful businesswoman and landlord. In 1911, at the age of 70, Isabella died and was buried in the Owens and Holmes cemetery in Talbot county. Her gravestone reads:
Thy form alone is all, thank God, That to the grave is given; For ise know thy soul the better part, Is safe, yes safe, is heaven.
While the legend of Georgia’s Werewolf Girl is hotly contested by locals who claim their great grandparents encountered the beast and skeptics who cite a lack of hard evidence in the story, one thing is for certain: to this day, there are numerous reports that the ghostly spirit of Emily Isabella Burt still roams the countryside by the light of the full moon. In werewolf form, of course.
If you’d like to pay your respects to the southern lycanthrope that time forgot, you can still visit the Grave of the Georgia Werewolf in Woodland, but if I were you, I might make a few silver bullets first, just in case.
Do you think Emily Isabella Burt was a real-life werewolf? Or was is there another explanation for the long-standing legend of the Georgia lycanthrope? Does your town have its own strange “monster grave”? We want to know! Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @WeirdHQ, join us on Facebook, or start a conversation in the comments below!