When I was a child one of the most influential films on my young psyche was Joe Dante’s “The Howling.” In fact, it was while I was watching that film that first understood the concept of death, so werewolves have always had a special place in my heart.
So imagine my joy when I discovered that werewolves had a unique connection to Indiana!
According to Weird Indiana, “Indiana’s werewolf stories date back to the first French trappers who wandered the Land.” Vincennes, Indiana is the oldest continually inhabited European settlement in Indiana and one of the oldest settlements west of the Appalachians according to Wikipedia.
It was officially established in 1732 as a French trading post. A story collected from an elderly French woman in Vincennes was recorded by Ronald L. Baker in his book, “Hoosier Folk Legends” and is as follows:
It was reported many years ago that some kind of wild animal was running loose out by the old French graveyard. It was claimed that several queer animals were not animals at all but people that had been bewitched. John Vatchet claimed that one of these animals sprang at him one night as he was going through the old graveyard and that he had quite a tussle for his life.
Charles Vatchet lived down by the site where the present hospital is located. There were a number of apple trees along this street, and as this was before the time of street lights, the place was very dark. One night as Mr. Vatchet was going home, and object having the shape of a wild animal sprang at Mr. Vatchet. He cut the animal with his knife in his struggle, and the object turned into a man. He gave Mr. Vatchet his name and address (the man was from Evansville), and request that he should not tell anyone for one year and a day or he would turn back into an animal. When the animals were injured to the extent that brought blood, the charm was broken.
The Loup-Garou is a human who changes into a wolf by his own free will. The word loup is French for “wolf” while garou is Frankish and seems to mean a man who turns into an animal.
Spookyweb posted a legend with citations on their site here. It was collected in the 1920s.
“Other dogs get out of the big man’s way when he wave his hand. Mais [But] this one come advancing with hideous howls and gleaming read eyes the be like coals of fire in the black of the night. Then Page he be mad the dog and he said, “Bete Noir Vole! Vole!” [Black beast, get lost!]
Mais the black beast did not fly away from him nor turn its eyes from his. With a great leap it came near to him by five feet. Then Page cursed and lifted his big foot to kick it in the jaw. With a stealthy pantherlike movement the great frothing beast sprang at his throat. You bet his time he tried to kick and get his knifte to finish the dog who hot breath was singeing his hair – whose great paws were tearing his shoulders and whose fangs were near his neck. With one powerful arms he grab the neck of the dog until his tongue hang out. The shaggy hair on the dog’s neck be lashing his face and his eyes blazing with madness. The loup garou be trying to betwitch Page.
He know now it be loup garou.
I’ve not had the opportunity to visit Vincennes, nor have I heard any recent legends regarding werewolves in Indiana, but I’d like to find the time to visit the scary places of lore here in Indiana. Sort of my own “Hoosier Horrorland” if you will.
There is a place up the road that I have in mind. I’ll tell you about it next month. In the meantime, tell me what you think about werewolves, Indiana, movies, or whatever else you feel like commenting on.