Day #2 of the Bloody V-Day Hop involves Changing Love… or should I say SHIFTING! I don’t read a lot of books about shifters, so I thought I would opt for a more educational post today. Enjoy!
The thing I love most about folklore, is that it has a nifty way of containing a grain of truth. Like the succubus giving men an excuse to cheat on their wives. Anemia was easily explained away by evil creatures of the night drinking their blood. Or even better is a disease called Catalepsy, which can make the patient rigid, their heart rate slowing to such a pace as they appear dead. I wonder how many people they buried by accident?!
Werewolves were no exception to this rule. Humans changing into hairy beasts with a full moon? Not likely, but it became a lot easier to swallow when someone was a carrier of the disease, hypertrichosis. This is where the patient exhibits a thick, dark layer of hair growing over most of their body.
The earliest documented case of hypertrichosis is Petrus Gonsalvus, born in 1537. He was known as “the man of the woods”. He was a famous frequenter of the French court. He and his family were subjected to frequent portraits.
What do people do when something frightens them? Make money from it, of course! Circuses reaped the benefit from this disease by hiring these wolfmen as their “freaks”. One of the most famous examples of hypertrichosis is that of Fedor Jeftichew. Don’t recognize the name? How about Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Boy? He toured with P.T. Barnum and was advertised as being a wild beast, captured from his cave in Russia. Jo-Jo would bark and growl on command, playing up a canine resemblance.
They did’t stop there though! No! Hypertrichosis was also responsible for other wacky human animal hybrids! One of the more famous of these half-man, half-beast creatures was Julia Pastrana. She was advertised as being half ape. She died giving birth to a son with similar characteristics, and the child also died. Julia’s husband had both his wife and infant son mummified, in order to continue her exhibit.
Stephan Bibrowski was half-lion, apparently. A little bit of careful grooming and you can see the resemblance… He was exceptionally well educated, speaking five languages, and was know as the “Perfect Gentleman”. His act with Barnum & Bailey involved gymnastics, while covered in 4-8 inches of hair.
Hypertrichosis has a cousin medical condition: hirsutism. It exists only in women and can result in male pattern hair growth. Annie Jones was the famous bearded woman travelling with P.T. Barnum, starting in 1865. Her parents put her in the sideshow when she was just 9 months old, earning an income of $150 a week. She had a mustache and sideburns by the time she was five years old.
So are werewolves creatures of the night, slave to the full moon? Or are they a fear of the unknown and different? Don’t get me wrong. Times have surely changed! We no longer judge people unfairly and exploit them for a profit! No, now we give them awards… and exploit them for a profit. In 2011, Supattra Sasupan of Thailand, age 11, was declared to be the hairiest girl alive by Guinness World Records. On the plus side, she says that winning the award has actually helped her to be embraced by the community.
Well, while I had intended this post to be lighthearted, somewhere along the way it turned kind of bitter and sour. Sorry ’bout that. 😛 I’ll do better tomorrow. In the meantime, go enter the mega-massive giveaway down below and follow along with the tour —-> HERE <—-.
TONS of prizes are up for grabs! A $90 Amazon gift card or Paypal cash, swag and ebooks!