When the moon is full, do you have an uncontrollable craving for raw meat, or perhaps the desire to rip off all of your clothes and run through the forest screaming your head off? Get in line, buddy. But if twice a month you notice a lot of excessive hair growing all over your body, and you turn into a wolf, ummmm ...then you're probably a werewolf.

Werewolves have played a part in storytelling for ages. These cursed monsters have delighted and frightened countless children, and probably quite a few adults alike. If you’d like to know more about the history surrounding werewolves, read on...assuming you're not afraid.

Rainwater Creates Werewolves


Gene Kelly ... possible werewolf.

If a werewolf bites you, and you survive, there’s a good chance you’ll become a werewolf too. Drinking rainwater collected inside a werewolf's paw print is a much less dangerous, though equally effective, method of catching a nasty case of the full-moon wolfsies.* We have no idea why you’d be drinking water from a paw print, but just in case the desire ever crosses your mind, you’ve officially been warned. It’s probably better if you stick to drinking tap water from cups.

*not a real saying.

Werewolves and Slugs Have a Common Enemy

Håkan Svensson, Wiki Commons

Both werewolves and slugs hate salt. Slugs and snails don’t like salt because of osmosis, which basically means salt sucks all the water out of their bodies, and they die. Werewolves avoid salt for a more general reason. Salt is the “cure-all” preventative measure against many different kinds of supernatural things. So, if you’ve got an evil spirit bothering you, or perhaps you suspect your neighbor might be a werewolf, spread some salt around the house.

It Has a Name, You Know


If you’re unfortunate enough to actually become a werewolf, or you suspect you might be turning into a four-legged animal now and again (if you believe in such things), the disorder, or disease you’re afflicted with is called “lycanthropy.”

The symptoms are pretty clear, in case you’re unsure. One moment you’re a human being, the next you're a werewolf. It’s really hard to miss. Even if you don’t remember this unusual change, your friends, whose limbs you may or may not have bitten off, will probably be able to tell you. Of course, lots of fur around the house is also another good sign that something’s up.

France Once Experienced a Werewolf Epidemic


No, the OTHER French werewolf epidemic.

The Beasts of Gevaudan wreaked havoc in southern France in the 1760s. Accounts differ as to how many people were actually killed and devoured, but the number seems to be well over 100. The "werewolf" epidemic grew so out of control that the army, as well as expert huntsmen, were called in to find and kill the terrorizing animals. The beasts were described as wolf-like, but bigger. Theories abound as to the true nature of the dangerous animals roaming the hillsides. Some people have suggested they were werewolves, while others have speculated that they were hyenas, or dog/wolf hybrids.

Lycanthropy Was Linked With Disease and Puberty

Kevin Winter, Getty Images

People suffering from lycanthropy, or the ability to change into an animal, were once thought to be especially vulnerable during puberty. If you think about it, that actually makes a lot of sense. Pubescent adolescents tend to grow lots of hair all over their bodies, and they’re often afflicted with temperamental behavior and strong, uncontrollable urges… just like moody werewolves.

The hereditary disease hypertrichosis causes massive amount of hair growth all over the body and the face -- which might have led people in the past to believe that someone suffering from this condition was a werewolf, especially if the onset of the disease came later in life. To the uneducated observer, someone with hypertrichosis would appear to be slowly changing into an animal, right before the observer’s eyes.

How To Spot A Werewolf

If your best friend suddenly grows paws, fangs, gets really hairy and tries to eat you, they might be a werewolf. There are some other signs you can look for as well -- before things get to this point. Watch out for a widow's peak, very long index fingers, overpowering anger, hairy palms, a unibrow, hydrophobic symptoms (fear of water), poor vision, dry tongue, nighttime walkabouts and trouble pronouncing the letter "W" correctly. We're not sure what that last one has to do with wolfing out, but there you go. Apparently werewolves have trouble pronouncing their own species name.

The Werewolf ‘God’ Comes from Scandinavia

Public Domain, Wiki Commons

Fenrir was a horrific wolf-like creature that lived with the Norse gods. He was the son of Loki, and he was also the father of the wolves, which made him father of the werewolves as well. Fenrir was so tough, in fact, the other gods decided to bind him up in order to keep him out of trouble. He bit the hand off one of them for doing so, because that's what you do when you're a crazy Norse wolf god.

Holy Water and Crosses Are for Vampires, Not Werewolves

If you’re ever in the highly unlikely situation that you have to contend with a nasty werewolf, make sure you don’t get your monsters mixed up. While crosses and holy water work on most vampires, they don’t do a heck of a lot against werewolves. If under attack by a hairy beast, try to keep some salt around (weren't you paying attention earlier?). Mistletoe, wolfsbane, or maybe some wreaths of sage will also work in a pinch. Silver is debatable, depending on the particular source you’re consulting. Though the 1985 Gary Busey/Stephen King film 'Silver Bullet' makes a good case for its use.

Mercury Might Beat Silver For Dispatching Werewolves

Gary Merrin, Getty Images

Everyone knows that a silver bullet is sure to do the trick against a werewolf ready to bite your head off, right? Well, that might not necessarily be the case. Mercury could actually be the chemical element you’re after when you need to shoot or stab somebody who has just turned into a wolf. It seems quicksilver, or liquid metal mercury, might have been the metal the alchemists of old used against the fabled monsters, not real silver. If you’re being plagued by werewolves these days, you’d better keep both on hand, just in case. Or not, since mercury is really toxic. Your choice.

A Greek Werewolf King

Public Domain, Wiki Commons

Tales of werewolves have been around for ages. In ancient Greece, rumors had it that King Lycaon, a very ruthless king, could've been the progenitor of werewolves (not Fenrir, as legend had it in Scandinavia). Zeus tried to put an end to Lycaon’s tyranny, but the mortal doubted that the being he was talking to was a true god. The king responded by serving Zeus a feast of human flesh, and tried to turn him into a cannibal. For his terrible misdeeds, Zeus transformed King Lycaon into a wolf. No word on whether he then proceeded to perform the world's first werewolf dunk on the royal basketball court.