werewolf England

A real-life werewolf in England

Just after the Second World War, England experienced a series of grisly murders carried out by a man who came to be known as the Moon Killer. Showing all the characteristic traits of a werewolf, he claimed that the lunar cycles influenced his behaviour and turned him into a homicidal maniac.

Allan Whitcomb Dennis was found guilty of a series of murders after telling police that “the moon does strange things to me“. He was eventually linked to three killings in the city of Birmingham over a seventeen year period. The press dubbed him the “Moon Killer”.

A werewolf in England strikes for the first time

His first crime was on Friday, 10 March, 1933. Aged only 17, he later confessed to the murder of his own baby niece. But at the time, he escaped conviction even though the baby’s mother – his sister – accused Whitcomb Dennis of slaying her child. One account claims that at the time, a medical report asserted the child had died of an epileptic fit.

But ten years later in 1943, Whitcomb Dennis told all to a police officer while doing military service during World War Two. Incredibly, he wasn’t believed and instead was discharged from the army on psychiatric grounds and committed for a while to a mental hospital in south Wales.

Two more deaths linked to this werewolf in England

In 1948, he struck again. Now released from the mental hospital, he murdered an elderly lady, Harriet Mills, who lived a few doors down from his family home. There was a thumbprint sized bruise on her neck and evidence of having been hit by a blunt instrument. Somehow, the jury returned a verdict of accidental death.

It took another killing eighteen months later to finally reveal the Moon Killer. On Thursday 30 March 1950, Ivy Watkins was murdered. Unlike the Mills case, there was clear evidence of a break in – through the coal cellar – and the victim had a pillow over her face and streaks of dried blood across her head. Again, there were bruises on this victim’s throat, as with Mills, but also bite marks.

DISCOVER: Were the lunar landings really faked?

The police carried out routine investigations and questioned Allan Whitcomb Dennis. He had difficulty explaining why there were scratches on his face and all over his arms. Clearly, Ivy Watkins had not expired without a good fight. Although eventually, sadly, succumbing to the werewolf.

At his trial, both Whitcomb Dennis and his sister, the mother of the child he had killed, ascribed his violence to the moon. A psychologist told the court that he was aware of cases where lunar cycles influenced the behaviour of certain people. The jury found him guilty of murder but insane. He was committed to Broadmoor, one of the most fearsome psychiatric institutions in Britain.

FIND OUT MORE: The real Jack the Ripper

Old Stinker – a new werewolf in England

In 2016, there was something of a werewolf scare in the north of England with sightings of a beast dubbed ‘Old Stinker’. Also referred to in the local media as The Beast of Barmston Drain.

As in the United States, England is occasionally gripped by alleged sightings of huge mammals that it’s claimed pose a real threat to people, especially those who are weaker such as children and the elderly. In this case, people around the city of Hull claimed to have seen an eight-foot high half man/half dog creature carrying off its prey.

An American Werewolf in London

In 1981, the movie An American Werewolf in London was released in cinemas. It included a dramatic transformation scene that shocked audiences at the time. And of course it went on to be used by Michael Jackson a couple of years later in the video for Thriller.

Me as Henry VIII on ITV!

You may have seen me dressed up as Henry VIII in The Sun this week.  The story was about the launch of a new ITV prime-time show called The Big Audition

Each week, viewers will follow the struggles of a group of candidates vying for three very interesting jobs!

I decided to throw my hat in the ring for one of those jobs but I can’t go into any details ahead of transmission. You’re going to have to watch at 9pm on Friday, 5 October to find out what happened.

Just to say it was great fun filming and I suspect you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Brave New World – dystopia in literature

NBC/Universal in the US and Sky One in the UK are broadcasting a new dramatisation of the 1932 novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. It presents what we call a dystopian view of the future – one that is thoroughly pessimistic. As opposed to a brighter utopia.

Huxley wrote his story at a time when capitalism was reeling from the 1929 stock market crash and the Soviet Union was embarking on a series of bloody purges under its dictator, Stalin.

A few decades earlier, Victorians at the end of the 19th century had imagined that the world could improve and advance with every forward step. Science, technology and reason would lead us to a genuinely brave new world. But the First World War literally shot that optimism to pieces.

Even the hope for a revolution that would liberate humanity from want and deprivation was questioned. The year 1917 saw the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and the creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). But after the Bolshevik leader Lenin died, his successor Stalin oversaw the creation of a bureaucratic, nightmarish, totalitarian dystopia.

Writers responded to this new gloom and uncertainty. George Orwell wrote 1984 while Aldous Huxley gave us Brave New World. They in turn were inspired by centuries of authors and political thinkers who penned their own visions of the future to make a point.

Brave New World – not a new concept

Great thinkers like the Greek philosopher Plato or the sixteenth century statesman Thomas More imagined perfect societies of the future. They wanted to show their readers what a properly ordered world could look like. It was a description of something More called Utopia.

But – Utopia has a grim opposite: Dystopia.

Dystopian visions of the future depict a very different world. It’s an unpleasant place where human beings are alienated or terrified. The authorities may be dictatorial or even totalitarian. Thoughts might be controlled. Terrible, unspeakable things have been normalised, becoming a part of everyday life.

The 20th century saw dystopian views of the future portrayed more and more. Two world wars, fascism, dictatorship, murder on an industrial scale and the erosion of democracy by faceless forces made the future seem a lot bleaker. The cheery optimism of the Victorian age where every day would be better than the next gave way to growing uncertainty.

1984

Many early 20th century dystopians were deeply disillusioned by the direction Russia took after the 1917 communist revolution. Hopes for the creation of a society under working class control gave way to the reality of Stalin’s bureaucratic hell. George Orwell summed up his gloomy prognosis in 1984. A world where Big Brother is watching you at all times and people indulge in “doublespeak”, never saying what they really mean.

The dystopia of Aldous Huxley

In 1931, the author Aldous Huxley depicted another dystopia where there is no sexual intercourse and people are created through artificial wombs. Humans are bred differently with healthier, taller and intelligent people being graded alpha or beta while those cloned in mass production and consequently dimmer and smaller do menial tasks as gammas, deltas and epsilons. All citizens are kept happy by ingesting a drug called “soma”.

Huxley denied he was influenced by a Russian author called Yevgeny Zamyatin who described a very similar totalitarian state where science had been misused to control humanity in his novel, We.

The Soviet Union provoked visions of dystopia in the 1920s and 1930s but in the 1970s, it was fears of a post-nuclear world where the two superpowers – the United States and USSR – had fried the planet.

DISCOVER: Man in the High Castle – based on real American Nazis?

Ape rule as a dystopia

Planet of the Apes ends with the realisation that ape rule has only been possible because human beings have rained nuclear bombs down on their civilisation. Damnation Alley sees the protagonists driving across a post-nuclear America. 

Logan’s Run has people living under sealed domes and subjected to enforced euthanasia at the age of 30 – but believing they are being renewed. All horrific takes on dystopia.

The 1970s embraced dystopia as it grappled with the threat of nuclear war; the end of the Vietnam War; the near impeachment of President Nixon and severe economic crisis. It’s not surprising that in equally turbulent times, we are reaching back to dystopia and forming again a very gloomy and nihilistic view of the future.