The Rose Files
True Scary Stories from Life
                                    “Real Werewolves” Part 2:
                            People Having a Very Bad Hair Day!

                                                        ~ Rose Titus ~

    When we last visited the topic of “real” werewolves, we discovered that the legend of the werewolf was
leftover from beliefs in shamanism and pagan religions.  But why is it that when we watch our favorite old
black and white movies starring Lon Chaney, Jr., what we see is a creature that does not look like a wolf at
all?  Instead, the character turns into a creature that walks upright, has no tail, and appears to be more like
some sort of primitive man, the sort of creature that may have been an ancestor of today’s humanity, rather
than a silver-furred wolf running about on four legs and with a long fluffy tail?

    What is up with that, anyway?

    Well, guess what?  There are actual people who really do have this problem!  But they don’t change
when the moon is full.  Instead, they are like that all the time!

    According to the Merck Manual (a reference book for all things medical), hypertrichosis is “excessive
hair growth in areas usually not hairy,” such as, the face, and the entire body.  And it can run in families,
therefore, people can be born this way.  And sometimes this rare disorder is called “werewolf syndrome”
or “wolfman syndrome.”

    These people are ordinary, normal people in every other way, except their appearance.  They do not
have magical powers, and they don’t run around baying at the moon.  But sadly for them, they do look like
they stepped out of an old horror movie.  And what is so tragic is that our society judges people on
appearances, and society places such a high value on beauty.  Historically, these poor people usually had
no choice but to join the circus in order to earn a living.

    Hypertrichosis can affect men, women, and even children.  Imagine having to go to school, facing the
other kids each day, looking like Lon Chaney, Jr.?   And kids today think they have it tough if they have to
wear braces or don’t have expensive designer clothes or don’t have the most popular kind of cool
electronic toys!

    In the 1800’s a woman named Julia Pastrana, along with her innocent baby who also inherited this
problem, was cruelly exploited and put on display.  Not only was she covered in fur, she had teeth that
stuck out and gave her face an odd shape, and so she was labeled “The Ape Woman.”

    Some of our readers may have previously heard of a character called “Jo-Jo, the Dog-Faced Boy.”  Jo-
Jo was a real person, and his tale is equally sad.  His real name was Fedor Jeftichejev.  He was from
Kostroma, Russia, and he and his father both had a serious case of hypertrichosis.  He and his father
Adrian had nowhere else to go but the circus, of course.  The strain of being put on display and taunted by
the cruel Victorian age audience drove Adrian to drink.  They were paid by the circus for their time at the
“show,” and Adrian spent most of his money on vodka, yet he hoped to one day return home to his village.

    Adrian died in 1874, possibly from his excessive drinking.  Fedor however went on to join the Barnum
and Bailey Circus and was given the stage name “Jo-Jo.”  People were not very kind to poor Fedor,
either, while he worked at the circus.  They often teased him and made rude comments about his
appearance.  Sometimes he would laugh back at them, but we don’t know what sadness he felt inside.

    Today, in Mexico, there are two young men who call themselves the “Wolf Brothers,” also known as
Danny and Larry Gomez.  Although they also work for a circus, we would hope that modern people would
be kinder to them and more understanding of their humanity and their condition.

    Danny and Larry actually started out at a circus “sideshow,” even in this modern age, but they now
perform as acrobats and trapeze artists.  Yet people are still often unkind and even howl at them.  Danny
says, “I don’t take it seriously.  I know who I am inside.”  Danny’s girlfriend also describes him as very
noble, and says, “He is a very good person.”  And yes, very often people who face adversity in life are
good and decent people.

    After what we have learned about this condition that causes people to become “werewolves,” we need
to ask ourselves, what is humanity?  Is humanity the appearance of beauty and perfection, or is humanity
the ability to show kindness to one another?  And when we think of how people with this unfortunate
condition were treated all through history simply because of the way they look, we need to wonder who the
real monsters are...  And somehow I don’t think the monsters are the ones with the fur!

If you want to learn more, check out these sources:

1.  Godfrey, Linda S., Real Wolfmen:  True Encounters in Modern America, Penguin, 2012.

2.  Berkow, Robert, MD, Editor, The Merck Manual, 14th Edition, Merck, Sharp & Dohme Research
Laboratories, 1982.

3.  Bondeson, Jan, “Strange and Sensational Stories From the Illustrated Police News,” Fortean Times,
Issue No. 274, 2011.

4.  “‘Wolfman’ With Rare Condition That Causes Hair to Grow Over His Face Says He Would Not Change
It,” The Daily Mail, March 4, 2012, author unknown.