Do werewolves exist? At one point in history, people certainly believed so. With the advent of science, folklore was forced to take a back seat. But how would science explain some of the truly strange cases of alleged transformation? One of the earliest alternative theories put forward to explain so-called werewolf attacks was that of clinical lycanthropy. The condition is certainly real but can it explain what some see as tangible evidence of the existence of men who can change into beasts? You be the judge.

Clinical lycanthropy is a rare psychiatric condition in which a person believes that they have either been transformed into an animal, or that they are in the process of being transformed. There is no physical evidence of such a change, yet the belief is there and the affected person’s behavior can change to reflect this. It can range from simply recalling having felt like an animal at some point to actively displaying actions such as creeping on all fours.

While the term itself suggests a definite lupine link, transformations relating to a wide range of animals have been reported. Canines seem to be the most common but the delusion can extend to cats, horses, birds and even reptiles. Of course, since we’re talking about werewolves here, we’ll stick to people who imagine they have been transformed into wolves.

Experts believe that clinical lycanthropy is often a manifestation of another condition such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. This is due, in part, to the first four symptoms of clinical lycanthropy.

• Delusions (believing that they turn into an animal)
• Hallucinations (viewing themselves as having whatever traits the animal has, e.g., fur, claws)
• Disorganized speech (making animal sounds)
• Disorganized behavior (acting like the animal they believe they have shifted into)

There has been some research into the parts of the brain which are involved in the perception of body shape. Some individuals affected by clinical lycanthropy do show signs of unusual activity in these areas. What does this mean? It is possible that they actually do feel these physical changes as though they are actually happening. Of course there have been eye witness accounts of something that doesn’t appear even vaguely human. Could it be one that one of these sufferers was mistaken in the dark, or is there really something out there?