Collective guilt about wiping out the native wolf population could be cause behind the sightings of “Old Stinker” in Hull, according to an academic.
Media round the world picked up on claims that a “half-man, half-dog” creature had been spotted stalking the banks of the city’s Barmston Drain earlier this year.
There were lurid reports of the “tall and hairy” beast being seen gobbling a German Shepherd and then jumping 8ft over a fence - with its prey still in its jaws.
The creature, dubbed the “Beast of Barmston Drain” was connected by folklorists to the legend of “Old Stinker”, a werewolf said to stalk the Yorkshire Wolds.
Further sightings followed - including in August when a woman in a car with friends claimed she saw a beast with a human head started walking towards them on two legs on a road through the East Yorkshire village of Halsham.
The location of the sightings, close to the East Yorkshire Wolds, which were once home to wolves, could be significant, according to Dr Sam George, a gothic scholar and literary expert.
Dr George, who was behind the UK’s first International Werewolf Conference at the University of Hertfordshire last year, said: “I often get asked what causes belief in werewolfism, but what is most pertinent and magical about this latest folk panic is that “‘Old Stinker’ is thought to inhabit a landscape which saw some of the last wolves in England.
“I argue that he represents, not our belief in him as a supernatural shapeshifter, but our collective guilt at the extinction of an entire indigenous species.”
Far from dismissing it as a figment of the imagination, Dr George says it’s important to explore people’s fears and look for deeper meanings, adding: “My instincts are to embrace it and see it as a manifestation of our cultural memory around wolves.
“‘Old Stinker’ is a gift; he can reawaken the memory of what humans did to wolves, draw attention to re-wilding debates, and redeem the big bad wolf that filled our childhood nightmares, reminding us that it is often humans, not wolves or the supernatural, that we should be afraid of.”
The sightings led to a freedom of information request to Hull Council which confirmed it had no policy on werewolves and rock legend Alice Cooper to ask: “So there are suddenly several reports of a werewolf like creature near a small town in the UK. Do you think it could be real?”