Werewolves these days are something most people think of them as just a subplot from a vampire
horror movie. That was not always the case. The very first series of Witch trials in Europe that ran
from 1428 to 1447 were held in Valais now a part of Switzerland. At least 367 men and women were executed in the trials. Many of those cases involved accusations of lycanthropy and
cannibalism. As the witch panic grew so did the fear of werewolves.
One of the most famous historical werewolf cases is the 1589 case of Peter Stube “ The Werewolf of Bedburg “. The crimes Stube were accused of sound like those of a modern-day cannibalistic serial killer but under torture, he confessed to making a pact with the devil and being given a belt that allowed him to assume the form of a wolf. He was put on a rack, his flesh ripped from his body, his legs broken so he could not “ return from the grave” and then
beheaded. The town erected a pole with a picture of a wolf and a torture wheel on it. They then put Peters head atop the pole as a warning to other “ werewolves”.
By the 1600s the idea of witches making a pact with Satan to be able to turn into a wolf, cat, or other
animal was well established. “Werewolves “were hauled into the witch trials regularly
One of the more famous “ witch hunter” inquisitors Henri Boguet, wrote In his book Discours des
Sorciers about his encounters with the Gandillon family who he claims
“walked on all fours and howled like wolves. Their eyes turned red and gleaming; their hair sprouted;
their teeth became long and sharp; their fingernails turned horny and claw-like “
Boguet over his lifetime sentenced over 600 people to death. A good number of them he claimed were
The belief in lycanthropy was strong among the general public but by 1653 some Demonologist /
witch hunters were starting to view lycanthropy as a form of mental illness. A Pastor In Vaud
published a book of demonology that in part argued: “ lycanthropy is a form of melancholia, purely
illusory, and has nothing to do with witchcraft” . The werewolf trials and convictions were far from
over but a change did seem to be coming. A few convected Werewolves were locked up to be “
rehabilitated” as opposed to the usual tortured, then beheaded or burned at the stake.
That brief look into the history of werewolves in the witch trials was primarily to establish how
serious the idea of a shape-shifting, supernatural, cannibalistic creature was taken at one point in
Let’s move our topic across the globe to America and fast forward a bit in time so that I can share with you an American Werewolf story
Isabella Burt – the Georgia Werewolf
Modern-day Talbot county, Georgia has a population of around 7000 people. Back in 1836, the
last of the Creek Indians were forcefully removed from Talbot county. The climate there in west-central Georgia was perfect for growing peaches and cotton. By 1840s the population was almost
15,000 people. The fertile soil and near-perfect climate for agriculture had made the area one of the
richest in the State of Georgia. One of the wealthier families in the area was the Burt family. The
matriarch of the family Mildred Owen Burt had been widowed young at thirty-seven years old.
Mildred did a fine job overlooking her estate. The house had a large portion of property attached to it
as well as what was thought to be a fine library for the time. Mildred had seven children including two
daughters Sarah, and Isabella. Isabella was introverted and shy seeming to prefer spending time in the
library to the company of most people. During the 1800s a great revival of the occult had taken place
and the story goes that Isabella got deep into occult reading.
James Webb wrote of that new era of occultism
“What was happening was the final collapse of the old world-order which had first been rudely
assaulted during the Renaissance and Reformation.. ..just when the Age of Reason seemed to be
bearing fruit in the 19th century, there was an unexpected reaction against the very method which had
brought success, a wild return to archaic forms of belief, and among the intelligentsia a sinister
concentration on superstitions which had been thought buried . . . “
A lot of the growth in occult interest came from the influence of the spiritualist
movement. Any well-stocked library at the time might well contain books like Emanuel
Swedenborgs” Arcana Coelestia”, or the Andrew Jackson Davis pamphlet” The Principles of
Nature, Her Divine Revelations.” those were not anything “ dark and evil” but they are the
sort of thing well likely to plant a seed in an inquisitive mind. At the time Séances were in
vogue in Europe. The larger cities up north had scores of mediums.The “ Fox sisters” were become famous for “ talking to the dead”. At the time a young lady with an interest in the occult was nothing unusual. Isabella’s level of interest ran deeper than most.
Legend has she spent almost every waking hour pouring over various occult texts. Some folks said that even as a child she had very bushy brows. She rarely smiled because of embarrassment over her sharp teeth. The story goes that
around the time she started devoting herself to the occult studies she started letting her appearance
go and developed bushy eyebrows and “ unkempt” hair. The few existing pictures of Isabella show a quite pretty young lady in the style of the time at least.
eventually, Isabella developed insomnia and painful headaches. She started to roam the town
and nearby woods alone at night. Around that time Sheep and other livestock were being
found dead but not eaten by anything. Strange noises and cries were coming from the woods.
The farmers went hunting for whatever was killing the livestock but to no avail.
Anytime Isabella heard her mother Mildred talking about the “ incidents “ She showed unusual interest. Soon the locals had started rumors about werewolves and some had
started whispering about “ That Burt girl who wanders around at night” .
Eventually, Mildred had to find out for herself whether or not her daughter had anything to
do with the animal killings. One night after Isabella left for her nightly explorations Mildred followed her ..after some
time she came across her daughter poised and ready to attack a group of sheep. The farmers
had been staking out the area and according to legend, there was gunfire. Some say Isabella
had her hand shot off and the farmers found a wolf paw the group instead of a hand …at any
rate, Isabella was kept out of the public eye until a passage to Europe for her could be
While she was overseas waiting for the incident to blow over it is rumored she was sent to a
doctor who could cure lycanthropy. When she left the animal killing stopped and even
upon her return there were no more mysterious animal killings in Talbot County. She lived
to be 70 years old and as the tale goes, if you visit her grave in the town of woodland,
Georgia you might hear a strange howling sometimes late at night.