The Daily Express (amongst other tabloid papers) has reported on a series of presumed werewolf sightings in the Yorkshire Wolds. Now, sadly I am not donning a leather outfit and heading north with a holster and silver bullets, however I did find the reporting very interesting. Firstly, there was the assumption of both the presence of the lycanthrope occurring around the full moon and that it was an anthropoid creature. The full moon is a relatively new addition to werewolf lore which, though propounded in Victorian texts such as George W. M. Reynold’s Wagner the Wehr-Wolf (1857), was consolidated when the werewolf premièred on the silver screen. (For further information see both Werewolf of London (1935) and The Wolf Man (1941)). The half-man, half-wolf version of the werewolf also became part of the werewolf blueprint during this period, something which the article acknowledges. This relationship was cemented in the Daily Mail version of the report by using a picture from An American Werewolf in London (1981), perhaps as an homage to the opening sequence which is sent on the Yorkshire Moors. In comparison the Daily Express chose rather natural images. There were repeated uses of wolves and a full moon. Visually then, a connection was made between real-life wolves and their monstrous counterpart.
In the reporting itself, this connection was made more explicit as the article stated that the sightings had occurred in a part of Yorkshire where some of the last English wolves were meant to have lived. This seems to suggest that the memory of wolves haunts the area albeit in a rather malignant form. Traditional folklore was also invoked in the form of Old Stinker: a hairy, red-eyed lupine beast with terrible breath. Looking at accounts of Old Stinker it appears that the consensus today is that it is a werewolf-type monster. (Though I am not sure whether this is because of how we view all wolf-beasts in modern terminology). The article then, sensationalist and tongue-in-cheek though it may be, manages to encompass some very complex ideas about the werewolf today. Though it is clear that the article acknowledges the influence of popular culture on the werewolf, there is still a symbiosis of ‘ancient’ folklore and natural history in order to create some validity to the claims. It’s a brilliant example of the complex relationship between the Gothic, folklore and the modern imagination.